JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Peter the Great's "Jew"--SHAFIROV #general

Bruno Martuzans <bruno@...>

Dear listers,

Jules Levin expressed interest about Shafirov, a "personal friend" of the
Russian Tsar Peter I, the Great, doubted his Jewish origin and asked for new
information about him.
The reading of available texts allows to conclude that, generally speaking,
Russian historians do not doubt in the Jewish origin of P.Shafirov, neither
those who tolerate Jews nor those who hate them.

The story of P.P.Shafirov (1669-1739) begins with his Jewish grandfather who
migrated >from Poland to Smolensk, a city in the West of Russia. This
migration began possible because in 1604-1610 the Poland-Lithuania kingdom
conquered the city, and Poland's Jews got the possibility to enter this
territory. Rather soon (1654) Russia got the city back, and Jews living
there were proposed to convert to Christianity. Some Jews chose to convert,
because Russian officials proposed good work conditions for experts with
knowledge of West, also for converted, but only for converted, Jews. What
happened with not converted Jews is not easy to say. In any case, they had
problems, because some Jews and other people were considered as war spoils
and made serfs.

A Jew of Smolensk named Shafir also converted in 1657 together with his family
and got the new name Pavel and evidently the surname of the family became
- Shafirov. No information exist to which extent the name "Shafir" is related
to Shapiro names, it is known only that the Shafir was busy as "shafor of the
shkolnik" i.e. kind of a manager in the home of the local melamed.

Three Shafirov children are known:

1.. a son Pavel (Paul), his Jewish name was Shaya Sapsayev - the future
father of Peter Shafirov - a statesman of the Tsar
2.. a son Michail - also a high positioned functionary of the Tsar, no
3.. a daughter of unknown name married Pavel Veselovski - another
converted Jew >from Smolensk who initially had migrated form a Polish town
Pavel Shafirov was good in foreign languages and got a job in Moscow in a
department busy with foreign affairs. It is known that he married a Russian
woman and had at least one son Peter (Pyotr). Peter also had got good
education and knew foreign languages and joined the same department in 1791.
He worked as a translator in close contact with the Tsar Peter I and
gradually got more and more important tasks.

It is easy to conclude that he was not a Jew according to the Judaism rules,
because he was not born by a Jewish woman. If his ethnic origin is
considered, he was not more than 50% Jewish by blood.

However all people in the Tsar's court, including the Tsar himself and all
Shafirov's rivals, knew his Jewish origin and considered him as a Jew. For
example, once in a court rout the Tsar wished to make drunk a Shafirov's
daughter. When she refused to drink, the Tsar got angry (he got angry very
easy, by the way) and shouted something like this - "you Jewish bastard, I
shall teach you the obedience" and slapped her in the face twice. When in
1723 P.Shafirov felt into disgrace due to plots in the court and was tried
for the embezzlement of state property, he was accused also for hiding his
Jewish origin and for having contacts with Jewish relatives. The Tsar
eliminated all this Jewish stuff >from the case and P.Shafirov was sentenced
to death for the embezzlement only. In reality the capital sentence was
changed to exile, however.

The assertion that he had contacts with the community of former Smolensk
Jews was correct. Really, it is known that he married Anna Kopiyeva who was
born in the family of a converted Jew. One of his cousins - Abram Veselovski
(1685-1782), a son or a grandson of his aunt, was brought up in his family
and became an adjutant of the Tsar.

For his service he was granted the nobility title of Baron, for the first
time in the Russian Empire, though this noble family soon expired, because
Peter had only one son who died childless. His 5 daughters married high
level Russian aristocrats and many important politicians were their
descendants, the most famous of them was the best known Russia statesman
S.Witte (1849-1915). Unlike P.Shafirov's ancestors, all his descendants are
relatively easy to follow, because they belonged to the nobility and were
carefully registered.

The family tree of his daughters is published by an Israeli historian S.
Dudakov in his book "Paradoksy i prichudy filosemitizma i antisemitizma v
Rossii (Paradoxes and whims of philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism in Russia)".
Moscow: Moscow State Humanitarian University, 2000. The book contains also
materials about other high positioned Jews in the service of Peter the Great
and other Tsars, and about other problems of Jewish history in Russia. The
author has written also a biography of P.Shafirov, and has published many
reports about Jewish history in Israeli and other magazines. All these texts
are written in Russian, however. Russian part of the Internet also has some
information about P.Shafirov that is not very new, I think, but only
nowadays it became possible to publish information about Tsar's command.

Hope it helps

Bruno Martuzans. Riga, Latvia

=== I have long known about the personal friend of Peter the Great--Peter

SHAFIROV --and his supposed Jewish origins.
In fact, I have occasionally brought up his existence as proof that there
was a core East European Jewish population before
the migration of Western Ashkenazi eastward and their entry into Russia
thru the division of Poland. Without getting into that debate, I wonder
if anyone has any new information about Peter Shafirov. According to his
Wikipedia article, he is assumed to be of Jewish ancestry. His father was
named Paul, and also worked in Russian government ministries. Shafirov
himself held several jobs, and it seems his most important accomplishment
was negotiating an important treaty with Sweden. The basis for
considering him of Jewish ancestry, unless there is some documentation, is
his surname, assumed to be connected to the Shapiro/Safire/Spira complex,
and his extraordinary knowledge of foreign languages. He of course lived
and died an adherent of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Now I am becoming sceptical about his supposed Jewish origins.
Is the Shapiro name group strictly Ashkenazi? I would find it easier to
believe a Jewish origin for Shafirov >from a relic population around the
Black and Caspian seas, than >from Western Europe.
Jules Levin

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