Table of contents:
- From childhood I learned to get out
- The first major adventure
- Foreign wanderings
- From Paris to Siberia
The biography of Ivan Trevogin is more like the plot of an adventure novel. A boy from a small provincial town in the Russian Empire in 1783 in Paris posed as the heir to the throne of a fictional kingdom.
Ivan Trevogin (1761-1790) had two undeniable talents - incredible fantasy and adventurism. These data and fortune brought a simple boy from Kharkov to the capital Petersburg, and then to Paris. However, almost always he had to flee - sooner or later his adventures were exposed.
From childhood I learned to get out
Not much is known about Ivan Trevogin (not even his portrait remains), and historians mainly refer to the autobiography that the great writer told the Russian secret police.
Perhaps he inherited a craving for travel and adventure from his father. He was a guest icon painter, left his wife and three young children and went to the villages to paint churches for active libations. Drunk and drowned.
Ivan's mother, a young widow, could not support her three sons and asked the governor for help. He assigned the boys to a special educational home at the Kharkov school.
We must pay tribute to Ivan - the young provincial studied conscientiously and made great successes, which were reported to the governor himself. He, among other things, was very successful in French, which was spoken at that time by all the Russian nobility, which later came in handy for him.
After graduation, Ivan went to conquer Voronezh, and sought to get a job immediately in the office of the local governor. After several unsuccessful attempts, a local wealthy merchant took Ivan as a tutor to his children.
The first major adventure
Dreams brought Ivan to St. Petersburg - all the ambitious young people of a big country wanted to get to the capital.
The young man got a job as a proofreader in the printing house of the Academy of Sciences and, according to some information, received permission to publish his own magazine. Information about the release of the new magazine "Parnasskie Vedomosti" appeared in the newspaper "St. Petersburg Vedomosti". The news said that it would be a publication "about astronomy, chemistry, mechanics, music, economy and other other sciences, and the appendix will contain critical, love, funny and eloquent compositions." In this announcement, everyone who wants to receive the magazine by subscription was asked to pay for the annual subscription right away.
Not a single issue has survived to this day; a number of historians doubt at all that it was published. However, it is known that Trevogin got into debt and, having received no profit, was forced to flee from St. Petersburg. “This is how Trevogin found himself abroad in the position of a homeless vagabond,” writes Leonid Svetlov, a Soviet literary researcher of the 18th century.
Trevogin got on a ship sailing from St. Petersburg to Amsterdam. Holland seemed to him poor, and no one needed an unknown foreigner there. He tried to enter Leiden University, but was not accepted. After wandering, he again went to the trick. With excellent command of French, he passed himself off as a French sailor and got a job on a Dutch warship.
He later told the police that he was doing the hardest work on the ship, and while trying to escape, he was seized and sentenced to 20 lashes. He got fired and moved towards Paris. In France, Trevogin went to the Russian embassy and told a heartbreaking story that he was taken prisoner by Turkey and that now he wants to return to his homeland. In anticipation of an opportunity, he was given shelter, food, clothing.The Russian ambassador to Paris, Prince Baryatinsky, reported to Petersburg that the young man was very thirsty for knowledge and that he had visited all Parisian museums.
Trevogin feared that those whom he had managed to deceive would find him in his homeland and deal with him. “The awareness of his doom and youthful imagination pushed him on a dubious adventure,” writes Svetlov. Trevogin decided to try his luck in Asia or Africa. "Having learned by chance the story of a certain unfortunate Indian prince, he began to pretend to be the unfortunate prince of Golconda, deprived of the throne due to the hostile intrigues of relatives and envious people."
Trevogin convinced everyone that he was the prince of the (non-existent) Golconda kingdom, came to Paris to look for supporters. And to make the hoax even more convincing, he even ordered the emblem of Prince John from a Parisian jeweler.
However, for all undertakings, Ivan needed money - and once he stole silver, but was caught by the French police and sent straight to the Bastille. Sitting there, Trevogin developed a detailed state structure of his nonexistent kingdom, came up with money, coats of arms, titles, universities and much more. This state was supposed to take the form of enlightened absolutism (a popular idea of Western European philosophers of that time). Trevogin paid special attention to the project of the "Temple of Knowledge", an autonomous academy, where all scientists and people of the arts would work.
He even invented the Golkond language and gave evidence in it to the investigator of a Paris prison. From the Bastille, Ivan was taken to St. Petersburg, where he found himself in the hands of the secret police.
From Paris to Siberia
Empress Catherine II decided not to punish the young man severely and to forgive him for the mistakes of his youth - in 1783 Trevogin was put in a "restraining house" for two years, that is, a prison with hard work. And later, 24-year-old Ivan was sent to Siberia to serve as a soldier - and he was afraid of the army back in Kharkov!
However, Trevogin somehow liked the local authorities and they petitioned to transfer him from a soldier to a French teacher at a local school - apparently, few learned people stopped by in remote provinces. Later Trevogin taught at a private boarding school and gave private lessons - however, he could not return to the capital, he was in the position of an exile, the local authorities sent reports about him to the secret police.
The Siberian exile became practically an outlet for Trevogin - at last he was able to write a lot and continue to develop his utopian ideas. He became almost a hermit - he stopped teaching and became interested in writing. But soon he fell seriously ill and died at the age of 29.
The secret police decided to play it safe - and ordered the papers and works of the deceased to be sealed and sent to St. Petersburg. To raze his grave to the ground in order to avoid a potential pilgrimage of fans of the Trevogin hoax.
Several historical notes and an adventure story have been written about the failed prince of a fictional state - all researchers of his nature admire the fact that the adventurer was striving not for wealth and fame, but mainly for increasing knowledge.