Recruitment of Foreign Specialists from France and French-speaking Switzerland during the Reign of Peter I
Keywords:history of Russia, 15th‒18th centuries; reign of Peter I; immigration; foreigners in Russia; recruitment of foreign specialists
The recruitment of specialists in Europe was practised by Russia well before the reign of Peter the Great, at least as early as the fifteenth century. However, neither the extent nor the frequency of recruitments at this period can be compared with what happened during Peter’s reign. Not only did the general context evolve considerably with the arrival of Peter, but also the methods used in the recruitment of specialists. As the data concerning the French in particular show, these recruitments became increasingly targeted and the profiles sought increasingly specialised. In Russia, the general context was also increasingly favourable to this professional emigration. Religious isolationism and suspicion of foreigners were less widespread under Peter I; attempts to make foreign specialists convert to Orthodoxy, so frequent before the reign of the tsar, had become unusual. Finally, a stable legal base appeared which made it possible to conclude contracts with foreigners helping to increase their confidence and thus to favour recruitment. However, this mechanism, apparently very efficient, did not always bring the results expected. The efforts of the tsar’s agents were often sabotaged on the spot, and foreigners were treated badly. The example of the French speaks for itself: some were sent back to France by the authorities themselves for various reasons, others, discontent with their situation, either because they were not paid or did not have work, were easily lured away by French diplomats and put on boats destined for France.