Plaques commemorating the American Revolution in Russia? No way, there is no connection Russia and the American Revolution.
Visitors to St. Petersburg, encounter thousands of well-maintained plaques, monuments and statues commemorating the 1917 Revolution overthrowing the Romanov Tsar Nicholas II. Surprisingly among this rich Bolshevik memorialization, there are several commemorable plaques which denote people and events of the American Revolution.
While there were no battles fought in Russia, events in Tsarist Russia did have an impact on the outcome of the American War of Independence. Traditionally, Britain and Russia were close allies in the European wars with France. However, this alliance did not extend to the North American Rebellion. First, Tsar Catherine the Great turned down King George III’s request to provide troops for hire and later she organized several non-belligerant nations into a League to Armed Neutrality to maintain unrestricted trade and commerce during the conflict.
With a little searching, one can two St. Petersburg memorials with associations to people and events of the American War of Independence.
John Quincy Adams
During the later stages of the American War of Independence, the Continental Congress sought aid and support from several European countries. The Congress sent Francis Dana to establish relations with the court of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg. However, Dana did not speak Russian nor French, the diplomatic language of the Russian court. As a transalator and secretary, the fourteen year-old son of John Adams, John Quincy Adams accompanied Dana.
In St. Peterburg, the duo first stayed at Hotel de Paris and then Hotel d’Europe, both of which are no longer in existence. Given concerns over maintaing neutrality, Catherine the Great refused to meet with the American embassaries. Dana and Adams returned without anything to show for their attempted diplomacy.
After the war, President George Washington selected an older and more experienced John Quincy Adams as the first United States ambassador to Russia. Adam’s St. Petersburg residence during his ambassadorship is now a luxery hotel with a commemorative plaque on an outside wall.
The commemorative plaque is located at 66 Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki, near St. Isaac’s Cathedral
John Paul Jones
Swashbuckling John Paul Jones earned quite the name for himself as a daring and highly competent naval commander. As the United States government disbanded its navy after the war, Jones sought naval employment elsewhere. Catherine the Great held him in high regard and offered Jones a position as Admiral in the Russian fleet opposing the Ottoman Turks. Through intrique and internal squabbles, this assignment did not go well and Russian military commanders ordered Jones back to St. Petersburg.
While waiting for a new command in St. Petersburg, Jones penned his memoirs and pursued an active social life. Today, there is a plaque denoted his former residence at 23 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa, just a few blocks from where John Quincy Adams lived as ambassador.
The Russians never gave Jones another naval command. Though still an Admiral in the Russian Navy, he travelled to Paris seeking other opportunities where he unexpectively died of a kidney ailment at the age of 45.
As a global war, the American Revolution was contested on five continents. Too often scholars and students focus just on people and events within the thirteen colonies. Numerous critical connections occurred outside the United States which are required to properly interpret and understand the Rebellion. With a discerning eye, these links can even be found in unsuspecting places such as St. Petersburg, Russia.