The Governor-General of Vilnius: The Chair of the Interrogation Commission and the Liquidation Commission of Vilnius Governorate

  • Lukas Pocius
Keywords: Interrogation Commission of Vilnius Governorate, Liquidation Commission of Vilnius Governorate, Vilnius, governor-general of Vilnius, uprising of 1830–1831


The 1830-1831 uprising led to serious changes in the policy of Russian Empire in western provinces. Before the insurgency, there was a policy of coexistence with the local elites, but after it, Russian policy shifted towards assimilation. However, before starting the integration of the western provinces, the biggest challenge was the liquidation of the uprising and the trial of its leaders and participants. Between December 1830 and June 1831, several imperial decrees were issued to establish punishments for the leaders of the uprising, namely, expropriation of their property and a court-martial for the most active participants. The emperor allowed amnesty, especially for those who had abandoned the uprising themselves. However, no systematic process had been put in place to consider these expropriation cases. Thus, on 17 July 1831, a decree was issued to set up interrogation commissions in the governorates affected by the uprising to determine the categories of punishment, of which there were three: category 1 for the most active participants and leaders of the uprising, which allowed them to be stripped of all their property and sent to a court martial; category 2 was reserved for subversives and law-breakers of the Russian army, who could be tried in a court-martial for more serious activities, and category 3 was given to assigned to propagandists who, however, had not taken part in the uprising. The commissions were in place for about three years, but their work was ineffective because the commissioners stole assets from the confiscated property, while the bureaucracy was slow and rigid. The research showed that the work was continued by another commission, the Liquidation Commission, which was formed in 1832 to liquidate debts from confiscated property. After 1834, when the Interrogation Commission stopped its activities, the Vilnius Liquidation Commission continued its work under the governor-general of Vilnius, but unlike the Vilnius Interrogation Commission, it did not consider categories of punishment but rather amnesties and compensation of property. Research in this study focuses on Nikolai Dolgorukov, governor-general of Vilnius, who headed both the interrogation and liquidation commissions of Vilnius Governorate. As a head of the Interrogation Commission, his most important activity was the consideration and approval of the categories of punishment. However, in the course of our research we found that his other two areas of activity that he carried out as the head of both the Interrogation Commission and the Liquidation Commission, such as consideration of amnesties and payment of property compensations, overlapped with his activities as the governor-general. In the light of this information, however, we can see that despite his autonomy as defined in the decree of 17 July 1831, he was constrained by the emperor himself, because the emperor was the highest head of the Interrogation Commission and the Liquidation Commission. It was he who decided whether to accept or reject the results sent over by the governor-general of Vilnius. He also gave instructions on working principles and the like. Another person, Field Marshal Fabien Osten-Sacken of the 1st Army, was involved in the cases concerning the martial law in the western provinces, but he did not have the same influence on the governor-general of Vilnius as the emperor.