Otto Hermann von der Howen. Od kurlandzkiego patrioty do bezwzględnego poplecznika interesów rosyjskich w Księstwie Kurlandii i Semigalii

Arkadiusz Janicki

Abstrakt

Otto Hermann von der Howen. From Courland Patriot to Merciless Henchman of Russian Interests in the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia

The article describes the evolution of political activities of Otto Hermann von der Howen (1740–1806). He was one of the most influential politicians in the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia in the last decades of the state’s existence. When beginning his political activity he followed values instilled in him by his father and acted in the well‑understood interests of the duchy. He opposed Russian influences in Courland. He was not afraid of taking risks or sacrificing himself for the causes of his homeland and paid for his uncompromising attitude with three years of imprisonment in a Russian citadel. After his release he once more began to participate in the political life of the duchy, yet he discarded the ideals of youth and made politics his source of income. Witnessing the increasing influences of the Russian Empire in Courland he became their greatest advocate and stood at the head of the “Russian party” in the country. He did not follow any moral principles anymore. Not only did he deprive the Duke of Courland of considerable amounts of money, without any scruples, but also denied him his authority in the state. Otto Hermann von der Howen decisively contributed to the unconditional and direct incorporation of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia to the Russian Empire, after 234 years of its existence. He was hated by his contemporaries and considered an anti‑hero by later generations. The article is the first such comprehensive (although certainly non‑exhaustive) a presentation of political activities of Otto Hermann von der Howen in Polish historiography.

Słowa kluczowe: Otto Hermann von der Howen, Księstwo Kurlandii i Semigalii, stosunki kurlandzko-polsko-rosyjskie w drugiej połowie XVIII w.