Dmitry Vladimirovich Dolgushin,

Doctor of Philology, Institute of History of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



From the History of Religious Quest of Russian Educated Society in the Second Quarter of the 19th Century: Leonilla Sayn-Wittgenstein


 DOI: 10.31518/2618-9100-2024-2-11

 The article endeavors to address in detail the religious quests of Leonilla Ivanovna Sayn-Wittgenstein (née Baryatinskaya, 1816–1918) – a famous secular lady and activist of the Catholic movement. The article analyses the religious way of life of the Baryatinsky family, where Sayn-Wittgenstein spent her childhood. It is concluded that Leonilla’s childhood was spent in a polyconfessional, but mainly Orthodox and Protestant environment, Catholic influences were not particularly noticeable. Leonilla’s gravitation towards Catholicism in her childhood was not the result of a worldview quest. Her childhood imagination was possessed by the image of a Catholic visionary nun like Teresa of Avila, with which she probably related herself. The article pays special attention to the period of L.I. Sayn-Wittgenstein’s conversion to Catholicism, which fell on the first years of her married life. A previously unknown source – the characterisation of L.I. Sayn-Wittgenstein written by V.P. Davydov – is introduced into the scientific use. On the basis of its analysis the thesis is argued that Leonilla Ivanovna’s worldview was greatly influenced by the liberal views of her husband, the Decembrist L.P. Wittgenstein. She decided to convert to Catholicism under the influence of a liberal political impulse, against the background of her rejection of violations of the principle of equal rights in the state and her rapprochement with the Polish-Lithuanian milieu. She perceived Catholicism from a “political” perspective, and her ecclesiology is closely linked to the problem of power. The question of what place L.I. Sayn-Wittgenstein took in the Catholic movement after her departure from Russia and her conversion to Catholicism on June, 21, 1847, is discussed. The history of her relations with Felix Dupanloup and other representatives of liberal Catholicism in France, whom she supported and called “the blessed cohort”, is described. The position that L.I. Sayn-Wittgenstein occupied in the Catholic world and among the European aristocracy at the turn of the century is characterised. Her views on Russia, expressed in her correspondence with Count Dubassin de Richmond, are analyzed. It is concluded that L.I. Sayn-Wittgenstein was a supporter of the liberal evolution of the Russian political system, supported the programme of P.A. Stolypin and the Octobrists. It can be said that throughout her long life she maintained a consistent worldview – starting from the turn of the 1830s–1840s and until the end of her days she was committed to political Catholicism of the liberal direction.

Publishing: 28/04/2024

The article has been received by the editor on 15/01/2024

Original article >

How to cite: Dolgushin D.V. From the History of Religious Quest of Russian Educated Society in the Second Quarter of the 19th Century: Leonilla Sayn-Wittgenstein // Historical Courier, 2024, No. 2 (34), pp. 156–178. [Available online:]

The article was made on the topic of the state assignment “The Past in the Manuscript Sources of the 16th–20th Centuries: Preservation and Development of Traditions” (FWZM-2024-0006).

Links: Issue 2 2024

Keywords: L.I. Sayn-Wittgenstein; L.P. Wittgenstein; F. Dupanloup; Baryatinskys; V.S. Solovyov; Russian Catholics; liberal Catholicism; Russian educated society of the 1830s; Russian aristocracy