Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Clegg family pyramid in the Ukraine

This blog has long taken an interest in Nick Clegg's Russian ancestors. We introduced you to his great great aunt Moura Budberg (writing about her got me a New Statesman column for a while - and Nick remembers meeting her) and recently revealed that Nick is a kinsman of the Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

But there is more. At the height of Cleggmania during the election campaign, the Guardian wrote about Nick's great great grandfather Ignaty Zakrevsky, a former attorney general in the imperial Russian senate.

The newspaper described how Zakrevsky lived on a large estate in what is now the Ukraine, not far from Kiev. The crumbling estate is currently occupied by an agricultural college, but still boasts a two-storey classical mansion, annexes, and a large park.

Zakrevsky was described by Valentina Gonchar, who runs a museum in the district where the estate is situated as "a man of liberal views and European education". He also described how his "articles on legal topics appeared in many journals at the time. He was also a leading Mason. Tsar Alexander III sacked him from the senate in 1900 after he wrote a letter to the Times in support of Alfred Dreyfus."

But there was more, because the family estate also had a pyramid:
Zakrevksy – like Clegg, a passionate internationalist – travelled to Egypt as ambassador in 1898. He came back with building material and ordered the brick pyramid to be built in his garden. He died in Cairo in 1906, was embalmed, taken home and buried under it.
The Guardian kindly provided a link to what appears to be a museum website. My Russian, self-taught from chess magazines when I was a teenager, isn't that good, but I assume that the photograph I have borrowed shows the pyramid under which Nick's great great grandfather is buried.


Martin Veart said...

Ah, if my daughter ever becomes a leading parlimentarian (I'm sure she has more sense though) then at least she will be able to claim similar Ukrainian lineage to our illustrious leader.

STFC Executive said...

A 'pyramid of the vanities?' Seems a somewhat trivial post as your deracinated and ideolgy-free leader cuddles up to a proto-fascist leader.

Jane said...

Correction Jonathan: Alexander III did not sack Zakrevsky in 1900 unless he did it through a medium, because he'd been dead for 6 years by that time.

Jonathan Calder said...


That's what comes of believing the Guardian.

Lavengro in Spain said...

'Zakrevsky ... was also a leading Mason.'

Before your British readers get too excited, let me mention that Continental Masons are not the same as British ones. They are radically anti-clerical and mystical. Franco had Masons on his list of enemies, and there have been rumours that the Spanish Socialist PM is a Mason (his father, a Republican army officer shot by Franco's rebels, certainly was).

Russian Masonicism is represented by Pierre Bezukhov in War and Peace.

Anonymous said...

Oh God, Is this what they do?

Actually, a pyramid might be quite fun. Can we have one instead of that naff Dome thingy?

Think of the tourist revenue!

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I read a book about great women in Russia and was intrigued by the life of Moura Budberg. The book was in Russian. I was searching the Internet when found out she is a kin of Nick Clegg!!!
The book says his great great aunt was not a daughter of the famous Zakrevsky. She was a big lier and a double agent working for the British and the Russians. Anyway, just letting you know.
But what is interesting she was a wife of an Estonian noble, and Mr. Clegg does have more chance to claim the land in Estonia!!!
Good luck I wish I had the papers to claim the land that belonged to my great-grandparents in Ukraine. :(

Unknown said...

This is a delight, and what the meme was all about, getting some brilliant posts out again! I missed this first time round & have never yet found the occasion to Google Clegg & pyramid at the same time!