Pavel Pestel

Pavel Pestel
05 July, 2016

The Decembrist – Pavel Pestel

5th July marks the birthday one of the most famous of the Decembrists, Pavel Ivanovich Pestel. The Decembrists were young revolutionary army officers, who led a revolt against Tsar Nicholas I in 1825. The Decembrists wanted Russia to adopt democracy, a western style constitution and abolition of serfdom. However the Decembrist Revolt failed. The new Tsar sent many of the revolutionaries to Siberia, but ordered Pestel and the other most significant leaders to be hanged in 1826.

Early Life, Family and Education

Pestel was born in Moscow in 1793. His paternal relatives had all been directors of Moscow’s postal service, including Pestel’s father, Ivan. Subsequently, Ivan went on to become Governor-General of Siberia in 1821. Despite the Pestel family’s Muscovite roots, they were Saxon by descent. As a result, Pestel studied in Dresden in his youth. He returned to Russia, however, to study at the Corps of Pages in St Petersburg, where he graduated in 1811.

Military Career

Pestel was a military hero, like many of the Decembrists. After his graduation from the Corps of Pages, he joined the Lithuanian Guards regiment. He fought in the Great Patriotic War of 1812 and the battle of Borodino. Pestel was commended for his bravery, and was awarded the Gold Sword for Bravery – a high military honour in the Russian Empire. After the Napoleonic Wars, Pestel became a commander of an infantry regiment in Tulchin.

 Secret Society

Alongside his military career, Pestel became involved in secret societies which led the Decembrist Revolt. He became leader of the Southern Society of Decembrists in 1821 and was responsible for drafting the new political structure for Russia after the revolt. Pestel imagined an egalitarian state through land redistribution and democratisation. He was the most radical of the Decembrist leaders as he agreed with the killing of the Russian Tsar and his family in order to bring about political change.


Tsarist troops arrested Pestel before the actual Decembrist Revolt, suspecting him of plotting to kill the Tsar. The Russian Empire sentenced him to death by hanging following the revolt. He died in the Peter and Paul Fortress in 1826.

Posted by Megan Beddoe

Hi! I'm Megan, a university student from the UK, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Language Centre in Moscow. My parents live in a small village in Kent, but I go to university in London. I started learning Russian just nine months ago, but I never dreamed I would be spending summer in Moscow studying it! I study history at university, where I have become very interested in Russian history, especially Peter the Great, the Decembrists and Siberia throughout Russian history, so I hope to write about everyday history in the city while I am here. My month in Moscow is the perfect way to absorb as much Russian culture and history as possible, so I can go back to university ready for my final year and to write my dissertation on Siberian Exiles in 17th Century. Outside the classroom, I enjoy playing sports - I have fenced for England and Great Britain and I am captain of the LSE Women’s Basketball Team - and I also love to travel. My favourite places (aside from Moscow of course!) have been Cape Town, for its immense natural beauty, and Budapest, for its fun atmosphere! I love to try local food wherever I go, so I hope to be blogging about the culinary delights of Moscow during my stay here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts
Nerelle Constance Poroch is an Australian, working as Researcher of Aboriginal People in Canberra. Here is her story: How did you come up with ...
Read more
Russia’s most anonymous holiday is celebrated on the 4th of November. The holiday is named Unity Day (День народного единства) and despite the ...
Read more
When I studied in St Petersburg last year, I decided to stay with a host-family, or homestay. I had done the same when I studied in Yaroslavl, so ...
Read more
9 most famous (but hidden) dogs in Moscow As soon as you arrive, but also even before, when you decide and start planning a trip in Moscow, you ...
Read more