The Apostols of Poltava



Born into a noble Cossack family of Moldavian boyar origin, Yefremon Apostol settled in the Poltava Region of the left bank Ukraine area in the late 1500s. His forbearers included the Katardjis of Moldovia and the Catarjis of Romania, both descendants of Jean Catarji, a Grandspator.

His son, Paul Yefremovich Apostol, is mentioned in 1660 as representing the founder of the Ukraine, Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitzki at the Court of Tsar Alexis Mikhailivich. He is listed as Colonel in the Mirgorod Regiment.

Paul Yefremovich had a son on 14 December 1654 who he named Danylo Pavlovich Apostol. He too became a prominent military leader, polkovnyk (colonel) of the Mirgorod regiment, and a participant in the Russian Empire campaigns against the Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate. He fought in the Great Northern War between 1701 and 1705 against the Swedes in Livonia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but in 1708 briefly joined Hetman Ivan Mazepa who sided with Charles XII of Sweden against Peter I of Russia. Later, Danylo Apostol again switched sides and fought on the Russian side, distinguishing himself in the Battle of Poltava. In 1722, he led Cossack units during the Russo-Persian War that led to the expansion of Russian power in the Caspian region. Danylo Apostol lost his eye during the capture of Persian Derbent fortress, this gave him a nickname:"The blind Hetman".

Danylo married Ulyana Vasilievna in about 1675 and in 1676 she gave birth to her first child, Ivan Danylovich. He was not very healthy and died in 1690 at the age of only 14. Peter Danylovich was born in 1682 and like his father was taller than most of his countrymen. He went to St. Petersburg at an early age to be educated. He spoke French, German and Italian as well as Russian.


Paul Danylovich was born a few years later in 1688.He would become a Colonel in the Mirgorod Regiment while his brother would hold the same rank in the nearby Lubenski Regiment.


Danylo’s son, Peter, was extremely well educated and caught the attention of Alexander Danylovich Menshikov (1673-1729) who was Tsar Peter I’s closest friend and confidant. Since Menshikov’s only son was not particularly intelligent, Peter was assigned the duties as his tutor in 1720.


Moving in the Court circles, Peter Danylovich was spotted by Elizabeth, Peter the Great’s daughter. Peter Danylovich’s striking good looks and intelligence caused her to be very attracted to the young man and she would find every excuse to summon Peter Danylovich and order him to kiss her hand. Apparently, she was quite in love with the young Ukrainian.


At this time, Danylo and other Cossacks of the Left Bank had been accused of participating in the alleged revolt led by Hetman Paul Polubotok. In 1723, Danylo travelled to St. Petersburg with the older Polubotok and presented the Kolomak Petition which demanded Ukrainian Autonomy in return for the laying down of arms and joining the Russian Empire. It is said that upon being received by Peter the Great, Danylo did not kneel and kiss the hand of the Tsar as was customary for subjects of the Emperor. In fact, as legend has it, Danylo, being two centimeters taller than Tsar Peter who prided himself on his great height, appeared to look down on the Tsar.


Both Polubotok and Danylo were detained for alleged treason and confined in the Peter and Paul Fortress. The Tsar visited them on several occasions in an attempt to have Danylo repent. Polubotok being old and frail, soon succumbed to the harsh conditions and died. In February of 1725, the Tsar also died and Catherine assumed the throne.


Peter Danylovich used his relationship with Menshikov and his closeness to Catherine’s daughter Elizabeth to convince the Empress to have Danylo released from prison in May of 1726. Danylo hurried back to his home in Homutets just in time to participate in the elections. In December 1727 Danylo became the Hetman and remained as such until his death on 17 January 1734. he built his home on the “Apostolivchina” estate which consisted of 560 dessiatines (one dessiatine is equivalent to 1.1 hectars or 2.7 acres). 65 of them were the estate home, chapel, gardens,brick factory and gunpowder magazine. 410 of them were fields for growing mainly wheat and some beets while 85 were comprised of forests. There were also 705 dessiatines of sharecropper lands of which 350 were sold to peasants for 420 Rubles.


Peter Danylovich had to remain in St. Petersburg until 1728 when his mentor Menshikov was banished to Siberia for being complicit in many crimes and misdeeds. He returned to the Ukraine as Colonel of the Lubenski Regiment and following his father’s death remained at Homutets until his own death in 1758.


Peter Danylovich had two children: Elena Petrovna born in 1736 and Danylo Petrovich born in 1742.


Danylo Petrovich also grew up in Homutets, married and had a son named Michael Danylovich in about 1770 who produced no offspring and died in 1802.

Elena Petrovna grew up in Homutets and in 1761 married a Russian officer from Poltava: Major General Mathew Artamonvich Muraviev. Their son, Ivan Matveivich was born on 1 October 1768 and received his primary schooling at a German boarding school. He was enrolled at an early age in the Izmailovsky Regiment and due to his grasp of languages soon attracted the attention of Catherine II who made him a Knight in charge of her grandchildren in 1792. With the ascension of Paul I, Ivan Matveivich was assigned as Resident Minister to the Duke of Oldenburg in Euten, Germany and in 1799 he was sent to Denmark as special envoi. In 1800, he was recalled to serve as Private Advisor to the College of Foreign Affairs. That same year, his cousin, Michael Danylovich Apostol being the last to hold the name Apostol, obtained special permission for his name and property – including the Homutets property - to be transferred to Ivan Matveivich who subsequently became known as Mouravieff-Apostol and the first with that surname.

In 1802, Ivan Matveivich was named Ambassador to  Madrid, Spain and was charged with the duty of following the exploits of Napoleon for whom he had a particular dislike. After incurring the displeasure of the Emperor, Ivan Matveivich was retired in 1805 and moved to his home in Homutetz, Poltava O'blatz, Ukraine. He dedicated himself to the pursuit of science and literature. He was named Senator and Member of the Board of Directors of the Board of Education where he heartily defended the need for education to overcome illiteracy. While at Homutets, originally built by the Hetman Danylo Apostol around 1730, Ivan Matveivich translated the classical works of Horace, Cicero and Aristophanes. Between 1813 and 1815, the Syn Otetchestva published his Letters from Moscow to Nijny-Novgorod where he defended his idea that all of Russia's ills were the result of a national social conscience which resulted in an attachment to secular prejudgments and a blind following of whatever was in vogue. Despite his dislike for and constant critique of Napoleon, Ivan Matveivich constantly spoke French and sent his children to school in Paris.

In 1820, he made a trip to the Crimea. To prepare, he studied at length both ancient and modern writings about the Crimea. Following his return, he published his findings in Voyage in Tauride (1823) which still remains to this day a valuable reference book. Ivan Matveivich was a member of the Russian Academy, the Free Society of Students of Literature, Science and the Arts. He had a good relationship with such famous writers as Olenine, Karamzine, Gneditch, and above all Batiuchkov who had given Ivan Matveivich the nickname of Alcibiades. Ivan Matveivich was also an excellent musician and singer.

His first marriage was to Anna Tchernoevitch in 1790 and together they had seven children - three boys and four girls. She was the daughter of a military officer and spent most of the time in Paris bringing up the children. The sons, Mathew, Serge and Hyppolite would later cause their father great pain after being convicted of being involved in a Rebellion against the Tsar. The daughters, Anna, Elizabeth, Katerina and Elena married successfully into society. Mathew Ivanovich had a son who died in childhood while exiled in Siberia and later adopted a daughter, Natalie Sazonov. Although never made public or officially confirmed, there are documents and some evidence that a few years before his execution in 1826, Serge Ivanovich had a daughter and a son. The daughter, Alexandra, apparently died at 14 of a circulatory infirmity but the son, Peter, grew up and had children of his own. Fearing possible repercussions arising from his treasonous activities, Serge Ivanovich, sought to protect his children and their mother. At the time it was not permitted that an officer in the Army under the age of 30 be married and have children. He quietly filed the required documents recognizing them as his children and they were never told of their connection to their famous father, growing up instead under a different name. Letters from the condemned man to both Mathew Ivanovich and Ivan Matveivich on the eve of his execution referred to them “taking care of the children”. Apparently, Elizabeth Ivanova who lived near Poltava participated in looking after the “secret” children.

Following the death of Anna Tchernoevitch in 1810, Ivan Matveivich remarried in 1812 to Prascovie Grouchetzky. She had been born in 1780. Together they produced another son, Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich born in 1817, and two daughters, Eudoxie Ivanova and Elizabeth Ivanova. Eudoxie became the Princess Khovansky and died in 1850 while Elizabeth married Baron Stalting of Widburg.

His three sons comprised the ill-fated Decembrist Movement nucleus which culminated in a rebellion in December 1825. The involvement of his sons in this uprising and their miserable end (Serge Ivanovich being executed, Hyppolite Ivanovich committing suicide and Mathew Ivanovich being banished to exile in Siberia) was too much and Ivan Matveivich resigned from all his posts and retired to Florence and San Remo in Italy where he spent the last 25 years of his life with his gravely ill wife. He returned to Russia from time to time and Schnitzler, in his personal memoirs once wrote about Mouravieff-Apostol during one of these visits that "alas, he still lives". During his last trip, he finally died in St. Petersburg on 12 March 1851. He was buried in the Okhta Cemetery but the grave has long since disappeared.

Prior to his death, however, Ivan Matveivich had bequeathed his properties and especially his beloved Homutets mansion to his eldest son, Mathew Ivanovich who was still exiled in Siberia. Not knowing whether or not Mathew Ivanovich would ever return, Ivan Matveivich entrusted the Homutets property to his younger son by his second marriage, Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich, born on the 21st of August 1817. Just before leaving the Estate for the last time, Ivan Matveivich planted an oak tree in memory of his three dear sons. The tree grew tall over the next century and in the process split into three trunks. Today the tree with three branches joined at the base stands as a reminder of the three beloved sons of Ivan Matveivich and the family motto: Tria in uno.

Apparently, the young Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich had been involved in a number of dishonest undertakings and had even been incarcerated for various frauds he had perpetrated during his father’s lengthy absence. According to Katerina Muraviev-Apostol, Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich had borrowed large sums of money and placed the Homutets Estate as guarantee. He then absconded with the funds without his father’s knowledge. When Mathew Ivanovich was eventually released from his Siberia exile and returned to Russia, he was not given all his rights back including his properties, rights of inheritance, civil and military decorations or pensions. Nevertheless, Mathew Ivanovich tried to return to Homutets but was rebuffed by Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich who gave him some small properties in Russia near Ryazan but retained the Homutets Estate for himself.  Legally, there was little Mathew Ivanovich could do to force the issue. Not until after 1856 did Mathew Ivanovich regain all his civil rights and liberties and thereby reinstate his rights to his inheritance and properties including the Homutets property.

Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich died on 18 February 1866 and was buried alongside the Pokrovski church in the village of Homutets. The whereabouts of his grave was lost until being rediscovered in 2007. The illegal placing of the Estate as guarantee for a loan amounted to an illegal appropriation by Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich and his wife, Marianna Vladimirovna nee Gourko and born on 17 November 1823. She survived her husband and sold off part of the Estate but retained the other part.When Marianna Vladimirovna died on 5 December 1884, their adopted daughter took it over.

She married Colonel Stanislav Constantinovich Harting in 1895 who first visited Homutets in 1882. Just three years later in 1898, they divorced. She married Councillor of State Jankhoulio while Garting married the daughter of General Klebnikov and remained with the Homitets Estate. He had by that marriage a son in 1899 and a daughter in 1901.Upon her death, he buried her on a small island in the lake on the Homutets property where a memorial stone exists to this day. He continued to live there until 1910 occupying the property which had been acquired through an illegal process.

Mathew Ivanovich passed his name and properties, including the Homutets Estate, to Vladimir Vladimirovich Korobyine, his nephew, who by decree of Tsar Alexander II became the first of the Muraviev-Apostol-Korobyines. In 1910, Stanislav Constantinovich Harting was informed of the intention of Vladimir Vladimirovich to reclaim ownership of the Estate. By then, Vladimir Vladimirovich had married Nadhezda Fedorovna Tereschenko, the wealthy daughter of the Ukrainian sugar magnate, Fedor Artemivich Tereschenko. Apparently, through her wealth and influence, a financial settlement was made to overcome the previous mortgaging debt incurred by Basil (Vassily) Ivanovich. The legitimization of rightful ownership took place in 1912 and prior to leaving the Ukraine for the last time in 1914 Vladimir Vladimirovich was in full control of the Estate. The ensuing chaos caused by the Bolshevik intervention may have disrupted the documentary process as many records were lost during these turbulent times. In any case, ownership of private property ceased and Homutets Estate became another State owned property by 1920.

The Gunpowder magazine had been destroyed on orders of Tsar Peter I. The brick factory ceased to exist after Danylo Apostol’s death but was restarted during the Ivan Matveivich period and each brick, oversized by today’s standards, was stamped with the M A initials. The factory operated well into the 20th century. The chapel was destroyed in the 1920s and the Estate fell into considerable disrepair since government ministries had little in the way of funds to keep up the property much less undertake renovations. By the late 20th century, the property was operated as part of a State Veterinary College. A museum established there under the Communist Regime was looted following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The Ukrainian State Ministry of Agriculture last appraised the property at a value of $600,000.