Nicolae Milescu

Nicolae Milescu bigraphy, stories - Russian diplomat

Nicolae Milescu : biography

1636 – 1708

Nicolae Milescu ( first name also Neculai, signing in Latin as Nicolao Spadario Moldavo-Lacone, also known as Spătarul Milescu-Cârnu "Chancellor Milescu the Snub-nosed", in Russian: Николай Гаврилович СпафарийNikolai Gavrilovich Spathari or Николае Гаврилович МилескуNikolaye Gavrilovich Milescu; 1636–1708) was a Moldavian writer, diplomat and traveler. Milescu spoke nine languages: Romanian, Latin, both Attic and Modern Greek, French, German, Turkish, Swedish and Russian. One of his grandsons was the Spătar (Сhancellor) Yuri Stefanovich, who came to Russia in 1711 with prince Dimitrie Cantemir.Olga Metchnikoff, Vie d’Elie Metchnikoff, Hachette, Paris, 1920

In China

Kalgan, the northern gate to China, in 1698.]] In 1675, he was named ambassador of the Russian Empire to Beijing, the capital of Qing China, returning in 1678. At the head of a 150-strong expedition that had a military component (meant to fend off possible attacks by a hostile indigenous population), Milescu had as his main tasks the settlement of several border incidents between Russia and China, the establishment of permanent trade relations with China, and the survey of the newly-incorporated Russian lands along the Amur River. The previous Muscovite embassy to China, led by Fyodor Baykov in 1656-56, had failed to achieve these objectives.

Unlike previous Russians who had gone through Mongolia, Milescu chose to travel through Siberia as far as Nerchinsk, directly north of Peking. Upon reaching Yeniseysk, Milescu sent one of his men, Ignatiy Milovanov, to the Chinese court in order to inform the Kangxi Emperor about the purpose of their embassy. Milovanov was the first European known to have crossed the Amur River, reaching Beijing by the shortest route possible. Milescu followed the same route to the Chinese border, and established his camp on the Nonni River in Manchuria, waiting for news from Milovanov. The latter returned to the camp on February 18 and, taking Milescu’s report to the Tsar with him, proceeded to Moscow. Milescu, on the other hand, crossed Manchuria and reached Beijing in the middle of May, after being held up for two months at Kalgan. Here he was able to communicate in Latin with the Jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest. His diplomacy proved unsuccessful, and he returned to Siberia by the same route in Spring 1677.


Milescu had ambitions of his own, and conspired against Prince Ştefăniţă Lupu. As punishment, Ştefăniţă ordered Milescu’s nose to be cut off (the reason for Milescu’s moniker). According to the unlikely account of chronicler Ion Neculce: "After [being mutilated], Nicolae the Snub-nosed fled to the German Land and found himself a doctor there, who repeatedly drew blood out of his cheeks and sculptured his nose, and thus day by day the blood coagulated, leading to his healing".Ion Neculce, O samă de cuvinte, XLI

Milescu again left for Istanbul, where he received a letter from the Russian Tsar Aleksey I, who appointed him translator of the Foreign Ministry in 1671. Milescu arrived in Russia together with Dositheus II, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 1674, he is shown as leading negotiations with both Wallachia and Moldavia, trying to rally them in the Russian-led anti-Ottoman projects. In 1695, Milescu took part in Peter the Great’s Azov Campaigns.


Milescu is the author of one of the first Russian works on arithmetic, "Arithmologion", which was written in 1672, based on his own Greek original. The manuscript was preserved in the Chudov Monastery, till it was discovered by church historian Nikolay Kedrov.Andonie George Ştefan, Istoria Matematicii în România, 1965, vol. 1, pp. 45-47

In his road journal – later published under the title Travels through Siberia to the Chinese borders, Milescu correctly described the middle course of the Ob, Irtysh, and Angara. He assumed the Ob to have its source in Lake Teletskoye in the Altai Mountains. He was also the first person to describe Lake Baikal and all the rivers feeding the lake, and the first to point out Baikal’s unfathomable depth.