The Stroganoff family has its origins in the fourteenth century, and throughout Russia's history, the family's achievements placed them in positions of exceptional influence, both political and cultural. Throughout the reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible) the family, as a private enterprise then brought under the authority of the Crown, increased its land holdings in a staggering expansion of Siberia, and reached an artistic apotheosis in the eighteenth century. By the late nineteenth century, the family still enjoyed social and political prestige, and founded in Moscow a school of art which exists to this day.

Left: Countess A. S. Stroganova and Her Son, by Louise-Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun, 1793, 351/2 x 29", State Hermitage, St. Petersburg (from the Stroganoff Palace collection).

The first recorded members of the Stroganoff family were based in the hanseatic city of Novgorod. The first members of the family, Spiridon (died 1395) and his son Kuzma Spiridonovitch (1381-1445) made money through trade, but soon, land posession became their primary source of income.

The family first broke into Russian history in 1445, when Luka Kuzmich Stroganoff (1424-1478) paid an exorbitant ransom for Prince Vassily the Dark, who had been blinded by enemies, and kept hostage by the Tatars.

The family moved to the city of Solvychegodsk, and turned their attention to the extraction of salt, an essential commodity of the time.

After the move of the family to Solvychegodsk, two hundred and fifty miles west of the then border between Europe and Asia, the family's adventurous spirit was to be rewarded tenfold. The settlement of Solvychegodsk was in the foothills of mountains rich in salt, iron ore, gold, and semi-precious stones. The forests were also rich in old-growth timber--much needed for building in the new settlements of the Stroganoff family.

In the reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible), the Tsar of Moscow set about conquering the myriad of Princely states which surrounded him, and finally Novgorod fell, as well as the Northern and Eastern States. Realizing that it would be to their advantage to become desireable to the Tsar, the Sroganoffs funded expeditions over the Urals, which brought back the news that the far side of the mountains was as rich as the west.

The Stroganoff family, in the person of Anika Feodorovitch (1488-1570) travelled to Moscow, and in a courageous demand, asked the Tsar to confirm their possession of the conquered Ural lands. In exchange for this priviledge, the Stroganoffs promised to assemble armies to subdue indigenous peoples found there, plant crops, create cities and churches, and promote the Russian civilization and culture. Above all, the Stroganoffs would continue providing salt, gold, semi-precious stones, furs, and river-pearls to the court of the Tsars of Moscow.

Ivan IV created a special commission to investigate the claims of the Stroganoffs, and finally, on April 4, 1558, a charter was granted to Anika's son Grigory Anikovitch, and accorded the Stroganoff family 3,415,000 dessiatin of land (equal today to about 8.5 millon acres). The family was exempt from taxation for twenty years (to encourage settlement), and was permitted to smelt iron ore, search for new lands, and look for lead and combustible sulphur. If silver, gold, copper, or tin were discovered, however, the Treasury in Moscow must be informed.

Further grants were issued, and by 1580, the Stroganoffs controlled Siberia.

In the Seventeenth century, the Stroganoff family's holdings had finally become firm throughout Siberia, and the English Ambassador recorded that the entire Perm province was under their control, and that in fact, they held a personal estate of some 40,000 square miles: an inhabited area roughly the size of the American state of Virginia. Peter I (the Great)'s northern campaigns against Sweden were financed entirely by the Stroganoff family. After the Battle of Schlussellberg, Peter gained control of the area where Saint Petersburg was to rise on the banks of the Neva. Once the capital city was in place, Peter commanded the members of the highest nobility to join him in the new capital, and the Stroganoffs would never reside in Siberia permanantly again. For their contributions to the state, Grigori Dimitrievitch, Great-great-grandson of Annika, was given the title of Baron by the grateful Peter. Although this was a great honor, the family accepted the title with great reservations, preferring their ancient Novgorodian title of "imenitiye lyudi" or "illustrious people." Grigori's brothers, Alexander, Nikolay and Sergey, also received the title of Baron in this period.

The Eighteenth century was to prove to be the greatest period for the Stroganoff family. During the reign of the Empress Elizabeth, the Stroganoff family hired the Empress' personal architect, the Italian Rastrelli, to build the Stroganoff Palace on the Nevsky Prospect at the Moika Canal.

Born in 1733, Alexander Sergeievitch Stroganoff (shown at left) would change the face of the family. Highly educated, Alexander Sergeievitch had travelled extensively. His classical education included physical sciences, which would prove useful in managing the mining concerns in the Urals. He was made a Count in 1761.

However, the most important facet of Alexander Sergeievitch's character was his love of art and architecture. The palace on the Moika was partially redesigned in the neoclassical style, and the family was involved in the design and construction of the Kazan Cathedral on the Nevsky Prospect.

Alexander Sergeievitch was named president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Art. He was instrumental in attracting the greatest artists of the time to the Academy, and in fact elected Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, former portraitist to the Court of Versailles, as a member. Count Stroganoff also founded the Stroganoff Institute of Applied Arts, the first private academy of art in Russia in 1825. Opened in Moscow, the Institute would grow in size and scale over the nineteenth century, completely funded by the family. After the revolution, the school survived, and is today known as the Higher Art and Industry University of Count S. G. Stroganoff.

In the mid and late nineteenth century, the Stroganoff family concentrated on its functions at Court, and on the philanthropic work begun in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The family continued to fund the numerous hospitals, churches, monasteries, and schools they had founded. The family's size began to dwindle, however, and by the 1870's there was only one female heiress to the entire family fortune, which included the houses in St. Petersburg and Moscow, land all over Russia and Siberia, and returns from the mineral mining rights acquired in the sixteenth century.

Countess Olga Stroganova married Prince Shcherbatov, the scion of the senior branch of one of Russia's oldest and most illustrious families - one of the families which trace their ancestry back to Prince Rurik - the semi-legendary founder of the Russian State. After their marriage, the Emperor Alexander III issued an ukase or imperial edict, which joined Olga's title to that of her husband, and so the family became known as the Princes Shcherbatoff-Stroganoff.

The family had three children: one girl and two boys. The eldest died in 1915. Of the four daughters of Oleg and Princess Sophia Wassilchikoff, only one, Xenia, had issue. Her daughter, Helene de Ludinghausen is the director of the Stroganoff Foundation, and it is her mission to ensure that neither the family nor its accomplishments be forgotten in Russia - their homeland which they have continued to support in their exile.