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James Daniel Bruce was the son of Colonel William Bruce of Clackmannan in Scotland. He was born in Russia and served that country as a military general, statesman, diplomat and scholar. In 1686, Bruce became a cornett and went on the first of his military expeditions. He sided with Tsar peter in his contest for the throne with his half-sister, Sophia. He became a friend of the Tsar and served him as both a military and naval officer, becoming a colonel by 1696. In 1698 studied in Britain due to Russia's weakness in artillery and indeed he became Russia's earliest Newtonian. He visited the Greenwich Observatory, the Woolwich Arsenal and the mint at the Tower of London. On his return from Britain, Bruce established the first observatory in Russia. By 1700, Bruce held the rank of major-general and he commanded and reformed the artillery in the Great Northern War as Master of Ordinance. In 1709 Bruce was awarded the Order of St Andrew for his decisive role at the battle of Poltava. Later in the war, between 1712-13, Bruce headed the allied artillery of Russia, Denmark and Poland-Saxony in Pomerania and Holstein. His work did not confine itself to the military. In 1717 Bruce became Senator and President of Colleges of Mines and Manufacture and was also in charge of the Moscow print and St Petersburg mint. During the various negotiations with Sweden, Bruce acted as First Minister plenipotentiary at the Aland and Nystad congress and eventually negotiated and signed the peace treaty with Sweden in 1721 when he became a Count of the Russian Empire. It is worthy of note that his opposite number at some of these negotiations was the famous Scot from Ulster, Hugo Hamilton. In 1726, Bruce retired with the rank of Field Marshal. Known as the most enlightened man in Russia, he possessed a rich library in 14 languages, and a varied collection of curiosities. Some of these books found their way to the library of St. Petersburg Mining University and bear potential evidence that Bruce participated in the translation of scientific/technical works into Russian. Bruce took pride in his Scottish ancestry and frequently corresponded with his Jacobite kinsmen and countrymen. This is also borne by the list of books on heraldry which he kept in his library, his pursuit of heraldic studies and the extracts he made about the coat of arms of the British Bruces. It is interesting to note that the Russian historian Fedosov talks of Bruce serving his 'adopted country' when referring to Russia, rather than his country of birth.

Sources: D. Fedosov, The Caledonian Connection (Aberdeen, 1996), pp.13-14; D Fedosov, "The First Russian Bruces" in The Scottish Soldier Abroad (Edinburgh & Maryland, 1992), pp.55-66. Vladislav Stasevich has written a few articles in Russian ('James Bruce’s books in the library of the Mining University (the specifics of the owner’s notes)', 'James Bruce reflecting on his coat of arms' which are available at

Thanks to Dr. Thomas Brochard for updating this record.

Service record

Arrived 1669-01-01, as OFFICER
Departed 1735-12-31, as GENERAL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY