Birthday anniversary of Vasily Fedorovich (Willim Ferdinandovich) Mertens, military leader and statesman, governor of Olonets Province

19 March 1761

Vasily Fedorovich (Willim Ferdinandovich) Mertens was born on March 8 (19), 1761, in a family of Prussian immigrants. His father, Friedrich Khristoforovich, was a field officer in the Russian army. Vasily Mertens began his service in 1773 as a soldier in the Dinaburg Border Battalion. Then, he was a non-commissioned officer in the Preobrazhensky and Life-Guard Horse regiments. From 1784, he used to be a lieutenant of the Chevalier Guard Corps, from 1790 - the captain of the Yelets Infantry Regiment. Vasily Mertens participated in the Russian-Swedish war of 1788–1790. He resigned in 1790. In 1800, he was appointed vice-governor of Perm, and then - the governor of Tver Province.

On April 29, 1804, Vasily Mertens became the governor of Olonets Province and took this position for 17 years. Important events took place in the life of Olonets province during his administration. To facilitate office work, he initiated the establishment of the first Olonets Provincial Printing House. The institution was opened in Petrozavodsk on May 11, 1805. It was located in one of the wings to the building of the City Public Administration.

Vasily Mertens contributed to the creation of new educational institutions in Olonets Province. In 1808, Petrozavodsk hosted the grand opening of the Olonets Provincial Gymnasium, the former Main Public School. Also, there were created the Petrozavodsk District School and the City-Parish School, Petrozavodsk, Vytegorsk, Kargopol and Olonets Religious Schools and about 20 country schools. Also, in 1805, Petrozavodsk acquired an amateur theatre, which was popular among the city residents and located in one of the halls of the governor's house until 1818. Besides, Vasily Mertens promoted the preservation of the governor's house, which is part of the architectural ensemble of Kruglaya Square in Petrozavodsk - one of the oldest and most significant architectural monuments. The Mariinsky Water System was launched in 1799; its construction was completed in 1810, during the administration of Vasily Mertens.

During the Patriotic War of 1812, Vasily Mertens arranged the sending of recruits to the army. He was responsible for the placement of institutions evacuated to Petrozavodsk from the capital: the Academy of Arts, the Archives of the Academy of Sciences, the Kunstkamera, the Saint-Petersburg Pedagogical Institute, as well as exhibits from the Hermitage, books and manuscripts from the Public Library. Then, he organized the distribution of French prisoners of war to the Alexandrovsky Plant.

In 1819, Vasily Mertens received Emperor Alexander I in Olonets Province during his visit to Petrozavodsk, Vytegra and Olonets. To commemorate this significant event, the yard of the Aleksandrovsky Plant in Petrozavodsk was decorated with two cannons. One of the canons was cast in the presence of the emperor, and the other was forged by him.

In 1821, Vasily Mertens received the rank of Privy Councillor and appointment to the Governing Senate. In 1826, he participated in the Supreme Criminal Court of the Decembrists.

Vasily Mertens was awarded the Orders of St. Anne, 1st rank; St. Vladimir, 2nd and 4th ranks. He died on March 30 (April 10), 1839, and was buried at the Smolensk Lutheran Cemetery in Saint-Petersburg.