January 01, 2006


Franz LeFort was born on January 2, 1656 into the family of a Geneva merchant. His life was not long, but it was tempestuous and full of merriment.

The Swiss were renowned throughout Europe as skilled mercenaries. LeFort was the sort of person who could not stay in one place for long, who was always ready to set out on a long journey. After serving in the French and Dutch armies, at the age of 20 he made his way to Russia. Here, the wandering mercenary found a home.

By the end of the 17th century, there was a standing invitation for foreign soldiers, doctors, merchants, and builders to come to Moscow. They all settled in one neighborhood – Nemetskaya sloboda (the German Settlement). Whether you were Swiss, French or English, here you became a German. (The Russian word for Germans – nemets – came from the word nemoy – or mute, incapable of speaking a “normal” human language.)

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