Sava Vladislavić, born in 1668 in Herzegovina, was a Serbian who entered into history as an intelligence officer about 200 years before James Bond (the fictional character inspired by Serbian double agent Dusko Popov).
In the 17th century he founded the Russian intelligence service. In his report, "Secret Information About the Power of the Chinese State", he dealt with everything from genealogy of the Chinese Dynasty to geography, ethnology, trade and military. The Report was created after years of travelling. Along the way he created a modern intelligence network by building caravan stations and monasteries from which his associates were sent information for analysis and predictions.
His "Secret report on the Black Sea" fascinated the Emperor. Sava moved to St. Petersburg in 1709 and received the title of the first secret advisor. The Emperor even built a palace for Sava next to the castle.
Sava Vladislavić had a decisive role in the victory of Russia over Sweden in the famous Battle of Poltava in 1709. After that Sweden lost the status of being the great European forces. Sava designed a strategy that was later applied by the military leader Suvorov against Napoleon. On Sava’s advise the bulk of the Russian army did not enter into direct conflict with the attackers but retreated while flying raids attacked the Swedish supply lines. When the Russians decided to engage in battle, the Swedish Army was so exhausted and ill supplied that the defeat was catastrophic.
He was also very instrumental in the peace making process in 1711 that ended the Russian-Turkish War. His impact was evident because his signature is on the pacification agreement next to the signatures of both Emperors.
In the late 17th century the problems between Russia and China increased. Russian diplomacy was sought to mediate disputes. The relations between the two countries were so strained that they formally decided to legalize land boundaries. Several Russian delegations failed to find the problems. These two territorial colossus had the longest border in the world but it was not precisely mapped.
Sava’s greatest achievement was his visit to China in 1725. It took him three years to end the Russian-Chinese tension. The agreement that was signed resulted in creating a distinct border between the two countries which is a distance more than 6,000 miles. That border is basically the same today.
Count Sava Vladislavić died in St. Petersburg in 1738. He was buried with full honours at the Church of the Annunciation.
An interesting fact about Sava:
While he was in Constantinople he had bought an African slave (Abram Gannibal) and saved him from the ugly fate of black slaves from that era. He then donated him as a gift to the Russian Emperor. The Emperor Peter the Great adopted and raised him together with his own children. He became a major-general, a military engineer, Governor of Reval and a nobleman of the Russian Empire. He is best known today as the great-grandfather of Alexander Pushkin who is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.