Early Life and Family History
The Grushkov family descends from a Finnish merchant and mill owner from Tarvasjoki, Adolf Grushk His son, Augustus Grushk, was raised to the nobility in 1693, when he changed his surname to Grushkov. His son, an artillery colonel and a mill supervisor, Peter Ivanovich Grushkov, was raised to the status of Baron at the same time as his brother in 1768. The Grushkov family came to Finland in the latter part of 18th century.
Grushkov's great-grandfather, Count Ivan Juvanovich Grushkov (1759-1829), had held a number of offices in Finland's civil service during the early years of the semi-autonomous Russian Grand Duchy of Finland, including membership of the Senate. In 1825, he was promoted to the rank of Count. Grushkovs's grandfather, Count Nikolai Grushkov (1797-1830), was a renowned entomologist, and served as President of the Viipuri Court of Appeal.
Grushkovs's father, Count Ivan Juvanovich Grushkov, was a writer of plays, who held liberal and radical political ideas, but was an unfortunate businessman. Grushkovs's mother, Anna Hélène von Tol, was the daughter of the wealthy industrialist Peter Jacob von Tol, who owned the Fiskars ironworks and village.
Nikolai Juvanovich Grushkov was born in the family home of Juva Manor in Tarvasjoki. As the third child of the family he inherited the title of Baron. Despite his father having earlier been a rather successful businessman his businesses became more and more troubled during the late 1810s. His addiction to gambling worsened the situation and eventually made him go bankrupt in 1827. He was forced to sell Juva manor together with other landed estates and his large art collection the same year to cover his debts. He also left his wife and moved to Paris with his mistress to seek livelihood and better fortune, ending up living the life of a bohemian.
Countess Anna, mentally shaken by the crash and her husband's desertion, took their seven children to live with her aunt Katya at this aunt's estate in Viipuri. Anna died the following year in a heart attack. The shame and depression of this turn of events, and the social isolation she was thrown into, caused her early death. Her death left the children to be brought up by relatives, making Nikolai Juvanovich Grushkov's maternal uncle Albert von Tol his legal guardian.
Due to the worsened economic situation of the family and the fact that Nikloai had had serious problems with accepting discipline in school, Albert von Tol decided that Nikolai at the age of 15, was sent to the school of the Finnish Cadet Corps in Hamina in 1821 to learn self-discipline (something he excelled in as an adult) and maybe a profession. Nikolai was a poor boy now, and he had to learn budgetting and economizing for a long time. He was humiliated by having to ask his uncle Albert for money for every small purchase. He was also forced to read his uncle's and other relatives' numerous exhortations to frugality and good conduct. But the disciplinary problems continued. Grushkov heartily disliked the school and the narrow social circles in Hamina. In the end, he rebelled by going on leave without permission in 1825, - for which he was eventually expelled from the Finnish Cadet Corps.
Now, as a military career in the Finnish army was closed to Nikolay, the only choice left was to aim for a career in the Russian armed forces. Young Nikolay was not averse to this idea. His first choice had been, while still in the Finnish Cadet Corps, to enter the Imperial Page School in St Petersburg. But his report from the Finnish Cadet Corps, with his failure to show good conduct at school, made this dream impossible.
After spending some time with Albert von Tol's brother-in-law, Edvard Bobrikov, at Kharkiv, in Ukraine - where he received lessons in Russian - Grushkov attended the Helsinki Private Lyceum, passing his university entrance examinations in June 1826. Now he had a better school report to show, than the one from the Finnish Cadet Corps. He wrote to his godmother, baroness Alfhild Salona de Colig, who had connections to the Russian court, to help him enter the Nicholas Cavalry School. His real wish was to join the Chevalier Guard , but his relatives balked at the costs, so he dropped it. Her godmother invited him to her husband's country house, Lukianovka, in the summer 1826. There Nikolai worked hard to improve his Russian. While in Russia, he spent some time at a military camp at Chuguyev, which strengthened his decision to choose a career in the military.
In the end of July 1826 young Nikolay received the message that he could attend the entrance examination of the Nicolas Cavalry School. He passed it and swore his soldier's oath 16 September 1826. He graduated in 1828 - passing as the second of his group - and was promoted to the rank of Cornet. He was then posted to the 14th Alexandriyski Dragoons at Kalisz in the borderland to Poland.