1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Golitsuin, Vasily Vasilevich
GOLITSUIN, VASILY VASILEVICH (1643–1714), Russian statesman, spent his early days at the court of Tsar Alexius where he gradually rose to the rank of boyar. In 1676 he was sent to the Ukraine to keep in order the Crimean Tatars and took part in the Chigirin campaign. Personal experience of the inconveniences and dangers of the prevailing system of preferment, the so-called myestnichestvo, or rank priority, which had paralysed the Russian armies for centuries, induced him to propose its abolition, which was accomplished by Tsar Theodore III. (1678). The May revolution of 1682 placed Golitsuin at the head of the Posolsky Prikaz, or ministry of foreign affairs, and during the regency of Sophia, sister of Peter the Great, whose lover he became, he was the principal minister of state (1682–1689) and “keeper of the great seal,” a title bestowed upon only two Russians before him, Athonasy Orduin-Nashchokin and Artamon Matvyeev. In home affairs his influence was insignificant, but his foreign policy was distinguished by the peace with Poland in 1683, whereby Russia at last recovered Kiev. By the terms of the same treaty, he acceded to the grand league against the Porte, but his two expeditions against the Crimea (1687 and 1689), “the First Crimean War,” were unsuccessful and made him extremely unpopular. Only with the utmost difficulty could Sophia get the young tsar Peter to decorate the defeated commander-in-chief as if he had returned a victor. In the civil war between Sophia and Peter (August–September 1689), Golitsuin half-heartedly supported his mistress and shared her ruin. His life was spared owing to the supplications of his cousin Boris, but he was deprived of his boyardom, his estates were confiscated and he was banished successively to Kargopol, Mezen and Kologora, where he died on the 21st of April 1714. Golitsuin was unusually well educated. He understood German and Greek as well as his mother-tongue, and could express himself fluently in Latin. He was a great friend of foreigners, who generally alluded to him as “the great Golitsuin.”
His brother Mikhail (1674–1730) was a celebrated soldier, who is best known for his governorship of Finland (1714–1721), where his admirable qualities earned the remembrance of the people whom he had conquered. And Mikhail’s son Alexander (1718–1783) was a diplomat and soldier, who rose to be field-marshal and governor of St Petersburg.
See R. N. Bain, The First Romanovs (London, 1905); A. Brückner, Fürst Golizin (Leipzig, 1887); S. Solovev, History of Russia (Rus.), vols. xiii.-xiv. (Moscow, 1858, &c.). (R. N. B.)