1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vorontsov

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

VORONTSOV (or Woronzoff), the name of a Russian family, various members of which are distinguished in Russian history.

Mikhail Illarionovich Vorontsov (1714-1767), Russian imperial chancellor, was the first to become prominent. At the age of fourteen he was appointed a Kammer junker at the court of the cesarevna Elizabeth Petrovna, whom he materially assisted during the famous coup d'état of the 6th of December 1741, when she mounted the Russian throne on the shoulders of the Preobrazhensky Grenadiers. On the 3rd of January 1742 he married Anna Skavronskaya, the empress's cousin; and in 1744 was created a count and vice-chancellor. His jealousy of Alexis Bestuzhev induced him to participate in Lestocq's conspiracy against that statesman. The empress's affection for him (she owed much to his skilful pen and still more to the liberality of his rich kinsfolk) saved him from the fate of his accomplices, but he lived in a state of semi-eclipse during the domination of Bestuzhev (1744-1758). On the disgrace of Bestuzhev, Vorontsov was made imperial chancellor in his stead. Though well-meaning and perfectly honest, Vorontsov as a politician was singularly timorous and irresolute, and always took his cue from the court. Thus, under Elizabeth he was an avowed enemy of Prussia and a warm friend of Austria and France; yet he made no effort to prevent Peter III. from reversing the policy of his predecessor. Yet he did not lack personal courage, and endured torture after the Revolution of the 9th of July 1762 rather than betray his late master. He greatly disliked Catherine II., and at first refused to serve under her, though she reinstated him in the dignity of chancellor. When he found that the real control of foreign affairs was in the hands of Nikita Panin, he resigned his office (1763). Vorontsov was a generous protector of the nascent Russian literature, and, to judge from his letters, was a highly cultivated man.

Alexander Romanovich Vorontsov (1741-1805), Russian imperial chancellor, nephew of the preceding and son of Count Roman Vorontsov, began his career at the age of fifteen in the Izmailovsky regiment of the Guards. In 1759, his kinsman, the grand chancellor Mikhail Illarionovich, sent him to Strassburg, Paris and Madrid to train him in diplomacy. Under Peter III. he represented Russia for a short time at the court of St James's. Catherine II. created him a senator and president of the Board of Trade; but she never liked him, and ultimately (1791) compelled him to retire from public life. In 1802 Alexander I. summoned him back to office and appointed him imperial chancellor. This was the period of the triumph of the Vorontsovs, who had always insisted on the necessity of a close union with Austria and Great Britain, in opposition to Panin and his followers, who had leaned on France or Prussia till the outbreak of the Revolution made friendship with France impossible. Vorontsov was also an implacable opponent of Napoleon, whose “topsy-turvyness” he was never weary of denouncing. The rupture with Napoleon in 1803 is mainly attributable to him. He also took a leading part in the internal administration and was in favour of a thorough reform of the senate and the ministries. He retired in 1804. He possessed an extraordinary memory and a firm and wide grasp of history.

His “Memoirs of my Own times” (Rus.) is printed in vol. vii. of the Vorontsov Archives.

Semen Romanovich Vorontsov (1744-1832), Russian diplomatist, brother of Alexander Romanovich, distinguished himself during the first Turkish War of Catherine II. at Larga and Kagula in 1770. In 1783 he was appointed Russian minister at Vienna, but in 1785 was transferred to London, where he lived for the rest of his life. Vorontsov enjoyed great influence and authority in Great Britain. Quickly acquainting himself with the genius of English institutions, their ways and methods, he was able to render important services to his country. Thus during Catherine's second Turkish War he contributed to bring about the disarmament of the auxiliary British fleet which had been fitted out to assist the Turks, and in 1793 obtained a renewal of the commercial treaty between Great Britain and Russia. Subsequently, his extreme advocacy of the exiled Bourbons, his sharp criticism of the Armed Neutrality of the North, which he considered disadvantageous to Russia, and his denunciation of the partitions of Poland as contrary to the first principles of equity and a shock to the conscience of western Europe, profoundly irritated the empress. On the accession of Paul he was raised to the rank of ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and received immense estates in Finland. Neither Vorontsov's detention of the Russian squadron under Makarov in British ports nor his refusal, after the death of Bezborodko, to accept the dignity of imperial chancellor could alienate the favour of Paul. It was only when the emperor himself began to draw nearer to France that he began to consider Vorontsov as incompetent to serve Russia in England, and in February 1800 all the count's estates were confiscated. Alexander I. on his accession at once reinstated him, but ill-health and family affairs induced him to resign his post in 1806. From that time till his death in 1832 he continued to live in London.

Besides his valuable Note on the Russian War (Rus.) and numerous letters, Vorontsov was the author of an autobiography (in Russky Arkhiv, Petersburg, 1881) and “Notes on the Internal Government of Russia” (Rus.) (in Russky Arkhiv, 1881).

Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov (1782–1856), Russian prince and field-marshal, son of the preceding, spent his childhood and youth with his father in London, where he received a brilliant education. During 1803-4 he served in the Caucasus under Tsitsianov and Gulyakov, and was nearly killed in the Zakatahko disaster (January 15, 1804). From 1805 to 1807 he served in the Napoleonic wars, and was present at the battles of Pultusk and Friedland. From 1809 to 1811 he participated in the Turkish War and distinguished himself in nearly every important action. He was attached to Bagration’s army during the war of 1812, was seriously wounded at Borodino, sufficiently recovering, however, to rejoin the army in 1813. In 1814, at Craonne, he brilliantly withstood Napoleon in person. He was the commander of the corps of occupation in France from 1815 to 1818. On the 7th of May 1823 he was appointed governor-general of New Russia, as the southern provinces of the empire were then called, which under his administration developed marvellously. He may be said to have been the creator of Odessa and the benefactor of the Crimea. He was the first to start steamboats on the Black Sea (1828). The same year he succeeded the wounded Menshikov as commander of the forces besieging Varna, which he captured on the 28th of September. In the campaign of 1829 it was through his energetic efforts that the plague, which had broken out in Turkey, did not penetrate into Russia. In 1844 Vorontsov was appointed commander-in-chief and governor of the Caucasus with plenipotentiary powers. For his brilliant campaign against Shamyl, and especially for his difficult march through the dangerous forests of Ichkerinia, he was raised to the dignity of prince, with the title of Serene Highness. By 1848 he had captured two-thirds of Daghestan, and the situation of the Russians in the Caucasus, so long almost desperate, was steadily improving. In the beginning of 1853 Vorontsov was allowed to retire because of his increasing infirmities. He was made a field-marshal in 1856, and died the same year at Odessa. Statues have been erected to him both there and at Tiflis.

See V. V. Ogarkov, The Vorontsovs (Rus.) (Petersburg, 1892); Vorontsov Archives (Rus. and Fr.) (Moscow, 1870, &c.); M. P. Shelverbinin, Biography of Prince M. S. Vorontsov (Rus.) (Petersburg, 1858).  (R. N. B.)