The New International Encyclopædia/Potemkin, Gregor Alexandrovitch

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POTEM'KIN, Russ. pron. pot-ya̤m'kĭn, Gregor Alexandrovitch, Prince of Taurida (1736-91). A Russian politician, born in the Government of Smolensk. He was educated at Warsaw and became an ensign in the Imperial Horse Guards. He won the favor of the Empress Catharine II. (q.v.), and in 1762 he was made an officer of her household, succeeding in time Orloff as the recognized favorite of the Empress. When, in his turn, he was superseded as a lover, he retained his ascendency in affairs of State, being made general-in-chief of the army, field-marshal, and governor of important provinces. As the principal representative of the Russian foreign policy, his influence was courted by the foreign rulers, and, in spite of a lack of the real gifts of statesmanship, he displayed a certain amount of skill in the conduct of affairs. He zealously furthered the process of southern expansion at the expense of the Turks, was instrumental in annexing the Crimea to Russia (1783), and for this service received the title of Prince of Taurida together with the governorship of the newly acquired territory. He devoted himself to the economic development of the southern provinces of Russia, founded the towns of Kherson, Kertch, Nikolaev, and Sebastopol, and strengthened Russia's power in the Black Sea. It is told, as an illustration of the methods by which he preserved the Imperial favor, that in 1787, when Catharine visited his government, he caused a large number of villages to be constructed along her route, with hirelings to play the part of contented peasants and well-fed citizens, all of which pleased her Majesty and brought Potemkin increased honors. He died near Nikolayev, in Bessarabia, during the course of Catharine's second war against the Turks, October 16, 1791.

Consult: De Cerenville, Vie du Prince Potemkin (Paris, 1808); Saint Jean (Potemkin's secretary), Lebensbeschreibung des Gregor Alexandrovitsch Potemkin des Tauriers, edited by Rothermel (Karlsruhe, 1888); and lives in Russian by Levshin (2 vols., Saint Petersburg, 1808) and Brückner (1892).