Portrait of Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski (1739-1791), Prince (1776); Favourite of Catherine the Great (1774), President of the College of War and Russian Field Marshal (1784), commander-in-chief of Russian armies in the south and governor-general of Russia's new southern provinces.
Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski (Russian: Григо́рий Алекса́ндрович Потёмкин-Таври́ческий; 24 September 1739– 16 October 1791) was a Russian military leader, statesman, nobleman and favourite of Catherine the Great. For 17 years the most powerful man in the empire. An able administrator, licentious, extravagant, loyal, generous, and magnanimous, he was the subject of many anecdotes. Educated at the University of Moscow, Potemkin entered the horseguards in 1755. He helped bring Catherine II to power as empress and was given a small estate. He shone in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74 and became Catherine’s lover in 1774. Commander-in-chief and governor-general of “New Russia” he remained friendly with her, and his influence was unshaken despite Catherine’s taking subsequent lovers. Potemkin was deeply interested in the question of Russia’s southern boundaries and the fate of the Turkish Empire. In 1776 he sketched the plan for the conquest of Crimea, which was subsequently realized. He was also busy with the so-called Greek project, which aimed at restoring the Byzantine Empire under one of Catherine’s grandsons. In many of the Balkan lands he had well-informed agents. After he became field marshal, in 1784, he introduced many reforms into the army and built a fleet in the Black Sea, which served well in Catherine’s second Russo-Turkish War (1787–91). The arsenal of Kherson, begun in 1778, the harbour of Sevastopol, built in 1784, and the new fleet of 15 ships of the line and 25 smaller vessels were monuments to his genius. But there was exaggeration in all his enterprises. He spared neither men, money, nor himself in attempting to carry out a gigantic scheme for the colonization of the Ukrainian steppe; when the second Turkish War began, the Potemkin acted as commander-in-chief.
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