Grigory Potemkin bigraphy, stories - Russian statesman, military commander and lover of Catherine II

Grigory Potemkin : biography

11 October 1739 - 16 October 1791

Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski ( r Grigoriy Aleksandrovich Potyomkin-Tavricheskiy; September 30 (October 11) 1739A number of dates as late as 1742 have been found on record; the veracity of any one is unlikely to be proved. This is his "official" birth-date as given on his tombstone. – October 5 (October 16) 1791,) was a Russian military leader, statesman, nobleman and favorite of Catherine the Great. He died during negotiations over the Treaty of Jassy, which ended a war with the Ottoman Empire that he had overseen.

Potemkin was born into a family of middle-income noble landowners. He first attracted Catherine's favor for helping in her 1762 coup, then distinguished himself as a military commander in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774). He became Catherine's lover, favorite and possibly her consort. After their passion cooled, he remained her lifelong friend and favored statesman. Catherine obtained for him the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and gave him the title of Prince of the Russian Empire among many others: he was both a Grand Admiral and the head of all of Russia's land and irregular forces. Potemkin's defining achievements include the peaceful annexation of the Crimea (1783) and the successful second Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792). The fall of Ottoman stronghold Izmail that he orchestrated prompted Gavrila Derzhavin and Osip Kozlovsky to write Russia's first national anthem, "Let the thunder of victory sound!".

In 1774, Potemkin became the governor-general of Russia's new southern provinces. An absolute ruler, he worked to colonize the wild steppes, controversially dealing firmly with the Cossacks who lived there. He founded the towns of Kherson, Nikolayev, Sevastopol, and Yekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk). Ports in the region became bases for his new Black Sea Fleet. His rule in the south is associated with the "Potemkin village", a largely fictional method of ruse involving the construction of painted façades to mimic real villages, full of happy, well-fed people, for visiting officials to see. Potemkin was known for his love of women, gambling and material wealth; he oversaw the construction of many historically significant buildings, including the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg. A century after Potemkin's death, his name was given to the Battleship Potemkin, which featured in the 1905 Russian Revolution and was fictionalized in The Battleship Potemkin by Sergey Eisenstein.

Personality and reputation

Potemkin "exuded both menace and welcome"; he was arrogant, demanding of his courtiers and very changeable in his moods but also fascinating, warm and kind. It was generally agreed among his female companions that he was "amply endowed with 'sex appeal'". Louis Philippe, comte de Ségur described him as "colossal like Russia", "an inconceivable mixture of grandeur and pettiness, laziness and activity, bravery and timidity, ambition and insouciance". The internal contrast was evident throughout his life: he frequented both church and numerous orgies, for example. In Ségur's view, onlookers had a tendency to unjustly attribute to Catherine alone the successes of the period and to Potemkin the failures. An eccentric workaholic, Potemkin was vain and a great lover of jewelry (a taste he did not always remember to pay for), but he disliked sycophancy and was sensitive about his appearance, particularly his lost eye. He only agreed to having portraits made of him twice, in 1784 and again in 1791, both times by Johann Baptist von Lampi and from an angle which disguised his injury.

Potemkin was also an intellectual. The Prince of Ligne noted that Potemkin had "natural abilities [and] an excellent memory". He was interested in history and generally knowledgeable. Potemkin loved the classical music of the period, as well as opera. He liked all food, both peasant and fine; particular favorites included roast beef and potatoes, and his anglophilia meant that English gardens were prepared wherever he went. A practical politician, his political ideas were "quintessentially Russian", and he believed in the superiority of the Tsarist autocracy (he once described the French revolutionaries as "a pack of madmen"). Potemkin's habits included biting his nails, to the point where he developed hangnail. One evening, at the height of his power, Potemkin declared to his dinner guests:

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine