Aleksandr Mikhailovich Gorchakov

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gorchakov, Aleksandr Mikhailovich


Born June 4 (15), 1798, in Haapsalu; died Feb. 27 (Mar. 11), 1883, in Baden-Baden. Buried in St. Petersburg. Prince, Russian diplomat, minister of foreign affairs, and state chancellor of Russia.

Gorchakov was educated at the Tsarskoe Selo lyceum. He entered the diplomatic service in 1817. From 1820 to 1822 he accompanied the minister of foreign affairs K. V. Nes-sel’rode to the congresses of the Holy Alliance at Troppau, Laibach, and Verona. Later he held various diplomatic posts in London, Rome. Berlin, and Vienna. In 1854 he participated in the Vienna conference of ambassadors, attempting to restrain Austria, Prussia and other states from joining the coalition of England, France, and Turkey against Russia (the Crimean War of 1853–56). As minister of foreign affairs after 1856, he was one of the most prominent directors of the aggressive foreign policy of the tsarist regime from the late I850’s to the I870’s.

From 1856 to 1863, Gorchakov tried to throw off the restrictions imposed on Russia by the Treaty of Paris of 1856, attempting to do this by a rapprochement with France, but after Napoleon Ill’s attempt to use the 1863 Polish uprising against the tsarist regime’s interests, Gorchakov reversed the course of Russia’s foreign policy in favor of a rapprochement with Prussia. Gorchakov observed neutrality during Prussia’s wars against Denmark in 1864, Austria in 1866, and France in 1870–71. Prussia’s defeat of France allowed Gorchakov to declare Russia no longer bound by the article of the Treaty of Paris limiting Russia’s sovereignty on the Black Sea. He convinced the other major powers of his position at an international conference in London in 1871. The high point in the close political collaboration of Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary was the League of the Three Emperors of 1873. O. von Bismarck intended to make use of this alliance to establish German hegemony in Europe, but Gorchakov forced Germany in 1875 to abandon plans to attack France a second time. For his part, Gorchakov tried to use the League of the Three Emperors to lay the diplomatic foundations for a new war against Turkey. Negotiations were simultaneously begun with Great Britain. As a result of these measures, the neutrality of the European powers was assured in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. The success of Russian arms led to the conclusion in 1878 of the Treaty of San Stefano, whose terms aroused the protests of Austria-Hungary and Great Britain. The danger arose that an anti-Russian coalition might be formed. Under these circumstances, Gorchakov agreed to the convening in 1878 of the Congress of Berlin, whose outcome was unfavorable to Russia and therefore undermined Gorchakov’s prestige in Russia’s ruling circles and weakened his influence on foreign policy. In 1879, Gorchakov actually withdrew from direct management of the foreign ministry because of his health, and in 1882 he was formally relieved of his duties.


Istoriia diplomala, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1959–63.
Semanov, S. N. A. M. Gorchakov—russkii diplomat XIX v. Moscow, 1962.
Bushuev, S. K. A. M. Gorchakov. Moscow, 1961.
Sbornik, izdannyi ν pamial’ 25-letiia upravleniia ministerstvom ino-strannykh del gosudarstvennogo kantslera kniazia A. M. Gor-chakova, 1856–1881 St. Petersburg, 1881.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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