Gorchakov's Circulars

Gorchakov’s Circulars


diplomatic documents connected with the name of A. M. Gorchakov. The most famous were those of 1870 and 1875.

The circular of Oct. 19(31), 1870, notified the governments that had signed the 1856 Treaty of Paris that Russia no longer considered itself bound by the articles limiting its sovereign rights on the Black Sea (prohibiting the maintenance of naval forces in the Black Sea or the building of fortifications on its shores). The circular noted that the Russian government had scrupulously observed all the terms of the treaty of 1856, whereas the great powers of the West had continually violated them. The circular aroused the dissatisfaction of many European governments. However, Gorchakov issued it at a time when France had been defeated by Prussia but peace had not yet been concluded, and Prussia therefore had an interest in Russia’s remaining neutral. Consequently, Great Britain’s attempt to form a coalition against Russia was unsuccessful. In 1871 a convention was signed at a conference in London confirming the restoration of Russia’s sovereign right in the Black Sea.

The circular of May 1875 notified Russian embassies and missions that the threat of a new Franco-Prussian War, which Germany had intended to start, had been overcome. France had appealed to Great Britain and Russia for diplomatic support. Alexander 11 and Gorchakov had applied pressure to the German government and received assurances that Germany would not attack France. Gorchakov’s circular, which was published in a somewhat distorted form in the European newspapers, raised Russia’s prestige in Europe but aroused the hostility of Bismarck, the Prussian foreign minister, and brought about a deterioration of Russo-German relations.