Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Alexander Gorchakov
Signature Alexander Michailowitsch Gortschakow.PNG

Prince Alexander Gorchakov ( Russian Александр Михайлович Горчаков ; born June 4 . Jul / 15. June  1798 greg. In Haapsalu , † 11. March 1883 in Baden-Baden ) was a Russian diplomat , Foreign Minister and Chancellor .

Early years

Alexander Michailowitsch Gorchakov came from the old Russian aristocratic family Gorchakov , which traced its origins back to the Rurikids . He was the cousin of Field Marshal Mikhail Gorchakov . Born in Haapsalu , Estonia , he went to school in Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum near Saint Petersburg . One of his classmates was the poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin . After school, he joined the Foreign Service.


Memorial plaque on the house, Unter den Linden 63, in Berlin-Mitte

His first post as a diplomat was Stuttgart . He took part in the Ljubljana and Verona congresses.

During the revolutions of 1848 it should have a role in the abdication of Emperor Ferdinand I in favor of Franz Joseph I have played.

In 1850, as a Russian envoy to the German Confederation in Frankfurt, he met the young Otto von Bismarck , who represented Prussia in the same function . The two became friends (Bismarck was ambassador to Saint Petersburg from 1859 to 1862), but from the 1870s onwards they were regarded as foreign policy rivals. Bismarck had repeatedly expressed himself negatively about his character traits.

After his time in Frankfurt, Tsar Nikolaus I - dissatisfied with the previous ambassador, Baron Meyendorff - appointed him envoy in Vienna in 1855 . In the run-up to the Crimean War , he warned that Britain and France would oppose Russian ambitions. The attitude of the Austrians during the Crimean War is considered to be the reason why he and the Tsar often later opposed Austria-Hungary . He took an active part in the negotiations for the Paris Peace of March 20, 1856 to end the Crimean War, but refused to take part in the signing of the treaty.

Foreign minister

Photo by AMGortschakow; Author: Russian-Italian artist Charles Bergamasco; 1860s

Tsar Alexander II appointed him in 1856 as a successor of Karl Nesselrode to Foreign Minister (until 1882).

Alliance with Napoleon III.

He managed to lead the Russian Empire out of isolation after the Crimean War . First he operated an understanding with the French Emperor Napoleon III. In September 1857 the Stuttgart two emperors meeting took place. At this meeting, Russia promised France benevolent neutrality in the event of a conflict with Austria in northern Italy.

This agreement was underpinned by the Paris Convention of August 19, 1858, and by the secret St. Petersburg Treaty between France and Russia in March 1859. Meanwhile, Napoleon III. signed an agreement with the Prime Minister of Sardinia-Piedmont , Camillo Benso . Sardinia-Piedmont wanted to conquer Lombardy and Veneto , Austrian territories since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, with Napoleon's help . In order to forestall a suspected attack by these two allies, the Austrian army marched into Piedmont on April 29.

The Sardinian War between the Austrian Empire on the one hand and Sardinia-Piedmont and the French Empire on the other hand finally began when French and Sardinian troops attacked the Austrians in northern Italy on May 29, 1859. To Napoleon III. To help, Gorchakov sent Russian troops to the border with Galicia . As a result, some Austrian armed forces were tied to the defense of Galicia and could not help in northern Italy. This war ended with a defeat for Austria. In doing so he had "punished" Austria through diplomatic channels for its aggressive stance in the Crimean War.

Approach to Prussia

To his disappointment, Napoleon III supported. the Polish January uprising in 1863. Therefore, a rapprochement with Prussia followed . On February 8, 1863, he and the Prussian adjutant general Gustav von Alvensleben signed the Alvensleben Convention for their two states in Saint Petersburg . This convention allowed the Russian army to pursue Polish insurgents on Prussian territory.

Selling Alaska

Gorchakov did not take part in the negotiations for the sale of Alaska to the USA in 1867, but he was confronted with this idea as early as 1857 when he received a corresponding letter from Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolajewitsch , younger brother of Tsar Alexander II. Gorchakov welcomed the sale of Alaska to the United States. Alaska was difficult to defend against possible attacks from Britain as Britain's fleet controlled the sea. Immediately after the Crimean War, he did not want to risk another conflict with Great Britain, so that the recently concluded Third Paris Peace would not falter.

But this sale was postponed twice. The first time in 1857 when Alaska was found to be owned by a trading company called RAK , whose privileges didn't end until 1862. The second time in 1861 when the American Civil War began. Hence, the sale of Alaska was not completed until ten years later after the Grand Duke's letter.


In 1867 he was also chancellor .

Friendship with Adolphe Thiers

On August 31, 1871, Adolphe Thiers was appointed the new French President. Gorchakov had established a friendly relationship with Adolphe Thiers through the French ambassador in St. Peterburg. He wanted to include France under the leadership of Thiers in a conservative alliance constellation directed against revolutionary movements in Europe. However, he had to give in to Tsar Alexander II , who had preferred an alliance with the newly founded German Empire .

Meeting of three emperors

During the three emperor meeting between the German Emperor Wilhelm I , Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria-Hungary and the Tsar Alexander II in Berlin from September 5 to 11, 1872, Gorchakov negotiated a closer relationship with Prince von Bismarck and Count Andrássy Cooperation between the three empires.

Alliance with Great Britain

In Central Asia, the steady advance of Russia in the direction of India is causing tension with Great Britain , which saw its interests in British India ( Great Game ) threatened. This part of Russian foreign policy was largely beyond Gorchakov's control, since Central and East Asia had their own Asia ministry and the Russian army.

On October 17, 1872, the British Foreign and Colonial Minister Lord Granville proposed the River Oxus as a demarcation line. The Russian sphere of influence was to go as far as the right bank of this river and end there. In order to relieve tension with Great Britain in Central Asia, Gorchakov accepted this proposal on January 31, 1873. Because of the lack of coordination with the War Ministry, General Kaufmann ignored this demarcation line in May 1873. His army stormed the city of Khiva , which is on the left bank of Oxus. Therefore, their conquest, but also their annexation in August 1873 sparked British protests.

But in the end, this line of demarcation had the advantage for Great Britain that it declared Afghanistan a British sphere of influence. The agreement favored the rise of Great Britain as a colonial power in the region when Benjamin Disraeli, elected Prime Minister in 1874, first offered the title of Empress of India to Queen Victoria in 1876 and later in November 1878 to command the British troops in British India gave to occupy Afghanistan. For Gorchakov, this agreement had proven helpful in dealing with the war-in-sight crisis in 1875 , when Disraeli supported his initiative against the German Reich.

Three emperor agreement

Alexander Michailowitsch Gortschakow painted by Georg von Bothmann in 1874

The royalists in the French National Assembly assumed that Thiers was a supporter of the constitutional monarchy. However, after it was found that Thiers was on the side of the Republic, they dropped him. Instead, the French National Assembly appointed Patrice de Mac-Mahon as the new President on May 24, 1873 . However, he was out of the question as a possible ally for Russia because he had participated in the siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean War in 1855 . After that Gorchakov finally gave up his resistance to the three emperor agreement. In October 1873 the Three Emperor Agreement between the German Empire, Russia and Austria-Hungary was signed in Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna .

In 1875 Gorchakov took part in the war-in-sight crisis between France and the German Empire . In doing so, the Russian Chancellor weakened the Three Emperor Agreement and strengthened Mac-Mahon's position in France. As a result, Mac-Mahon was no longer criticized for its warlike past. After that he was able to continue his policy of revanchism and armament.

During the Balkan crisis, the Ottoman forces put down the Bulgarian uprising in April 1876 . Gorchakov declared the need to use force to pacify Russia's southern border. He wanted to send the Russian troops to the Balkans to help the Bulgarians and other Slavic peoples in the Balkans. However, he himself had weakened the three emperor agreement, so that he was planning additional neutrality agreements with Austria-Hungary and the German Reich.

Relations between Russia and Austria-Hungary improved as early as June 1873, when Franz Joseph I and his Foreign Minister Count Andrassy received Tsar Alexander II and Chancellor Gorchakov at Schönbrunn Palace. It was the first time since the Crimean War that a Russian tsar visited the Danube monarchy. This meeting led to the conclusion of the Schönbrunn Convention , at which the two monarchies committed themselves to the peaceful settlement of conflicts and a common stance in European disputes. In July 1876, on Gorchakov's initiative, a meeting of the same statesmen took place in Reichstadt Palace. This meeting led to the Reichstadt Convention , under which Austria-Hungary assured Russia of its neutrality in the event of an attack on the Ottoman Empire . In addition, the tsarist empire and the Danube monarchy were able to divide the Balkans into spheres of influence. A possible annexation of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian territory by Austria-Hungary and the size of the newly independent Bulgaria remained controversial. However, these issues appeared to be resolved by the Budapest Treaty in January 1877.

There were no neutrality agreements with the German Reich, because Bismarck, in his statement at the Reichstag speech on December 5, 1876, that the German Empire in the Balkans supposedly did not pursue its own interest, “which only [...] the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian musketeer worth ”, had assured its neutrality in the Russo-Ottoman war.

Berlin Congress

The renewed Russo-Ottoman War (1877-1878) ended disappointingly for Gorchakov. The Berlin Congress in 1878 prevented a war between the great powers. Russia had to reduce its claims to land gains and influence in the Balkans and Anatolia . In particular, Gorchakov could not enforce the Greater Bulgaria provided for in the Peace of San Stefano .

He later described Congress as the greatest defeat of his career.

The "slap letter" and its consequences

Gorchakov Monument in Saint Petersburg

The so-called slap letter from Tsar Alexander II to his uncle, the German Emperor Wilhelm I , led to a serious upset in German-Russian relations . In it , the tsar indirectly accused the German Chancellor Bismarck of disrupting German-Russian relations because of personal differences with Prince Gorchakov endanger. Bismarck had noted: Gorchakov is a calamity for Russia and its friends; the latter's best will is not enough to redeem the consequences of their follies.

A meeting between the emperor and the tsar in September 1879 eased the situation. The tsar is said to have regretted the demanding tone of his letter.

Just as the Crimean War ended the close relationship with Austria-Hungary at the time of its predecessor Karl Robert von Nesselrode , the "slap in the face" after the Berlin Congress led to a significant cooling of relations between the German Reich and Russia. Both Nesselrode and Gorchakov had in vain expected backing - at least benevolent neutrality - from their allies in gratitude for past favors - with regard to Russia's ambitions towards the Ottoman Empire. As a result, Gorchakov again operated a rapprochement between Russia and France, which led to an alliance among his successors.

The last few years

Gorchakov remained foreign minister until 1882, but spent most of the last few years abroad. His successor was Nikolai Karlowitsch de Giers , who was married to Olga Kantakusen, a niece of Gorchakov.


  • In August 1998 the asteroid (5014) Gorchakov was named after him.
  • Since November 10, 1998, a plaque on the Russian embassy in Berlin has been commemorating him.
  • In 2010, Dmitri Medvedev, then President of Russia , founded the "Alexander Gorchakov Foundation for Public Diplomacy".


1. Russian orders and decorations

2. Foreign orders and decorations


  • His classmate, the poet Alexander Sergejewitsch Pushkin , drew a portrait of him and described him in one of his early poems as a child of fortune, predicting a successful career for him.

Web links

Commons : Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Andreas Rose: German Foreign Policy in the Bismarck Era, (1862–1890) paperback 2013, p. 12.
  2. ^ David Longley: Longman Companion to Imperial Russia, 1689-1917. Routledge 2000, p. 279
  3. Norbert F. Pötzl: Bismarck: The will to power. Ullstein Buchverlage GmbH, Berlin 2015, p. 102
  4. Friedrich Engels: The Sonvillier Congress and the International, (January 3, 1872) Article in the newspaper “Der Volksstaat” published on January 10, 1872, No. 3 “[... against them allied, Thiers with Gortschakow .. .] "
  5. ^ Christoph Baumer: History of Central Asia. The Age of Decline and Revival. 4th volume, IB Tauris & Co Ltd. 2018, p. 140
  6. ^ Christoph Baumer: History of Central Asia. The Age of Decline and Revival. 4th volume, IB Tauris & Co Ltd. 2018, p. 141
  7. Prince Bismarck's speeches. Volume 6: Reich Chancellor, 1873–1877. Reclam, 1877, p. 237 . The formulation became well known and often quoted; z. B. Gregor Schöllgen : Imperialism and balance. Germany, England and the Oriental Question 1871–1914. Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 2000, p. 16.
  8. ^ Bismarck's marginal note in a private letter from Ambassador Radowitz dated August 8, 1878. In: The Great Politics of the European Cabinets 1871–1914 . Ed. On behalf of the Foreign Office by J. Lepsius et al., Volume 3, Berlin 1926, p. 6.
  9. ^ The Great Politics of the European Cabinets 1871–1914 . Ed. On behalf of the Foreign Office by J. Lepsius et al., Volume 3, Berlin 1926, p. 36 ff.
predecessor Office successor
( Peter von Oubril until 1847)
Russian envoy to the German Confederation
Philipp von Brunnow
Pyotr Kasimirowitsch Meyendorff Russian envoy to Austria
(from 1860 Viktor Petrovich Balabin )
Karl Robert von Nesselrode Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire
Nikolai Karlowitsch de Giers
Karl Robert von Nesselrode Chancellor of the Russian Empire