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Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov

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Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov

Mikhail Vorontsov
His portrait by Military Gallery of the Winter Palace (1825)
Born (1782-05-30)30 May 1782
Saint Petersburg, Imperial Russia
Died 18 November 1856(1856-11-18) (aged 74)
Odessa, Imperial Russia
Buried at Transfiguration Cathedral in Odessa
Allegiance Imperial Russia
Service/branch Imperial Russian Army
Years of service 1803-1856
Rank Field Marshal
Battles/wars Pułtusk;
Russo-Turkish War (1806–12)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Branicka Vorontsov

Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov (Russian: Михаи́л Семёнович Воронцо́в) (30 May 1782–18 November 1856), was a Russian prince and field-marshal, renowned for his success in the Napoleonic wars, and most famous for his participation in the Caucasian War from 1844 to 1853.


The son of Count Semyon Vorontsov and nephew of the imperial chancellor Alexander Vorontsov, he was born 17 May 1782, in Saint Petersburg.[1] He spent his childhood and youth with his father in London, where he received a brilliant education. During 1803–1804 he served in the Caucasus under Pavel Tsitsianov and Gulyakov, and was nearly killed in the Zakatali disaster (January 15, 1804). From 1805 to 1807, he served in the Napoleonic wars, and was present at the battles of Pułtusk and Friedland. From 1809 to 1811 he participated in the Russo-Turkish War and distinguished himself in nearly every important action.

He commanded the composite grenadiers division in Prince Petr Bagration's Second Western Army during Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. At the battle of Borodino his division was in the front line and was attacked by three French divisions under Marshal Davout. Vorontsov led several counter-attacks, sword in hand. Of the 4,000 men in his division only 300 survived the battle. Vorontsov was wounded, but recovered to rejoin the army in 1813. He commanded a new grenadiers division and fought at the battle of Dennewitz and the battle of Leipzig. In 1814, at Craonne, he brilliantly held out for a day against Napoléon in person. He was the commander of the corps of occupation in France from 1815 to 1818.

Elizabeth Branicka Vorontsov, by George Hayter.

On 7 May 1823 he was appointed governor-general of New Russia, as the southern provinces of the empire were then called, and namestnik of Bessarabia. He may be said to have been the creator of Odessa and the benefactor of the Crimea, both places being graced with his brilliant residences. He was the first to start steamboats on the Black Sea in 1828. The same year saw the start of the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829 and Vorontsov succeeded the wounded Menshikov as commander of the forces besieging Varna, which he captured on 28 September 1828. In the campaign of 1829, it was through his energetic efforts that the plague, which had broken out in Turkey, did not penetrate into Russia. But perhaps the best remembered of all is his wife's (née Countess Branicka) liaison with Alexander Pushkin during the latter's stay in Odessa, which resulted in some of the finest poems in Russian language.

In 1844, Vorontsov was appointed commander-in-chief and viceroy of the Caucasus. For military details see Murid War. At the Battle of Dargo (1845) he was nearly defeated and barely fought his way out of the Chechen forest. By 1848 he had captured two-thirds of Daghestan, and the situation of the Russians in the Caucasus, so long almost desperate, was steadily improving. For his campaign against Shamil he was raised to the dignity of prince, with the title of Serene Highness. In the beginning of 1853, Vorontsov was allowed to retire because of his increasing infirmities. He was made a field-marshal in 1856, and died the same year at Odessa.

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