Gortchakoff , a Russian princely family, descended from the royal house of Rurik, several members of which have distinguished themselves. I. Petr, commander of Smolensk, is celebrated for his defence of that place against the army of Sigismund III., king of Poland, from 1000 to 1011, when it was taken by assault. II. Dimitri, born in 1750, won a place among the poets of Russia by his odes, satires, and epistles, and died in 1824. HI. Alexander, born in 1764, served under Suvaroff against the Turks, the Poles under Kosciuszko, and the French in the campaign of Switzerland, and subsequently with great distinction under Ben-ningsen in the campaign of 1807, when he defeated Lannes at Heilsberg and fought at Fried-land, acted as chief of the war ministry in 1812, was appointed general of infantry, and died in 1825. IV. Andrei served as major general under Suvaroff in 1799, and commanded a division during the French invasion in 1812, when he distinguished himself in the battle of Borodino; he left the army in 1828, and died in 1855. V. Alexander, a statesman, born July 10, 1789. He acquired experience in diplomacy under Nesselrode in various employments, and in 1824 ho was appointed secretary of legation in London; in 1830 charge d'affaires in Florence; and in 1832 councillor of the embassy at Vienna, where he often acted as ambassador during the illness or absence of his chief.
In 1841 he was sent to Stuttgart, and having negotiated the marriage between the crown prince (now king) of Wurtemberg and the Russian grand duchess Olga, he was in 1840 made privy councillor. In 1850 he was appointed plenipotentiary to the German diet at Frankfort, and in 1854 he succeeded Mey-endorff as ambassador in Vienna. He displayed consummate tact and ability during the Crimean war, and it was mainly through his influence that the treaty of Paris was signed by Russia (March, 1856); after which he succeeded Nesselrode as minister of foreign affairs. In 1857 he attended the emperor Alexander during his interview with Napoleon III. in Stuttgart. As the policy of France became hostile to Austria on the Italian question, he increased in friendliness toward the former. Ambitious above all to restore the prestige of Russia after the calamities of the Crimean war, he addressed in 1800 a circular despatch to the European powers appealing to the same principle of nationalities in the Two Sicilies which Russia had always upheld in regard to the Christians of the East, and remonstrated against any foreign interference in Neapolitan affairs; at the same time disclaiming any idea of revenge for past defeats.
He favored the French expedition of 1801 to Syria for the protection of the Christian population against renewed massacres; but preserving entire independence in his foreign policy, he refused to associate himself with France and Great Britain in their unfriendly attitude toward the United States after the outbreak of the civil war. During the Polish insurrection of 1803 he availed himself of the opportunity presented by the interference of foreign powers in behalf of the Poles, to vindicate the aversion of Russia to foreign dictation, and her determination to settle her internal affairs in accordance with the interests and the integrity of the empire, and without regard to the views of other nations. This course increased his popularity at home and his prestige abroad, and the emperor, who had assigned to him the title of vice chancellor in 1802, now (July, 1803) promoted him to the office of chancellor. In 1866 he succeeded in securing the complete separation of the Roman Catholic clergy of Poland from the holy see.
His most brilliant achievement was begun in October, 1870, when, after an understanding with Bismarck on the subject, he availed himself of the Franco-German war to undo the injury done to Russian influence in the East by the treaty of Paris, by securing at the London conference of January, 1871, the revision of that treaty, and the formation of another (March 13) putting an end to the neutralization of the Black sea; for this the emperor conferred upon him the dignity of serene highness. In the central Asia question (1873-4) he exhibited a desire to avoid disturbing the friendly relations with England, without, however, receding from an aggressive policy. Though suffering from the gout, he continues (1874) to preside over the chancery, but generally spends the summer in Switzerland or Germany for the benefit of his health. His eldest son, Mikhail, was appointed Russian minister at Bern in 1872. VI. Petr, a general, born in Moscow about 1790, died there in 1808. He entered the army at an early age, fought against Napoleon in the campaigns of 1807 and 1812-14, served under Yermoloff in the Caucasus, and distinguished himself in the war against Turkey in 1828 and 1829, when he signed the peace of Adrianople. He was made governor general of western Siberia in 1839, and general of infantry in 1843, and retired from service in 1851; but reentered it on the breaking out of the Crimean war, and commanded a wing of the Russian army at the Alma and at Inkerman in 1854. He resigned in the spring of 1855, and was in 1858 appointed member of the imperial council.
VII. Mikhail, born in 1795, died May 30, 1801. He served against the French in the campaigns of 1807 and 1812-14, against the Swedes in 1808-9, and against the Turks in 1828-'9, when he led the sieges of Shumla and Silistria, distinguished himself in the war of the Polish revolution (1831) at Grochow, Ostrolenka, and the taking of Warsaw, was made general of artillery, and in 1846 military governor of Warsaw, where he subsequently often acted as lieutenant of Prince Paskevitch, whom he also accompanied on the invasion of Hungary in 1849. In 1853 he received the command of the army of invasion sent to the Danubian principalities, ceded it soon after to Paskevitch, but took it again after the raising of the siege of Silistria, and led the retreating army to Bessarabia. In 1855 he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Crimea and southern Russia, and suffered defeat on the Tehernaya, but greatly distinguished himself by the gallant defence of Sebastopol, as well as by the skilful retreat to the North fort after the fall of the fortress.
In 185G, after the death of Paskevitch, he was appointed governor of Poland by Alexander II., and he was carrying out that emperor's conciliatory measures at the time of his death.