Grigori Alexandroritch Potemkin, prince, a Russian soldier, born in the government of Smolensk in 1736 or 1739, died in October, 1791. He was an ensign in the army when in 1762, soon after the accession of Catharine II., he attracted her attention by his fine appearance. He gradually superseded Orloff as her lover, and by his influence over her became practically the arbitrary ruler of the empire. It was mainly under his influence that Turkey was crippled, and that Kherson was founded in 1778 as the chief emporium of southern Russia. He conquered the Crimea and the Kuban territory, restored the ancient names of Taurida and Caucasus, and became governor of the new possessions with the surname of Tavridtcheskoi (Tauridan), and the empress presented him with the Taurida palace at St. Petersburg, built especially for him. He dazzled Catharine with the vision of a new Byzantine empire, and when she visited him in Taurida (1787) he resorted to many stratagems to impress her with the splendor of her new dominions. (See Catharine II.) In the new war with Turkey he was commander-in-chief, and conquered Otchakov, while Suva-roff won victory after victory.
Potemkin now thought the time had come for taking Constantinople, but the Russian exchequer was exhausted, and while he went to St. Petersburg to urge the continuation of war, Catharine concluded an armistice with the Turks. The empress had loaded him with honors and riches, and he left an immense fortune. - See Vie de Potemkin, by Mine, de Cerenville (Paris, 1807-8); Zhizn Potemkina, by Levshin (2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1811); "Memoirs of Prince Potemkin" (London, 1814); and Memoires de la cour de Russie il y a cent ans, by Prince de Ligne (1859).