Lefort, Or Le Fort, Francois, a Russian general, of Swiss origin, born in Geneva in 1656, died in Moscow, March 12, 1699. He early became a cadet of the Swiss guards in the French service, entered the army of Holland in 1674, and soon after went to Russia, where he received a captain's commission from the czar Alexis, and fought against the Turks and Tartars. After the death of Feodor 111. in 1682, and the joint accession of the half brothers Ivan and Peter, he espoused the interests of the latter, took an active part in the movement which raised him to supreme authority in 1689, by removing his sister Sophia from the court, and at once became his chief minister. Peter intrusted to him the reorganization of the army after the European model, and appointed him general admiral, in which capacity he vigorously seconded the czar's efforts for the creation of a navy. In celebration of the first success of the new army and navy in the taking of Azov in 1696, a magnificent triumphal entry was prepared for the troops, in which Lefort, borne on a chariot in the form of a marine shell, held the place of honor, the czar walking behind him. He aided in quelling the insurrection of the strelitzes, and died in consequence of wounds received on that occasion.
Lefort also exercised great influence in ameliorating the laws of Russia, secured religious toleration for foreigners, and was either the orginator or promoter of many of the grand improvements which distinguished the reign of Peter the Great.