Potemkin, Grigorii [Потемкин, Григорий], b 24 September 1739 in Chizhevo, near Smolensk, Russia, d 16 October 1791 near Iaşi, Moldavia. Russian general, count, and statesman. As the former lover, trusted adviser, and favorite of Empress Catherine II he was appointed supreme commander of New Russia in 1774, governor-general of New Russia gubernia, Azov gubernia, and Astrakhan gubernia in 1776, and viceroy in 1777. He oversaw the suppression of the Pugachev rebellion in 1774, the destruction of the Zaporozhian Sich in 1775, and the annexation of the Crimea and Georgia in 1783. For his achievements he received the title of prince of Tavriia (1783) and the ‘grand hetmancy’ of the Katerynoslav Cossack Army and the Black Sea Cossacks (1790). From 1774 until his death Potemkin had unlimited power in the territories under his rule and was the most influential man in the Russian Empire. In Southern Ukraine and the Crimea he implemented a broad program of Ukrainian, Russian, and foreign (Serbian, Greek, German, Vlach) peasant and gentry colonization and urban development so as to transform those regions into well-populated and economically powerful parts of the Russian Empire. He founded the cities of Katerynoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), Kherson, Mykolaiv, Mariiupol, and Sevastopol, supervised the development of the Black Sea Fleet, encouraged mineral exploration (particularly in the Donets Basin), and established schools and presses.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine