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Orlov is the name of a Russian noble family which produced several distinguished statesmen, diplomatists and soldiers. The family first gained distinction in the person of four Orlov brothers, of whom the senior was Catherine the Great's lover, and the two junior were notable military commanders. As neither of brothers left a legitimate male issue, the title and arms of Counts Orlov passed in 1856 to the related Davydov family.
Grigory Grigorievich Orlov
Count Grigory Grigorievich Orlov (1734-1783), who carved for his family so illustrious a place in the Russian history, was the son of Gregory Orlov, governor of Great Novgorod. He was educated in the corps of cadets at St Petersburg, began his military career in the Seven Years' War, and was wounded at Zorndorf. While serving in the capital as an artillery officer he caught the fancy of Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseyevna, and was the leader of the conspiracy which resulted in the dethronement and death of her husband Peter III (1762).
After the event, Catherine raised him to the rank of count and made him adjutant-general, director-general of engineers and general-in-chief. Their illegitimate son, Aleksey, was born in 1752 and named after the village of Bobriki where he lived; from him descends the line of Counts Bobrinskoy. Orlov's influence became paramount after the discovery of the Khitrovo plot to murder the whole Orlov family. At one time the empress thought of marrying her favorite, but the plan was frustrated by her influential advisor Nikita Panin.
Gregory Orlov was no statesman, but he had a quick wit, a fairly accurate appreciation of current events, and was a useful and sympathetic counsellor during the earlier portion of Catherine's reign. He entered with enthusiasm, both from patriotic and from economical motives, into the question of the improvement of the condition of the serfs and their partial emancipation. He was also their most prominent advocate in the great commission of 1767, though he aimed primarily at pleasing the empress, who affected great liberality in her earlier years.
He was one of the earliest propagandists of the Slavophile idea of the emancipation of the Christians from the Ottoman yoke. In 1771 he was sent as first Russian plenipotentiary to the peace-congress of Focshani ; but he failed in his mission, owing partly to the obstinacy of the Turks, and partly (according to Panin) to his own outrageous insolence. On returning without permission to his Marble Palace at St Petersburg, he found himself superseded in the empress's favor by the younger Vasil'chikov.
In order to rekindle Catherine's affection, Grigory presented to her one of the greater diamonds of the world, known as the Orloff since then. When Grigory Potemkin, in 1771, superseded Vasil'chikov, Orlov became of no account at court and went abroad for some years. He returned to Russia a few months previously to his death, which took place at Moscow in 1780. For some time before his death he was out of his mind. Late in life he married his niece, Madame Zinovyeva, but left no children by that marriage.
Aleksey Grigorievich Orlov
Count Aleksey Grigorievich Orlov (1737–1808), brother of the above, was by far the ablest member of the Orlov countly family, and was also remarkable for his athletic strength and dexterity. In the palace revolution of 1762 he played an even more important part than his brother Gregory. It was he who conveyed Peter III to the chateau of Ropsha and murdered him there with his own hands.
In 1770 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the fleet sent against the Turks, whose far superior navy he annihilated at Chesme, a victory which led to the so-called Orlov Revolt and conquest of the Greek archipelago. For this exploit he received, in 1774, the honorific epithet Chesmensky, and the privilege of quartering the imperial arms in his shield.
The same year, on Catherine's request, he went to Livorno to seduce and bring to Russia the so-called Princess Tarakanova, who proclaimed herself daughter of Empress Elizabeth. Having succeeded in this unusual commission, he went into retirement and settled at Moscow.
There he devoted himself to horse-breeding , and produced the finest race of horses then known by crossing Arab and Frisian, and Arab and English studs. In the war with Napoleon during 1806-07 Orlov commanded the militia of the fifth district, which was placed on a war footing almost entirely at his own expense. He left an estate worth five millions roubles and 30,000 serfs.
Fyodor Grigorievich Orlov
The third Orlov brother was Count Fyodor Grigorievich (1741-1796), Russian general, who first distinguished himself in the Seven Years' War. He participated with his elder brothers in the coup d'etat of 1762, after which he was appointed chief procurator of the senate. During the first Turkish War of Catherine II he served under Admiral Spiridov , and was one of the first to break through the Turkish line of battle at Chesme. Subsequently, at Hydra , he put to flight eighteen Turkish vessels. These exploits were, by the order of Catherine, commemorated by a triumphal column, crowned with naval trophies, erected at Tsarskoe Selo. In 1775 he retired from the public service. Orlov was never married, but had five natural children, whom Catherine ennobled and legitimatized.
Aleksey Feodorovich Orlov
Prince Aleksey Feodorovich Orlov (1787-1862), the natural son of Count Fyodor Grigorievich, was born October 8 (October 19 1786 New Style) in Moscow and took part in all the Napoleonic wars from 1805 to the capture of Paris. For his services as commander of the cavalry regiment of the Life Guards on the occasion of the rebellion of 1825 he was created a count, and in the Turkish War of 1828-29 rose to the rank of lieutenant-general.
It is from this time that the brilliant diplomatic career of Orlov begins. He was the Russian plenipotentiary at the Peace of Adrianople , and in 1833 was appointed Russian ambassador at Constantinople, holding at the same time the post of commander-in-chief of the Black Sea fleet. He was, indeed, one of the most trusty agents of Nicholas I, whom in 1837 he accompanied on his foreign tour. From 1844 to 1856 he was in charge of the infamous Third Section, or secret police.
In 1854 he was sent to Vienna to bring Austria over to the side of Russia, but without success. In 1856 he was one of the plenipotentiaries who concluded the peace of Paris. The same year he was raised to the dignity of prince, and was appointed president of the imperial council of state and of the council of ministers. In 1857, during the absence of the emperor, he presided over the commission formed to consider the question of the emancipation of the serfs, to which he was altogether hostile. He died May 9 (May 21) 1862 in St. Petersburg.
His only son, Prince Nikolay Alekseyevich Orlov (1827-1885), was a distinguished Russian diplomatist and author. He first adopted a military career, and was seriously wounded in the Crimean War. Subsequently he entered the diplomatic service, and represented Russia successively at Brussels (1860-1870), Paris (1870-1882) and Berlin (1882-1885). As a publicist he stood in the forefront of reform. His articles on corporal punishment, which appeared in Russkaya Starina in 1881, brought about its abolition. He also advocated tolerance towards the dissenters.
Prince Aleksey Fyodorovich also had a brother, Mikhail Fyodorovich Orlov (1788-1842), who took a most active part in the Napoleonic wars and received the rank of general-major upon returning to Russia in 1814. A friend of Alexander Pushkin and convinced liberal himself, he now concentrated his attention on the projects for emancipation of the serfs and introduction of republican government in Russia. Since 1818, he was in charge of the Kishinev section of the Decembrist society. After the revolt failed, he was arrested but presently released on bail, through his brother's mediation. Thereupon he settled in Moscow and published a pioneering study of the state credit .
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