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The Rumyantsev family were the Russian counts prominent in the imperial politics of the 18th and early 19th century. The family claimed descent from the boyar Rumyanets who had broken his oath of allegiance and surrendered Nizhny Novgorod to Vasily I of Moscow in 1391.
Alexander Ivanovich Rumyantsev
The first Rumyantsev to gain prominence was Alexander Ivanovich (1680-1749), enrolled in the Preobrazhensky regiment of guards since 1704. Once he guarded the headquarters of Peter the Great, he was noticed by the monarch "for his great height and smart face". Peter made him his servant and later recommended him to Peter Shafirov and Peter Tolstoy. In the service of these two courtiers, Rumyantsev was entrused with various diplomatic errands in Constantinople and Persia. In 1720, he married Countess Maria Matveyeva, granddaughter and heiress of the famous Artamon Matveyev.
With the enthronement of Elizabeth Petrovna, Rumyantsev was made a count and sent to govern Malorossia, or the Left-Bank Ukraine. He died there on March 4, 1749, leaving a son, Peter (see below), and a daughter, Daria, married to the Austrian count Wallenstein. His wife survived him for 40 years, and entertained the St Petersburg society with the stories of her acquaintance with Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon, and Duke of Marlborough. When she died at the age of 90, Gavrila Derzhavin wrote a remarkable ode glorifying her virtues.
Alexander's son Pyotr Alexandrovich was born on January 4, 1725 in Moscow and named after the ruling Emperor. As his mother spent much time in the company of Peter I, it was rumoured that the young Rumyantsev was the monarch's illegitimate son.
He first saw service under his nominal father in the war with Sweden (1741-43). It was him who brought to the Empress the peace treaty of Abo in 1743. Thereupon he was made a colonel. His first military glory dates from the great battles of the Seven Years' War, those of Gross-Jagersdorf (1757) and Kunersdorf (1759). In 1761 he besieged and took the Polish fortress of Kolberg, thus clearing for Russian armies the path to Berlin.
Throughout the reign of Catherine the Great, Rumyantsev was supreme governor of the Ukraine. In this post, which his father had held with so much honesty, Rumyantsev made his priority to eliminate any autonomy of the hetmans and to fully incorporate the newly-conquered territories into the Empire. He is often blamed for having promoted serfdom in New Russia, but obviously this was not a policy of his choosing.
With the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war in 1768, Rumyantsev was placed in command of the army sent to capture Azov. He thoroughly defeated the Turks in the Battles of Larga and Kagula , crossed the Danube and advanced to Romania. For these dazzling victories he was made Field-Marshal and awarded the title Zadunaisky (i.e., the Trans-Danubian). When his forces approached Shumla in 1774, the Sultan started to panic and sued for peace, which was signed by Rumyanstev upon a military tambourine at the village of Kuchuk-Kainarji.
At that point, Rumyantsev was undoubtedly the most famous Russian commander. It is said that other Catharinian generals, notably Potemkin, were so jealous of his fame that they wouldn't permit him to take the command again. In the times of peace, Rumyantsev expressed his innovative views on the martial art in the Instructions (1761), Customs of Military Service (1770), and the Thoughts (1777). These works provided a theoretical base for reorganisation of the Russian army undertaken by Potemkin.
During the Second Russo-Turkish War, Zadunaisky suspected Potemkin of deliberately curtailing supplies of his army and presently resigned command. In the Polish campaign of 1794 he was again appointed commander-in-chief, but the armies were led into battle by his rival Suvorov. This time Rumyantsev didn't bother even to leave his Ukrainian manor at Tashan which he had rebuilt into a fortress. He died there on December 8, 1796, several month after Catherine's death.
Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev
As the story goes, old Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky grew enormously fat and avaricious, so that he pretended not to recognize his own sons, when they came from the capital to ask for money. Neither of his children married, and the comital branch of the family went extinct upon their death.
Among these sons, Count Nikolay Petrovich (1754-1826) was the only one to reach the highest offices of state. Being on friendly terms with the future Alexander I and his mother, he served as Minister of Commerce (1802-11) and President of the State Council (1810-12). As foreign minister (appointed 1808), he advocated closer alliance with France. On receiving the news of Napoleon's invasion of Russia (1812), he suffered a stroke and lost his hearing. When Napoleon entered Moscow, he advised to the Emperor to dismiss Kutuzov and to seek peace at any cost. Eventually he lost all confidence of the monarch and retired just before the Congress of Vienna.
During the years of his foreign service, Nikolay Petrovich amassed a huge collection of historic documents, rare coins, maps, manuscripts, and incunabulas which formed a nucleus of the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow (subsequently transformed into the State Russian Library ). Being keenly interested in Russian history, Rumyantsev was the first to publish several old Russian chronicles and ancient literary monuments of Eastern Slavs. He was also a notable patron of the Russian voyages of exploration. Nicholas Rumyantsev died on 3 January, 1826 in St Petersburg.
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