Vladimir Lamsdorf

Vladimir Nikolayevich Lamsdorf

Count Vladimir N. Lamsdorf
Born January 6, 1845(1845-01-06)
St. Petersburg, Russia
Died March 19, 1907(1907-03-19) (aged 62) --
San Remo, Italy
Nationality Russian
Occupation Diplomat, Foreign Minister of Russia

Count Vladimir Nikolayevich Lamsdorf (Russian: Владимир Николаевич Ламсдорф, Lamsdorf, 6 January 25 December] 1845 – March 19 March 6] 1907) was a Russian statesman of Baltic German descent who served as Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire from 1900 – 1906, a crucial period which included the Russo-Japanese War and the Russian Revolution of 1905.


Early career

Like so many other Russian diplomats, Lamsdorf was trained in the Alexander Lyceum in St. Petersburg. At the Berlin Congress he was in the retinue of Prince Alexander Gorchakov, the Chancellor of the Russian Empire. In 1884 the young diplomat was present at the meeting of Alexander III of Russia, Wilhelm I of Prussia and Franz Josef of Austria in Skierniewice and Kroměříž.

Gorchakov's successor, Nicholas de Giers, singled out Lamsdorf as his protégé and prospective successor. During the 1880s, he was a vocal supporter of the Three Emperors' League but shifted his views after Bismarck's resignation in 1890. In 1897 he was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister. He played a major role at the First Hague Peace Conference of 1899. There was a fair degree of continuity in policies when he succeeded Mikhail Muraviev three years later in 1900.

Foreign Minister

Lamsdorf's main concerns revolved around the Eastern Question and the proposed administrative reform of the Ottoman Empire towards strengthening and protecting Russia's position in the Balkans. In late 1902 he personally visited Belgrade, Sofia and Vienna to discuss the Balkan impasse with Nikola Pašić, Hristo Tatarchev, Agenor Maria Gołuchowski, and their monarchs. In September 1903 he accompanied Nicholas II to Vienna and Mürzzuschlag.Lamsdorf was anxious to prevent the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the face of Slavic nationalism and emphatically condemned the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising and other activities of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. He was also sympathetic to the Zionist cause, as promoted by Theodor Herzl.[1]

The main event of Lamsdorf's tenure in office was the Russo-Japanese War. He proposed to relinquish Russia's impractical ambitions in Korea in order to safeguard her interests in Manchuria. He viewed Pacific politics as something of a sideshow and was steadily sidelined by the jingoist hard-liners from the military. In terms of Far Eastern politics, Admiral Yevgeni Ivanovich Alekseyev exerted more influence on the Tsar, to whom he had direct access in his capacity of chairman of the semi-official Committee on Far Eastern Affairs. As a result of Alekseyev's activities, Russia reneged on her promise to evacuate Manchuria by 1902, and events continued their downward spiral to war, with Lamsdorf seemingly resigned to its inevitability.

During and after the war, Lamsdorf was to a large degree overshadowed by the stronger personality of his close associate, Count Sergey Witte. Together they negotiated the Treaty of Portsmouth, only to learn, upon their return to St. Petersburg, that the Tsar had secretly signed the Treaty of Björkö with Imperial Germany. It was owing to their efforts that the projected Russian-German alliance against Britain never came into effect. This earned Lamsdorf the enmity of both German government and press. If the Tsar had not listened to the arguments of Witte and Lamsdorf, "the whole history of Europe and of the world could have been different".[2]

When eventually relieved of his duties in 1906, Lamsdorf prided himself on having maintained a position equidistant from both Potsdam and Buckingham Palace. He compared Russia's standing in Europe to "that of a rich bride which none wanted to see fall into the arms of another".[3] Lamsdorf's decidedly cool attitude to both British and German empires was demonstrated by his handling of the Dogger Bank incident and the Treaty of Björkö.


Lamsdorf was described by his contemporaries as a "leisurely, well-bred man of good society... with a very high forehead and a soft affable manner".[3] He never married and fathered no children. Rumors about his sexual orientation were often exploited by his enemies to undermine his authority at court. A characteristic excerpt from Suvorin's diary: "The Tsar calls Lamsdorf madame and promotes his lover Savitsky within the ranks of the count. Lamsdorf boasts that he spent thirty years in the corridors of the Foreign Ministry. As he is a homosexual and all men are for him sluts, he thus spent thirty years in a bordello".[4] At his resignation, Lamsdorf was admitted into the State Council of Imperial Russia but chose to spend the few remaining months of his life on the Italian Riviera, where he died (in San Remo) at the age of 62.


  1. ^ Friedman, Isaiah. Germany, Turkey, and Zionism 1897-1918. Transaction Publishers, 1997. ISBN 0765804077. Page 116.
  2. ^ Quoted from: Mombauer, Annika; Deist, Wilhelm. The Kaiser: New Research on Wilhelm II's Role in Imperial Germany. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Page 119.
  3. ^ a b Quoted from: White, John Albert. Transition to Global Rivalry: Alliance Diplomacy and the Quadruple Entente, 1895-1907. Cambridge University Press, 1995. Page 84.
  4. ^ Quoted from: Alexander Poznansky. Tchaikovsky's Last Days: A Documentary Study. Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 019816596X. Page 5.
Preceded by
Mikhail Muraviev
Foreign Minister of Russia
Succeeded by
Alexander Izvolsky
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