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Burkhard Christoph von Münnich, a Count, Russian Field Marshal

Count Burkhard Christoph von Münnich (9 May 1683 – 16 October 1767) was a German soldier who became a field marshal and political figure in the Russian Empire. He was a fine soldier of the professional type, and many future commanders, notably Ernst Loudon and Franz Lacy, served their apprenticeship at Ochakiv and Khotyn. As a statesman, he is regarded as the founder of Russian Philhellenism. He had the grade of count of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

Münnich was born at Neuenhuntorf in Oldenburg and at an early age entered the French service. Thence he transferred successively to the armies of Hesse-Darmstadt and of Saxony, and finally, with the rank of general-in-chief and the title of count, he joined the army of Peter II of Russia. Among his first undertakings was the completion of the costly Ladoga Canal, which had been under construction for more than a decade.

In 1732 he became field marshal and president of the council of war. In this post he did good service in the re-organization of the Russian army, and founded the cadet corps which was destined to supply the future generations of officers. In 1734 he took the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) after a prolonged siege, and in 1736 began the Turkish campaigns which made Münnich's reputation as a soldier.

Working along the shores of the Black Sea from the Crimea, he took Ochakiv after a celebrated siege in 1737, and in 1739 won the Battle of Stavuchany, took Khotyn and established himself firmly in Moldavia. Marshal Münnich now began to take an active part in political affairs, the particular tone of which was given by his rivalry with Biron, duke of Courland.

Münnich's activity was brought to a close by the revolution of 1741; he was arrested on his way to the border, and condemned to death. Brought out for execution, and withdrawn from the scaffold, he was later sent to Pelym, Siberia, where he remained for several years, until the accession of Peter III brought about his release in 1762. Catherine II, who soon displaced Peter, employed the old field marshal as director-general of the Baltic ports.

Münnich died four years later in Tartu and was buried at his estate nearby, where his grave was damaged by the Soviets. Barbara Juliana, Baroness von Krüdener was his great granddaughter. The Russian 37th Dragoons used to bear his name.

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