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Field Marshal Iosif Gurko

Count Iosif Vladimirovich Romeyko-Gurko (Russian: Ио́сиф Влади́мирович Роме́йко-Гурко́; (16–28 July 1828, Mogilev Governorate — 15–28 January 1901, near Tver), also known as Joseph or Ossip Gourko, was a Russian Field Marshal prominent during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878).

Of Belarusian/Polish extraction, Gurko was educated in the Imperial Corps of Pages, entered the hussars of the imperial guard as sub-lieutenant in 1846, became captain in 1857, adjutant to Alexander II of Russia in 1860, colonel in 1861, commander of the 4th Hussar regiment of Mariupol in 1866, and major-general of the emperor's suite in 1867.

He subsequently commanded the grenadier regiment, and in 1873 the 1st brigade, 2nd division, of the cavalry of the guard. Although he took part in the Crimean War, being stationed at Belbek, his claim to distinction is due to his services in the Turkish war of 1877. He led the van of the Russian invasion, took Tarnovo on July 7, crossed the Balkans by the Ham Bogaz pass, which debouches near Hainkioi, and, notwithstanding considerable resistance, captured Uflani, Maglizh, and Kazanlak; on July 18 he attacked Shipka, which was evacuated by the Turks on the following day. Thus within sixteen days of crossing the Danube, Gourko had secured three Balkan passes and created a panic at Constantinople.

He then made a series of successful reconnaissances of the Tundzha valley, cut the railway in two places, occupied Stara Zagora (Turkish, Eski Zagra) and Nova Zagora (Yeni Zagra), checked the advance of Suleiman Pasha's army, and returned again over the Balkans. In October he was appointed commander of the allied cavalry, and attacked the Plevna line of communication to Orkhanie with a large mixed force, captured Gorni-Dubnik, Telische and Vratsa, and, in the middle of November, Orkhanie itself. Plevna was isolated, and after its fall in December Gourko led the way amidst snow and ice over the Balkans to the fertile valley beyond, totally defeated Suleiman Pasha at the battle of Plovdiv, and occupied Sofia, Philippopolis (Plovdiv) and Adrianople, the armistice at the end of January 1878 stopping further operations.

Gurko was made a count, and decorated with the 2nd class of St. George and other orders. In 1879–1880, he was governor of St. Petersburg, and from 1883 to 1894 Governor-general of Poland, where he enforced the Russification policies of Alexander III.

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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