Military Review

General Yermolov - conqueror of the Caucasus

But the East will lift up a howl! ..
Fall on the snowy head,

Humble, Caucasus: Ermolov is coming!
A. Pushkin. "Prisoner of the Caucasus"

240 years ago, 4 July 1777, Alexey Petrovich Yermolov was born. Hero of the Patriotic War 1812, the Russian commander, whose name is associated with the beginning of the conquest of the North Caucasus. Yermolov managed to initiate the systematic assertion of Russian statehood in the Caucasus.

Ermolov has become a legend for contemporaries. According to M.F. Orlov, the name of Yermolov “should serve as an ornament to our stories". “Your exploits are the heritage of the Fatherland, and your glory belongs to Russia,” wrote General A.S. Pushkin to General. Yermolov was sung in the verses of Pushkin, Lermontov, Zhukovsky, the Decembrists of Kondraty Ryleyev, Fyodor Glinka, Wilhelm Kuchelbecker.

It was a strong and controversial person. A. S. Griboyedov, who served Yermolov as adjutant "for the diplomatic part," close to him and knew him well, called him "the sphinx of modern times", hinting at the depth and mystery of the commander. A man of strong will, independent, not recognizing any authority, a devoted patriot, ardently loving Russia and everything Russian, and at the same time prone to opposition, bound by personal friendship with some so-called. "Decembrists." It is not by chance that some rebels-Decembrists in their plans relied on Yermolov as an authoritative member of the future Provisional Revolutionary Government. However, Yermolov’s criticism did not go beyond certain limits, he faithfully served the throne and Russia during the wars of Russia against Napoleon’s empire in 1805-1814. and being the “proconsul of the Caucasus” in 1816 – 1827. Yermolov became a real creator of the Russian Empire.

General Yermolov - conqueror of the Caucasus

Portrait of Alexei Petrovich Ermolov by George Doe

Service start

Alexey Ermolov came from an old, but rather poor noble family. His father, Pyotr Alekseevich Ermolov, was the owner of a small estate in the Mtsensk district of the Oryol province. In the reign of Catherine II, he served as governor of the office of the Prosecutor General Count A.N. Samoilov, and with the accession of Paul I retired and settled in his village Lukyanchikove. Mother Yermolov - Maria Denisovna Davydova. According to the mother of A.P. Yermolov, he was related to Davydovs, Potemkins, Raevskys and Orlovs. The famous partisan and poet Denis Davydov was his cousin.

Alexey was born on 24 May (June 4) 1877. Lack of funds in the family did not allow the future commander to get a good education. At first he received a home education. His first teacher was a courtyard peasant who taught him by primer. Then Yermolov studied with rich and distinguished relatives, who invited home teachers. Yermolov completed his education at the Noble hostel at Moscow University. Yermolov himself later noted: "The poor condition of my family did not allow me to receive the necessary education."

At the same time, Yermolov himself read a lot and noticed the shortcomings of his teachers. “Charlatans,” he noted, “taught adults, posing as priests of mystical mysteries; the ignoramuses taught the children, and everyone reached the goal, that is, they soon earned money. Among the teachers were those who, standing before the map of Europe, said: "Paris, the capital of France ... look, my children!" - because the teacher himself would not have been able to immediately poke a finger into his Paris. " Thus, Aleksey Petrovich correctly described one of the serious shortcomings of the Europeanized Russian elite of that time. The nobility believed that Western Europe was the center of culture and science, and tried to get the Europeans to teach their children. And among these Europeans were full of adventurers, ignoramuses and charlatans. And in the future, even the captured soldiers of Napoleon’s Great Army, in which adventurers and thieves from all over Europe were gathered. And such people "taught" the future elite of the Russian Empire.

According to the tradition of the nobles of that time, Yermolov was enlisted in the Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment in infancy. Yermolov began his military service at 15. In 1792, he was brought to Petersburg, promoted to captains and enlisted in the Nezhinsky Dragoon Regiment as a senior adjutant to Lieutenant-General A. N. Samoylov (his father Ermolov was the governor of the office). Soon Ermolov entered the gentry artillery corps, and in 1793 passed the exam with a special distinction. As part of the Corps of Derfelden, already an artilleryman, he marched against Poland. So, with 1794, the military service of Yermolov begins. He distinguished himself in the storming of the outskirts of Warsaw Prague and was noticed by the commander of the Russian troops A. V. Suvorov. By personal order of Suvorov, Yermolov was awarded the Order of George of the 4 degree.

In 1795, Yermolov was returned to Petersburg and assigned to the 2 Bombardy battalion. In the same year, under the patronage of influential graph A. N. Samoilov, he was sent to Italy, where he was under the commander-in-chief of Austrian troops, General Davis (they fought against the French). However, soon Yermolov was summoned to Petersburg and appointed to the Caspian corps of Count V. P. Zubov, directed against Persia. Zubov's troops successfully fought and occupied a number of strategic points in the Caucasus (Punishing non-peaceful Persia - 1796 campaign of the year). After the death of Catherine II, Zubov’s corps was removed by Tsar Paul I from Transcaucasia. This was the first experience of Yermolov in the Caucasus. For excellent zeal and merit during the siege of the fortress Derbent (commanded by the battery) was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir 4 degree with a bow. Received the rank of lieutenant colonel.


At first, Yermolov’s military career developed successfully. The young lieutenant colonel is appointed commander of a horse-armed company stationed in the small town of Nesvizh, Minsk province. But soon Ermolov fell into disgrace. The brave officer did not hide his judgments. Sometimes very sharp. His independent, proud character irritated many. Not for nothing in the future, when Yermolov became a colonel, one of the generals said: "If only he would be made more likely to be a general, perhaps he would then be more courteous and polite with us."

A young and critically minded young man was influenced by enlightenment ideas. Yermolov was close to the political circle, led by his brother (through the mother) A. M. Kakhovsky. The circle did not last long and was opened by the secret police. Kakhovsky was arrested, during a search in his papers, Ermolov's letter to him was found, which sharply "certified" his superiors. The letter was the reason for the arrest and interrogation of Yermolov, who was taken to Petersburg and put in the dungeon of Alekseevsky ravelin. Two months later he was released from the dungeon and sent into exile in Kostroma. There he met another disgraced, Matthew Platov, and later also the ataman of the Don Army and the hero of the Patriotic War. Since that time, Yermolov and Platov became friends. Ermolov during this period diligently engaged in self-education, learned the Latin language and in the original read and did translations of the Roman classics, especially fond of Caesar's Notes on the Gallic War.

Opala had a strong influence on the personality of Alexei Yermolov. According to his confession, Paul I "gave me a cruel lesson in early youth." After that, secrecy, caution, and the ability to maneuver became characteristic features of Yermolov. He learned to hide his true thoughts. Yermolov admitted that his “stormy, seething nature” would later be “unsatisfied”, if not for this “cruel lesson”. Although Yermolov, even after returning to the service, stood out among other officers with his tough disposition. In particular, the favorite of Alexander A. Arakcheev did not like the “daring” lieutenant colonel of artillery (although, later, having noticed the talents of the commander, he became his patron). The Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich, who spoke about Yermolov so much, didn’t like him either: “Very keen and very often to the boldness”. All this harmed Ermolov's career. As a result, Yermolov’s secrecy and caution got along well with his sharp and caustic language, which contributed to his popularity, especially among officers, who saw him as a man of independent views, despising flattery and servility.

Wars of France

The new emperor Alexander I returned the officer to the service. In 1802, the liberated Yermolov, by his own admission, "hardly got" a company of horse artillery, located in Vilna. The peace service tormented him. “I’m 25 years old,” he then added to his notes, “there is a lack of war.”

Soon the war began. Petersburg got involved in a war with France, so that it was in the interests of Austria and England, who were afraid that Paris would establish its hegemony in Western Europe. There were no fundamental contradictions, common borders, disputed territories, economic contradictions between Russia and France. Napoleon and Paul were even able to agree on an alliance against England, which was the reason for the murder of the Russian tsar, committed by representatives of the pro-Western "elite" of Russia for British gold. Tsar Alexander could not stay away from the anti-French wars, allowed himself to be drawn into a war with France, which was in the strategic interests of Vienna and London. As a result, Russia for a long time (until 1814 of the year) spent the main forces and resources on the struggle against Napoleon’s France, instead of solving national tasks to strengthen the state (How Russia became the figure of England in the big game against France; How Russia became the figure of England in the big game against France. Part of 2).

In 1805, a third coalition was formed against France, which consisted of Russia, England, Austria, Sweden and the Neapolitan Kingdom. The main striking force consisted of Russian and Austrian troops. The British preferred to solve problems at sea, in the colonies, and paid in gold for the Austrian and Russian "cannon fodder", creating their own world empire (Anglo-Saxon world order). The owners of London skillfully built a long-term strategy, according to the principle of "divide, control and conquer." The British clashed among themselves their main competitors in the world - France and Russia. The campaign was lost at the very beginning, when self-confident Austrians decided to launch an offensive before the approach of the Russian army. This allowed Napoleon to smash the Austrians and the Russians in parts. The arrogance of the Austrian command led to the catastrophe (Ulm) and the French occupied Vienna.

At the head of the Russian army was set M. I. Kutuzov. It also included a cavalry artillery company commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A. P. Yermolov. During this war, Yermolov with his company participated in battles with the French at Amstetten and Krems. So, under Amstetten Ermolov was for the first time in battle with horse artillery. He stopped the French and gave our troops the opportunity to gather and hold in place under the strong onslaught of the enemy. Then, by capturing the high ground and accurate fire, he did not let the enemy arrange a battery that could cause great harm to the Russian troops. A brave and managerial artillery officer was spotted by Kutuzov. In the decisive battle of Austerlitz, which the emperors Alexander I and Franz I decided to give to the French, despite the advice of Kutuzov, the division of General Uvarov was crushed and fled, the artillery company Yermolov tried to stop the onslaught of the enemy and came under attack by the enemy. The battery was captured along with its commander. However, the Russian soldiers came to the rescue by a counterattack released him from captivity. For this campaign, Yermolov was awarded the Order of St. Anne 2 degree and the rank of colonel.

The campaign was lost. Austria capitulated. Russia remained alone and withdrew its troops. However, Alexander did not learn this lesson and continued the confrontation with Napoleon. In the new anti-French campaign, Russia entered an alliance with Prussia. England again stood behind the Prussian and Russian bayonets, using them in the struggle with France. Prussians stepped on the same rake as the Austrians. They launched an attack before the approach of the Russian army, confident of victory over the French. Napoleon immediately punished the arrogant warriors and defeated the Prussian army (under Jena and Auerstedt) and the humiliated Prussians saw the French occupy Berlin and most of the Prussian kingdom. The Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III fled under the protection of the Russians. But even in such a losing situation, Alexander decided to continue the war. In the next seven months, the Russian army alone had to wage a hard struggle against the superior forces of Napoleon’s army.

During the war 1806-1807. Yermolov distinguished himself in the Battle of Preussisch-Eylau in February 1807. Bombardment of the guns of his equestrian company Ermolov stopped the advance of the French troops, which saved the army. And the fire was opened by him without any orders, on his own initiative. He distinguished himself in the battle of Heilsberg and near Friedland.

Thus, in 1807, 29-year-old Alexei Yermolov returned to the Russian empire with a reputation as one of the first artillerymen of the Russian army. He was twice presented with the rank of Major General, but Arakcheev interfered with this. However, at the end of 1807, the tsar's favorite changed anger to mercy, and at the beginning of 1808, Mr. Yermolov was given the rank of major general. Since 1809, he commanded reserve troops in the Kiev, Poltava and Chernihiv gubernias.

Yermolov, due to his wit and staty (tall, heroic build) was popular among the fair sex. In Kiev, he almost got married. Hot mutual love, however, did not end with marriage. In his “Notes” he explains that the main obstacle to marriage was his unenviable financial situation, which did not allow him to support his family comfortably. So forever he remained a bachelor.

At the end of 1811, Mr. Yermolov was summoned to Petersburg and appointed commander of the Guards Brigade, which comprised Izmailovsky and Lithuanian regiments, and in March 1812, he was appointed Commander of the Guards Infantry Division. Yermolov's military career began to take shape again successfully. At this time, Yermolov gained popularity as a supporter of the "Russian" party. They said that somehow in 1811, Yermolov traveled to Barclay-de-Tolly's main apartment, where Bezrodny was the head of the office. “Well, what is it there?” - asked him on his return. “Bad,” answered Alexey Petrovich, “all Germans, pure Germans. I found one Russian there, and that Bezrodny ”.

In the 1812 year, after Alexander began to pursue the anti-French line again, the Great Army of Napoleon invaded Russia. As a result, the French emperor was substituted by the “Russian rock”. The British got their way - they eliminated Napoleon and France, with Russian hands. At the beginning of the campaign, Yermolov was appointed chief of staff of the 1 West Army, commanded by Minister of War M. B. Barclay de Tolly. It should be noted that if Yermolov had a good relationship with P. I. Bagration (they were friends), then with Barclay they were cold. In addition, Tsar Alexander, on his departure from the army, entrusted Yermolov with a very delicate mission - to report all events in the army with complete frankness. Yermolov, as a very sharp person, did not speak badly about anyone (except for General Ertel), but his notes are full of sharp characteristics of many.

Militarily, Yermolov was flawless. He was a direct participant in all the more or less important battles and battles of World War 1812, both during the offensive of the French army and during its retreat. He especially distinguished himself in the battles of Vitebsk, Smolensk, Borodino, Maloyaroslavets, Krasny and Berezina. After the Smolensk battle of 7 August he was given the rank of lieutenant general. During the Borodino battle, Yermolov was at the headquarters of Kutuzov. At the critical moment of the onslaught of the French on the left flank of the Russian troops, he was sent with the assignment to “bring into proper structure” the artillery of the 2 Army. Finding that the Raevsky battery was captured by the French, Yermolov personally led an infantry battalion into battle, and ordered the cavalry companies to divert the enemy’s fire. Within half an hour the battery was beaten off from the French. Then he led her defense until he was wounded.

With the arrival of the army, Mikhail I. Kutuzov Yermolov became the head of his headquarters. At the council in Fili, General Yermolov spoke in favor of a new decisive battle near Moscow, and after the start of the retreat of Napoleon’s Great Army from the ancient capital, he, among other commanders, insisted on giving battle to Maloyaroslavets. This battle forced the French to turn to the ravaged Smolensk road, which predetermined the final catastrophe of Napoleon’s army. In the post of chief of staff of the Russian army Ermolov was until the expulsion of the remnants of the Great Army from Russia. In this case, the general commanded the vanguard of the Russian army. Thus, Yermolov’s fame as a talented commander grew steadily and he became one of the heroes of the 1812 campaign of the year.

Counterattack Alexei Yermolov captured battery Rajewski during the Borodino battle. Chromolithograph A. Safonov. Early 20th century

To be continued ...

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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 4 June 2017 08: 23
    One of the villages of the Terek region - Art. Was named after Yermolov. Ermolovskaya, and since 1990 with. Alkhan-Kala. The monument in Grozny was also demolished. In 1998-1999, the administration of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which controlled the city, renamed Grozny to Dzhokhar-Kala, the city of Dzhokhara, in honor of the separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev ..
    1. Bastinda
      Bastinda 4 June 2017 13: 03
      He was a real person, perfectly understood where to use force. And now we have LilyPutiki and the Bears, There is no money, but you hold on!
  2. Victor N
    Victor N 4 June 2017 08: 30
    The legend of Russian history!
  3. Reptiloid
    Reptiloid 4 June 2017 09: 28
    I liked the article. Thank.
  4. Olgovich
    Olgovich 4 June 2017 09: 49
    Ermolov became the real creator of the Russian Empire.

    A wonderful Russian general and patriot, for which many who demolished monuments hated him. in 1921 and later.
    But in the Stavropol Territory, the Kuban, monuments were built (and with the money collected by the people) and the memory is carefully preserved.

    The author’s excursions into geopolitics are not clear, along with the hero’s biography.: \
    Napoleon and Paul were even able to agree on an alliance against England
    Yes, yes, but the fact that Paul in alliance with England For some reason, the author fought against the same France, is silent (and these are wonderful and high-profile victories of Ushakov, Suvorov). request And England became an enemy only after .... offended the very best Maltese by capturing Malta. yes
    Tsar Alexander could not stay aside from the anti-French wars, he allowed himself to be drawn into a war with France, which was in the strategic interests of Vienna and London. As a result, Russia for a long time (until 1814) spent the main forces and resources on the struggle with France of Napoleon, instead of solving national tasks to strengthen the state

    And he did the right thing: he tried to stop the aggressor, who seized half the world, still on a foreign land. There were contradictions (Poland) and a common border (Poland, Prussia)
    the British preferred to solve problems at sea, in the colonies, and paid in gold for Austrian and Russian "cannon fodder"

    Yes, yes: in Egypt they capitulated to whom tens of thousands the French? Before the English cannon fodder. yes
    1. Dart2027
      Dart2027 4 June 2017 12: 58
      Quote: Olgovich
      in Egypt tens of thousands of French capitulated

      The fact of the matter is that in Egypt. In short, the main strategy of England for a long time was to evade active participation in wars in Europe as long as possible, but at the same time use all the opportunities to capture the colonies.
      More can be read from Alfred T. Mahen "The influence of sea power on history. 1660-1783. "
      1. Olgovich
        Olgovich 4 June 2017 13: 52
        Quote: Dart2027
        The fact of the matter is that in Egypt. In short, the main strategy of England for a long time was to evade active participation in wars in Europe as long as possible, but at the same time use all the opportunities to capture the colonies

        England is a member of almost ALL anti-French coalitions since the time of Paul 1 - is it called "inactive in Europe"? Including on land in Europe in the Anglo-French War of 1803 and in the 1810s.

        What's the difference in Egypt or not? They wouldn’t captivate the French in Egypt, Napoleon would have 30 thousand more soldiers in Europe.
        1. Dart2027
          Dart2027 4 June 2017 16: 06
          Quote: Olgovich
          it's called "inactive in Europe"

          I don't mean that. It’s just that in Europe they prefer to fight with the wrong hands, as much as possible, but in the colonies they are all on their own.
    2. 26rus
      26rus 4 June 2017 14: 01
      . Monument to A.P. Ermolov in Mineralnye Vody.
      1. Olgovich
        Olgovich 4 June 2017 19: 07
        Quote: 26rus
        Ayatnik A.P. Ermolov in Mineralnye Vody.

        Thank.... hi
      2. The black
        The black 4 June 2017 19: 53
        and in Stavropol ....
    3. The black
      The black 4 June 2017 19: 51
      The streets of Yermolov are in Derbent, Mozhaysk, Pyatigorsk, Kislovodsk, Cherkessk, Essentuki, Georgievsk, Mikhailovsk (Stavropol Territory).
  5. midshipman
    midshipman 4 June 2017 11: 23
    A.P. Ermolov was friendly with M.A. Miloradovich. I wrote about this in the story "Forgotten Governor-General". In 2015, after reading the story by the Patriarch in St. Petersburg, a monument was erected to him in St. Petersburg. A.P. Ermolov is the pride of Russia. I have the honor.
  6. Silvio
    Silvio 4 June 2017 11: 50
    There is an autobiographical book, Notes of A.P. Ermolov, written in the language of the 18th century. Ermolov describes one episode when he had to command the rear guard in Vost. Prussia during one of the Napoleonic wars and defend the bridge near some German town. It was a dark night, the enemy was not visible and the AP ordered to light several nearby buildings in order to illuminate the battlefield. With that battle, most of the town burned down, but the bridge was kept. Prussian generals (allies in that war) when visiting Kutuzov’s headquarters complained to the commander in chief about the brutal behavior of the Russian commander of the rear guard, they say he did too cool. Ermolov in his notes answered this with this passage: Well, it would seem to the generals, after a good dinner, that it was not humane to do so. But to me, being face to face with a superior opponent and even in pitch darkness, it did not seem at all.
  7. Cartalon
    Cartalon 4 June 2017 14: 19
    Is it Yermolov’s biography or a review of Samsonov’s geopolitical objections?
    1. Silvio
      Silvio 4 June 2017 15: 42
      This is an autobiographical publication written in a heavyweight style (as they wrote before Pushkin), but sincerely. Given are the frank characteristics of the military leaders of that era: Bagration, Miloradovich, Kutuzov, etc., whom the author personally knew. Not one of the Russian and Soviet generals, perhaps, did not leave such categorical judgments about his contemporaries.
      1. Nagaibak
        Nagaibak 4 June 2017 19: 42
        Silvio "This is an autobiographical publication written in a heavy style (as they wrote before Pushkin)."
        I have one.))) More than once here I quoted excerpts from it in the discussions on the Caucasian War.
  8. Methuselah
    Methuselah 4 June 2017 19: 22
    great article, but where about the conquest of the Caucasus?
  9. tank64rus
    tank64rus 4 June 2017 20: 05
    The founder of Grozny. He did a lot to make the Caucasus join Russia. And not only by force. And so sharp on the tongue.
  10. Viclipucli
    Viclipucli 5 June 2017 14: 52
    Quote: Methuselah
    great article, but where about the conquest of the Caucasus?
    . So it is written, to be continued. The most effective manager of the Caucasus:
    In the Caucasus, Ermolov faced the tragic story of Major Pavel Shvetsov - returning from service from Georgia to Russia, he was abducted by Chechens and kept in an earthen pit for more than a year. The robbers demanded 250 thousand rubles. (today - more than $ 10 million), if the mountaineers did not receive a ransom, then they sold prisoners through established channels to the East. The general summoned the owners of the lands through which the captive major was transported, imprisoned them in the Kizlyar fortress and announced that if in 10 days they did not find the means to release Shvetsov, all 18 people would be hanged on the fortress bastion. The repurchase amount immediately decreased from 250 thousand to 10 thousand rubles. Money was paid by one of the Dagestan khans, the major was released.