In March, 1877, Bucharest gave St. Petersburg a principled consent to pass through the territory of the principality of the troops of the Russian Danube Army. 12 (24) April 1877, on the day of the declaration of war, the Russian army in four columns crossed the Romanian border and moved to the Danube in the area from Alexandria to Reni.
Only the main forces of the same corps were transported by rail (Ungen - Bucharest), all other troops marched. At the beginning there were four corps in the army: 8, 9, 11 and 12. The commander of the 11 Corps, Prince Shakhovsky, fearing that the Turks would advance to the Siret line (Seret), sent the 29-th Don regiment, which, having passed 80 versts for 9 hours, in the evening took the ferry across the river. 13 (25) of April, the avant-garde of the 11 corps was occupied by Galati, 14 (26) of April - Brailov, mine barriers were set up in the mouth of Siret. Thus, the deployment of the army was ensured. At the end of April, at the request of the Commander-in-Chief of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, three corps were stationed in the active army. The 13 and 14 corps, which were closer, were marched to the Lower Danube. 4-th corps began to be transported by rail to the main forces, but the approach was expected no earlier than the end of June - beginning of July.
The march was difficult. An officer of the 8 Corps recalled: “These transitions were heavy for the troops; I had to get out and, step by step, to get out, and to pull carts out of the mud ... not only to pull oxen to help horses, but also to dress up teams of weary lower ranks ... And further marching through Romania to Bucharest itself, the troops were persecuted by failures: spilling of turbulent southern rivers and the little rivers, destroying, destroying and destroying bridges, everywhere have done so much trouble that in general the arrival of this convoy of troops to the capital of Romania ... was almost two weeks late against the calculations made by the field headquarters and announced for execution. ” But in the end all the difficulties overcame. By May 2, Russian troops occupied the coast of the Lower Danube from Brailov to the Black Sea. By mid-June, all connections and units, having passed from 600 to 700 km, reached their designated areas. The personnel showed good physical training, endurance for long marches.
The movement of Russian troops in Romanian territory took place in due course. One of the adjutants of Prince Charles (Karol I), T. Vacarescu, wrote: “Russian soldiers behaved on the march approximately, observing strict discipline. National sovereignty, laws and orders of your country have not been violated. ” On April 25 (May 7), the commander-in-chief of the Danube Army informed the king: “The Minister of Romania, Brattiana, arrived today to greet me on behalf of Prince Charles and to thank for the exemplary behavior of the troops.” Moreover, at this time Bucharest respected the policy of neutrality and in some cases the Romanian authorities tried to hinder the advancement of Russian troops.
But on the whole, the Romanian people were friendly towards the Russians, saw in them liberators from Turkey. The unit commanders noted this in their reports. For example, Colonel Biskupsky reported that "residents treat the troops affectionately." Colonel Rick noted: "The local population is very sympathetic to our troops." An officer of the Azov 45 Infantry Regiment recorded in his diary: “The residents of Yass gave their hospitality with all the hospitality and used all their efforts to dry out a little wet dress from the rain ... The apartment was flooded with stoves and given bedding straw ... people they helped the wagon train and artillery to go through the swamp and get on the highway. ”
As a result, the main forces of the Danube army consisting of four corps (8, 9, 12 and 13) were located in the area of Bucharest. The 11 corps unfolded along the northern bank of the Danube from Oltenita to Girsovo, the 14 corps from Girsovo to the Black Sea. The entire bank of the Danube was occupied by a chain of cavalry posts, reinforced by infantry in places. The approach of the 4 Corps was expected in mid-July. In total, there were more than 15 thousand people in the Danube army on 27 (1877) in June 260. The main apartment of the commander in chief is located in Ploiesti. There also 6 June arrived and Tsar Alexander II.
The Turks had at that time on the Danube more than 200 thousand people with 450 guns scattered on a large front from Kyustendzhi to Niš. The main forces were in the quadrangle of the fortresses (more than 100 thousand people), 40-thousand Osman Pasha’s corps at Vidin. The approach of the Russian troops to the Lower Danube alarmed the Turkish command. The Turks began to think that the Russians were going to invade Dobrudja. The high command ordered the commander-in-chief of the Turkish army on the Danube Abdul-Kerim Nadir Pasha to push the main forces out of the quadrangle of fortresses to Dobruja. Abdul-Kerim was an experienced commander, he participated in the war against Russia 1828-1829, commanded the troops on the Caucasian front during the Eastern War, in 1876 for a while he was War Minister, then he was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in the war against Serbia and Montenegro, defeated the Serbian army. The Turkish commander-in-chief on the Danube was very hard to convince the high command to cancel the suicidal order to send the main forces of the army to Dobruja. Abdul-Kerim believed that the Russians would cross on the Middle Danube, between Rushchuk and Vidin (this is what happened). Therefore, the Turks strengthened Nikopol, Sistov and Turtukai with a forced pace. In general, the Turkish command did not try to intercept the strategic initiative, giving it to the Russian, scattered its troops, moving to the passive defense of the Danube line.
Thus, the overall balance of power at the beginning of the war was in favor of the Russian army. It became even more favorable when Romania and Montenegro came out on the side of Russia, and the Russians were supported by the Bulgarian militia (militia).
Turkish commander in chief on the Danube Abdul-Kerim Nadir Pasha
During the deployment of the Danube army, the Bulgarian militia was formed. The order was given by the commander-in-chief of 29 on April. The formation itself began even earlier, during April, in Chisinau, then, in May-June, the militia was formed in the camp near Ploiesti. According to the order, the militia was to consist of three infantry brigades and one mounted hundred; each brigade consisted of two five-footed footguards according to the regular strength of a separate battalion (930 privates). The ordinary squad of the squad was recruited from volunteers, the Bulgarians, the command - from the Russian and Russian service of Bulgarian officers and non-commissioned officers.
Volunteers-Bulgarians from the Russian-Bulgarian brigade, which fought on the Serbian side during the Turkish-Serbian war, became the basis of the militia. In Chisinau, they were first 137 people, then another 1056 people joined, and the fighters of the Russian-Bulgarian brigade that remained in Serbia continued to arrive in Ploiesti. In total, the militia included about 90% of the Russian-Bulgarian brigade that fought in Serbia. In addition, most of the participants in this brigade at one time took part in the April 1876 uprising of the year in Bulgaria. Thus, the core of the militia had combat experience of action against the Ottomans in Bulgaria and Serbia. Bulgarian volunteers from national liberation emigration scattered in Russia and Romania, Bulgarian volunteers from the farm laborers employed in Romania, Bulgarians serving as privates in the Russian army and transferred to the militia from the troops of the Odessa military district were clustered around this nucleus. By May 1877, 6 squads of more than 5000 men were formed, and by June 27 the militia consisted of 7444 soldiers. Already during the war, in Bulgaria itself, six more teams began to form (the second militia).
The rank and file had a special form and were armed with outdated rifles Shaspo and Krnka. During the formation of the Bulgarian militia successfully passed intense military training. Already at the very beginning of the formation of the militia, the newspaper “Russian Invalid” wrote: “The success of the formation of the first two battalions exceeded expectations. Intelligence, discipline, zeal and love for the cause, voluntarily accepted by oneself, distinguishes all these Bulgarians to the last man. ” Bulgarians believed in their business and tried to become excellent soldiers.
The command staff of the militia was mostly Russian. He was not distinguished by homogeneity - officers from the army and guards, cavalry, with personal experience of the Crimean war and actions in Turkestan and without any combat experience were part of it. There were only a few Bulgarian officers. At the head of the militia was Major General Nikolai G. Stoletov (his younger brother Alexander became a world-famous scientist). He was a highly educated man - he graduated from Moscow University and the Nikolaev Academy of the General Staff, he knew several Western European and Eastern languages. Stoletov began his military service as a private soldier, having volunteered for the army during the Crimean War. Then, from 1859, he served in the Caucasian Army and took part in the Caucasian War; in 1867, he was transferred to Turkestan. As part of the diplomatic mission, visited Persia and Afghanistan. In October 1869, he led the Krasnovodsk detachment, which conquered the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, where the city of Krasnovodsk was also founded. At the beginning of 1874, Stoletov led a scientific Amudarya geographical expedition, the results of which were awarded the gold medal of the Imperial Geographical Society. Stoletov sincerely sympathized with the struggle of the Bulgarians for his liberation and was respected by the militia. He cared a lot about the fate of the militia. Thus, this appointment was successful.
Concerning the tasks of the Bulgarian militia, the Russian high command did not have a unanimous opinion. The Bulgarian militia themselves viewed their case as a continuation of the national liberation struggle. In St. Petersburg, they wanted to use the militia, which would lead the liberation movement in Bulgaria, prevent it from following the radical (revolutionary) scenario, and later the militia (after “cleansing” revolutionary elements) could become the core of the pro-Russian Bulgarian army. Thus, the supreme Russian command was initially going to use the militia to raise an uprising among the Bulgarians when the Russian army entered Bulgaria. Then, the opinion that Bulgarians should be used for logistic support, should be appointed to perform garrison service in the cities that the Russian army will occupy. This assumption was strongly opposed by Stoletov, insisting on the inclusion of Bulgarian militias in the advanced units of the Russian army. According to him, the Bulgarian militia had to go ahead of the Russian troops and “by its example inspire the Bulgarian population of the liberated territory for the last battle with the Turks”. As a result, during the war, the Bulgarian militia was used in battles on a par with Russian troops, on the front line, but the task of raising an uprising among the Bulgarians was removed from it.
Major General N. G. Stoletov, 1877 Year
England's attempt to push Austria and Russia
The entry of the Danube army into Romania caused a great uproar in Western Europe. Particularly advocated the "integrity" of Turkey and the preservation of the former position of the British government. 6 May Derby handed Shuvalov a note. It reported that London could not allow: 1) the blockade by Russia of the Suez Canal; 2) the occupation of Egypt; 3) seizing Constantinople and changing the status of the straits; 4) Russian advance to the Persian Gulf. The Russian ambassador to England, Shuvalov, who was a supporter of the Anglo-Russian rapprochement, was alarmed at the possibility of landing the British in the straits zone and in Constantinople.
Petersburg hurried to reassure the British that he had no plans for Suez and Egypt. Also in the intention of the king is not included and the seizure of Constantinople with the straits. That the fate of Constantinople and the Straits will be decided only by the general agreement of the powers. The Russian chancellor also instructed Shuvalov to declare that Russia is ready to make peace on moderate terms, the only way the Port will ask for peace is before the Russian troops cross the Balkan Mountains. Petersburg was ready to limit itself to the creation of a greatly reduced autonomous Bulgaria, located north of the Balkan Range, with territorial increments for Serbia and Montenegro, and autonomy for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia itself was ready to be satisfied with the return of southwestern Bessarabia, and the concession of Batum in the Caucasus. Austria-Hungary could receive compensation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was noted that if during the war the Russian army takes Constantinople, it will be a temporary measure that has no political significance. In turn, England had to abandon the idea of the occupation of the Turkish capital and the straits.
8 Jun Shuvalov reported this program to Lord Derby. However, London rejected this plan. London considered inadmissible even the temporary appearance of Russian troops in Constantinople. Prime Minister Disraeli was ready to immediately occupy the Dardanelles and send the fleet to Constantinople. However, he could not get the consent of the cabinet. The opposition liberal party strongly opposed any assistance to Turkey.
At the same time, London tried to play on the Austro-Russian contradictions and set Austria-Hungary against Russia. In May, 1877, the British government began negotiations with Vienna to create an anti-Russian alliance. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was offered to oppose Russia and strike the rear of the Russian Danube army, linked with the battles with the Turks. England itself expressed its readiness to set up the fleet and, with its help, transport the Austro-Hungarian troops to Constantinople in order to occupy it before the arrival of the Russians. However, not fools were sitting in Vienna; they realized that all the risk in the war with Russia would fall on Austria-Hungary. The British wanted to use the Austro-Hungarians as "cannon fodder" in the war with the Russians. English the fleet there was no threat, since Russia had just begun to recreate the Black Sea Fleet. The Austrian army could hope for success in operations against the Russian troops at the Danube Theater, they found themselves in ticks between the Austrians and Turks. But after such a betrayal of Austria-Hungary, a struggle was coming with all the armed forces of the Russian Empire, which threatened with serious troubles. England could not put up serious expeditionary forces in the Balkans or simply would refuse it. Turkey was a weak ally. And Prussia, most likely, would have taken the position of cold neutrality or used the opportunity to once again defeat France.
Thus, the Austro-Hungarian government correctly assessed the situation at that time and abandoned the idea of war with Russia. Austria did not mobilize the army. Thinking well, Vienna declined from a military alliance with England against Russia, suggesting that the British limit themselves to a common political line on the future division of the Ottoman Empire. The British government 17 July warned St. Petersburg that in the case of the occupation of Constantinople by the Russian army, at least temporarily, Russia could not count on the neutrality of Britain.