The preparation for the military campaign, unprecedented for that time, was considered in detail by us earlier (see “The Intimidated Coalition”, IEE No. 45 from 08.12.17), and in this material we will analyze the course of the hostilities and consider what lesson Russia has learned from these events.
Having decided to invade Russia, London and Paris focused mainly on the "sore point" of the Russian Empire - the Crimea and its main and only naval base in the south - Sevastopol. At the same time, the main operation of this campaign, not without fierce debates in the capitals of the two main participants of the anti-Russian coalition, was ultimately selected the landing operation, which, interestingly, refuted the beliefs that existed in those years that it was impossible to carry out such enterprises in such sizes. Most of the military specialists of that time were convinced that due to the small capacity of military vessels, the difficulties encountered during sea transportation of horses, the inevitability of accidents in sea navigation, it is simply physically impossible to transport more than 30 – 40 people with necessary reserves at sea at a time. With the invention of steamers and screw ships, most of these problems were, however, removed, and the Crimean landing expedition provided clear evidence of this. In total, a huge number of water craft — more than 600 transport ships — were required to transport the British-French expeditionary force to the Balkans-Crimea region.
In this regard, it should be emphasized that all of this could not have happened if Russian Emperor Nicholas I insisted on the implementation under his leadership of the developed initial, preemptive allies attack, which included troops to the shores of the Bosporus in the number of 32 – 40 thousand people and possible occupation of Constantinople, and went on about his mentor from his youthful years - the “father-commander” Field Marshal Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich, who urged to limit the area of the Russian forces Severn E Balkans and the Caucasus, allegedly, if successful, was to encourage the allies to reconcile with St. Petersburg.
As a result, the epicenter of the efforts of the Russian army became the Northern Balkans, where, despite the successes at the very beginning (practically bloodless occupation of the Danube principalities), in general, there was no luck. At the same time, military historians especially emphasize the fact that, perhaps, the results of a number of failed subsequent actions of the Russian troops on the Danube were one of the reasons that formed the basis of the Allied decision to land in Crimea.
Admittedly, Russian troops in this theater, despite a higher degree of training and equipment than the Turks who opposed them, acted inadequately and very passively, which the future classic of Marxism Friedrich Engels who commented on in the media during those years paid particular attention to. The situation that was unfavorable for the Russian troops was aggravated by the often cool and sometimes openly hostile attitude of the Danube population, who considered themselves descendants of the Roman colonists, who allegedly did not need patronage from Russia. In turn, and hopes that the Slavic population of the Balkans will rise from weapons in the hands to assist the Russian troops, were not justified because of the “immaturity” and because of the poorly carried out work among him (which, however, was taken into account and was crowned with success after a little over two decades).
In many respects, the Russian failures were explained by the position of Army Commander Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov, a non-initiating general, obsequiously, without complying with the drastically changing situation, following the instructions emanating from the distant northern capital. But later, the appointment of the “father-commander” Paskevich as the commander-in-chief of all Russian troops in the south did not lead to any noticeable success on the battlefield. Turkish troops, on the contrary, were not only almost twice as large as the Russian grouping and were encouraged by the possible intervention of European allies on their side, and were also headed by the promising sardarremrem (marshal) Omer Pasha, the Croatian-converted Slav - Croat , the former Austrian subjects. Thus, after a number of local successes of the Ottoman Empire at the Danube Theater, the European allies began to take seriously the "increased skill" of the Turks.
At the same time, in the Caucasus, the coalition’s affairs were far from the best. Here, just like the Turks on the Danube, but already in favor of the Russian troops, a subjective factor played a role - the appointment of an extraordinary General Prince Vasily Osipovich Bebutov at the beginning of the campaign as head of the current Russian corps. Under the leadership of this commander and his comrades, the Turks suffered a series of serious defeats. The subsequent situation in favor of the allies in this theater could not be corrected either by the action of the “fifth column” - the militant pro-Turkish minded highlanders are actually in the rear of the Russian troops, or the cruising of ships of the united British-French squadron along the Russian Black Sea coast with shelling of ports and settlements and repeated landings True, small landings, or even the secondment of the above-mentioned Turkish commander Omer Pasha, who had proven himself on the Danube here. The major failures of the Turkish army in the Caucasus were largely due to the reluctance of the “senior” allies to perceive this theater as if not the main, then at least “non-core” and, therefore, ostensibly not having to send any reinforcements from the expeditionary forces of the Europeans. This, naturally, caused discontent and sometimes open hostility on the part of the Turkish command in relation to the “passive” European advisers who in large numbers flooded the Turkish units and formations.
Nevertheless, the successes of the Russians in the Caucasus “did not understand” either the Turks, which they hoped for in St. Petersburg, much less London and Paris, which had set themselves the goal of completely destroying Russia.
FAR EAST "PILL"
It is noteworthy that even at the very beginning of the war, seeking the most optimal way of quickly crushing the Russian Empire, the Allies analyzed the option of actions in the Baltic, implying not only the destruction of the nodal points of possible Russian resistance (Kronstadt, Sveaborg, etc.) from the sea, but also the landing of large landings on the coast. However, without the assistance of Sweden, they understood both in London and in Paris, this was impossible to do. Stockholm, not having bought promises to give him a number of Russian territories in case of victory, finally refused to let the allies oppose Russia. It was then that the decision was made to focus on the Crimea, but the Allies also intended to inflict a serious defeat on the Baltic theater, which should greatly enhance their military and political authority in the eyes of all of Europe.
However, this did not happen. Large bases-fortresses (such as Kronstadt) turned out to be out of their teeth, and shelling of the coast and the landing of small landings and the seizure of merchant ships could not affect the course of the war as a whole. Even the capture of the Aland Islands belonging to Russia did not make any significant contribution to the balance of power. Moreover, the failures of the combined British-French squadron, often the result of a mismatch in the actions of the commands of both its parts, did not help to eliminate the mutual hostility of the two main coalition allies. The only thing the British and French have achieved is to divert the qualitatively best Russian forces (guards) to defend the western border and the Baltic coast, instead of sending them to the Crimea.
In the north, the allied squad of warships, having penetrated first into the Kola Bay, and then into the White Sea, fulfilling the decisions of London and Paris about the blockade of Russia's trade ports, in fact engaged in natural piracy at sea. And this despite the promise of London "not to violate the interests of private individuals." Having captured or exterminated dozens of civilian ships, warehouses and dwellings of civilians on the coast, but without taking a single significant military object of the Russians, the British and French were under the gun of fierce criticism even in the "tattered" European media.
A similar situation was developing in the Far East, where Russia had not yet created a permanent naval group by the middle of the XNUMXth century. On the contrary, the British and French had bases and a certain naval power in the Pacific, which they decided to take advantage of, forming a combined squadron led by two rear admirals - British David Price and the French Fevrier de Pointe. Despite the antipathy that has already become traditional for the relations of the Allies and the endless disputes of the two military leaders regarding the optimization of the squadron’s actions, in the end everything came down, as in the Baltic, to trivial piracy, which also did not add credibility fleets neither one nor the other allied countries. An attempt to justify its mission in the region at the end of August 1854 to capture the relatively large Russian base of Petropavlovsk ended in complete failure. The spies of the American loggers working on contracts in the Petropavlovsk region and their information on the state of Russian defense did not help the Allies either. Having lost about 450 people killed and wounded, the allies were forced to retreat. In the world press, which happened quite rarely, sympathies this time turned out to be on the side of the Russians. One newspaper even noted: “The British received a pill that will remain a shameful stain in stories enlightened seafarers and that the waves of all five oceans will never be washed away. ”
However, if on the flanks the situation for Russia was more or less favorable, then at the main theater - in the Crimea - the development of the situation did not cause optimism. Despite the breakdown of schedules for the arrival of the British-French-Turkish assault, confusion and miscalculations in dealing with loading and unloading issues, in early September 1854, the landing of the allies south of Yevpatoria began. It is noteworthy that in this case it was not without sharp disputes between the allies as to where to land, and a plan for subsequent actions. The French commander, Marshal Leroy de Saint-Arnaud, tired by his admission of endless quarrels, was forced to leave the choice to his British counterpart, Lord Fitzroy Raglan. Moreover, experts noted that if it were not for the mistakes of the Russian military leadership regarding the definition of landing dates and elementary measures to counter, this allied operation could have been prevented at the very beginning. Nevertheless, the unloading took place in almost perfect conditions.
The transportation of French troops directly to the Crimea with all the reserves and wagons that were with them demanded 172 ships of various sizes, and the transport of British ships to a hundred and fifty steam and sailing transports. The Turkish division was planted on nine ships.
After the completion of the unloading, unpreparedness of the British and Turkish formations for this difficult expedition was revealed. The French, to put it mildly, were surprised by the carelessness of their colleagues and took emergency measures to eliminate the revealed major miscalculations in supplying the troops of their fellow allies with everything they needed and even assumed full food security for the Turkish unit. The indiscretion of the British quartermasters immediately manifested itself in the form of cholera that had spread among the Allied forces and other general diseases.
Nevertheless, in the very first armed clash on the Alma River, which took place a week after the landing, the Allies inflicted a heavy defeat on Russian forces under the leadership of Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov as they advanced to the south of the peninsula. In this battle and in the subsequent battles, a higher level of technical equipment of Western European troops than the Russians showed up, in particular, rifled small arms, which allowed the British and French to inflict significant damage to their opponents, without entering into direct contact with him and avoiding the bayonet battle, which and famous Russian soldiers from the time of Suvorov.
In principle, it was obvious: the Allies needed to seize Sevastopol as quickly as possible, which supposedly should have put an end to this war. The Russian leadership, although aware of the key importance of this base city as a symbol of resistance to the aggressors, but delayed with the improvement of its defenses.
The anti-Russian anti-Russian Crimean Tatars unwittingly did a disservice to their new allied patrons, disorienting them with respect to the supposedly strong northern fortifications of the city, which in reality had only just begun to be erected. The Allies went around Sevastopol from the south, but they could not take it straight off. The heroic 349-day Sevastopol defense began.
In parallel with the massive shelling of the city (during the siege, six series of multi-day bombardments took place) there was a gradual build-up of the Allied troops and bringing it to 120 thousand people, mainly British and French. However, taking advantage of the lack of a closed line of the siege of the city, the Russians also reinforced the garrison to about 40 thousand people, and the general grouping of troops in the Crimea - to 90 thousand people.
The main role in the siege was played by French troops, better trained and learned than their British counterparts. It was the capture of the Malakhov Kurgan by the French, which the British were later forced to recognize, in fact, predetermined the fate of the city. The Turkish and Sardinian troops near Sevastopol were assigned a clearly secondary role. In the end, it was even decided to transfer the Turkish formations from the Crimea to the Caucasus in order to reverse the unfavorable situation there.
The prolonged siege and the numerous victims associated with it caused concern in both London and Paris, since they clearly did not contribute to the popularity of the leadership of both countries. The seeming hopelessness of the stalemate in the Crimea led to an increase in defeatism among the allies and even initially to a massive transition to the Russians. And only a number of cardinal measures taken in both Western European capitals to drastically change the situation in their favor, including a partial change of leadership of the allied forces group, contributed to the revitalization of the French and British troops, the transition to them initiatives and eventually forcing the defenders of Sevastopol 28 August (9 September) 1855 of the year left almost completely destroyed city. But only two days later the Allies decided to enter it.
The Sevastopol epic (apart from other battles) cost so many victims and expenses on both sides that the question arose: isn't it time to end the war in general? At the end of 1855, hostilities everywhere ceased. By this time, the losses were truly tremendous: Russia - over 522 thousand people, Ottoman Empire - up to 400 thousand, France - 95 thousand, Great Britain - 22 thousand people. Russia spent on the war about 800 million rubles., Allied powers - 600 million.
And yet, despite the surrender of Sevastopol and the contour of the defeat in the war as a whole, the situation for Russia was not so catastrophic as foreign and some Russian researchers prefer to emphasize. The fact is that the Russians did not use all their military potential, including the elite guards units and formations that more than once in history decided the outcome of certain campaigns in favor of Russia. The main thing is that it was the allies who realized that it was absolutely pointless to continue the war with gigantic Russia. And in St. Petersburg, they decided to take advantage of the favorable situation on the foreign policy arena, expressed in yet another exacerbation of the contradictions between the main coalition allies, Great Britain and France, in order, on the one hand, to bargain for the most acceptable conditions for making peace, and on the other - entirely concentrate on domestic, including military, reforms to eliminate the root causes that led Russia eventually to a formal defeat.
Peace negotiations began in Vienna, ending with the signing of the so-called Paris Treaty of 1856. Naturally, the conditions that St. Petersburg had to go to could not be easy: after all, a united Europe opposed Russia. Russia agreed with the ban to have a military fleet and bases in the Black Sea basin, to strengthen the Aland Islands in the Baltic and the implementation of a number of insignificant but nonetheless territorial concessions to Turkey in Bessarabia and the Caucasus. At the same time, and this seemed to be of principle, Russia should not have paid any indemnities. Whereas, for example, France demanded exorbitant material compensation from its ally, Britain, in case it continues to insist on the continuation of hostilities. This position of Paris has further aggravated the British-French relations.
WHEN ONE ENEMY IS BETTER THAN OTHER
It is noteworthy that even during the war began the rapprochement of St. Petersburg and Paris. Not only did Russian and French commanders, officers, and soldiers have respect for each other for resilience and nobility in battle, they both clearly expressed dislike for the arrogant but “unimportant warriors” - the British, although the latter formally fought in some ranks with the french. But the most significant was the fact that neither Russia, nor the “full-fledged” France wanted to strengthen Britain either in Europe or in the adjacent regions.
Nevertheless, the Anglo-phobian moods did not lead the French to the anti-British camp, while the relations of Great Britain and Russia were completely spoiled. Moreover, their fundamental improvement did not happen, even despite the subsequent participation of both states in the same military coalitions during the two world wars. Yes, and "ungrateful" Austria finally moved to the camp of the enemies of Russia. Relations with Turkey have not undergone any significant metamorphosis, remaining the relationship of two historically formed antagonists. As for the so-called Eastern question, because of which the war formally began, then, in fact, all the fundamental claims of Russia were satisfied.
Thus, the Crimean War, without resolving the serious contradictions of the main players, became only a prelude to subsequent major conflicts in Europe, and indeed in the world as a whole, as a result of the so-called settlement of which the desired stability and tranquility have not yet been established in the regional and international arena. .