New Moscow. How did the Cossacks go to Ethiopia
In January, 1889, in the Red Sea, on its stretch controlled by Italy, appeared a strange steamer. The command of the Italian garrison was seriously concerned. The time was harsh - the colonial powers vied for the conquest of new territories, and the lands on the Red Sea coast were of interest to both the British and the French. The Italians alerted the crew of the gunboat, which was approaching the ship. However, the closer the Italian boat approached the ship, the clearer the surprising picture of the Italian sailors. On the deck of the steamer were "funny" people, danced unfamiliar to the Italians, sang songs. Russian Cossacks met the Red Sea and the distant African coast.
The idea of a Cossack campaign in Africa, once having conquered Nikolai Ashinov, never left him. Nikolai Ivanovich Ashinov called himself a Terek Cossack, but in reality his origin was very dark, like many people have an adventurous temperament. A number of sources claim that Nikolai Ashinov was not a Cossack, in fact. He was born in 1856, in Tsaritsyn (Volgograd), in the family of a former serf in the Penza province.
Apparently, Ashinov’s father was able to get rich, because Nikolai did not know the special need in his youth and did not feel the need for earnings. In the end, Ashinov was tired of living in his native Tsaritsyn and he moved to St. Petersburg, where he went to the war ministry and asked for money ... to create a new Cossack army. According to Ashinov, some free Cossacks allegedly wander in Persia and Turkey, who should be resettled in the Russian Empire and allotted land on the Black Sea coast. But serious military officials did not want to get involved with a strange man. Ashinov was “pointed to the door,” but this did not calm him down. Nikolai moved to Moscow, where he quickly became close to patriotic publicists and writers, who helped organize the collection of funds for the new Black Sea army. However, neither the troops nor the report on the money spent did not appear. For a while Nikolay Ashinov disappeared.
As it turned out, the Tsaritsyn "ataman" did not go to Persia or Turkey in search of a "free Cossack army", but even further - to the Red Sea coast of Africa, where he reached Ethiopia. Ashinov arrived in the Ethiopian province of Tigre, where he met with the local nobility. But soon the Ethiopian officials, realizing that the newcomer from a distant northern country was not the official ambassador of the Russian Tsar, sent him back home. Ashinov did not give up. Russian settlement on the shores of the Red Sea was his obsession.
Why did Ethiopia attract the attention of Ashinov? The fact is that by 1880. it was almost the only African country that retained real, not formal political independence. But this is not the main thing. In Ethiopia, from ancient times professed Eastern Christianity Monophysite sense. African co-religionists were of great interest to those Russian patriots who were concerned about the protection of Christians in a hostile environment. Ethiopia was best suited for this role. At the imperial court, an entire “Ethiopian party” eventually formed, convinced of the desirability and even the need for Russian penetration into this African country. For obvious reasons, the clergymen, who hoped to expand the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on Ethiopian lands, supported the “Ethiopian Party” most actively.
One of the first with the idea of Russian penetration into Ethiopia began to speak Archimandrite Porfiry (Uspensky), in 1848-1853. who led the Orthodox mission in Palestine. His ideas were supported by the Russian envoy in Cairo, Mikhail Khitrovo, who also believed that penetration into Ethiopia fully meets not only the ecclesiastical, but also the political interests of the Russian Empire. Khitrovo met Ashinov and was literally fascinated by the "devotee" who shared the same view of Russian-Ethiopian relations. Khitrovo began to persuade his superiors to take seriously the stories of Nikolai Ashinov and render him assistance.
The idea of Ashinov was very adventurous - to penetrate into Ethiopia under the guise of a Russian church mission, which would include not only clerics, but also armed Cossacks, and then establish a Russian colony on the territory of the country. In Ethiopia, a Russian Cossack army was to be created, which would be subordinate to the Ethiopian emperor and protect the latter from the colonialist aspirations of Italy, England and France, as well as from the Muslim rulers of the neighboring Somali lands.
In addition to the patronage of Khitrovo, Ashinov began to act independently. He convinced Konstantin Pobedonostsev, the “gray cardinal” of the era of Alexander III, of the need to create a Russian colony in Ethiopia, which would be able to subordinate the Ethiopian church to Russian Orthodoxy. Thanks to Pobedonostsev, Ashinov received official support from the church and was provided with the spiritual leader of his expedition, Archimandrite Paisiy, an Athos monk. “In the world” Paisiy was called Vasily Balabanov, and he was by origin a Cossack of the Orenburg Cossack army, in which he participated in the past in the Caucasian War.
Among representatives of the secular authorities, Ashinov was supported by the Nizhny Novgorod governor Nikolai Baranov and naval minister Ivan Shestakov. If the first was just a man prone to various adventurous adventures, the second was interested in the opportunities that the emergence of the Russian outpost in North-East Africa opened up for the Russian naval and civilian fleet. To the opinion of such respectable dignitaries, Alexander III could no longer heed. Ashinov received the imperial "go-ahead" on his expedition.
In the fall of 1888, preparations began for the expedition. Monks, Cossacks, retired soldiers and officers, students expressed a desire to participate in it, but a significant part was made up of representatives of the lower classes, including the real Odessa port "tramps", seduced by romance and possessed by a thirst for profit. By this time, the emperor had again lost interest in the project of Ashinov, therefore it was decided to abandon the official support of the expedition. It was presented as a project of Nikolai Ashinov himself, which relieved the Russian authorities of numerous trials with other countries in the event of any problems “on the spot”.
10 December 1888 from the port of Odessa came out the steamer "Kornilov", on which the motley crowd and monks from the mission of Archimandrite Paisius assembled. 20 December 1888 the ship arrived in Port Said, and on January 6 1889 entered the Tajur Gulf. The cherished goal was very close. Having landed, Ashinov and his companions settled in the abandoned fortress of Sagallo, once built by the Turks.
The lands where the members of the Russian expedition found themselves are nowadays part of the independent state of Djibouti, and then were in the sphere of the French colonial interests. Having occupied the old fortress of Sagallo, Ashinov and his companions proclaimed it the territory of the colony “New Moscow” and raised their banner above the building of the fortress barracks. Naturally, the appearance in the abandoned fortress of foreigners, and even raised the Russian flag, was regarded by the French command as a blatant arrogance. But first, the French tried to enter into negotiations with Ashinov and Paisiy. When the negotiations were unsuccessful, three warships were sent to the Sagallo area at once.
The command of the French colonial troops demanded that Ashinov come to the French fortress for trial. However, soon the French again showed condescension and said that it was enough just to lower the flag. Ashinov refused. The French authorities entered into a correspondence with St. Petersburg, explaining the situation, but the royal diplomats could only shrug - Ashinov was an uncontrollable person and there was no leverage to pressure him in this situation. The French again reported that they did not want to use force and the Ashinov with satellites could remain in the fortress as long as they refused the military and political content of the mission and removed the flag. In the end, St. Petersburg actually allowed the French command to independently resolve the issue with the inhabitants of Sagallo.
5 February 1889, four warships approached Sagallo. On the demand to surrender, the Ashinov refused, after which the squadron commander ordered a warning volley of ship guns to be sent in the direction of the fortress. There was no reaction from Ashinov, and the French ships began to seriously fire at Sagallo. Five people died - one Cossack, two women and three children. After this, Ashinov hung a white flag and soon a French vessel approached the fortress, which took the Russian expedition with its belongings from Sagallo. Two weeks later, the French command handed over the Ashinovites to the Russian authorities, and they sent them home to Russia. The expedition members were divided into two groups. Most, including ordinary Cossacks, monks, townspeople with their wives and children, were taken to Odessa and released to their homes. But the expedition leaders, including Ashinov, were arrested and taken to Sevastopol for trial.
The tsarist authorities ordered to send Ashinov for three years under police supervision to the Saratov province, and send Archimandrite Paisiy to the monastery in Georgia. This was a completely understandable reaction, since Alexander III did not want to worsen the relations of the Russian Empire with France and was furious with Ashinov’s rebelliousness and "partisan". Thus ended the attempt of the Russian Cossacks to gain a foothold in the territory of faraway Ethiopia.
However, the Ashins and his companions were far from the only Cossacks who visited this African country. Already in February, 1889 arrived at the port of Obok, Lieutenant Viktor Fedorovich Mashkov (1867-1932), a Kuban Cossack by origin, who served in the 15 Kuban Infantry Regiment and had long shared ideas about the penetration of Russia into Ethiopia. Unlike the journey of Ashinov and his companions, Mashkov's visit was much more successful, although less adventurous. Mashkov himself received the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II, who, through Mashkov, received his message to Alexander III. Mashkov subsequently visited Ethiopia again and in dealing with him Negus Menelik insisted on the need to send Russian military instructors to Ethiopia to modernize the imperial army.
The unsuccessful mission of Ashinov did not lead to the appearance of a Russian colony on the African coast; however, subsequent Russian travelers succeeded in establishing relations between the Russian Empire and Ethiopia. In March, a regular Russian expedition arrived in Ethiopia on 1895, including 11 people and led by the leader of the Kuban Cossack Army Nikolai Stepanovich Leontiev (1862-1910). In fact, it was this expedition that became truly fruitful, leading to the establishment of normal political and even military relations with Ethiopia.
When in 1895-1896 the Italian-Ethiopian war broke out, Nikolai Leontyev went to Africa again - this time at the head of the mission of Russian officers - volunteers. He played a crucial role in the modernization of the Ethiopian army, creating the first infantry battalion as part of Menelik's army, fully organized in accordance with Russian military science. The merits of Nikolai Leontyev before Ethiopia were appreciated by Menelik, who assigned the Russian military leader the highest military rank “dejazmegi” in the country and appointed him general governor of the equatorial provinces of Ethiopia.
Since the beginning of the 1890's. On 1914, many Russian volunteers, officers and Cossacks, who participated in the wars on the side of the Ethiopian empire and contributed to the construction of the country's military and civilian administration, visited Ethiopia. Of course, their participation was not as bright and adventurous as the mission of Ashinov, but it was much more meaningful and, most importantly, useful for both Russia and Ethiopia.
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