Duel in the Russian Imperial Army. Part of 3
Russian Dueling Code and the unspoken rules of the fight
Since the fights among officers were officially allowed, it became necessary to streamline the conditions and rules for their conduct. To this end, several domestic dueling codes were written by different authors at once: Count Vasiliy Durasov (1908), Alexei Suvorin (1913), Major General Joseph Mikulin (1912) and others. But they all differed among themselves in details and with the existing duel practice. The Duel Code of Count Durasov was considered the most complete and detailed. It should be recalled that officially a single duel code in the Russian Empire was never developed. I had to use those that were at hand. And fight on fights in different conditions and according to different rules.
Russian duelists usually chose one of three types to resolve issues of honor. weapons: swords, sabers or pistols. Saber duels were rare. It should be noted that European gunsmiths, starting from the XVIII century, began to make special sets of twin weapons for duels. In a certain sense, it equalized the opportunities and chances of duelists, because each of them had the same weapon in their hands. The duel set, as a rule, was used only once and it was not intended for other fights.
It should be borne in mind that duels using cold weapons in the Russian Empire were not popular. But if they did happen, the “combatants” usually did not adhere to the Western European rules on the completion of the duel when inflicting the first wound. In such cases, Russian officers fought until they were fatal or seriously injured, when it would be impossible to continue the fight. The features of duels with swords or sabers were a fight either on the spot or moving only along the site chosen for the fight. Duelists went to battle with a naked torso or in one shirt.
However, in the Russian army officers preferred to shoot at duels. It was believed that the gun reduces the difference of opponents in the mastery of weapons. After all, for example, when fighting with swords, one had to have good fencing skills. In addition, the exchange of shots gave more chances of a deadly outcome of the fight. In this case, more dangerous meant more honorable to the winner.
The rules of the duel on the pistols were used different and often depended on which Duel code was used. Duelists could shoot at a time (draw) either at the same time on command, standing at the barrier or walking towards each other. In this case, the barriers could serve as pointers indicating the minimum distance that duelists could get close to each other. Usually it was from 8 to 20 steps. But it happened that they were shooting at 6 steps. In this case, the death of the fight was most likely. There were many other limitations and subtleties in organizing and conducting a duel according to the chosen Duel code.
Good shooters and skillful fencers got an undeniable advantage in fights. Justice in the defense of the honor and dignity of the officer is now increasingly dependent on the skill of owning a weapon and the experience of cold-blooded and unpunished murders, than on moral actions and progressive views. The cult of the force of arms in noble society engendered fears and social insecurity. Neither nobility of origin, nor a high military rank any longer served as a reliable defense against an accidental death in a duel.
There were different rules for challenge to a duel - in writing, orally, a slap in the face, a glove at the feet, etc. Distinguished 3 severity of the insult - from mild (verbal) to severe (insult action). Depending on this, the offended received the right to choose weapons, distance and other conditions of the fight.
Duels were appointed in defense of the honor of the officer affected at the household level. All service conflicts were resolved in the prescribed manner. It was forbidden for a subordinate to challenge his superior to a duel and vice versa. It was considered a crime against the chain of command and punished under the criminal law. By the way, in the case of receiving a call or secretly holding a fight, both the boss and the subordinate carried the punishment.
However, everything happened. During the reign of Alexander I, a duel between staff captain Kushelev and Major General Bakhmetyev took place. And the occasion was an insult six years ago. Then just arrived in the Life Guards Izmailovo regiment Kushelev for some violation Bakhmetiev hit with a stick. The duel ended without bloodshed with the reconciliation of the parties. The general apologized to the captain. However, all the participants of the fight, including the seconds, were brought to court. The sentence was cruel - Kushelev to be hanged, Bakhmetyev and all the seconds to the deprivation of ranks and nobility. In addition to one of the seconds - Count Venansson, who on the eve informed the commandant of the capital about the upcoming duel. But the king judged his own way. Kushelev was deprived of the title of the chamber junker, and Bakhmetyev was given a reprimand. Surprisingly, the most informer was a scammer who acted strictly by law. He was imprisoned for a week in a fortress, and then sent to the Caucasus.
Known and other unusual fights. So, under Nicholas II in 1908, with the knowledge of the emperor, a “general” duel took place. Former participants in the defense of Port Arthur lieutenant general A.V. Fock and K.N. Smirnov with weapons in their hands figured out the relationship. And there are many such funny cases.
Again, despite the fact that usually a duel was called upon peers, exceptions appeared over time due to the resolution of duels with civilians from noblemen. For example, in the case of publication of an article insulting an officer, the Duel Code allowed a journalist-author or editor to a duel to be published. Moreover, it was possible to challenge a duel for “secret motives”, without telling them even to the seconds.
Interestingly statistics fights at the turn of the late XIX and early XX centuries. According to I. Mikulin's calculations, made from documents for the period from 20 May 1894 to 20 May 1910, the 322 fight took place in the army after the sentences of the courts of honor: 251 between the military, 70 between the military and civilians doctors The duelists included 4 General, 14 headquarters officers, 187 captains and staff captains, 367 lieutenants, second lieutenants and warrant officers. One lieutenant participated in duels 3, four lieutenants and one second lieutenant fought twice. Twice fought with the military and two civilians.
In five cases they were cut on drafts, in two cases espadrones were used. The rest of the 315 duels took place on firearms, 15 people died on them and 17 were seriously injured. In fact, army duels were, of course, more. According to some estimates, about a third of the fights went around the court of the officers society. It happened that at the barrier converged opponents, on the eve of those sentenced by the court of honor to reconciliation.
Russian features officer fights
Foreigners believed that the Russian duel under the terms of the conduct was “bloodthirsty” of the Western European version. Indeed, sometimes the conditions of a duel with the consent of the parties were established extremely rigid. For example, A.A. Bestuzhev-Marlinsky we read: “Now about the conditions: is the barrier still at six steps? - At six. The prince does not want to hear about a greater distance. Wound only on an even shot ends a duel, flash and misfire is not a number. ” Such harsh conditions were often put forward by the parties, even if the duel itself arose because of a trifle.
In Russian dueling practice, fights were often held, in the terminology of western dueling codes, exceptional. For example, on pistols and at a distance of less than 10 steps. Or “through the handkerchief”, when only one of the two dueling pistols was charged with seconds. After that, the seconds retreated to the side, and the manager of the duel, who did not know what kind of gun was loaded, gave the participants the right to choose a weapon. Having received the pistols, the opponents took the diagonally opposite ends of the pocket shawl and, at the command of the manager, fired. The one who remained alive, found out that it was his gun that was loaded.
Some duels were arranged on the principle of Russian roulette. To her resorted to in the case of irreconcilable hostility between the arrows. Opponents stood at a distance of 5-7 steps. Of the two pistols, only one was charged. Weapons were distributed by lot. Thus, the rivals maximize the risk and chance of the outcome of the duel. In this case, the draw provided them with equal chances. Dueling rules also included a “barrel-to-barrel” duel. The difference with the previous one was only in the fact that both pistols were charging. Such a showdown often resulted in the death of both conquerors.
A duel was widespread in the Russian army, which for an unclear reason received the name American. In this case, the duel as such was replaced by suicide by the draw of one of the opponents. In Europe, at that time, such a way duels were often called Russian. One of the most famous "American duels" occurred between the two dragoon captains Leonov and Prokhorov. They were friends and both fell in love with the actress of a traveling circus. Solve the dispute persuaded the "American duel." Fateful lot fell Leonov. An officer, faithful to the word of honor, put a bullet in his heart ...
Duel plots in Russian literature
Somehow it happened that over time, the general idea of the majority of our contemporaries about the honor of the royal officers and their readiness to go to a deadly duel for the sake of it, was formed under the impression of what was read in fiction. In Russian literature of the late XIX - early XX centuries, a rather critical attitude was formed towards the official permission of duels among the officers. It was quite capacious and multifaceted shown in the story of A.I. Kuprina "Duel". Of course, the famous writer, and before that - the lieutenant of the 46 Infantry Regiment of the Dnieper, knew how to preserve the officer's honor in various office and everyday situations. Events of an unexpectedly arising love triangle are dramatically described, leading to the conflict between Lieutenant Nikolayev and Second Lieutenant Romashov. It got to the scandal in the officers' meeting. The court of honor of the regiment rendered a verdict - the damage inflicted to officer honor can only be resolved in a duel. On the eve of the duel, his wife’s wife, Shurochka, came to Romashov’s apartment. I came to say goodbye, realizing that this romantic and foreign man in the army would die in the morning from an opponent’s bullet. But in order for her husband to enter the military academy and after escaping from the garrison outback, she was ready for anything. And the fight was most welcome. Romashov was ready to apologize to Nikolaev and refuse to fight. But Shura, giving him goodbye with a female caress, insisted that they shoot. She understood that the duel, which ended in reconciliation of the opponents, always raises unnecessary doubts in the regimental community of officers. Moreover, such an outcome of a duel of honor appointed by the court closed the way for her husband to the academy and ruined all her ambitious plans.
The match ended sadly. Romashov was mortally wounded and died. Because of the deceit of his beloved? Or defending your honor? Or for the good name of his colleague's wife, whom he dared to fall in love with? About this among contemporaries there was a lot of controversy. Kuprina was accused of too frankly expounding all the “charms” of the life of the provincial garrison. In addition, he truthfully conveyed the atmosphere that prevailed in the regimental court of honor. And in general, he showed the "wrong side" of officer life in the Russian army of that time.
The main theme was chosen duel in some other literary works. It is enough to look through the "Test" A.A. Bezstuzhev-Marlinsky, "Shot" A.S. Pushkin, "Big Light" V.A. Solloguba, "Yatagan" N.F. Pavlova, “Breter” I.S. Turgenev, "Duel" E.P. Rostopchina or “Duel” A.P. Chekhov. In addition, duels were described as separate plot episodes in many stories and novels. And not always even the literary duel of honor corresponded to its name. Yes, and the dignity, generosity and justice of its members are not always respected, challenging, sometimes, for very dishonest reasons. At times, a black envy of the success of another person led to a duel. Such, for example, is Silvio in Pushkin and Luchkov in Turgenev.
And the story of Count Sollogub “Big Light” in secular society was perceived as a reason for calling M. Yu. Lermontov author to a duel. After all, his contemporaries he easily guessed in the image of a young army officer Mikhail Leonin, seconded in the capital to one of the guards regiments. But the poet and the officer had the strength to resist the slander and deceit of the high society, who, ultimately, did not accept him into their ranks. The duel battle of the great spiteful critics and spitifiers did not wait.
In books and in life in duels, respectable noblemen and outright scoundrels, naive romantics and cold-blooded killers fought. Irresponsible bullies were dragging random people into a duel bout who turned out to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here it would be appropriate to recall Herzen’s reflections on duels in “Past and Thoughts,” which led him to conclude that the duel “justifies any scoundrel either to his honorable death, or to what makes him an honorable killer”.
Among the officers in various ranks and positions there were quite a few who condemned fights in the military environment and did not hide their views, despite the approval of legalized duel killings that prevailed in the society and in the Russian army. Hot debates around the lifting of the ban on fights in officer circles began after May 1894. They took place in sharp discussions not only in the officers' meetings with the troops, but also in the pages of the military press. For example, quite often this issue was discussed in the “Scout” officer magazine. Among the open opponents of duels was, for example, such a well-known military authority as the General of Infantry M.I. Dragomir. He outlined his point of view in the special brochure “Duels” published in 1900 in Kiev. This was true because after the officers were allowed to fight a duel with the civilians of the nobility, there were new centers of tension in society.
Of course, the considered duel subjects do not claim to be exhaustive and comprehensive. Only a few, in our opinion, important aspects of the officer fights phenomenon in the Russian Imperial Army were considered. This topic remains understudied and awaits its researcher.
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