More recently, we have come across an extremely interesting and instructive material published in an expatriate periodical, authored by Rear Admiral A.D. Bubnov, the hero of the Russo-Japanese War, head of the Stavka Naval Directorate (since October 1917). First-hand information, on behalf of one of the most competent in the matter we are interested in, will allow us to finally put dots over the “i” in this problem - starting from the question whether Russia was preparing to master the straits before the First World War, and ending with the prospects for an appropriate combat operations during the latter. Rear Admiral introduces us to extremely interesting facts.
Alexander Dmitrievich Bubnov
And we want to introduce the reader to the authoritative opinion of Alexander Dmitrievich.
An object of exceptional strategic importance
There is no doubt, the admiral notes, that one of the main reasons for the collapse of Russia is the fact that during the First World War it was not able to restore its sea communications with the Allies through the straits, in other words, failed to solve its national sea problem. And professors stories naval art cited this circumstance in their textbooks as a classic example of the influence of maritime communications on the course of the war and the political and economic existence of great states.
So, one of the post-war textbooks contained the following lines:
“All military and political writers claim that if the Entente had taken possession of at least one of the straits, the war would have ended at least a year earlier and that disaster would have erupted over Russia that threw it from the Entente and, later, from ranks of great states. "
In a letter dated August 8, 1915, Admiral Tirpitz wrote that "the Dardanelles are fighting fiercely: if they are taken, we will inevitably lose the war."
And the American ambassador to Turkey during the war G. Morgento wrote the following in his memoirs:
“There is no doubt that if the Allies had mastered at least one of the straits, the war would have ended much sooner and Bolshevism would not have taken possession of Russia.”
These and many other outstanding military and political authorities, as noted by A. D. Bubnov, are absolutely right. The occupation of at least one of the Straits inevitably caused the following two consequences, which had a decisive influence on the outcome of the war: the surrender of Turkey and a significant increase in the military strength of the Entente (and especially the Russian army). If, after capturing the Straits, the Russian or English fleet appeared under the walls of Constantinople, the Turkish army, which fought the Russian army in the Caucasus and the English army in the Suez Canal area, would be forced to lay down weaponbecause it was cut off from its main base, which was located on the banks of the Bosphorus.
In turn, the surrender of Turkey caused a whole range of consequences of paramount strategic importance:
1) the entire Russian Caucasian army (about 250000 soldiers) and the entire British army from Egypt (up to 50000 soldiers) were immediately transferred to the main theater of war, and this is not counting the forces involved in the operation to seize the straits;
2) Bulgaria, whose entry into the war depended directly on the military-political situation of the Ottoman Empire and the resolution of the issue of the Straits, did not join Germany, and due to this circumstance the whole Serbian army remained in the Entente (which, in reality, after Bulgaria joined The German bloc was forced (more precisely, its remnants) to leave its homeland).
For all these reasons, after the surrender of Turkey, the military strength of the German bloc was reduced by 700000 fighters (500000 Turks and 200000 Bulgarians), and the fighting strength of the Entente would increase by 300000 fighters (250000 soldiers and officers of the Russian Caucasian army and 50000 British from Egypt) and, in addition , in the ranks of the Entente would remain 200000 soldiers of the Serbian army.
After taking the straits, the blockade of Russia (formed after Turkey entered the war) would have been broken and the shortest and most convenient connection between Russia and the allies would be restored - and as a result, the combat capability of the Russian army would increase significantly, which, starting in 1915, there was a huge shortage of military reserves .
Thus, the occupation of the straits caused, in the general strategic situation of the First World War, a difference of one million soldiers (- 700000 Turks and Bulgarians + 300000 Russians and British), not counting such factors as a significant increase in the combat readiness and firepower of the Russian army and the preservation of the Serbian coalition in the ranks of the anti-German coalition army. It is possible to add to this the assumption that Bulgaria in this case would join the Entente or (at least) remain neutral, and the Romanian speech would follow much sooner.
All this convincingly proves that after occupying the straits the war would end with the Entente’s quick victory. As for Russia, instead of Bolshevism, an era of prosperity and unprecedented greatness awaited her.
These postulates (among other things formulated in the textbook of military art) show, as the admiral notes, what crucial role was rightly attributed to the strategic role of the straits during the First World War.
When starting to answer the question stated in the title of the article, it is necessary to pay special attention to the following circumstances (depending on which this answer is).
First, this answer must, first of all, be sought in the sphere of activity of the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (Headquarters), for the decision to seize the Bosphorus depended solely on the Headquarters - since this operation should have been mixed, that is, it should have been to participate in the Black Sea Fleet and troops, which could only be appointed by the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander. Secondly, when answering the question “Why didn’t they take possession of the Bosphorus”, one will inevitably have to give the names of high-ranking officials in the Russian military hierarchy on whom this decision depended. Thirdly, as A.D. Bubnov noted, he has the right to consider this issue because the marine component of the latter was concentrated in his jurisdiction - as the Head of the Operational Unit, the flag captain of the Black Sea Theater of the Naval Headquarters of the Supreme Commander. The admiral was responsible precisely for this at Headquarters - the issue of the straits was the main one for his post during the war, and, of course, all the nuances were deeply embedded in his memory. But the matter is not only in memory, but also in unique documents, for, as the admiral, recognizing the enormous historical importance of this issue and the associated serious personal responsibility, he took steps before the Headquarters collapse to send all his affairs to a safe place Management - and these materials formed the basis of his analysis and subsequent conclusions.
Before the First World War, Russia did not have a sight at the straits.
In order to get an accurate picture of the military-political situation in which the question of the Bosphorus mastery was being decided, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with how this issue stood before the war.
From the point of view of state policy, the question of mastering the Bosphorus disappeared from the field of view of Russian statesmen at the end of the 19th century - when Russia's foreign policy was directed to the Far East. Therefore, the formulation of the question of interest to us in all its breadth after the outbreak of the war by Minister of Foreign Affairs S. D. Sazonov came as a complete surprise to military circles, because right up to the war itself it was not among those military-political tasks that the Russian armed forces were called upon to solve in case of war.
S. D. Sazonov
On the other hand, during the war, the Russian government could not help raising this question, for its resolution guaranteed the provision of communications with the Mediterranean basin, which was extremely important both for military and economic purposes, to some extent compensating for those victims. which the Russian people carried to the altar of the common Victory. As a result of this, the leaders of the Russian armed forces during the war, no matter how unexpected this question was posed for them, would undoubtedly have to reckon with this decision of the government without fail and should make every effort to actually achieve this goal.
Considering this question from the point of view of the Russian public opinion, one cannot help but conclude that after the end of the 19th century, the Slavophil circles, for whom the issue of the straits was the cornerstone of Russian politics, lost their influence, this issue was significantly obscured Russian public consciousness. In addition, under the influence of disillusionment with Russian military power after the Russo-Japanese War, Russian political aspirations were significantly reduced and the conviction that Russia was incapable of resolving such broad military-political problems as the issue of the Straits was introduced.
Question of the straits before the war
Turning to consideration of how the issue of straits in the leading military circles of Russia faced the war, it is necessary, first of all, to note that, as indicated above, neither state policy nor public opinion required its resolution from the armed forces. The leading circles of the army, represented by the General Directorate of the General Staff, were not inclined in themselves to pose the question of resolving the problem by armed force. And, if this question was raised in one form or another in government circles, it invariably ran into a definitely negative attitude on the part of the General Directorate General Headquarters. As a result, as the admiral notes, it would be more correct to conclude that the issue of the Straits "could not be posed by the policy for resolution by the armed force and because of the negative attitude towards it from the latter."
The main reason for the negative attitude of the leading military circles towards the capture of the Bosphorus was that after the Russo-Japanese War, their attention was completely absorbed in preparing for war with the formidable western neighbor. Moreover, the possibility of success in this impending future war was thought only in an environment of extreme power saving, that is, provided that the maximum of fighters was concentrated on the main theater of the war. This was insistently requested from the General Directorate of the General Staff and the ally - France. In this regard, the Main Directorate definitely negatively related to any secondary operations, including the Bosphorus one, considering that such operations weakened Russian forces in the main theater. At the same time, the Main Directorate did not see any direct assistance for operations in the main theater of war from the capture of the Bosphorus - the issue of ensuring sea communications with the outside world was not considered so important, because they firmly held the common opinion about the short duration of a future war. It was believed that the latter should be realized with those combat stocks that would be available at the time the conflict began, and, as a result, the supply of military supplies by sea from abroad was not so necessary.
As regards resolving the issue of the straits as such, the General Directorate General of the General Staff was of the opinion at that time in military circles that "the keys to the straits are in Berlin" and believed that the concentration of all forces against Germany and Austria-Hungary, bringing closer to victory over them, at the same time brings closer to resolution the issue of the Straits.
In addition, the following circumstance played an important role in the negative attitude of the General Directorate of the General Staff towards the Bosphorus operation: in essence, this operation had to be mixed and the fleet had to play the main role in it. At the same time, as noted, after the Russo-Japanese War, confidence in sailors disappeared in military circles - and they did not consider it possible to entrust the fate of the landing troops to the naval command, whose operational ability was considered very low (especially since the material part fleet after the Russo-Japanese War came into significant frustration).
For all of the above reasons, the Bosphorus operation was not only not included in the land war plan, but even the so-called. Odessa airborne battalion, which until the beginning of the 20th century was listed in the combat schedule of the Russian army (and in which the technical means were concentrated for the production of a landing in the case of the capture of the Bosphorus). Thus, from the point of view of the land plan for the upcoming war, Russia entered into it not only without any preparation, but even without any intention to carry out the Bosphorus operation.
To be continued ...