Peter I in a camp on the banks of the Prut. Engraving by an unknown artist
In the previous article ("Prut campaign of Peter I") we began a story about the unhappy campaign of Peter I, ending it on the events of July 21, 1711.
Even on the march, the Russian army, which suffered huge losses in the most unfavorable conditions, entered into battle with the Turkish-Tatar troops of the Grand Vizier Baltadzhi Mehmet Pasha and was pressed against the right bank of the Prut River, experiencing enormous difficulties with food and fodder.
On the eve of negotiations
On July 21, the situation was as follows.
The Ottomans, who had no idea about the critical state of the Russian troops, were shocked by their training, courage and the degree of effectiveness of their actions. The cavalry could not do anything with the Russian infantry hiding behind the slingshots. The attacks of the janissaries, in which they first went with a large "fury", drowned, and now there were very few people who wanted to continue. The actions of the Turkish artillery turned out to be ineffective, but the Russian batteries literally mowed down the attacking Turks - in whole rows. By the time the negotiations began, both the high command of the Turkish army and ordinary soldiers began to spread depressive moods and there was talk about the need to conclude peace on decent terms. Among the Russian soldiers and officers who found themselves in a difficult situation, there was no panic, the generals also maintained their composure. Making its march along the banks of the Prut River and repelling the Turkish attacks of the camp, the Russian army acted as a well-oiled mechanism, inflicting huge losses on the enemy. But, according to some authors, Tsar Peter I himself behaved strangely in the Russian camp. According to Erebo, on July 21 he only
"I ran up and down the camp, beat my chest and could not utter a word."
Yust Yul writes about the same:
"As I was told, the king, being surrounded by the Turkish army, came to such despair that he ran up and down the camp like a madman, beat his chest and could not utter a word. Most thought that with him a blow."
Commander Yust Juhl, Danish envoy to the court of Peter I
Indeed, it is very similar to a pre-stroke state.
To top it off
"the officers' wives, of whom there were many, howled and wept endlessly."
In general, the picture is simply apocalyptic: the tsar allegedly runs around the camp "like a madman" and cannot even say a word, but the officers' wives howl loudly. And all this is gloomily gazed at by hungry soldiers, who have already repulsed several enemy attacks and, in spite of everything, are ready to fight to the end ...
But in a similar situation at Kahul in 1770, 17 thousand soldiers and several thousand Cossacks under the command of P. A. Rumyantsev themselves attacked the 150-thousand Turkish-Tatar army that surrounded them - and defeated it.
Bernard. Portrait of P. Rumyantsev (kept in the Bakhchisarai Museum-Reserve)
The generals of Peter I, anticipating plans for future victories, then offered quite sensible things. It was decided: if the Turks refused to negotiate, burn and destroy the carts (because of fear of losing which Peter had not attacked the janissaries who were ready to flee the day before),
"to build a Wagenburg out of stronger wagons and place Volokhs and Cossacks in it, reinforcing them with several thousand infantry, and attack the enemy with the entire army."
A very promising directive, by the way. If the Turks retreated, unable to withstand the exemplary artillery fire of Russian batteries and the blow of infantry units, a lot of interesting and extremely necessary things would have been found for the Russians in the Ottoman camp.
Recall that at the beginning of the battle, surrounded and continuously attacked by the Russian vanguard did not flinch. In perfect order, he retreated all night and, having inflicted considerable damage on the Turks (mainly by artillery fire), joined up with the main army.
And what was there to lose? In total, during the Prut campaign, the Russian army lost only 2 people in battles. And 872 24 died, without even seeing a single enemy soldier - from disease, hunger and thirst.
Given the state in which Peter I was, it is still not clear who exactly in the Russian camp made the decision to appoint a military council, at which it was decided to start peace negotiations: Field Marshal Sheremetyev, a group of generals, Peter who came to himself or even Catherine ...
The last version can be safely discarded, since such actions of this woman were simply not in her mind - her whole previous and subsequent life irrefutably testifies to this. And who was she in the summer of 1711 for the generals to listen to her? Yes, on March 6, Peter and Catherine were secretly married, but no one in the army knew about this. For everyone, she remained only a royal metress with an extremely dubious reputation, which, perhaps, tomorrow will be replaced by another, younger and dexterous one.
But Catherine's services rendered to Peter then were really great. Peter never forgot about them, and upon his return to St. Petersburg, in February 1712 he was already openly married to Catherine, and their daughters Anna (b. 1708) and Elizabeth (1709) received the official status of crown princess. In 1714, specifically to reward his wife, Peter I established a new Russian order, then named after the Holy Great Martyr Catherine, emphasizing her courageous behavior:
"In memory of her Majesty's being in the battle with the Turks near the Prut, where at such a dangerous time not like a wife, but like a man's person was visible to everyone."
Order of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine
In the manifesto on November 15, 1723 about the coronation of Catherine, Peter once again recalls this, claiming that she acted in the Northern War and in the Battle of Prut "masculine, not feminine".
With the courageous behavior of Catherine in that critical situation, everything is clear. But there were other services rendered to her then to Peter. And the main one was healing.
From many sources it is known that Catherine was the only one who knew how to shoot the terrible seizures of Peter I, during which he, either in an epileptic seizure, or against the background of a spasm of the cerebral vessels, rolled on the floor, screamed from headaches and even lost his sight. Catherine then sat down next to him, laying his head on her knees and stroking his hair. The Tsar calmed down, fell asleep, and during his sleep (usually 2-3 hours) Catherine remained motionless. Upon awakening, Peter gave the impression of an absolutely healthy person. Sometimes these seizures were prevented: if they noticed convulsive twitching of the corners of Peter's mouth in time, they called Catherine, who began to talk to the king and stroked him on the head, after which he also fell asleep. That is why, starting in 1709, Peter could no longer do without her, and Catherine followed him on all campaigns. It is curious that she demonstrated such "psychic" abilities only in relation to him alone; nothing is known about cases of her "treatment" of other people.
Jean Henri Benner. Catherine I (Marta Samuilovna Skavronskaya (Kruse) Jean Henri Benner. Catherine I (Marta Samuilovna Skavronskaya (Kruse)
Probably, in this case, it was Catherine who was able to calm and revive the tsar who was in a pre-stroke state.
After this attack, Peter spent some time in his tent. Communication between him and his generals was carried out through Catherine.
The mystery of the letter of Peter I
Now a little about the famous letter allegedly written by the emperor at that time. Many researchers doubt its authenticity. And the first among the skeptics was none other than A.S. Pushkin, who, on the instructions of Nicholas I, worked on history Peter the Great and was admitted to all archival documents of that time.
To begin with, it is completely incomprehensible how this letter could have come to Petersburg from the besieged Prut camp. Shtelin in the notes claims that some officer managed to get out of the camp, go through all the Turkish and Tatar cordons, through the waterless steppe, and after 9 days (!) Bring him to Petersburg and transfer him to the Senate. It was simply impossible to get from the banks of the Prut to St. Petersburg in 9 days. It is also extremely curious why this officer went to Petersburg at all. And how was he able to deliver a letter there to the Senate, which was at that time in Moscow?
Equally perplexing is the order of Peter, in the event of his capture or death, to elect a new king from among the members of the Senate.
First, Peter had a legitimate heir - his son Alexei. And the relationship between them finally deteriorated only after the birth of a son, Catherine. Moreover, Peter's attitude to his son at that moment did not matter: it was impossible to challenge the Tsarevich's right to the throne. Then only one thing was required of Alexei: he had to remain alive at the time of his father's death. It is then that Peter will pass the law that will open the way to the throne for anyone. And M. Voloshin will write:
Peter wrote with a numb hand:
"Give it all ..." Fate added:
"... to dissolute women with their hahals" ...
The Russian court erases all differences
Fornication, palace and tavern.
Queens are crowned king
By the lust of the guards' stallions.
"Give it all ..." Fate added:
"... to dissolute women with their hahals" ...
The Russian court erases all differences
Fornication, palace and tavern.
Queens are crowned king
By the lust of the guards' stallions.
Secondly, the Senate under Peter is an executive body in which people served who could not even imagine themselves on the throne, and the representatives of the old aristocracy - even more so.
It can be concluded that the real author of the letter lived at a much later time.
It was not possible to find the original of this letter, it is known about it only from the book by Jacob Stehlin, written by him in German in 1785. The source, by the way, is very dubious: along with actual facts, it contains many fictional ones.
That is, for 74 years no one has heard about this letter of Peter I in Russia, and suddenly, please: the revelation of a visiting German. But Shtelin himself, being a foreigner, could not write it: this is the syllable of a native speaker - with a good vocabulary and knowledge of the documents of the era, the style of which he is trying to imitate. Speaking about the letter, Shtelin refers to Prince M. Shcherbatov, who is the most likely author of it.
Bribery of the Grand Vizier: myth or truth?
The story of the bribery of the Grand Vizier Baltaci Mehmet Pasha by Catherine is also a fiction and is completely untrue. We will talk about this now.
First of all, it should be said that there was no bribery of the Grand Vizier at all. At first, even the Crimean Khan Devlet-Girey II and the Swedish King Charles XII, who had quarreled with him, did not dare to accuse him of receiving a bribe.
In August 1711, addressing the Sultan, they both accused the vizier of being too modest and compliant in negotiations with the Russians, but were not supported by other influential persons.
British Ambassador Sutton writes:
"Under the influence of the khan, the sultan expressed dissatisfaction with the vizier's moderation, but he was supported by the mufti and ulema, Ali Pasha (the sultan's favorite), Kizlyar-aga (chief eunuch), the chief of the janissaries and all the officers."
Only in September, Sutton notes the appearance of rumors about a bribe, which he associates with the Tatars and Swedes. At the same time, he writes that the behavior of the vizier
"is approved completely and in all details by the Sultan and all the people, despite everything that was blamed on him, and despite the intrigues of the Swedish king and khan. The vizier is supported not only by the Sultan and his ministers, but also by the ulama, the largest and best part of the people, the chief of the janissaries and in general all the military leaders and officers, in accordance with whose advice he acted ... Only a few of the mob listen to the words of the Swedes and Tatars ... that the vizier was generously bribed by the tsar. "
The only reason for Baltaji Mehmet Pasha's compliance is the valiant behavior of Russian soldiers and officers and his unwillingness to fight such a dangerous enemy.
One of the senior foreign officers in the army of Peter I, Moro de Brace (commander of the dragoon brigade), recalled that then he asked one of the Ottoman pashas about the reasons for the conclusion of peace:
"He answered that our firmness amazed them, that they did not think to find in us such terrible opponents that, judging by the situation in which we were, and by the retreat we made, they saw that our life would cost them dearly, and decided, without wasting time, to accept our proposal for an armistice in order to remove us ... and that they acted prudently, concluding peace on conditions honorable for the Sultan and beneficial for his people. "
It is known that, having received the first two letters from the Russians with a proposal for peace negotiations, the Grand Vizier and his entourage considered this a military trick and therefore did not even answer them.
The Russian ambassador P. Shafirov, who arrived at the tent of the Turkish commander-in-chief, to the surprise and great displeasure of Poniatovsky, was received extremely kindly: contrary to custom, the vizier was the first to turn to him and offer to sit on a stool, which, according to Turkish customs, served as a sign of great respect:
"When they (the ambassadors) appeared, instead of a harsh meeting, stools were required to seat them."
Gifts in the Ottoman Empire were commonplace: according to generally accepted etiquette, it was considered necessary to show respect to the person with whom you need to talk about some business. Officials of all levels were no exception, in the XNUMXth century there was a special institution for accounting for such gifts and deducting interest from them to the treasury. Therefore, Shafirov simply could not appear empty-handed.
The initiator of the negotiations was not Peter I, but Sheremetyev, and therefore the gifts were not tsarist, but field marshal's.
Later, rumors began to spread that the initiator of the negotiations was Catherine, who sent all her jewelry to the vizier as a bribe. These rumors came from Charles XII and his entourage. The Swedish king, on the one hand, wanted to denigrate the Grand Vizier, who had become his enemy, and, on the other, to humiliate Peter I, making him look like a pitiful coward hiding behind a woman's skirt.
This version was introduced into literary use by a certain Rabiner, who, after the accession of Catherine in 1725, published a book with this story in Leipzig. Then Voltaire repeated this legend in his book about Charles XII - in 1732. Unfortunately, it was this version, insulting to the Russian army and our country, that prevailed over time (even in Russia), despite the fierce objections of La Motreya, who, after the publication of all these works, wrote:
"I received information from various Muscovite officers ... that Madame Catherine, who later became empress, had very few jewelry, that she did not collect any silver for the vizier."
And here is what the Frenchman says about P. Shafirov:
“Only thanks to his abilities, and not at all the imaginary gifts of the queen, the tsar owes his deliverance on the Prut. As I said elsewhere, I was very well informed about all the gifts made to the vizier after the conclusion of the peace treaty only the Pasha with whom I was then, but many other Turks, even the enemies of this vizier. "
Petr Shafirov, portrait of an unknown author
By the way, Alexander Pushkin, having studied the circumstances of this case, in the preparatory texts for "The History of Peter", outlining the melodramatic story of "Catherine's feat", made a note: "All this is nonsense."
A completely different story is connected with Catherine's jewelry. Yust Yul reports that on the morning of July 21 (when the distraught Peter was running around the camp, and the officers' wives howled), she
"she gave away all her precious stones and jewelry to the first servants and officers she came across, and upon the conclusion of peace, she took these things back from them, declaring that they were given to them only for saving."
As you understand, this made an extremely unfavorable impression throughout the army. And there was simply nothing to bribe the Grand Vizier Catherine, even if it had occurred to her.
What did Shafirov Baltaji Mehmet Pasha bring during his first visit? The gifts were by no means "feminine", but quite masculine:
"2 squeaky good gilded ones, 2 pairs of good pistols, 40 sables worth 400 rubles."
No diamond pendants or ruby necklaces.
The vizier's associates received furs of sables, black foxes and rather modest amounts of gold.
From Shafirov's letter to Peter I, the exact and final amount of "gifts" is known: 250 thousand rubles, 150 thousand of which were received by the grand vizier. Given the circumstances, the amounts are quite small.
The grave consequences of the Prut peace
The political consequences were much more serious. Russia gave away Azov, Taganrog, Kamenny Zaton and all other fortresses, as well as the one occupied by General Renne Brailov. The Azov fleet was destroyed. Peter refused to interfere in Polish affairs and in the affairs of the Zaporozhye Cossacks. The obligation to resume the payment of tribute to the Crimean Khan was very humiliating.
British Ambassador Sutton reports:
"The king undertook in a separate article, which at his request was not included in the text of the treaty, to hide the dishonor, to pay the usual old tribute to the khan in the amount of 40 ducats annually, from which he was released by the last peace."
Russia also now had no right to keep an ambassador in Istanbul and had to communicate with the Turkish government through the Crimean Khan.
Russian ambassadors kneel before the Turks after the unsuccessful Prut campaign. Engraving
Shafirov and Sheremetev remained hostages in the Turkish camp.
For the rest, Baltaci Mehmet Pasha showed a certain nobility.
In the Turkish report about the campaign, it is reported that he ordered to issue food for the Russian army for 11 days of travel. Russian troops were leaving weapons with drumming and banners unfurled.
Return of the heroes
Karl XII, having learned about the encirclement of the Russian army, rushed to the camp of the Turks, having driven 120 miles without stopping, but was one hour late: the Russian troops had already left their camp. The king reproached the vizier for being too soft, begged him to give him a part of the Turkish army under his command, promising to destroy the Russians and bring Peter I with a rope around his neck. Baltaji Mehmet Pasha answered him mockingly:
"And who would govern the state in his (Peter's) absence? It is not appropriate that all the kings of the giaours were not at home."
Enraged, Karl allowed himself an incredible trick - with a sharp blow of his spur, he tore the half of the vizier's robe and left his tent. Since then, the grand vizier and the Swedish king have become bitter enemies.
The Russian army, experiencing great hardships on its way, headed east, Peter I and Catherine - to the west: to improve their health on the waters of Carlsbad.
Foreign officers, who honestly performed their duty and almost died with their Russian subordinates, "in the name of his tsarist majesty" were thanked "for the services they rendered, especially on this last campaign" and were let go home without paying their salaries. The same Moreau reports:
"Field Marshal (Sheremetyev) did not spend too much money releasing all these officers, for he did not pay anything to anyone; and to this day my salary for 13 months disappears for him."
This was written in 1735, 24 years after the Prut campaign. It is highly doubtful that Moro de Brazet waited for his salary to be paid. As you can see, the tradition, referring to the lack of money, to wish "good mood and more health," did not appear in Russia yesterday. And in other countries, those who like to "save" public funds under the phrase "there is no money, but you hold on" met with unenviable regularity.
The mistakes of Peter I had to be corrected by Anna Ioannovna, unloved by our historians, during whose reign P. Lassi and B. Minich made their campaigns, Ochakov and Perekop were taken, Bakhchisarai was burned, Russia returned Azov and the lost southern lands. And only then P. Rumyantsev, A. Suvorov, F. Ushakov won their victories, the Crimea was annexed and the development of the lands of the Wild Field (now Novorossiya) began.