The name of the Russian traveler and naturalist N.M. Przewalski, who made an invaluable contribution to the study of the geography of Central Asia, is known to every educated person. At the same time, few people know that all the Przhevalsky research expeditions were commissioned by the Ministry of War of the Russian Empire, and their goals were not only the study of geography and nature.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the leading European states were already conducting a systematic study and colonization of the not so long ago open and geographic maps of new continents. "White Spot" on the map remained sparsely populated, with a harsh climate, the territory of Central Asia, formally controlled by China. The main struggle for this “tidbit” and for influence in the region unfolded between Russia and England.
This period of struggle between the two states coincided with important changes in the nature of military intelligence actions, essentially the “revolution of intelligence” - the transition from a passive diplomatic stage of development to a more active and operational method of collecting intelligence using scientific methods of accumulating and systematizing information.
It is Nikolai Mikhailovich Przhevalsky who can be considered the ancestor of a new approach and a new type of active military intelligence — operational. Thanks to Przhevalsky, Russia immediately gained a huge advantage in the Central Asian theater of operations.
The first independent expedition of Przhevalsky was held in 1867-1869, during which he mapped a new area of possessions of Russia, equal to the area of England. The next was the first Central Asian expedition, followed by three more.
During these expeditions, important political goals and objectives were aimed at increasing the influence of the Russian Empire in the region, as well as comprehensively studied the nature of Central Asia. But more important goals were the military intelligence task of mapping the area, collecting information about the state of the Chinese army, the nature of the local population and penetration into the region by emissaries from other European countries, as well as searching for passages in the mountains and deserts and studying climatic conditions.
In accordance with these tasks, each expedition was organized as a raid of the reconnaissance detachment to the deep rear of the enemy. The rules of reconnaissance developed at that time became the basis for drawing up norms and rules for reconnaissance of the modern Russian army.
Troops for the expeditions consisted solely of volunteers, consisted of several officers, four soldiers, a translator and 5-6 Cossack escorts. For each member of the expedition there was one rifle and two revolvers. They rode on horseback, the routes sometimes amounted to tens of thousands of kilometers, food supplies were replenished from the local population and were hunted.
All expeditions took place in extreme military and climatic conditions in the deserts, in the highlands, at extremely high and low temperatures, often in many parts of the terrain there was no water. Periodically there were fighting clashes with the peoples inhabiting poorly studied territory.
Here is how Przhevalsky himself describes in his memoirs one of such clashes: "Like a cloud this horde rushed upon us, wild, bloodthirsty ... and in front of its bivouac silently, with rifles aimed, our little group stood - 14 people for whom now there was no other outcome like death or victory. " WITH weapons scouts did not part even during sleep.
N.M. Przhevalsky died of typhoid fever 20 on October 1888 of the year during the sixth expedition-raid. Of course, this was a man of heroic deed, who lived for his country and served the Motherland until his last day.