133 a year ago, 28 November Art. style (December X. NUMX style) 11, the victory of Russian weapons ended the siege of the fortress of Pleven.
The fighting for this fortress, which the Turkish troops under the command of Marshal Osman Pasha held for almost five months, became the culminating point of the Russian-Turkish war 1877 – 78. for the liberation of Bulgaria from the five-century Turkish yoke. This war, declared by the Manifesto of Emperor Alexander II 12 (22) of April 1877, received a rare unanimous support from all classes of Russian society.
Objectively, Russia was much stronger than the Ottoman Empire. And, it would seem, therefore, the final outcome of the struggle could be considered predetermined. But in reality the situation was much more complicated. The fact is that the Paris Peace of 1856 of the year, which ended the Crimean War, among other things, guaranteed the further territorial integrity of Turkey, and its guarantors were France and the United Kingdom. True, France after its defeat by Germany in 1870 – 71. she needed an alliance with Russia. Not later, as in 1875, exclusively Russian intervention stopped the German Chancellor Bismarck from plans to repeat the defeat of France - in order to discourage hopes of a possible revenge from the latter and a shadow.
But Great Britain, acting in its key traditionally anti-Russian policy, could well intervene in the war on the side of Turkey - as it already was in the Crimean war. The British, however, did not like to fight on their own - especially on land, and always preferred to have allies in this case, whose troops could be used as "cannon fodder". But the Turks alone were obviously not enough for this role, and the French, for the reasons stated above, would definitely not fight for the British against the Russians, as in 1854 – 1856.
Of course, there remained Austria-Hungary, which had its own views of the Balkans and categorically did not want to strengthen Russia's positions there. But in Vienna they were ready to spoil Russia on the diplomatic front, but they were still afraid of direct military confrontation with it. In addition, in January 1877, Russia concluded a written agreement with Austria-Hungary, which guaranteed the latter's neutrality in exchange for the right to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina.
However, it was not difficult to guess that if the Russian military campaign against Turkey were protracted, and moreover, Russia would demonstrate military weakness, Vienna would not only take an anti-Russian position, but could also have the courage to back it up with military force. Therefore, the Russian military command faced the task of defeating Turkey as soon as possible, at the most, within a year. The Turkish command, accordingly, faced the task, relying on its Danube fortresses and the Balkan range, to hold out as long as possible and, if possible, inflict irreparable losses on the Russian armies.
Indeed, the Russian plan of war drawn up by General Nikolai Obruchev was based on the idea of a lightning victory: the army had to cross the Danube in the middle reaches of the river, on the Nikopol-Svishtov (Sistovo) section, where the Turks had no fortresses. In addition, this area was populated by friendly Bulgarians disposed towards Russia. After the crossing, the army should be divided into three equal groups: the first one would block Turkish fortresses in the lower reaches of the river; the second is acting against the Turkish forces in the direction of Viddin; the third goes through the Balkans and goes to Constantinople.
The plan, in principle, was not bad, although subsequently everyone who felt like it - the emperor, Minister of War DA, later made his own changes there. Milyutin, Commander-in-Chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich Sr., his chief of staff, General A.A. Nepokochitsky, Assistant Chief of Staff, General KV Levitsky, etc. But for the successful implementation of the plan required the concentration of overwhelming forces in the theater of operations. However, as the military historian Anton Kersnovsky noted, “Milyutin, and with it the General Staff believed it was possible to achieve decisive results without tension from the Russian armed forces and found it sufficient to have the entire 4 corps in the main Balkan theater of war. Drawing all their information about the enemy from random, unverified sources (mainly foreign newspapers), St. Petersburg strategists considered the forces of the Turks in the Balkans around 200 000, of which against Russia could be used no more than 80 000.
Therefore, four (VIII, IX, XI and XII) corps formed the acting army, while VII and X remained to protect the Black Sea coast (the result of depressing memories of the Allied landing in the Crimea). The total number of troops mobilized extended to 390 000 combatants, of which 130 000 was assigned to the active army, 60 000 - to the Black Sea coast, 40 000 - to the Caucasus. Internally, 730 000 remained at peace in the country. In other words, only a third of the armed forces were mobilized, and from this third, again, the third part was assigned to the main forces - the acting army.
Meanwhile, Turkey also managed to get ready, bringing its army to 450 000 regular and 100 000 irregular troops. All the infantry was equipped with excellent Peabody-Martini rifles, far superior in their ballistic qualities to our guns. The Turkish cavalry received the Winchester shop carbines, and the artillery received long-range steel Krupp guns, albeit in a small proportion compared with the infantry. The Turkish fleet completely dominated the Black Sea. Russia, having achieved the right to the Black Sea Fleet only in 1871, did not manage to restore it to the beginning of the war.
The Turkish plan envisaged an active-defensive course of action: by concentrating the main forces (about 100 thousand people) in the “quadrilateral” of the Rushchuk-Shumla-Bazardzhik-Silistra fortresses, to lure the ferried Russians to the Balkans, deep into Bulgaria, and then crush them by collapsing their left wing. At the same time, quite significant forces of Osman Pasha, about 30 thousand people, were concentrated in Western Bulgaria, near Sofia and Vidin, with the task of monitoring Serbia and Romania and hindering the unification of the Russian army with the Serbs. In addition, small detachments occupied the Balkan aisles and fortifications along the Middle Danube.
The beginning of the campaign, however, developed according to the Russian plan. Russian troops occupied Romania in May, the latter declared itself an ally of Russia. On the night of June 15 (27), Russian troops under the command of General M.I. Dragomirova conducted a brilliant operation to force the Danube in the Sistovskiy heights. Having captured the bridgehead, Dragomirov provided the crossing of the main forces of the Army in the field. The advance squad 25 of June (7 of July) occupied Turnovo, and 2 (14) of July crossed the Balkans through the Hainokoy Pass. Soon the Shipka Pass was occupied, where the created Southern detachment of General Gurko was advanced. It seemed that the way to Istanbul was open. But then the lack of troops began to affect - there was no one to support Gurko’s detachment. But the Turkish command recalled from Montenegro the corps of Suleiman Pasha, who had fought there, which was thrown against Gurko.
The western detachment of General Kridener took Nikopol, Ruschuksky (or Eastern) under the command of Tsarevich Alexander (future Emperor Alexander III) at the time and advanced towards the Lom River to secure the Army in action from the likely flank attack of the main Turkish forces concentrated in the “quadrilateral”.
And then the setbacks began. Osman-Pasha's corps, advanced from Vidin, did not have time to come to the aid of the Nikopol garrison. But Creedener did not have time to take Pleven, where Osman Pasha hurried. The July storms of Plevna, undertaken by July 8 (20) and 18 (30), ended in complete failure and bound the actions of the Russian troops. Meanwhile, Suleiman Pasha with superior forces attacked the Russian Southern detachment, which, after the battle at Stara Zagora (Eski-Zagry), retreated to the Shipka Pass.
Only thanks to the desperate resistance of the Russian soldiers of the Orlovsky and Bryansk regiments, as well as the Bulgarian militia and the 4 rifle (future "iron") brigade from the 14 division Dragomirov Shipk, who had rushed to help, managed to defend.
Russian troops in the Balkans went on the defensive. The insufficient number of the Russian expeditionary corps had an effect - the command did not have reserves for strengthening the Russian units near Plevna. Reinforcements from Russia were urgently requested and Romanian allies were called to help. It was only possible to tighten the necessary reserves from Russia by mid-end September. However, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich Sr., decided not to wait for the full concentration of forces and take Plevna on August 30 — to the namesake of his brother, Emperor Alexander II.
“And the assault on 30 August became for Russia the Third Plevna! It was the bloodiest case for all the wars that the Russians had ever waged with the Turks. The heroism and self-sacrifice of the troops did not help, the desperate energy of Skobelev, who personally led them to the attack, did not help ... General Zotov moved the entire 30 battalions to assault 39 in August, leaving 68 in reserve! The assault almost succeeded, despite the fragmentation, incoherence, and partly the prematurity of the attacks. On the right flank, the Archangelsk and Vologda residents took the Grivitsky redoubt ... and on the left flank Skobelev, who led the troops on a white horse, took the Keys of Plevna - the 2 redoubt ... The unequal battle here was 31 of the Russian battalion fought with the Turkish an army in front of the 22 battalions standing and looking! Leaving the battalion of the Vladimir regiment on the redoubt of Abdul-bey, Skobelev took from his commander Major Gortalov the word not to leave the redoubt. The heroic battalion held out against the entire Turkish army. Having received a refusal of reinforcements from Zotov, Skobelev, with a sore heart, sent Gortalov an order to retreat, saying that he was freeing him from the word. Tell General Skobelev that only death can release a Russian officer from this word! - Major Gortalov answered. After releasing the remnants of his battalion, he returned to the redoubt and was raised by the Turks with bayonets, ”Kersnovsky reports.
True, Skobelev, finally, agreed to give a full-time position - he received the 16-th Infantry Division. That is, at the top they began to consider him, if not yet fully equivalent corps commander Zotov and Kridener, then, in any case, not less than the inferior (and even quite equivalent) Schilder-Schuldner (who failed First Pleven).
At the September 1 Military Council, almost all the senior commanders, headed by the Grand Duke, lost heart and spoke in favor of a departure from Pleven (others for the Danube) and for ending the campaign until next year. But Alexander II - and this is really his great service to history - decided that after all these failures, a retreat is absolutely unthinkable both politically and militarily: it would be a loss of war, and a complete military-political catastrophe for Russia.
It was decided to take Plevna blockade, and on September 15, an engineer-general, Eduard Totleben, arrived at Plevna and was assigned to organize the siege of the city. For this, it was necessary to take the strongly fortified redoubts of Telish, Gorny and Dolny Dubnyaki, which ensured the safety of the road connecting Plevna with Sofia, along which the supply and replenishment of the Turkish troops had been going all along. Just September of 8 the whole Turkish division with a huge wagon train proceeded from Sofia to Pleven literally under the very nose of a timid and inconsistent General Krylov - thus providing Osman Pasha with food and ammunition for almost three months. Meanwhile, all the new troops were being pledged to Plevna, but operations in other areas were discontinued, in which the undoubted merit of Osman Pasha before his empire. At Shipka, which the Turks periodically attempted to attack, the reinforcements stood out with great creak, and even the Cesarevich, the commander of the Rushuksky detachment, could not knock out new reinforcements.
In the course of fierce battles from 12 to 20 of October, Gurko, who received the command from the guards who arrived from Russia, finally took Telish, Gorniy and Dolny Dubnyaki. The blockade of Pleven became complete. Supported by cavalry units, a detachment of Gurko in November dealt a blow at the Sofia grouping of the Turks in order to discourage them from trying to unlock Osman. However, the further destruction of the Turkish troops in the Sofia direction "main apartment" was suspended - again, referring to the threat of the Osman army in Pleven. “Osman, locked in Plevna, invisibly led all Russian operations. The main apartment, burned with milk, blew into the water - it missed one victory after another, ”stated Kersnovsky.
Meanwhile, the 50-thousandth army of Osman-Pasha attracted the 125-thousandth Russian-Romanian army. The blockade of the city led to the exhaustion of provisions, the army of Osman Pasha suffered from disease, lack of food and medicine. As rightly pointed out by the historian P.N. Simansky in his work “The Fall of Plevna”, “undoubtedly, the defense of Plevna reached heroism; her fall was also heroic. In short, this episode is a brilliant page in this war among the Turks. ”
Osman Pasha replied to the Russian command on the offer to surrender: "... I prefer to sacrifice our lives for the benefit of the people and in defense of the truth, and with great joy and happiness I am ready to shed blood rather than shamefully lay down their arms."
On November 24, the Bulgarians who had made their way from Pleven informed the Russian command that each garrison soldier was given 100 of bread, 20 — 25 of meat and two corn cobs a day, and there are up to 10 thousands of Turkish patients in the city. The Bulgarians said that the food in Plevna would be enough for only five to six days, that "Osman Pasha is thinking of getting through these days ... All the shells and cartridges were delivered by the Turks in redoubts."
Indeed, Osman Pasha and his subordinates were not going to surrender. At the military council held, it was decided to break out of the city in the direction of the bridge over the River Vid, held by the Turks, and move towards Sofia. Before leaving, the observation towers were dismantled, stuffed animals were installed in the fortifications, and after the necessary documents were collected, the remnants of provisions, weapons and telegraph wires, the Turkish army, accompanied by local Muslims, set off. In the morning fog of November 28, the whole army of Osman rushed into a desperate attack on the position of the Russian Grenadier Corps of General Ivan Ganetsky. In the north, the Romanians with their redoubts attached to the Grenadiers attached to Opance; in the south-west of them stood Skobelev with the 16 division, whose position was on Green Mountain, against the Turkish Krishin redoubt.
The desperate attack undertaken by the Turks fell upon the Siberian regiment occupying the extreme rifle pits. A fierce battle of bayonets broke out. Astrakhan and Samogit grenadier regiments soon came to the aid of the Siberian regiment. The first furious pressure forced the Russians to retreat and give the Turks advanced fortifications. But now the Turks came under concentrated artillery fire of the second line of fortifications. Under the weight of this gunfire, the balance was restored. General Ganetsky, although he was wounded two days before this fight, himself led his grenadier to attack. The struggle has hardened again; worked with bayonets, and ended with the retreat of the Turks to the View. Having approached the river bank, the Turks again began a firefight. Meanwhile, the Romanians from the north, from Opants and Bukovs, attacked the retreating line of the Turks, and from the south, General Skobelev began the attack, taking possession of the weakly defended Turkish trenches at Krishin, and with his army cut off in the very Pleven Pasha retreat to positions east of the city. From Bukov Pleven was occupied by the Romanians.
“Osman Pasha, being subjected without any caution to the Russian fire, was seriously wounded in the leg. He was aware of all the hopelessness of his position; his plan with a full blow with a blunder to smash the Russian lines failed, and his army found itself between two fires. He soon made up his mind. By 12 ½ hours, he suspended the battle and threw a white flag at many points. The capitulation took place soon; the Pleven army surrendered unconditionally. When the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich appeared on the battlefield, the Turks had already surrendered. This last battle at Plevna cost the Russian 192 killed and 1252 wounded, the Turks lost up to 6000 people. wounded and killed. The prisoners turned out to be 44 000, between them Gazi (victorious) Osman Pasha, 9 Pasha, 128 headquarters and 2000 chief officers and 77 guns. Considering this army, the Russians have more than 100 000 prisoners, ”Simansky reports.
The wounded Osman handed over his saber to the commander of the grenadier, General Ganetsky, and later Alexander II himself would return this saber to him. The emperor, having learned about the fall of Plevna, immediately went to the troops, congratulated them, embraced Prince Karl of Romania, generals Totleben, Imeretinsky and Ganetsky and pointed out the special merits of engineer General Totleben.
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich was awarded the Order of St. George, I Degree, General Nepokochitsky (who was absolutely innocent here) and the actual winner Osman Totleben received a St. George star (i.e. George II). Ganetsky, who directly captured the “Plevnen lion” “as a reward for courage, bravery and stewardship, rendered during the capture of Pleven and the capture of the army of Osman Pasha”, was handed to the Grand Duke George III.
The fall of Pleven was of great importance. Osman Pasha's army ceased to hang over the flank of the Russian troops and shackle their operations. Now it was possible with all the forces to proceed to the solution of the main task of this war. “None of our victories,” wrote one of his contemporaries, “did not cause such noisy enthusiasm as the victory at Plevna. The joy of the Russians would scarcely have manifested itself with greater force even if they had mastered the capital, Constantinople. ”
December 11 was followed by the entry of the Russians into the conquered city, surrounded on all sides by mountains, and on December 15, the emperor left the theater of military operations and went to St. Petersburg.
Both the Turks and their English patrons, as well as other European powers, decided that the campaign was over, and the Russians were leaving for winter apartments. The chief of the German General Staff, Field Marshal Moltke, who closely followed the course of military operations, ordered to remove the Balkan map: "I will not need it until spring!" No one could have imagined that the fall of Plevna was only the prologue of the winter storming of the Balkans, unprecedented in history, the complete defeat of the Turkish troops and the rapid advance of the Russian armies to the walls of Constantinople itself.
The victory of the Russian troops filled the hearts of the Bulgarians with joy and hope for a speedy release. After the entry of the Russian army into Plevna, the newspaper “Balgarin” wrote: “The fall of Pleven, which has become a significant holiday for us, will be written in history in capital letters.”
Exhausted, endured incredible difficulties and hardships, the inhabitants of Pleven 30 on December 1877 of the year presented a thank-you address to their liberators, expressing their enthusiasm for an exceptional event in the history of the city, in the history of the whole country. “The liberation of Pleven,” the address stated, “is the dawn of the liberation of ancient Bulgaria. Pleven was resurrected first, just as he was the last to die several centuries ago! This resurrection will remain forever in the memory of our descendants. ”
The outcome of the whole war was decided in Plevna.
- Maxim Khrustalev
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