Military Review

Ataman of the Don Army

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11 March 1801, February 28 old style, Don Cossacks on the orders of Paul I (1754 – 1801) set off to conquer India. The first column was led by Matvey Ivanovich Platov (1751 – 1818), the future ataman of the Don Army and the hero of the 1812 war of the year. He was going to "fight India" instead of becoming the favorite of the widowed empress Maria Fedorovna (1755 – 1828) and rule the state.

Yes, Platov had such a chance. But at the beginning of 1801, Matvei Ivanovich did not think that he was missing him. He volunteered to go to India, not to be in prison. He was mobilized directly from the camera of Alekseevsky ravelin. Platov languished there as accused of harboring fugitive serfs.

Ataman of the Don Army

"Count Platov." Colorized engraving by John Romney, 1815 – 1816. From the series “Commanders of the Allied Forces in the Napoleonic War”. Platov, as the most colorful general at the head of the exotic Cossack army, was popular in England. Such prints were decorated then pubs, along with images of Wellington and Blucher. Illustration: from man-yak archive

Lords of dead souls

In fact, all the Cossack landlords did this. People died or died in campaigns, forming the Gogol's “dead souls” in documents. Before filing after five years of declarations - “audit tales” - you had to pay taxes for them without receiving income. And on Quiet Don donated people flew in droves. So the Cossacks wrote them under the names of their people, gave land and work to mutual pleasure. Everything would be fine, but Pavel I was tired of listening to the complaints of his entourage about the disappearance of the peasants in the Don “black hole”.

In the summer of 1800, a commission headed by Emperor Sergey Kozhin’s personal aide went south. The Cossacks were offered to return all fugitives, otherwise regular troops would be brought in to Don, and Ataman Vasily Petrovich Orlov (1745 – 1801) would lose his “rank and place.” On the material of the denunciations, the registration and re-registration of “dead souls” began.

Some were whipped for prophylaxis and exiled to Siberia. But the scope of the concealment was such that it was necessary either to exile the entire Don Army completely, or to withdraw from the Don runaways and continue to pretend that everything was in order. The king chose the second path. He issued a decree on the termination of the investigation of the Don officials. On this occasion in Cherkassk, the capital of the Don Cossacks, they served a prayer service. Adjutant Kozhin told the sovereign that "the tears of an unfeigned gratitude were in the eyes of most of the upcoming."

And what about Platov? He was not on the Don at that time. For more than two years, since 1797, he lived in Kostroma, exiled there only for “separatism”.

"Appealing in the dust of Platov"

When Catherine II (1729 – 1796) died, Matvey Ivanovich led four Cossack regiments at the head of the Persians. The Cossacks occupied almost the entire territory of modern Azerbaijan without significant losses. It was possible to reach Tehran, but then Paul reigned and ordered to turn back, without securing the gains by agreement. The Russian army in the Persian campaign was commanded by Valerian Zubov (1771 – 1804), and Zubov, as Catherine's favorites, Paul did not tolerate. Zubov convened a military council to discuss a withdrawal plan. It was then that Platov expressed regret that the emperor did not want to accept the whole conquered kingdom. He expressed hints, but these hints were immediately heard in St. Petersburg.



To begin with, Matvey Ivanovich was accused of embezzling state funds. At that time, the marching chieftain was receiving the “bread money” put in his hands. A kind of "travel", on which the soldiers in the campaign bought food. Platov did not give the Cossacks money at the beginning of the campaign, because he knew his people. They would have drunk everything still at home, and in the campaign they would feed on the sale of horses and equipment, which would affect their combat capability.

Therefore, Platov did not give money, but what the shelves needed — cloth, tents, horses, bread. On the way back, Matvey Ivanovich made a final calculation in specie. But the shelves made him claim. At the trial they considered this way and that, they transferred tents to cloth, hay to horses. It turned out that Platov still owed something, then the 2-th Chuguev regiment was due to him. Entangled in the accounts, and the king decided: for the retention of the regimental money to dismiss from service without a pension and send it to the Don.


N. G. Chernetsov. Kostroma in 1862. The city did not change much at the end of the XNUMXth century, when those exiled to Kostroma historical personalities made this place one of the most interesting in Russia. We can only envy the governor Kochetov, who every day sat at the table with Platov, Ermolov and Abel. Reproduction from the site Art-catalog

From the memories of Denis Davydov (1784 – 1839) we know whose intrigues this is. Platov was the most honored of the Cossack generals. Ataman Vasily Orlov was decrepit, and Matvey Ivanovich was the first candidate for his position. But there was another candidate, General Fedor Petrovich Denisov (1738 – 1803). He informed that Platov would want to secede from Russia if he was appointed chieftain. That's what Matvey Ivanovich spent in exile for three years and nine months. And Denisov at this time commanded the Life Guards Cossack regiment, every day he saw the emperor and became a count.

Not dozing and other scammers. On the eve of the shipment, Don Platov dreamed that he threw a net into the Neva and pulled out his own rust-covered saber. This saber was taken from him during his arrest. Platov knew that he was leaving in the morning, and Adjutant General Abraham Ratkov would return his saber to him. Getting your weapon back, Platov immediately drew his saber from its scabbard and happily said: “Wow, did not rust! Now she will justify me. ” He meant sleep. But Ratkov realized that it would pass for the intention to rebel the Cossacks, and rushed to the king. Platov did not have time to get to Moscow, as the Senate courier overtook him with the order to go not to the Don, but to an entirely foreign land - to Kostroma, and even without the right to correspond. And as soon as the emperor managed to take all the signals coming to him?

Kostroma was a place of exile. In the state apartment of Platov, one more future hero of the 1812 of the year was found: the young Alexei Petrovich Ermolov (1777 – 1861), who was destined to become the conqueror of the Caucasus. Ermolov was exiled for the fact that his uterine brother created in Smolensk a circle of officers and officials who sought to "change the government." In exile, Alexei Petrovich studied Latin. Illiterate Platov asked him to make a petition addressed to the Prosecutor General. According to Ermolov’s syllable, one feels that he was reading Titus Livius (Titus Livius, 59 BC - 17 BC) at that time: “There was a time when the person who converted to the ashes of Platov was famous and proud of his zeal, zeal and loyalty to the Monarch and to the Fatherland ... ”And further the plea for returning to service or at least home. The prosecutor general did not give a move to the paper, but wrote for it on the story: “To leave unanswered as a matter in which I dare not interfere.”

The prediction of the mystical Abel

In 1800, another celebrity was in the Kostroma exile - the monk Abel. Like Wolf Messing, he saw the future and accurately predicted the dates of important events. The old man Abel predicted the day and hour of the death of Catherine II. Emperor Paul called him to his heart to heart talk, after which Abel was in Kostroma. Platov asked Abel how long he would still rot in a foreign land. The old man replied that Kostroma was short-lived. But a lot of trials await ahead of Platov, and with the new sovereign, glory. Yes, Abel knew the date of Paul's death. And Alexander I. And at the accession to the throne, Nicholas managed to predict that "the serpent will live for another thirty years."

In fact, Platov soon returned to St. Petersburg. His relatives achieved this in a somewhat exotic way. Platyov Platov Kirsan Pavlovich took advantage of the hype around the removal of fugitives. He made a statement in the office of Ataman Orlov that there were a lot of runaways on Platov’s estate. Matvey Ivanovich himself could not hide them because he had not been at home for several years. The denunciation worked: Platov was immediately taken to the capital and put in the Alekseevsky Ravelin. The accused did not deny anything, but said that he was not guilty - they say, I don’t know what is going on in my farm. There is no correspondence right.

The new 1801 year together with the new century Matvei Ivanovich met in the Alekseevsky district. As Yermolov, who tasted this stone bag, wrote, ravelin is like hell - there was no light there. The detainees determine the time of the day only by the difference of the drumbeat in the morning and evening calibration, and "maintaining health is a constant care not to burden the stomach with either a delicacy of food or its excessive amount." During the campaign against the concealers, the Senate was obliged to urgently investigate the case of Platov. Of course, the verdict was acquittal. Therefore, he was subject to approval by the emperor himself. So Paul remembered Platov. And very on time.


The angular granite wall behind the trees is the most terrible Alekseevsky raelin. Photo author

Sentimental travel

The king just entered into an alliance with Napoleon (Napoléon Bonaparte, 1769 – 1821). England has now become a common adversary. They were considering plans for a joint campaign against India - the most important English colony, the source of income for Britain. While the French were writing projects, Pavel set to work with his characteristic enthusiasm. 1 (13) January Ataman Orlov was ordered to march on the river Hindu through Khiva and Bukhara. The 12 (24) of January was followed by the order for all the Cossacks to take a polls 13 (25) of January was ordered "to approve Bukharia (that is, to join Central Asia) in passing, so that the Chinese would not get it." Paul just gushing ideas.

Pyotr Nikolayevich Krasnov, writer and chieftain of the Don Powers, 1869 – 1947, described in his historical essays the preparations for the march:

Everyone, to the last, should have been in six days to be prepared for the performance of a single woman with a month and a half provisions [...] There were people who were sick, swollen from wounds, crippled. Orphans and helpless poor people were preparing for the campaign; many of the Cossacks did not have uniform jackets and chekmen, they were dressed in old robes, in knitting gowns. The rich Cossacks used to equip the poor [...] Churches left without ponomars, the stanitsa's rule - without the clerks, they took everyone away. The militia was universal! They demanded Kalmyks for service. The landowning officers were not allowed to go to their farms. Wives did not say goodbye to their husbands, children - with their fathers.

But Ataman Vasily Orlov was old and mortally ill. In the campaign we need a brave Cossack general who knows how to fight. Who was better for this role than Platov, who took Ishmael with Suvorov (1729 – 1800)? And Paul inscribed in the Senate sentence:

Release and release from the ravelin, announce a famous expedition.

Platov was summoned directly to the palace to the emperor. For four years, the form has changed. It is impossible to go in the old uniform. Began to learn from the tailors - is there a ready-made uniform of the new sample? Fortunately, was. Just sewed a uniform for the scammer Denisov. They rented it for one evening. I had to turn a couple of stars that Denisov received over the past four years. But the host of the uniform these stars are no longer needed.

Paul cannot be denied the art of making an impression. Knowing that Platov, after ravelin, his eyes ached from the bright light, the king prepared the throne room. With his own hands, he pulled the curtains and put lampshades on the lamps.

As soon as Platov entered, Paul I rushed to embrace him:
- Matvey Ivanovich! What to do with your enemies?
- Forgive them, sir! - responded Platov.

The sentimental Paul wept and said to the empress's wife:
- Maria Fedorovna! Do you hear? Matvey Ivanovich forgave his enemies. What a great man he is! What a great Christian he is!

When the tears of tenderness dried out, Pavel ordered the scammer Denisov to be imprisoned in Kexholm fortress (now Priozersk of the Leningrad region) containing fifty kopecks a day and without the right to correspond.


The citadel of Khiva, which, according to Paul I, the Cossacks were supposed to take "in passing." Photo (Creative Commons license): Martin Talbot

Napoleonic plans

Pavel asked Matvey Ivanovich if he would get to India. He realized that a negative answer is again ravelin, and said: "I will go." Where India, Platov did not know. Paul himself also knew this not very well. For him, India was only a contour on the Landcard, where a single line led from Russia: the road through Khiva, Bukhara and Kabul.

The plan was on the scale of Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC). In two months, cross the whole of Central Asia, cross the Afghan mountains and fall on the British like snow on their heads. At that time, Napoleon’s ally opened a second front, landed on the British Isles, strikes from Egypt, where the French army still stands. And if he does not have time or refuses - so much the better: the Cossacks will lead India into the same dependence on Russia as it was on the British.

Platov received the Great Maltese Cross and went to help Orlov. He commanded the largest column of thirteen regiments. Total gathered 22 016 Cossacks. Ordinary odvukon, officers otrehkon, and with a salary, as in hussar shelves. The treasury allocated over one and a half million rubles, which had to be returned to Golkonda's treasures.



February 20 Orlov reported to the sovereign that everything was ready to speak. The vanguard under the command of Andrian Denisov, who walked with Suvorov across the Alps, moved east. Esaul Denezhnikov set out to explore the route to Orenburg, Khiva, Bukhara and further to India. February 28 (March 11) came to the Don the approval of the emperor, and Platov with the main forces marched from the village of Kachalinskaya to the east. The direction was to Orenburg, where local authorities hastily prepared camels and provisions for traveling in the desert. Monitors from Orenburg sent their people in all directions, but they did not have time to gather the necessary information. The emperor had to live for 13 days.

"There is your German!"

At the reception at the tsar, Platov saw him for the first time. But with Empress Maria Feodorovna, he was very well acquainted. After the capture of Ismail, Grigory Ivanovich Potemkin delivered Platov to the capital as the hero of the assault and introduced him to the empress. 28 April 1791, Yekaterina was at a celebration in the Tauride Palace, where Potemkin lived then.

The Empress did not love him for a long time; she was crazy about the handsome Plato Zubov. At one time, Potemkin selected favorites from worthy officers, but Zubov was not his candidate. Worthy no longer wanted the proximity of the old woman, even regal. Platov wondered if Potemkin wanted to offer him instead of Zubov. At that time Matvey Ivanovich was not a bald general with a tummy, but a black-skinned cossack; he is not yet forty. But Potemkin looked into the future much further.

The situation was like the times of Elizabeth Petrovna: the old woman is on the throne, the favorites are ruling for her; their days at court are essentially numbered; there is a strange unpopular heir (then Peter, now Pavel) and his wife - a beautiful clever German (then - Ekaterina, now - Pavel's wife Maria Fedorovna, nee Sofia-Maria-Dorothea-Augusta-Louise of Württemberg). Who will be able to lay her hands on, will become the all-powerful ruler. Of course, in the event of the death of King Paul.


Mikhailovsky Castle, the place of death of Paul, in 1801 year. It is still surrounded by a moat with drawbridges, and the facade is guarded by a raeline with cannons. All this did not save the owner of the castle from the "apoplexy" of a snuffbox in the temple. Illustration from Olga's Gallery

Maria Feodorovna was then in the bloom of beauty, she turned only 32 year. She had already become the mother of six children, four more were to come, but she looked wonderful and felt good. Potyomkin introduced her to Platov at the 28 festival of April, when she played cards with Ekaterina. Platov did not know ballroom dancing. Under this pretext, he remained to entertain two ladies who did not dance either, and throughout the evening he amused them with his stories. It seemed that he had not made any impression on Maria Fedorovna. But she realized that they began to be interested in her.

On the night of the death of Pavel, Maria Feodorovna unexpectedly showed a firm character for everyone. She was woken up and told about the death of the emperor. At this point, the heir, Alexander still sobbed and did not dare to appear guards. Palen has not yet said the famous words: “Really full, step on the kingdom” (these words were spoken in French: “C'est assez de faire l'enfant! Allez regner!”). And Maria Feodorovna quickly came to her senses and declared: “I want to reign.” She had only to go to the troops, while they were not led to a new oath, and order them to seize the murderers. So would she do if there was at least one personally dedicated general to her. And he was far away. One of the murderers, Leonty Bennigsen, locked himself in the empress's chambers and spoke to her teeth, until Alexander came out to the Semenovites and mumbled that with him everything would be like with grandmother.

"Where are the Cossacks?"

This question Alexander through tears asked the head of the military travel office of Christopher Leaven (1774 – 1838). Throughout Petersburg, only Lieven knew this, and only he was aware of the purpose of the expedition. Liven replied that the Cossacks had crossed the Volga near the city of Volsk.

When they reached the river, the ice was already so loose that the horses fell into the water. But Andrian Denisov (1763 – 1841) knew that only near the coast - ice is thicker in the middle of the river. For insurance, Denisov arranged local peasants with ropes on the ice and ordered him to translate his own tall and heavy horses. When they crossed, everyone was convinced that the crossing was safe.

Beyond the Volga it became harder to go. The spring sun melted the snow and the road turned into a swamp. Moved on virgin soil, on snow-saturated water. The artillerymen burst out pulling the guns out of the mud. Horses could not stand, the expedition route was marked by hundreds of horse carcasses. Having gone astray several times, they reached Mechetnaya settlement (now the city of Pugachev, Saratov region). Here 23 March (4 April) Cossacks caught up with a courier from St. Petersburg with the order of the new emperor to immediately return home.

The plan of the city of Nikolaevsk, which turned into a settlement Mechetnaya in the XIX century. The splinter village, where Emelyan Pugachev began his career as an impostor (hence the current name of this locality - Pugachev), had grown to the 1801 year and was the size of a small town. Reproduction from the official website of the city of Pugachev


The road back was not easier, but flew like on wings. They reached the Volga when the ice had already broken. Fortunately, at that time a large ice field passed along the river and it was just on the way of the expedition that it was stuck between the banks. On it and crossed. The last Cossack had barely crossed, the ice floe split and its fragments rushed into the Caspian Sea.

Could the Cossacks conquer India? Krasnov, as an expert, considered this task impossible. Ahead lay the lifeless deserts of Central Asia, where the Cossacks would be left without horses, and hence without artillery. They would have laid their heads far away from their native places without any good.

Maybe the British thought differently and organized the assassination of Paul, saving India from the invasion of the Cossacks? The former British Ambassador Lord Whitworth distributed the money to the conspirators. It is easy and pleasant to explain conspiracies by intelligence activities, but in reality British political officers did not know anything about the campaign. In St. Petersburg, they heard only that the Cossacks had gone somewhere. Neither Alexander, nor even Palen, the emperor's right hand and the head of the conspiracy, could imagine the purpose of the march. The Cossacks themselves, except for the five senior officers, thought they were going to "fight Bukharia". They only learned about India from Liven, when Paul was already dead.

Livena’s wife, Darya Khristoforovna (1785 – 1857), a serious and highly knowledgeable diplomatic agent, suggested that Paul’s goal was not India, but the elimination of Cossacks. The emperor was fed up with an autonomous army with its own traditions. First, the Cossacks harbor runaway. Secondly, you can’t wear them or make them do a drill in an indoor arena. To send the Don Army to places with no return. And Platov will lead, and with joy, just to get away from the Peter and Paul Fortress.

That's the whole story of the Indian campaign. Vasily Orlov died on his return home from a stroke, and Platov became the new chieftain. The young king complained that he was not involved in the conspiracy. Platov lived for a long time in St. Petersburg and spent much time in the retinue of the widowed empress Maria Feodorovna. They were good together.

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