Military Review

Alexey Ermolov: the beast or the tamer?

Today’s Russia in the Caucasus desperately needs modern Yermolovs and Skobelevs, but the problem is not even that they do not exist, but that with the modern system they simply cannot appear.

Alexey Ermolov: the beast or the tamer?

"If you feed the wolf with the hand -
Shelves will descend from the Caucasian ridges. ”
(A.P. Ermolov)

В stories the conquest of the Caucasus, the name of Alexei Petrovich Yermolov occupies a special place. Despite the fact that from the long 100-year period of Russia's assertion in this region, Yermolov has only 10 years, and that both before and after him there were generals in the region that were higher and more guarded, it is his personality that causes the greatest controversy. Moreover, out of the entire long line of Russian generals who participated in the conquest of the Caucasus, he alone stands apart, and the descendants of the parties to the conflict show a diametrically opposite attitude to him. Some consider him to be an outstanding statesman who made the greatest contribution to the accession of the Caucasus to Russia and put monuments to him, others take him for a criminal, a executioner who exterminated innocent mountain peoples with incredible cruelty and are ready to blow up these monuments.

Why it happens? Why does Yermolov, and not anyone else, cause such a reaction and so different attitude towards him? To this there are several reasons.

Firstly, it is important that Yermolov was not an ordinary general - executing the will of others, of which there are dozens in the Caucasus, as a genuine reformer who changed the course of the Caucasian war and ensure the victory of Russia in it long before its completion.

Secondly, as in the 19th century, Yermolov is still very large and very uncomfortable today. It is so big that it overshadows all other historical figures, and is so inconvenient that it causes genuine hatred of people whose interests do not fully or partially coincide with the state interests of Russia.

It is completely understandable why Yermolov is hated by nationalistic Caucasians. And, speaking so, it is necessary to focus on the fact that Caucasians - contemporaries of Yermolov did not have hatred for him - they loved him, disliked, adored, feared, but respected and did not hate. This is evident at least by his repeated Caucasian marriages and by the deeply respectful attitude towards him of Imam Shamil. But if for people living with Yermolov at the same time, the Caucasian war was a series of complicated events and by the conditions in which they lived, then part of the modern Caucasian ethnic elites that war and rewriting its history is now a tool for achieving their own nationalistic purposes, sort of ethnic business. In this respect, Yermolov’s figure is an example of paradoxical duality — on the one hand, his real life and actions prevent them from doing so, and on the other, this figure is very convenient for rallying around it.

In such people, General Yermolov causes hatred because associated with the defeat of their peoples in the Caucasian War, and this feeling has some right to exist. The fact is that it was he who brought a number of cardinal innovations into the war that ultimately ensured Russia's victory and the conquest of the Caucasus. If before him the war was going on with varying success, unobvious for Russia, then with him and after him the Russian troops almost always won.

Another reason to hate him is that the real Yermolov, his real affairs, the real situation and the real course of the war are infinitely far from what the Caucasian nationalist elite presents them, and if we look at them, this puts an end to the whole myth of the Caucasian war and genocide, in its nationalistic interpretation.

The main claim put forward by Yermolov concerns, ostensibly, the bestial cruelty with which he cut out entire Caucasian auls. Was it, and if so, can we now condemn him for it? Of course, Yermolov was not a supporter of exclusively humane, tolerant methods in the modern way and in his activity he resorted to cruelty, including the extermination of auls. It's true. Such a style of warfare was unthinkable somewhere in Europe, and Russia has never acted like this in any theater of military operations. Moreover, in the military regulations of the time there were points on which soldiers convicted of cruelty to the civilian population were awaiting a serious punishment - up to the death penalty. If this rule were observed in the Caucasus, then under Yermolov and after him, the whole Caucasian corps would probably have to be executed. Why is it like this become possible?

It should be understood that one of the main achievements of General Yermolov, which led to the victory of Russia, of course, is that he was the first to realize that the European methods of warfare in the Caucasus do not act themselves Highlanders fight in a different way, and to beat them you need to learn and use them as their own methods. It was so - cruelly, treacherously and inhumanly - the highlanders themselves fought, and that is why, with the suggestion of Alexei Yermolov, the Russian troops abandoned the policy of appeasing Caucasians, began to inevitably and severely punish the raids, began taking hostages-amanat and do many other things - impossible in Europe but natural and habitual for the Caucasus. “I, by necessity, adhered to many Asian customs, and I see that the proconsul of the Caucasus cannot brutally tame the local customs with soft-heartedness,” Yermolov himself wrote. After it, and after it became clear that the “local” methods could lead to success, almost all the commanders of the Caucasian War began to use them, and even in a more violent form than Yermolov himself did.

That is, Yermolov was really cruel, but no more cruel than other Russian generals and certainly no more cruel than the Highlanders themselves. The fact that modern Caucasian nationalists accuse almost only of him alone is illogical, but to some extent explicable - one cannot blame one’s ancestors for cruelty, otherwise the whole nationalist concept of war, which stands on the “evil Russians - noble mountaineers” principle, collapses, blaming all Russian generals in general is also not very effective. Therefore, modern supporters of replaying old wars mainly concentrate their hatred only on Yermolov - after all, he was the first to understand how to fight in the Caucasus.

In fact, Yermolov was absolutely not the most brutal Russian military leader in the Caucasus. Moreover, unlike many other generals, one of the goals of his own cruel treatment of the local population, General Yermolov put precisely the eradication of cruelty, manifested by the highlanders themselves, and in this respect his actions are completely justified and to a certain extent even coincide with our current standards of morality and modern criminal code. A similar example is the case of a Sheki khan official - a tax collector who scored to death a defaulter’s stick, after which he ordered the corpse to be dumped into a ravine where wild animals took him away. Yermolov ordered the execution of this official and handed over to Khan that if the official acted on his orders and if he once again gave such an order, he would be the next executed. I think that in our time, a tax policeman who has hammered a defaulter with a stick would also be punished in a very harsh manner.

Here's what he Yermolov wrote: "All my deeds consist in the fact that to some Georgian blood prince stop doing evil deeds, which in its concept of honor, human rights are the actions commemorating the higher its origin; to forbid any khan to arbitrarily cut his noses and ears, which, in his way of thinking, do not allow the existence of power unless it is accompanied by extermination and bloodshed. ”

Unlike in what light the current Caucasian nationalists are trying to present Yermolov, the general himself was extremely selective in applying punitive methods to the highlanders. To call his actions "the destruction of all Caucasians" technically, simply historically is impossible. He clearly divided them into peaceful and non-peaceful. And if he not only did not touch the former, but also helped them in every way, then he really did not stand on ceremony with the latter. Here is what Kavkazedog A.G. Kavtaradze writes: “Yermolov applied these severe measures mainly to traitors who had relations with the Persians or Turks, and robbers who committed devastating predatory attacks on the villages of Russians and Highlanders who had taken shelter Of Russia. " There is a whole range of evidence that Yermolov demanded from his officers not to be zealous in cruelty and to apply extreme measures very selectively, those who too much liked to resort to them, Yermolov from the Caucasus unconditionally removed, as happened, for example, with AB .Pestel.

The next factor determining hatred of Yermolov by certain circles of Caucasian society, putting above all the interests of the state, not the interests of all people, and the interests of their ethnic group or their clan, is that Alexei Petrovich was the initiator of the creation of numerous Caucasian military formations who fought on the side of the Russian state against their own fellow tribesmen. After that, the Caucasian war largely took the character of a civil, and not a "national" of the war, which in our time did not want to admit nationalists zadurivayuschie head his countrymen myths about the "Russian occupiers" and "national unity in the resistance of Russia".

In assessing the personality of Alexei Yermolov, it is impossible not to take into account the fact that he was far from being only a military leader. Unlike many other generals, he was a highly effective civilian administrator who acted unequivocally from a statist position and did a lot for the economic development of this region, which also, of course, determined the success of his policy.

So, Aleksey Petrovich can rightly be considered the founder of the Caucasian Mineral Waters resorts, he opened a wide and mutually beneficial trade with peaceful Circassians and Abazins, improved the roads connecting the North Caucasus with Russia and Georgia, rebuilt Tiflis, irrigated marshes, established newspapers, schools, spent tremendous work to involve the region in all-Russian economic and administrative processes, etc. The development of the region and the mandatory involvement of the peaceful mountaineers in this process, Aleksey Yermolov, considered an integral part of the process of conquering the Caucasus. Perhaps he was the first to realize that it was impossible to conquer the Caucasus with punitive measures alone. Before him, such talented and effective military leaders-administrators who were engaged in global changes in the region entrusted to them, probably, did not exist in Russia, and after him only General Skobelev was such.

If we analyze these factors and everything that is happening now in the North Caucasus, we will clearly see two points. On the one hand, Yermolov is hated because his figure and his actions do not fit into the theory of Caucasian nationalists about war and genocide - where Russians are cowardly and cruel, but there were many of them and they wanted to arrange genocide for all Caucasians, and the mountaineers were bold, intelligent and noble, in full strength they fought not for anything, but for freedom, but there were few of them, and the Russians acted so cruelly that Caucasians lost. Supporters of nationalist circles hate Yermolov because his real deeds completely refute this lie. On the other hand, oddly enough, the Yermolov nationalists are needed - needed as a figure of the enemy, around which they unite against Russia. Whether we want it or not, but now Alexey Petrovich Yermolov has turned from a purely historical figure into an instrument of ethnic construction, turned into the future.

Paradoxically, as in his life, Yermolov is not very convenient, and the Russian authorities - not the local authorities of Stavropol and Krasnodar region, for which it is precisely the attractive figure, but rather to the authorities in Moscow, forming the Caucasus policy of Russia as a whole. Analysis of what methods have caused the failure predecessors Yermolov, and what brought him success in their comparison with the current situation in the Caucasus shows that we have learned nothing and almost one in a repeat mistakes of two centuries ago. The current Kremlin policy in an amazing way reproduces exactly what Yermolov found in the Caucasus and from which he so refused. The policy of reckless, thoughtless, totally unsuccessful musing and appeasement of the East Caucasian khanates and some of the North Caucasian ethnic groups, led by Russian rulers for several decades, very much resemble the modern Kremlin approach to the Caucasus, characterized by giving the ethnic Caucasian regions maximum freedom of action, maximum preferences compared to with the “Russian” regions, the abandonment of the ideological struggle, abundant cash subsidies, gratification and financing of active opponents of the Russian state in the region, or simply yesterday's militants, providing some ethnic groups the actual immunity to the Russian law, together with the deprivation of state support for the Russian population. Then - 200 years ago - this policy led to many years of confrontation and the failure of the formation of Russian statehood in the Caucasus. Today, it is just as well lead to international conflicts, to the distancing of the Caucasian territories from Russia, to their exit from the Russian state and the constitutional field, to nationalist riots on Manezhnaya Square and, possibly, to the impending war.

Here is what Yermolov himself writes: “Here, my forerunners, with their weakness, spoiled all the khans and the channel like them to such an extent that they put themselves at least as Turkish as sultans, and atrocities, which the Turks are already ashamed to do, they think they are rightly permissive ... my correspondence with them was like mistresses, such tenderness, sweetness and exactly as if we were in their power. I began to warn them that the disorder I can not stand, and the procedure requires the duties of obedience, and that such, I advise them to have the will and my Sovereign and that undertake to teach them to conform with that will. All the other shallow channels that make us dirty tricks and minor betrayals, I begin to tidy up my hands ... It would be appropriate to ask my predecessors why they, with all their patriarchal meekness, did not know how to inspire the mountaineers to piety and peace? ”

Of course, in our time, direct copying of Yermolov’s methods is not applicable - there can be neither amanat, nor destruction of villages, no gallows, or anything like that. But the basic principles remained unchanged. Weak Russia, many years of reckless and fantastically fantastic nonsense of indulging national elites and “spoiling” modern “khans and other channels” these days led us to the same result that the identical 200 policy led Alexey Yermolov’s predecessors years ago.

Today’s Russia in the Caucasus desperately needs modern Yermolovs and Skobelevs, but the problem is not even that they do not exist, but that with the modern system they simply cannot appear. With rare exceptions, people like them, the current administrative machine rejects, preventing them to reach the top and senior positions in the mass, occupied by "friendly" people who know how to please their superiors and poradet native little man.

Yermolov was not convenient, but effective. In his life, he did so much that he is still remembered - someone with respect, and someone with hatred, someone considers him a beast, and someone, on the contrary, a tamer. In each of these estimates is the fraction of the personal relationship of man to the process takes place in the Caucasus, and depending on how familiar with it evaluates the personality of Alexei Yermolov can understand what the future holds for this man prefers Caucasus and whose interests he focuses on.

Think about it the next time someone will talk to you about Yermolov.
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  1. Enzo
    Enzo 23 September 2013 23: 52
    Very interesting article! Can you recommend reading something from the literature on this topic?
  2. iva12936
    iva12936 28 October 2013 20: 47
    There are not enough such people in the Caucasus now.
  3. iva12936
    iva12936 28 October 2013 20: 48
    There are not enough such people in the Caucasus now.