Famous for his insane personal courage, interrupting his studies at the cavalry school and becoming free to defend himself alone in the 1877-1878 Russian-Turkish war, being awarded two soldiers by the soldiers of the Balkans in the Balkans, he became the most distinguished cavalry commander in chief of ... army, but also in the armies of all opposing coalitions. It is no coincidence that in April 1913, when the newspapers reported “the highest order” about awarding new general's ranks, after mentioning the name of Lieutenant General Keller, there was a mass of articles with a single name - “The First Checker of Russia”.
A Russian soldier with a German surname, a patriot of the Russian land, like the epic hero of two-meter height with a warrior's face - defender of the Fatherland, Fyodor Avgustovich Keller was considered the best cavalry commander of the Russian army and deservedly, both among the soldiers and in Russian society, received the honorary name “First Checkers” »Russia.
With 1908, fate has bound him forever to the Ukrainian lands and to the mother of the Russian cities, Kiev. And all ten years of service in the Little Russian and Ukrainian lands (Fedor Avgustovich, like many of his contemporaries used the terminology of Little Russia and Ukraine, based on historical and geographical definitions), he remained faithful to the unity of the Motherland and its many peoples.
Being a count, nevertheless with the beginning of the Great European or Second World War (and, as we know World War I, it became only in 1943) remained “the servant of the King, the father of the soldiers”. According to numerous recollections, he was extremely caring for his subordinates, paid constant attention to the soldiers to always be well fed, to watch the careful and caring care of the wounded, which, despite the difficult conditions of war, was set exemplary. While meeting the wounded men being taken out of the battle, everyone asked, soothed and knew how to caress. With simple warriors (lower ranks) was even in circulation, polite and delicate, with senior commanders was dry and not frivolous. They recalled colleagues and another important feature of the general - the preservation of the memory of those who fell in the Battle of Galicia. He demanded not only the performance of all the rituals of honoring at burial, but also created a special system of certification of mass graves and single graves so that, after centuries, the motto “Nobody is forgotten and nothing is forgotten.” Here, only in relation to his memory, everything happened the other way around.
From the first days of the “world war massacre” (and this was the official definition of hostilities in the European theater), he, the commander of the cavalry division, and eventually - the corps, which made transitions-attacks a hundred versts a day, getting off the saddle only to change the exhausted horse - he was an example for all. In the difficult moments of the battles in the Galician fields and in Bukovina, he personally wounded the divisions and regiments to attack, confirming the name of the First Checker, was wounded twice. When Fyodor Avgustovich, "... flaunting a dashing landing," appeared before the regiments in his wolf hat and in the chekmen of the Orenburg Cossack army, according to the recollections of his fellow servicemen: "... it felt like the hearts of the people who adored him ready for the first word of his the wave of the hand rush anywhere and perform miracles of courage and sacrifice. "
Those who fought for the liberation of Bulgaria in the Russian-Turkish war compared Keller with General Skobelev. And the comparison is not accidental - Mikhail Dmitrievich was known for his courage and contempt for death; he always went into battle in the front ranks, standing out because he flew on a white horse and in a white uniform, for which he received the nickname “White General” in the camp of the enemy. The name of General Skobelev tried to erase from history, demolishing monuments and deleting the "white general" from textbooks. It did not work, especially since in Bulgaria all these years the name of Skobelev was holy, holy and remained, but Keller’s name ...
In the very first battles, starting from August 1914, the soldiers of his division as part of Brusilov’s army captured cities and villages of the Galician fields with swift cavalry attacks, covered the Austro-Hungarian units and were the most formidable opponents for the regiments of the praised Hungarian hussars. The fame of the exploits of Keller’s Cossacks was so well known and honored that his divisions were transferred from the flank to the flank of the South-Western (another name is Galician) front. Then his soldiers took a cavalry cast into Austro-Hungarian ticks from Galich, then stormed the Yavorov, and then were transferred to the Dniester and captured one by one the cities of Bukovina - Khotyn, Chernivtsi, Zastavna.
As a small photo exhibition to confirm the above, I will cite a few more photographs from the above-mentioned photo album, for they are indisputable witnesses of the courage and fatherly care of the hero-general.
The 1917 has arrived. He came pleasantly and inspired - Russian troops hold Transnistria, they have the strength to fight and fight. Joyful news passed through the corps - on January 15, their beloved “popular Cossack general” was promoted to cavalry generals, which was equal to the modern military rank of colonel general. And this joyful news was pleasant both to his cavalrymen, and to the soldiers of the 1's Don and Terek Cossack divisions. It is also nice because in the fall of 1916, the general returned to his home corps from Kharkov, where he was treated after a serious injury.
And in this regard, allow a little historical and patriotic lyrics. Remember, dear reader, the film “Officers”, especially the moment at the end of the film, when a tank who is returning from Moscow with his family is blocking the road ... There is a column tanks, the battalion commander jumps out of the host machine with an unintelligible question and with sincere regret asks the general whether he leaves the division and is transferred to Moscow. Recalled. And as General Alexei Trofimov (actor Georgy Yumatov) angrily pronounces, so that he doesn’t stop the movement and follow the training ground, or not, there will be a guardhouse. And only the answer of Lyubasha Trofimova (actress Alina Pokrovskaya) reassures the battalion commander, climbing onto the tank with the words: “Remains! ... Plant for at least ten days, the main thing is that you are with us. ” And as a general, hiding his feelings, he salutes the passing armored column.
So, they really loved the troops of Fyodor Avgustovich, a general from God, and he loved his soldiers, his Fatherland, his faith in the Victory. But ... February-1917 has come, and with it the agony of Russia.
16 March 1917, the celebrated general gave the last order to the regiments of the 3 Cavalry Corps: “By today's order I am dismissed from the command of the glorious 3 Cavalry Corps. Forgive all dear comrades, gentlemen generals, officers, Cossacks, dragoons, lancers, hussars, gunners, self-propelled gunners, arrows and all those serving in the ranks of this valiant fighting corps! We experienced together and grief and joy, buried our dear dead, who laid down their lives for the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland, rejoiced at the success achieved with GOD through repeated successes over the enemies. Not once were themselves injured and suffered from wounds. We are close to you. Warm thanks to all of you for your trust in me, for your love, for your constant courage and blind obedience in difficult moments of battle. May God grant you the strength to continue to serve also honestly and faithfully to your Homeland, constant good luck and happiness. Do not forget your old and firmly loving corps commander. Remember what he taught you. God help you. ”
It is the hardest time for a combat general who hid a sword in the sheath, in the literal and figurative sense, and departed to his family in Kharkov. But again, the fighting experience of a brave cavalryman was in demand when Petliurists attacked the capital of the “Ukrainian State”, and on November 5, the 1918, the general accepts the offer of a bewildered Hetman Skoropadsky, his former front-line comrade, to become commander-in-chief with all civil authorities under his command at the same time. In fact, it was Fyodor Avgustovich who became head of state, and his powers were higher than those of the hetman. Keller's authority was so great, both in the military and in “Kiev society” that Skoropadsky was frightened and, under a false pretext, on November 13 removed the legendary cavalryman from the post of commander-in-chief. For a military general, such actions of the hetman became a complete surprise - he was not a politician and did not understand how to sacrifice the interests of the state and the power for personal ambitions.
The military cavalryman was hidden under "house arrest", preventing him from leaving Kiev, fearing that he would move south or north, to the place where parts of the White Guard were formed. Moreover, with the arrival of the "blue-guard" of Petliura, he and two faithful adjutants were imprisoned in the St. Michael's Golden-domed Cathedral. The black day of 21 came on December 1918, when Keller and his adjutants, Colonels Panteleev and Ivanov, were taken to Lukyanovskaya prison as arrested "enemies of Petliura" ... Konovalets, who feared Keller, even captives. From the monastery, they, not resisting, going voluntarily, were led not to Bolshaya Zhytomyr to go to Lukyanovka, but to Sofia Square. When they reached the monument to Bogdan Khmelnitsky, a convoy going behind the back started shooting Russian military officers with shots in the back. Despite numerous shots and hits (only one Keller counted 11 gunshot wounds), they were not killed immediately, but brutally hacked with swords. Around the monument of the “Unifier of Ukraine and Russia” the snow was covered in blood ...
Historians and literary scholars are still arguing whether the Bulgakov images of Colonel Felix Nai-Turs from the White Guard and Alexei Turbin from the Days of Turbins are a restoration of the good name of General Keller, or is it just fiction.
Historians also argue about the exact burial place of the famous general associates. According to documents and studies of the military way and the tragic demise of the “First Checkers of Russia”, General Keller and his two adjutants were buried at the cemetery of the Pokrovsky nunnery. And the only confirmation of this fact is the memories of the Countess Elizabeth Kantakuzin (nee - Speranskaya). But, alas, they do not give an exact answer, because they literally said: “Today’s main news - Ataman Petlyura, once arrested by Kerensky, and then freed by German troops, proclaimed the Ukrainian Socialist Republic and headed the Galician division. Now he goes to Kiev, picking up all kinds of bandits and deserters along the way. The Germans are neutral, so the fighting began between the Red Petliurists and several hundred officers of the former imperial army, which, of course, did not have enough time to form full-fledged units. They are poorly armed, they have only a weak hope that the Allies will come to their aid ... The French consul Enno claimed that the Entente would not allow the penetration of Petliura gangs into Ukraine. An empty concussion ... In the cathedral of St. Vladimir every day they served for the murdered ... Long funeral processions stretched around the city ... People talk about a new weapons - the rays of death. As if they could incapacitate entire regiments ... Kiev lasted a month, thanks to its heroic defenders, there were only a thousand of them, all of them were poorly dressed, equipped, and armed. I had to fight in the 15-20-degree frost, not even having felt boots. They resisted for a month - the 15th army. December 14, Kiev fell ... The hunt for people began, blood flowed again ... On the streets there was a real hunt for officers, they were ruthlessly shot, leaving them lying on the pavements ... General Count Theodor Keller and his two adjutants, Colonels Panteleev and Ivanov, were brutally killed in the time of transfer from one prison to another ... One evening, an unknown woman came and informed us that the Petlyurovsky commandant of Kiev presented an ultimatum, according to which all White Army volunteers had to surrender their weapons within 48 hours and cross cont and on foot go to the Don, where the main forces of the whites. All this was tantamount to a death sentence, since walking more than 100 miles in the snow in the middle of winter was sheer madness. At noon, Kiev was commissioned. Many of our officers in the German zone ... Petlyurov snipers began to shoot soldiers who made their way to the Dnieper ... "
Why Pokrovsky Monastery? The fact is that of the five cemeteries in Kiev of that period - the cemetery of the Pokrovsky Monastery was the closest to the place of the death of the general with his loyal fighting friends. In addition, the Kievans of that time knew perfectly well that Fedor Avgustovich died with the name of the emperor on his lips, and the Pokrovsky monastery was created by Grand Duchess Alexandra Petrovna Romanova, the wife of the son of Nicholas I, who was expelled from the family, but not from the House of Romanov. Becoming the nun of Anastasia, she founded the Kiev-Pokrovsky Monastery. And those who knew Keller, recalled that he often came there already in 1918, stayed for a long time at the grave of the Grand Duchess, as if apologizing that he had not saved Russia and the royal family.
I will not talk for a long time about my search and research, but, unfortunately, accurate information about the burial place of the general and his companions is still unknown.
According to the assurances of nuns and novices, as well as venerable historians, Fyodor Avgustovich and his comrades could not bury near the Grand Duchess or at the cemetery near the cemetery, was not supposed to be.
The only possible burial site could be a cemetery at the monastery, but the terrible hard times completely destroyed it - there were only two graves topped with tubular crosses.
It was necessary for me, as for an axiom, to adopt the version of the burial of the general from cavalry, the First Checkers of Russia by Fyodor Avgustovich Keller here, immediately behind the fence of the former cemetery - now the apple orchard.
The general saw the collapse and destruction of Russia, but he did not see the “Final Exodus” and did not recognize the suffering in a foreign land, did not recognize Gallipoli, Bizerte’s thirst, Prague’s contempt and Belgrade pity.
Keller's name is returning stories today, not immediately, not in full, but returns. And one of the echoes is the poem of the poet of the times of the Russian emigration of the “second wave” Peter Nikolaevich Shabelsky-Bork. It is worth giving a beautiful artistic description of the tragedy that took place ten years after the murder:
When Kiev gold-domed
Suddenly, a wild rampage poured in again,
Count Keller, knight of Russian glory,
He did not seek escape.
He rejected all offers
He did not take off his hats or shoulder straps:
"I went to battle hundreds of times
And he saw death, ”he replied.
Well, could he remove the victorious cross,
What should always be on it
To part with the cap of the reserve,
He presented to him by the King? ..
Murderous gang killers
They broke into a peaceful monastery.
He went out to meet them boldly,
Epic Russian hero.
Accompanied by villains
Count left the last shelter.
With him - the noble Panteleev
And the faithful captain Ivanov.
Around night reigned mute.
Covered in white veil,
A horse over the precipice heaving,
Stood Khmelnitsky, as alive.
Visually to the beloved motherland,
At the time of the rampant dark forces
He is about the One - Indivisible
In contrast, he spoke.
Morning shimmered. Trail bloody
Alela on snow silver ...
So died knight Russian glory
With the last thought of the king.
Alas, after the Second World War, both the poetic work itself and the very name of the poet were erased from history. And the reason was quite compelling - active cooperation with the Nazis and the flight to Argentina in the spring of 1945. Well, even patriotic Russian emigration did not forgive traitors. And the verse was written in 1928, and I believe that the return of the work itself in the restoration of Keller’s memory is possible.