But the East will lift up a howl! ..
Fall on the snowy head,
Humble, Caucasus: Ermolov is coming!
A.S. Pushkin, "Prisoner of the Caucasus", 1821.
Fall on the snowy head,
Humble, Caucasus: Ermolov is coming!
A.S. Pushkin, "Prisoner of the Caucasus", 1821.
"Caucasian Proconsul". The attack on the "fortress" Caucasus
At the beginning of the 19 century, the Caucasus was called “warm Siberia”, constant wars, clashes with mountaineers, unhealthy climate, made the region very uncomfortable to live. Disgraced officers, punished soldiers were sent to the Caucasus. Military service in the Caucasus was not considered prestigious. At the same time, many officers, especially those who had no patronage, strove for the Caucasus, as wars with Turkey, Persia, and highlanders constantly thundered there. Here you could make a career as a simple officer, having noted in battle.
The beginning of the famous Caucasian War (1817 — 1864) is associated with the name of Yermolov, although some conflicts have occurred before. Arriving in the Caucasus, Alexei Petrovich Yermolov received the case from his predecessor, General Nikolai Rtishchev. Rtishchev ruled the Caucasian line and Georgia from 1811 of the year. The general was mainly engaged in affairs in Georgia, he suppressed the uprising in Kakheti, organized a punitive expedition to Khevsuretia (the Khevsurs supported the rebels in Kakheti). Rtishchev wanted to start cramping the mountaineers of Chechnya, but punitive raids were not supported by the emperor Alexander Pavlovich, who wanted to calm the Caucasus line with friendliness and condescension. It is clear that such a policy could not bring success. Highlanders perceived it as weakness.
Yermolov, after examining the border with Persia, brilliantly carried out the diplomatic mission entrusted to him. It was necessary to confirm the terms of the Gulustan Peace Treaty of 1813. The Persians had to abandon the territorial claims against Russia. In April 1817, the Russian embassy as part of 200, a man led by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Yermolov arrived from Tiflis in Tehran. On the way, at the residence of the Crown Prince in Tabriz, a meeting was held with Abbas-Mirza. In Tehran, the Russian ambassador was received by the Persian Shah Fath Ali. The negotiations in Sultania (the Shah’s summer residence) were successful for Russia. Persia refused to claim the lost territory. And under the terms of the Gulistan peace treaty, Persia renounced all rights to Dagestan, Georgia, Imereti, Abkhazia and Mingrelia and recognized the authority of St. Petersburg all the conquered and voluntarily submitted to Russian region and Khanate - Karabakh, Ganja, Sheki, Shirvan, Derbent, Guba, Baku and Talyshinsky. Thus, until 1826, relative calm and peace were established on the Russian-Iranian border. It must be said that the Persian nobility was strongly influenced by the “atrocious” look of Yermolov, his power and self-confidence were forced to abandon any disputes. For the successful fulfillment of the diplomatic mission, Yermolov was awarded the rank of General of Infantry.
After that, Yermolov outlined a plan of action to “pacify” the Caucasus, which he then adhered to unswervingly. Considering the stubbornness and wildness of the mountain tribes, their unbridled self-will and hostility towards the Russians, as well as such features of their psychology as respect for strength and contempt for weakness, the new commander-in-chief decided that it was absolutely impossible to establish peaceful relations under the existing conditions. In the Caucasus, it was necessary to attack, constantly and systematically, without leaving any raid or robbery unpunished. Yermolov spoke about the Caucasus: “This is a huge fortress, one must either storm it, or seize trenches; the assault will be expensive, and its success is not true, so we will overlap it. ”
The first goal of Yermolov was to ensure the security of the territories already attached to Russia. The commander-in-chief presented to the emperor a plan for consistently establishing Russian sovereignty over the mountainous regions of Chechnya, Dagestan, and the North-West Caucasus (Cherkessia). Its essence consisted in the complete conquest of the mountain tribes. At the same time, Yermolov called his predecessors in the matter of pacifying the Caucasus "indifferent chiefs." Emperor Alexander Pavlovich approved this plan; by this time he had already freed himself from a part of liberal illusions.
If the predecessors of Yermolov preferred to focus on administrative and diplomatic activities, the new commander-in-chief preferred military methods. He did not persuade, did not cajole gifts, money, mountain owners, who were hostile to Russia. Yermolov arrived in the Caucasus at a time when the Russian administration was trying to introduce general imperial laws in free highlanders' societies, without interfering with customs and religion. However, the mountaineers were outraged that they were deprived of their usual business and source of income - the raids on their neighbors, the robbery of the caravan routes. In addition, the mountaineers now had to perform some duties - to take part in the construction of roads, bridges, fortifications, and their repair. The Russian authorities have long tried to rely on the local nobility. However, they did not always remain loyal to Russia. Often openly opposed Russian.
The situation was complicated by the fact that Russia and the Transcaucasus were connected overland by only one single communication — the Georgian Military Road, equipped by Russian soldiers. Yes, and on it without a reliable convoy to go was unsafe. The attacks of "non-peaceful" highlanders on the settlements of the Caucasian line and Georgia did not cease. The slave trade continued to flourish, trapped people were sold on the Black Sea coast. Prisoners were taken to Istanbul and further to the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire still relied on the mountain peoples, especially on the Circassians. The Caucasian feudal lords mostly recognized the power of Russia, as long as it was profitable for them. They were paid a salary and did not interfere in the internal affairs of the communities.
In general, the situation was unstable. It was necessary to resolve the issue with the "non-peaceful" mountain tribes. The beginning of the Caucasian War was inevitable. From the policy of individual punitive expeditions, Yermolov moved to penetrate deep into the territory of the mountain tribes. Roads were built, glades were made in mountain forests, fortifications were erected, most of which were inhabited by Cossacks. Around the new villages for hundreds of meters cut down forests for safety. Since the time of Yermolov, for many soldiers the profession of the lumberjack has become the mainstream. Local residents were also involved in the construction. Creating roads, glades, fortifications made it possible to approach the predatory settlements, to create the bridgeheads necessary for the future offensive.
It must be said that by the beginning of the Caucasian War, General Yermolov did not have a significant army. In the Georgian (Caucasus) Corps, the state had 45 thousand bayonets and about 7 thousand sabers, but in reality there were about 37 thousand bayonets and about 6 thousand sabers in the ranks. Artillery park corps consisted of 132 guns. In a single fist, it was a serious force. But the Georgian corps had to cover the vast and dangerous border with Persia and Turkey. His garrisons maintained order in the Transcaucasus and guarded the Caucasian fortified line and communications. Nevertheless, Yermolov decided to speed up the process of “imposing a fortress” on the Caucasus. In his programmatic report to the emperor about the beginning of the conquest of Chechnya, the general reported on the transfer of the left flank and center of the fortified line from the banks of the Terek to the Sunzha River. In 1818, the Nazranovsky redoubt and the strengthening of Pregradny Stan were built on this river. In the same year, in the lower reaches of the river, the fortress of Grozny was laid. It was built at a distance of one transition from the Cossack village of Chervlen.
On the Caucasian Fortified Line, the situation was as follows: the right wing of the line was threatened by militant and restless Circassians Circassians, the center — numerous and brave Kabardians, and the Chechens lived against the left wing beyond the River Sunzha. At this point, the Circassians were weakened by internal conflicts, a plague raged among Kabardians (according to Yermolov, the plague almost completely destroyed the population of Malaya Kabarda), they could make raids only in small groups, therefore the Chechens were the greatest danger. As Yermolov noted: the Chechens lived downstream the Terek, “the worst of the robbers attacking the line. Their society is very sparsely populated, but it has multiplied enormously in the past few years, for the villains of all other nations have been friendly accepted, leaving their land for any crimes. Here they found accomplices who were immediately ready either to revenge for them, or to participate in robberies, and they served them as faithful guides in the lands that they themselves were not familiar with. Chechnya can rightly be called the nest of all the robbers ... ".
From the fortress of Grozny in the direction of Vladikavkaz, located on the Georgian Military Highway, a chain of fortifications was arranged. She walked parallel to the main Caucasian ridge. As a result of the movement of the fortified line from the Terek to Sunzha, Chechen villages located between two rivers passed into Russian citizenship. Each built fortress had its own purpose. In 1819, the fortress of Sudden was built. She was erected in the foothills of Dagestan near the St. Andrew’s aul (Endery). This aul was notorious as a slave trade center. The fortress blocked the way of the mountaineers in their raids on Russian settlements on the Nizhny Terek via the Kumyk steppes. At the same time, the Chechen mountaineers closed the way to Northern Dagestan, to the lands of the Kumyks, behind which was located the Tarkovskoye Shamkhalstvo attached to the empire. The eastern wing of the Caucasian line stretched to the Caspian Sea.
The construction of fortifications on Sunzhe did not mean the beginning of an open war. Ermolov gave the Highlanders a chance to move on to a peaceful life. He gathered the Chechen oldest of the main villages and proposed to stop the predatory raids. The general promised not to punish the former villains, but he demanded that there should be no new raids and robberies by the Chechens. The Chechens were supposed to renew their former oath of allegiance, return all the prisoners. Otherwise, the Chechens were declared clear enemies, with all the ensuing consequences. Chechen elders asked for time to think, to explain to the people, to draw time. Supporters of Russia among the Chechens reported that the most famous robbers, not hoping for forgiveness, angered others, inclined to their side doubters. Many clans, related to them by kinship, refused to negotiate. The "intransigent" said that the Russians would not dare to stick themselves in the mountain forests, the fortresses were built only for fear, and if the Chechens were firm, then the Russians would return to their former positions. However, Yermolov was not going to retreat beyond the Terek. The Sunzhensky line actually split Chechnya and became a springboard for further offensive.
Yermolov used a new tactic in relation to Cherkessia. New fortifications were built on the Kuban River and its tributaries, especially on the Malka. Created new Cossack villages. Yermolov for the first time officially allowed to pursue the robbers on the opposite side of the Kuban, on its left bank. As a result, free Circassian raids for capturing people, selling them into slavery or receiving ransom, and stealing livestock rarely go unpunished. The creation of fortified lines put mountain tribes, accustomed to robbery, to a difficult economic situation. Russian army deprived of their source of income. In addition, the fortified lines blocked the path to winter pastures and the best lands on the plain. The mountaineers had to either come to terms with the Russian authorities and the loss of the former predatory way of life, or starve.
From the point of view of progress, the intentions of the Russian authorities were themselves noble: the general rule of law was established for Russia, the dominance of noble and rich people over ordinary mountaineers was gone; the bloody civil strife and the slave trade system ceased, and the locals, not just the neighbors, also suffered from it; the traditional system of robber raids has gone into the past; ensured the safety of trade, traffic, developed economy; developed a system of education and education, medicine; cities were built, etc. However, it was obvious that all the noble and reasonable arguments were not worth a penny for the robbers. It was impossible to break the vicious system only by “friendliness and condescension,” as Alexander Pavlovich originally wanted. The path to good lay through violence (demonstrative spanking).
After the creation of the Sunzhensky Line, the second stage began - the offensive against the Caucasus Mountains. From the line began to cut through the clearances in pristine forests, which could lead the troops and strike at the robber nests. Yermolov punished "non-peaceful" mountaineers unmercifully, according to the law of wartime - the settlements were destroyed, all those who resisted were destroyed, the inhabitants were resettled to lowland lands. From the villages that were found to be robberies, they took fines, as a rule, part of the herds, the cattle went to feed the troops. According to Eastern customs, the Caucasian governor ordered to take hostages from the families of local nobility, elders - amanatov. It was a common practice for the region. The Russians, in particular, when they fought with the Persians, exchanged with the hostages themselves. Most hostages were treated well. They lived a free life, but far from their small homeland. Many such amanats lived in Astrakhan.
Yermolov refused the practice of predecessors who tried to appease the Highlanders with gifts, money, in exchange for safety. He immediately responded to the blow with a blow. During Yermolov’s trip to Iran to the Persian Shah, the Highlanders took hostage Colonel Shevtsov, Chief of Staff of the Corps, and demanded a huge ransom of silver carts in 18. Yermolov ordered the immediate arrest of the elders of the largest villages and promised to hang them in a month if the Russian colonel was not released. Shevtsov was immediately released.
In 1819, military expeditions were conducted against "non-peaceful" auls - Bolshoi Chechen, Shali, Germenchuk, Avtury, Geldigen, Mayrtun. The fortress of Grozny was the base from which Russian troops made expeditions across Chechnya. The Russian detachment under the command of Major General V. Sysoyev destroyed the nest of Dadi-Yurt. After that, there was a temporary lull in Chechnya.
Portrait of A. P. Yermolov by P. Zakharov-Chechen.
Offensive on the Mountain Dagestan
Not stopping the attack on Chechnya, Yermolov pursued a policy of military pressure and Gorny Dagestan. Gradually, among the mountaineers, an understanding emerged that Yermolov’s policy was not a temporary step, but a long-term strategy. Consolidation of Russian opponents began, and pressure on supporters of Russia intensified. In the winter of 1818-1919. most of the Dagestan rulers came out against Russian rule. Ahmed Khan Avarsky, Surkhay Khan Kazikumyksky, Abdul-beyk Ersinsky, villages of Mehtulinsky, Karakaydagsky, Tabasaransky possessions, free Akushinsky society (Akusha) took part in the uprising. Dagestan rulers relied on the secret support of Persia. A military threat arose over the feudal formations that had assumed Russian citizenship - Tarkov Shamkhal, Karakaydag Utsmiy and others.
Yermolov praised the threat highly and sent Russian units to help the feudal possessions loyal to Russia. The Caucasian commander-in-chief gave the order to the commander of the local troops, General A. Pestel, to conduct a military expedition to the mountainous part of Dagestan. But he apparently underestimated the degree of threat and took with him only two incomplete infantry battalions and a small detachment of local equestrian police. Pestel's detachment took the center of the Karakaidag Khanate - the village of Bashli. But here the Russian squad was surrounded by large enemy forces. The situation was saved by his decisive actions, Colonel Mishchenko, he broke through the corridor in the encirclement and the detachment was able to leave for Derbent. The squad suffered heavy losses - about 500 people were killed and wounded.
The news of this failure of the Russian troops stirred Gorny Dagestan. Victory over the Russian troops was celebrated even in Persia. In Tabriz, Abbas-Mirza organized a big feast and gun salute. However, this is the success of the rebels and ended. Yermolov defeated the troops of Ahmed Khan Avar. Avar Khan escaped from their possessions. Then, the Caucasian commander-in-chief with five battalions of infantry and 300 Cossacks defeated the forces of the Mekhtulinsky Khan. The independence of the Mekhtuli Khanate was eliminated. Khan's residences in Cengutai and Small Cengutai were devastated. At the beginning of 1819, Yermolov, with a small detachment, stormed the high-altitude settlement of Akusha, the center of the Akusha (Dargin) Union, by storm. Akushinsky alliance was considered the most warlike and strongest in Dagestan and could put 15 thousand warriors. The forces of Yermolov numbered the 3 infantry battalion, the 500 linear and Don Cossacks, the local militia. Akushins suffered a complete defeat. Akushins (Dargin) had to take Russian citizenship, they retained self-government. This Russian victory had a big resonance in the Caucasus. It must be said that those mountain villages that showed obedience were pardoned and retained immunity. Yermolov showed that humility leads to salvation.
Military operations in Dagestan continued. In August 1819 of the year General VG Madatov, who replaced Pestel, led a detachment of two battalions, 300 Cossacks and 8 guns, advancing from the south, from the direction of the Cuban province, occupied the Tabasaran region and defeated Abdul-beyr of Ersinsky. Abdul-bek fled. Madatov, a fearless and determined commander, forced most of the villages of Tabasarani to take the oath of Russia. A large role in the operation was played by the Dagestan cavalry militia under the command of Aslan Khan Kyurinsky and a detachment of the Tabasarans themselves, who went over to the Russians.
The Avar Khan united with the Chechens and Lezgins, and, having assembled an army of 5-6 thousand people, set up his camp on the Sulak River, 16 versts from the fortress of Sudzenshnya under construction. Yermolov performed with 4 ths. Detachment and in a fierce battle, crushed the forces of the Highlanders. At this time, Adil-Khan Karakaydagsky, who was considered one of the main supporters of Russia in the region, spoke out against the Russians. Ermolov immediately reacted by expelling the punitive detachment. Khan's residence was burned, the palace was destroyed to the ground, and the land of the Khan was transferred to Russian ownership. Adil Khan, expelled from his possessions, united with the troops of Surkhay Khan’s son and other feudal lords, under their command accumulated impressive forces - up to 15 thousand horsemen and foot soldiers. In mid-December 1819, Yermolov defeated the army of the Highlanders. The fate of Primorsky and Northern Dagestan was decided. These areas became part of the Russian Empire.
Map of the Caucasus. 1824.
To be continued ...