The most famous Russian military leader of the second half of the XIX century, Mikhail Dmitrievich Skobelev (1843 – 1882), the conqueror of Khiva and the liberator of Bulgaria, Mikhail Skobelev, entered the history under the name of "white general". An outstanding strategist, a man of enormous personal courage, who died in the prime of life under very mysterious circumstances.
In relation to the soldiers and the offensive strategy, he was called the “second Suvorov”, the Bulgarians, in tribute, called him “the general liberator” and even offered to lead the Bulgarian people, and the Ottomans spoke with reverence “Ak-Pasha” (“white general”). So, he was called for his uniform and white horse, as well as his attitude to people. Skobelev said: "Convince the soldiers in fact that you are fatherly caring about them outside of battle, that in battle is strength, and nothing will be impossible for you." The soldiers loved him and said, "He did not send him to death, but led him." In Europe, the general was compared with Napoleon Bonaparte. His star only rose, despite the fact that during the 19 years of his military career, Mikhail Dmitrievich managed to visit the fire of 70 battles. The path from the lieutenant to General MD Skobelev passed in a surprisingly short time - 11 years (1864 - 1875). The geography of Skobelev’s service, from Central Asia to the Balkans, knowledge of the religious and everyday traditions of the local peoples also causes respect. The legendary general knew the Quran and quoted it in Arabic, surprising the Turks.
Mikhail Skobelev became famous not only as a military leader, but also as a spokesman for the aspirations of the Slavic world, whose leader he rightly considered the mighty Russian empire. Mikhail Dmitrievich can rightly be considered one of the ideologists of Slavism (Panslavism), understood as a unity of kinship by blood and faith of peoples and countries led by Russia. Skobelev was a fighter for the unity of the Slavic world. The basis of such a union was the common Slavic roots, traditions, the Russian language and Russian culture, which had powerful properties for the unity of many nations around the Russian people, the core of Russian civilization. The military power, military glory of Russia, which was extracted, usually in the struggle for historical justice, also had a special unifying appeal. The strength of Russia, aimed at fighting for justice, attracted other nations. So it was during the struggle of Russia for the liberation of the Balkan peoples. And on a larger scale, this property of the Russian people will manifest itself in the future, in the years of the Great Patriotic War, when the heroic struggle of the USSR will attract the attention and sympathy of all progressive people of humanity. It is quite natural that the Russian people also represented Mikhail Dmitrievich as the core of an extensive and diverse Eurasian ethnic system, giving security to many diverse peoples and nationalities, capable of fairly solving the tasks of internal development and defeating any adversary.
When the Russian army, in the vanguard of which the troops of Mikhail Skobelev marched, advanced on Constantinople, the “second Suvorov” dreamed of entering the ancient city, the former “Tsargrad”, the capital of the Second Rome - Byzantium. He associated with the entry of Russian troops in Constantinople hopes for the revival of the Slavic world and its unification. However, the Western powers, and especially Great Britain, did not allow such a development of the event. It was also connected with the political weakness of the figure of Emperor Alexander II, who did not have enough will to defend the fruits of the victory of 1877-1878, to withstand the pressure of the West and end the war with a brilliant victory of Russia (the seizure of the straits and Constantinople). The unity of the Slavic world was a terrible threat to the Anglo-Saxon globalization project. England sought to preserve the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire, as a hostile Russian power, as a buffer restraining the movement of the Russians to the South. Perhaps it was these geopolitical views of the general, given his immense popularity, that became the reason for his sudden death. Unfortunately, during the years of Soviet power, the name of the “white general” was practically erased from literature and popular memory.
Family, early biography and military education. First combat experience
The Russian commander was the third in the family of famous generals (his grandfather and father had a lot of military merit). Mikhail Dmitrievich was born in St. Petersburg 17 (29) September 1843. His father was Lieutenant-General Dmitry Ivanovich Skobelev (1821 — 1879), and his mother was Olga Nikolaevna (1823 - 1880), born Poltavtseva. D. M. Skobelev was a member of the Hungarian campaign, for military merit and bravery was awarded the Order of St.. Vladimir 4 degree with a bow, as well as the Austrian Order of the Iron Crown 3 degree. During the Eastern (Crimean) War, he fought on the Caucasian front, was awarded a gold sword with the inscription "For Bravery", for distinction in the Battle of Kashiklar, he was promoted to colonel and awarded with the Order of St. Anna 2 degree. He consistently commanded the Elisavetgrad Dragoon Regiment, the Life Guards Horse Grenadier Regiment, was the commander of his own Majesty's convoy, inspector of cavalry. He took part in the war with Turkey 1877 — 1878, commanding the Caucasian Cossack division together with the 4 rifle brigade. Then he was at the disposal of the commander in chief and took part in a number of cases. For the 1877-1878 campaign Dmitry Ivanovich Skobelev received the Order of St. George 3 degree.
With his mother, Mikhail was in very warm relations, he kept his spiritual intimacy with her all his life and inherited from her the “subtlety of nature”. Olga Nikolaevna was engaged in charitable activities and supported her son’s policy on the Slavic issue. After her husband died in 1879, she devoted herself entirely to charity, went to the Balkans and headed the Bulgarian department of the Red Cross Society. She founded an orphanage in Philippopolis (present-day Plovdiv), organized shelters and schools in several cities, and organized supplying hospitals in Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. 6 June 1880 Olga Nikolaevna was killed by brigands in the vicinity of Philippopolis. Her death was a great tragedy for Skobelev.
Mikhail's grandfather, Ivan Nikitich (1778 — 1849), was the son of a sergeant-edict, and began service with 14 years, having entered the Orenburg 1 th field battalion (later the 66 th Infantry Butyrsky regiment) as a soldier. With his abilities and energetic character, he soon attracted the attention of his superiors and in the 4 year of service he received the rank of sergeant, and then an officer. As part of the 26 th regiment, he distinguished himself in the anti-French campaign 1807 of the year. For the Swedish campaign he was awarded a gold sword with the inscription "For Bravery" and the Order of St. Vladimir 4 degree. He was seriously injured, but continued to serve and distinguished himself in the war against the Ottomans. With the rank of captain some time was retired. In 1812, he becomes M. Kutuzov's adjutant. Participated in the foreign campaign of the Russian army, distinguished himself in several cases. His last campaign was Polish, in the battle of Minsk, he lost his hand. Ivan Nikitich not only made his way from a soldier to a general from infantry, but also became a well-known writer who spoke under the pseudonym "Russian disabled". Skobelev wrote on military topics, and his writings were very popular with the military. The general wrote in a living common language, using soldiers' humor, popular proverbs. Ivan Nikitich wrote in one of his stories - “I remember the good, I remember the bad, but I confess, I don’t remember anything better than the Russian soldier.” Perfect knowledge of the Russian soldier led to great fame of his writings. In addition, his writings were filled with faith and deep patriotism.
In the first years of life of Mikhail Dmitrievich, the grandfather-soldier was the main figure in the grandson’s home education. The boy listened with great interest to the stories of Ivan Nikitich about military campaigns and exploits, a Russian soldier. Unfortunately, soon I. N. Skobelev died, and a boy from 6 years left without his beloved grandfather-educator. The German tutor started raising the child, but relations with him did not work out. Later, Michael was sent to Paris to a boarding house to the Frenchman Desiderius Girarde. In France, the future general mastered a large amount of knowledge and several languages. And over time, Girardet will become a close friend of Mikhail and follow him to Russia. In the Russian Empire in 1858 — 1860. the young man was preparing to enter the St. Petersburg University. The training was successful, and in 1861, he entered the mathematics department of St. Petersburg University. However, student unrest prevented further study, because of which the university was temporarily closed. As a result, family traditions took up and “too elegant for a real military”, Skobelev in November 1861 of the year enters a volunteer group in the Cavalry Regiment. This event was a turning point in his fate.
18-year-old Michael in the ranks of the soldier-guardsmen took the oath of allegiance to the sovereign and the Fatherland and with zeal began to study military affairs. September 8 1862 g., After passing the exam, it was produced in a belt-cadet, and 31 March 1863 g. - in the cornets. In 1864, his own request was transferred to the Life Guards Grodno Hussar Regiment, which was deployed in Warsaw and led military operations against Polish insurgents. Mikhail Dmitrievich, in battles with the Poles, gets his first combat experience. As part of the Life Guard Preobrazhensky Regiment, he pursued a Polish squad led by Shpak. As part of the volatile detachment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel K.I. A young officer, Zankisov, took part in the destruction of the Polish gang under the command of Shemiot in the Radkovitsky Forest. For this fight Skobelev was awarded the Order of St.. Anna 4 degree for bravery. In the memoirs of officers of the Grodno regiment, the young Mikhail Skobelev remained "a true gentleman and a dashing cavalry officer."
In 1864, while on vacation, Skobelev traveled to Europe to study the theater of military operations of the Danes against the Germans (in 1864, there was a conflict between Denmark, Prussia and Austria because of the duchy of Schleswig and Holstein). In the same year Skobelev was promoted to lieutenant. In 1866, the lieutenant entered the Nikolaev Academy of the General Staff, which then taught such prominent military figures as G.A. Leer, M.I. Dragomirov, A.K. Puzyrevsky. Skobelev studied unevenly, showing brilliant knowledge only in those subjects that interested him. So, he was the first in the entire issue of military history, showed excellent results in foreign and Russian language, in political history, but did not shine in military statistics and shooting, and especially in geodesy. Therefore, Skobelev graduated from the academy not in the first row, but he was still enlisted in the General Staff.
According to the biographer commander, writer V.I. Nemirovich-Danchenko, Skobelev, on practical tests in the North-Western Territory, had to find the most convenient point for crossing the Neman River. To do this, it was necessary to study all the flow of the river. But Skobelev did not do this, having lived all the time in the same place. When the inspection commission arrived with Lieutenant-General G.A. Leer, Skobelev jumped on his horse and crossed the river, safely crossing the Neman at both ends. Leer was so enthusiastic that he insisted on enrolling a promising, determined and energetic officer in the General Staff. Shortly before graduation from the Academy of the General Staff, Skobelev was promoted to another rank - staff captain.
First things in Asia
In the 1868 year, at the request of the commander of the Turkestan military district, Adjutant General von Kaufman 1, Skobelev was sent to the Turkestan district. Mikhail Dmitrievich arrived in Tashkent at the beginning of 1869 and initially served in the district headquarters. The officer studied the local battle tactics. Commanding the Siberian Cossack hundred, he participated in small matters on the Bukhara border, displaying personal courage. Carried out a map survey of the Zarevshansky District recently attached to the empire. However, despite the demonstrated skills and courage, Skobelev did not develop service in the Turkestan district. Mikhail Dmitrievich because of the “lack of necessary endurance and tact” was a man of conflict, intolerant of other people's weaknesses.
Skobelev quarreled with some of the Cossacks, and with two representatives of the Tashkent “golden youth,” it came to a duel. This he displeased General Kaufman. Mikhail Dmitrievich was seconded back, he was given an assignment to the reserve squadron of the Life Guards regiment of the Grodno Hussars.
At the end of 1870, Skobelev was sent to the disposal of the commander of the Caucasian army. In the spring of 1871, Michael was sent to the Krasnovodsk detachment of Colonel N.G. Stoletova, on the east coast of the Caspian Sea. There, the officer commanded cavalry and studied the possibility of the Russian army going to Khiva through the northern part of the Karakum desert. Mikhail Dmitrievich made a reconnaissance of the way to the Sarykamysh well, having made a difficult path with a total distance of 536 versts: from Mullakari to Uzunkuyu - 410 versts in 9 days, and back to Kum-Sheschen, 126 versts for 16,5 hours. He was accompanied by only six people. Skobelev made a detailed description of the way and the wells available there. But here, too, the officer displeased the authorities, he voluntarily reviewed the plan for the upcoming campaign in Khiva, for which he was sent on 11-month leave.
In April, the 1872 of the year Michael was again counted among the General Staff in the Military Registration Office. He participated in the preparation of a field trip of staff officers and the St. Petersburg Military District to the Baltic provinces. In June, 1872 was appointed senior aide to the headquarters of the 22 Infantry Division, which was stationed in Novgorod. Already 30 August 1872 was promoted to lieutenant colonel, becoming a head officer at the headquarters of the Moscow Military District. But he did not stay long in Moscow either. Skobelev was sent to the 74 Infantry Regiment of the Stavropol Regiment as a battalion commander.
Skobelev did not linger in the area of Maykop, where the Stavropol regiment was located. At this time, the Russian armed forces were preparing a campaign against Khiva, “for the liberation of our compatriots,” who were in slavery. In addition, complaints from local residents who had converted to Russian citizenship were constantly coming in, they were attacked by feudal lords supplied with English weapons. The Stavropol Regiment was not included in the number of units that were supposed to take part in this operation. But Skobelev was not going to stay away from the place where it would be hot. He asked for leave and arrived in Turkestan in the midst of preparations for the campaign. In April, 1873, the Russian troops marched out of four locations: Tashkent (General Kaufman), Krasnovodsk (Colonel Markozov), Orenburg (General Verevkin) and Mangyshlak (Colonel Lomakin). The total number of troops was 12-13 thousand soldiers with 56 guns. General command was carried out by General Konstantin Kaufman.
Skobelev led the vanguard of the Mangyshlak detachment of Colonel Nikolai Lomakin. 16 came out on April, Mikhail Dmitrievich, like other officers, was walking. There was a shortage of camels in the detachment (there were a total of 1500 camels per 2140 man), so all the combat horses were loaded. Skobelev has always been distinguished by severity and demanding in wartime conditions, and most of all to himself. In a peaceful life, he could doubt, but in the military was the most collected, responsible and courageous.
In a difficult situation, when Senek ran out of water halfway to the well, Skobelev showed himself to be a skillful commander and organizer, maintaining complete order in his echelon and taking care of the needs of the soldiers. On May 5, carrying out reconnaissance near the Itybai well, Skobelev and 10 soldiers discovered a caravan heading for Khiva. Despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, Skobelev attacked the enemy. In this battle, he received several wounds from knives and returned to service only on May 20. 21 May, a lieutenant colonel with a small detachment carried out a punitive operation against the Turkmen. They were punished for hostile actions against the Russian troops. May 22 Skobelev covered the wagon train, having beaten off several attacks of the Khivans. On May 24, when the Russian troops were stationed at Chinakczyk (8 versts Khiva), the enemy attacked a camel train. Mikhail Dmitrievich immediately took two hundred, quietly went to the rear and hit the Khivans. He knocked over the enemy cavalry, fled the infantry and fought off the 400 camels.
Khiva campaign 1873. Through the dead sands to the wells of Adam-Krylgan (N. N. Karazin, 1888).
May 26 joined the Orenburg and Mangyshlak detachments came to Khiva, located at the Shahabad gates. 28 May was reconnaissance in force. On May 29, a Turkestan detachment led by Kaufman approached the city from the southeast. Khivans capitulated. Kaufman's troops began to enter the city from the south. But, due to the unrest in the city, the northern part of Khiva did not know about the surrender and refused to surrender. Skobelev with two companies began the assault on the Shahabad gates and was the first to make his way inside the fortress. Khivans went to the counter, but Skobelev kept the gate and the shaft behind him. Soon, on the orders of Kaufman, the assault was stopped, the city finally capitulated. Khiva resigned.
The fortification scheme of Khiva.
During the campaign, Krasnovodsk detachment of Colonel Markozov did not take part in the capture of Khiva and was forced to return to Krasnovodsk. Skobelev volunteered to carry out reconnaissance of the path that was not traversed by the Krasnovodsk detachment in order to find out the cause of the incident. The task was fraught with great risk: I had to go through the Zmukshir - Ortakai section in the 340 version, in a hostile environment. Mikhail Dmitrievich took only 5 people with him, including 3 Turkmen. 4 August he delivered from Zmukshir. There was no water in the well. For 15-25 versts to Ortakuyu, Skobelev's squadron in the morning of August 7, near the Nefes-Kuli well, ran into a detachment of hostile Turkmen. The lieutenant colonel and his companions escaped with difficulty. It was obvious that it was impossible to get further. 11 August, after passing 640 miles, Skobelev came back. The corresponding report was submitted to Kaufman. This intelligence helped to drop the charges against Colonel Vasily Markozov, who was considered guilty of the failure of the Krasnovodsk detachment. For this intelligence, Mikhail Skobelev was awarded the Order of St. George 4 degree.
In the winter of 1873 — 1874, the officer was on vacation in southern France. During him, he traveled to Spain, where the Third Carlist War was in progress (the uprising was raised by the party supporting the rights of Don Carlos and his heirs), and was an eyewitness to several battles. In February, 1874, Skobelev, was promoted to colonel, and in April, an aide-de-camp was enlisted in the suite of His Imperial Majesty.
Major General and Military Governor
At the end of May, 1875, Mikhail Dmitrievich again seeks an appointment to Turkestan. Skobelev was appointed commander of a small military team (22 Cossack), who escorted the Russian embassy to Kashgar. At the same time, he served as a scout - he had to evaluate the military significance of Kashgar. The embassy passed through Kokand, where Khudoyar Khan, who was under Russian influence, ruled. At that time, a rebellion broke out against the Khan, who fled to Khujand. The Russian embassy covered him. Thanks to Skobelev's skill, his caution and firmness, the battle that threatened to exterminate the small Russian detachment was avoided.
At that time, Gazavat was proclaimed against the infidels in Kokand and the Kokand troops invaded the Russian borders. Khujand was besieged. Unrest began among the locals. Skobelev with two hundred Cossacks was sent to fight the gangs. Soon Khojent was freed by the troops of Kaufman, Skobelev led the cavalry. 22 August 1875, the Russian troops took Mahram - the center of the forces of the rebels (totaled up to 50 thousand people). Kokandans suffered a complete defeat, having lost up to 2 thousands of people killed (Russian troops lost 5 killed and 8 wounded). Skobelev in this battle, supported by the rocket battery, swiftly attacked the enemy, put numerous enemy camps on foot and horseback to flight, and drove them 10 versts. In this case, the colonel proved to be an excellent cavalry commander.
The leader of the rebels, Abdurrahman fled, for his pursuit sent six hundred, two infantry companies and a rocket battery under the command of Skobelev. Russian soldiers destroyed the enemy squad, but Abdurrahman was able to leave. Russia annexed land north of the Syr Darya (Namangan department). However, the uprising continued. Abdurrahman deposed Khan Nasreddin (the son of Khudoyar) and elevated Pulat Khan (Bolot Khan) to the throne. The center of the uprising became Andijan. October 1 squad of Major General Vitaly Trotsky took the enemy fortress. Skobelev distinguished himself in this battle. On the way back, the Russian squad met the enemy; on October X. Skobelev, 5 destroyed the Kipchak camp in a night attack.
October 18 for the differences in this campaign, Mikhail Skobelev made a major general and was appointed head of the Namangan department. Under his command there were three battalions, five hundred and 12 guns. Skobelev received the task "to act strategically defensively", that is, without leaving the borders of the Russian Empire. However, the situation was so complicated that Skobelev had to go on the offensive. "Positional war" led to the success of the enemy. Gangster elements and gangs constantly crossed the Russian border, almost continuously there was a small war. Major-General Mikhail Skobelev constantly suppressed attempts by the enemy to cross the border, on October 23 defeated an enemy detachment from Türim-kurgan, and then helped the Namangan garrison, where an uprising broke out. November 12 dispersed a large enemy detachment from Balykchy (up to 20 thousand people). It was necessary to answer. Kaufman gave the order to conduct a limited offensive operation.
December 25 Skobelev launched from Namangan with 2,8 thousand fighters with 12 guns and a rocket battery. Moving to Ike-su-aras, the Russian troops destroyed the "non-peaceful" villages. The enemy could not provide decent resistance. Only in Andijan, Abdurrahman decided to fight and gathered up to 37 thousands of warriors. 8 January 1876, the Russian troops took the fort by storm. Abdurrahman fled to Assak, where 18 January suffered a new defeat. The rebel leader ran away again, wandered for a while, then surrendered to the mercy of the victors. Survivors "irreconcilable" rebels fled to Afghanistan.
Kokand. Entrance to the Khudoyar Khan Palace, built in 1871
In February, the Kokand Khanate was transformed into the Fergana region and became part of the Russian Empire. March 2 Mikhail Skobelev was appointed military governor and commander of the Fergana region. For pacification Kokand Skobelev was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir 3 degree with swords and the Order of St.. George 3 degree, as well as a gold sword with diamonds with the inscription "for courage."
As head of the region, Skobelev managed to pacify the Kipchaks, who gave the word to live peacefully. He also made a campaign against the Kirghiz, who inhabited the Alai ranges and the valley of the Kyzyl-su river. The expedition to the borders of Kashgaria, to the Tien Shan, ended with the joining of the Alay land to the Fergana region, the occupation of the Kashgar border and the construction of the Gulchin-Alay road. At the post of governor Skobelev was no more than a year, he was recalled to St. Petersburg. The general fought against embezzlement, making many enemies for himself. Complaints were constantly falling on him in the capital. The charges were not confirmed, but Skobelev was withdrawn. Now he had to prove that success in Central Asia was not accidental.
"General MD D. Skobelev on a horse." N. D. Dmitriev-Orenburg, (1883).
To be continued ...