It was Tsargrad that was supposed to be the main prize for the Russian Empire in the all-European war that began in the summer of 1914. Before that, only once in the whole thousand history Russia - in the spring of 1878, our country had a real chance to firmly straddle the Black Sea straits. However, this chance was missed in Berlin not without the participation of the “honest broker” Bismarck. Does Russia need straits? This question today, a hundred years after the war, remains relevant.
Before the beginning of World War I, the straits and the place of Constantinople on the map of Russia were of immense not only economic but also political importance. Back in 1913, Foreign Minister SDD Sazonov emphasized to the emperor in a memorandum: “The straits in the hands of a foreign state mean the subordination of the whole south of Russia to this state” and did not tire further to assert that they are “the vital nerve in all our economic life”. (See “Constantinople and the Straits, v. 1, p. 183). Yes, the formal owner of the straits - “reformatted” Turkey in the first months of the war took expectant neutrality, but no one doubted that Istanbul was eager to recoup for the humiliation of the Balkan wars in the Russian Caucasus. Professor Trubetskoy stated that the question of Constantinople is “for us the question of our daily bread ... about all of our political power and our cultural mission, about the most spiritual" I "of Russia." (“The National Question”, Moscow, 1915. “Constantinople and the Straits”, v. 1, p. 97).
The theme of the straits was constantly exaggerated in the State Duma. Here the head of the cadets, P.N., was especially zealous. Milyukov, who, in his endless speeches, awkwardly tried to convince the Entente countries that in general they would lose little, but their ally, Russia, would become more powerful, and therefore more active in the implementation of allied projects.
The acquisition by Russia of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, he argued, “has nothing to do with the conquering tendencies that supporters of the future organized world of Europe want to put the limit with good reason ... Possession of Constantinople and the Straits is the end, not the beginning ... Eliminating the issue of the straits will make it possible to solemnly attribute in the sanctuary of history for so long tormented Europe "Eastern Question". (World War Questions, 1915, p. 548).
This “elimination” of the Russian authorities was considered in an expanded version, which in order to ensure the functioning of the water artery annexation of the islands that control the straits, such as Imbros, Tenedos, Lemnos and Samothrace. Promising "not to absorb the independent Balkan peoples," Russia nevertheless sought to become their "common political center", sweeping away the Habsburg monarchy and the Ottoman Empire in its path. Tsar Nicholas II was to take the place of Franz Joseph and Mehmed V, and his empire to become a great Mediterranean power.
England could not agree with this position. There would have been a powerful maritime state on the Mediterranean, which would have turned into a big exit from the “Russian lake” - the Black Sea, forcing Europeans to recall with fear the glorious times of the Mediterranean expeditions of Admiral Ushakov and his comrades. Moreover, Russian influence would manifest itself on the road to India, and Russia itself would have the opportunity to influence all of Asia Minor, penetrating African countries and spreading its expansion all the way to the Indian Ocean.
Frankly fearing such a development of events, England, on the one hand, continued to uphold its “conservative thesis”, which had already been rolled around in Berlin, - the straits are in the sovereign disposal of Turkey as an integral part of its territorial waters, and should be closed to military ships of all foreign states. But on the other hand, in the course of the development of hostilities on the Western Front, England prepared an independent invasion of Constantinople, without Russia's participation and with the auxiliary naval support of France. Yes, in many ways it was something like an impromptu - the outspoken imperialist, indefatigable in his energy, sir Winston Churchill, acted as the main ideologist and performer of such an expedition. For him, who served as the first Lord of the Admiralty, actually combining the powers of the naval minister and commander-in-chief fleet, mastery of the straits has become almost a paranoid goal. For the sake of its achievement, everything came to fruition - cynicism (Russia needs to demand more “cannon fodder” in order to use it on the Western Front and liberate part of the Allied forces to conquer the straits), unscrupulous lies (when Churchill brazenly claimed in his memoranda that they support his idea influential members of the House of Lords, who actually either hesitated about the correctness of such a decision, or rejected it altogether) ... And, finally, the usual swindle: to involve the military forces of Bulgaria and Greece in the annexation of the Straits and in Learning victories to leave unfulfilled promises to them as “compensation”.
As is known, Churchill’s “sea project” began in February of 1915: February, the external forts of the Dardanelles were destroyed by 25, and the allied ships (without the Russian, of course) entered the straits.
Russia was embarrassed, not believing that the well-organized Turkish detachments of defenders of Constantinople could beat the British and their allies. In the memorandum of March 4, 1915, Russia sharply demanded that the city of Constantinople, the islands of the Sea of Marmara "be finally incorporated into the royal empire." (“Constantinople and the Straits”, No. 49, p. 252). However, the bargaining over the straits, always so tough, acquired a completely different character, as soon as it became clear that the Allied operation in the Dardanelles had suffered a complete failure. The British surprisingly quickly retreated, having received support from the Russians for the defense of Egypt and the routes to India (the brilliant raid of the cavalry corps of Neratov overturned all German-Turkish hopes to expel the British from the Middle East). The French were completely satisfied by the agreement of Russian diplomacy with the fact that France after the victory would be able to determine itself (in addition to Alsace and Lorraine in Paris, they were seriously thinking about annexing the Rhineland).
Meanwhile, with the commissioning of the newest Russian dreadnoughts on the Black Sea, even the German cruiser “Goben”, beautifully renamed by the Turks to the “Sultan Selim Yavuz” (“The Terrible”) or simply “Yavuz”, could not oppose the Russian landing operation in straits. The past, as is known, does not recognize the subjunctive mood. Nevertheless, in our “semi-virtual” time, alternative historical research is becoming increasingly popular every year. Today, entire military history volumes with characteristic names are regularly published: “... What if?” It’s not easy to say what would happen to Russia and Europe if in 1916, in parallel with the onset of the victorious Russian South-Western front, General Brusilov somewhere two or three army corps were landed to the south of Burgas for a swift throw ... Talented Russian historian Anton Kersnovsky justifiably blamed the Russian Stavka for exchanging the walls of Constantinople for Wallachian huts, deciding to support the newly-minted, but immediately defeated This ally is Romania.
Let us try, after scrolling through the alternative scenario, to find out the reasons why, instead of shedding rivers of blood in fruitless battles with the Austro-Germans, it was not decided to strike the weak link of the Fourth Alliance - Turkey? And at the same time for Bulgaria, which, given such a development of events, being politically completely unstable, could well have just gotten out of the war. By the way, this happened three decades later - already during the Second World War.
It should be immediately noted that no UN or League of Nations, even if they already existed at that time, could hardly change anything - the Russians smashed the Turks in the Caucasus over and over again and already rushed to Anatolia and even to the “purely British interest "- between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
The British and the French, who, at the suggestion of the irrepressible Winston Churchill, were so severely burned in the Dardanelles, no longer bothered about dreams of Constantinople. Yes, helping the Russians to beat the Turks again, where they had just beaten them, the Allies would hardly have become. But then, unlike the 1878 of the year, they wouldn’t interfere exactly. Although even the usual bombardments from the sea in the same places where they did not manage to break through, it would have been quite enough from the British and French to create almost ideal conditions for the Russian "march to Constantinople." After all, the Turks really could not have put more strength in Thrace than they had previously opposed to the Allies in the Dardanelles. Those two or three Russian corps, if there were cannons and ammunition, would have done away with the already fairly battered Turks in a matter of weeks, especially since such a blow would surely be supported by the next offensive of the Caucasian Front, which would draw off the last Turkish reserves.
Russian to Constantinople from Bourgas remained a few transitions, and as soon as they almost without a fight would have taken Edirne (Adrianople) - this "key to Constantinople" with the ancient sultan's palaces, the sultanate itself, and the "Young Turk" triumvirate of pasha, who had laughed at that by the military efforts of Europe, which had been stupid in the straits, would have been forced to ask for help from the Germans and the same Bulgarians. But the forces of the Germans were at that time literally connected to the last division, starting with Verdun and ending with those that saved the Austrians, who were almost finished off by Brusilov in Galicia. Bulgarians, in general, barely kept at Thessaloniki and Monastir.
The refusal to take Constantinople seems all the more mysterious, as in Russia and in Europe many already guessed that the throne under Nicholas II was reeling. But from a military point of view, the walls and forts of Constantinople did not present any obstacles for the Russians, and even the position of Chataldzhi, who were almost crushed by the selective Bulgarian regiments in 1912, would not stand for long against heavy cannons. Russian troops in 1916 could enter Tsargrad almost unhindered. It is unlikely that a bold landing operation would immediately lead the Allies to victory, but even the very fact of its preparation could change a lot in the situation of forces at that time. The Turks, of course, were euphoric after the victory in the Dardanelles, but they looked at the prospects of the war as a whole, soberly, especially considering the prospect of joining the United States Entente. The Young Turks were aware that they had been placed on the wrong horse, but they seemed more interested in the prospect of a complete seizure of power in the country and the elimination of the sultanate as such. And for this, even such a disgraceful defeat as the loss of the capital would not prevent it.
But we will continue to consider our alternative scenario. "So, our city ... What to do?" They say that a red commander, from intellectuals, who, by the way, quickly learned what the Makhnovists wanted, sent this telegram to the Civilian. Well, it's a civilian, it's easier there. Another thing is what to do with Russia with Constantinople, if there somewhere in February 1917-th Russian regiments were already quartered? At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Slavophiles discussed this question with particular pleasure, especially when Bulgarian king Ferdinand Coburg almost rode into Tsargrad on a white horse in 1913, seriously believing to remind the world that after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Bulgarian king Kaloyan immediately transferred the capital to Veliko Tarnovo and ordered to call it Constantinople. I wonder what options would have turned out then? And would not World War broke out a year and a half earlier? With a slightly different alignment of forces?
So, to return the enemy's capital to the defeated Turks? Somehow not with his hands - for what they fought? Do not turn it into a free Russian city - like Odessa, which is far from the metropolis. Or is the traditional colonial version suitable?
But both for Russia and in the case of a serious new war it is impossible to protect, as Sevastopol clearly showed. The straits themselves are generally transformed into some kind of “through passage”. The Pan-Slavic variant - the capital of the great and united South Slavic power, also does not pass. Brothers Slavs in the Balkans and so do not find a common language, and for Constantinople and completely shoot each other.
But why not make Constantinople neutral? On the border of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. For the sake of such a case, the Greeks can even grab a piece of the Asian coast from the Turks. But with one condition - the straits of the authorities of this neutral city are opened and closed exclusively with the permission of Russia, by the right of the victorious power, and with the consent ... of Turkey, as the second Black Sea power. But since the Russians never took Constantinople, it was not worth dreaming of its neutrality. What kind of "closed" straits there?
In the days of the war, cautious strategists and politicians, opposing the irrepressible Milyukov, repeatedly said that the capture of Tsargrad by the Russians could cause a psychological shock in Europe and by this provoke something like a revolutionary explosion. Not in Russia, but in the Balkans and in Asia Minor. Is it too far-fetched fears? The Germans trampled Belgium in the dust and marched straight to Paris - and nothing. The war did not end, but only dragged on. With Constantinople for Russians, the question was only when? “The lost moment will not return forever. Time at war is valued in seconds,” said Napoleon. And this moment Russia missed, it seems, precisely in the summer of 1916 of the year. Confidently advancing Brusilov's South-Western Front was not supported by other fronts. They did not support him with a blow to Constantinople.
How much stronger could Russia have staked out for herself what she had won from the Austrians in the same Galicia, if she had Constantinople in her hands, it is not easy to say. But is it any wonder - that the Russians, even if they took Constantinople, didn’t ask for themselves much, understood forty years before the astute Bismarck. He even wondered: "I cannot be more Russian than the Russians themselves." It is not by chance that after Shipka, in response to the fears of the Reichstag deputies that the Russians would soon establish control over the Black Sea straits, he said about the post-war world: “Russians don't care ... They only need a few bunches of pasha, but victory firing in Petersburg and Moscow ". Judging by the fact that the Russian elite did 1917 in February, and the Bolsheviks followed it in October of the same year, the postwar world was not important for Russians and during the World War ... Tsargrad remained for the Turks, who the British promised not only to keep the country intact, but also ... to profit at the expense of the Russians in the Caucasus. However, the British promises remained promises - on October 30 of Turkey, 1918, Turkey on board the English warship signed an armistice with the English admiral, after which the British occupied dominant positions in Constantinople and the straits, leaving the allies the role of extras. 16 March The British captured the most important government institutions in Turkey. But the allies did not succeed in settling in Constantinople for a long time - in the Greek-Turkish war that flared up shortly after the Versailles peace, the Turkish army, updated after a series of defeats by Kemal Ataturk, defeated the Greeks, forcing the British to leave the French with the French.
And what about Russia? The tsarist government, and then the Provisional Government, having lost power, turned the “bill” issued by the Entente against the straits to ashes.
Former ambitions had to be forgotten altogether, when 16 in March 1921 was signed in Moscow between Russia and Turkey, which, in particular, stated:
“In order to ensure the opening of the straits and the free passage through them for trade relations of all peoples, both contracting parties agree to transfer the final drafting of the international statute of the Black Sea and the straits to a special conference from the delegates of the coastal countries, provided that its decisions do not damage Turkey’s full sovereignty, as well as the security of Turkey and its capital, Constantinople. ” ("Collection of existing treaties, agreements and conventions concluded by the RSFSR with foreign states", Moscow, 1921. Ed. NCID, issue.NUMX, p.2).
All this is so. But once again, let’s try to imagine a different turn of history - the widespread offensive of Russian troops on the Western Front, the defeat of Germany, Austria-Hungary and their allies, and, along the way, the expedition of the Russian fleet and ground units to the region of Constantinople. So, Constantinople and the straits are ours, but could Russia weakened by the war be able to maintain control over them? Unlikely. In any case, Bulgaria and Greece would have to be connected to this process of “consanguineous”. Most likely, Greece, because the Greeks made up a significant amount of the population in Constantinople itself. But the inevitable result would still be their gradual crowding out, pogroms, massacres, and distant Russia would hardly be able to protect them. And Turkey would again become the mistress of the straits. However, all this is far from reality. In World War I, Russia did not have a powerful, modern fleet, modern weapons - tanks, cannons, - she had a great advantage in manpower, but this force was half-starved and ragged by the end of the war, moreover, it had almost completely lost its faith "in the king and the fatherland."
Well, well, it was in the First World War, but why the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 now the USSR did not try to put the straits under its full control and make Constantinople a “socialist city?”.
The victorious country had a mighty military potential and modern military equipment, the Black Sea was plied by formidable Soviet cruisers and destroyers ... Moreover, the reason for this was, and very serious. Turkey in 1942 year concluded a secret agreement with Nazi Germany. According to this document, in the event of the fall of Stalingrad, she immediately declared war on the USSR. Apparently, I really wanted to bend the Transcaucasus under this “victorious wave” ... Stalingrad was defended, and the Turks immediately returned to the shadow of neutrality. Shouldn’t they be punished for such treachery? Wouldn’t the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus be useful to us? Wouldn’t it be natural to bring back the long-suffering Christian Constantinople under our wing? What prevented this? Hardened ideological dogmas or simply looming concerns of restoring Soviet cities destroyed by the enemy? These questions have no answer. Only one thing is clear: for modern Russia, my Black remains just a big lake, the straits are open for NATO ships, and in the Black Sea, NATO members began to feel freer because of the pro-Western policy of the leadership of Ukraine, a country that just nearly ended up on the verge of civil of war.