“Do you remember, Alyosha, the roads of Smolensk ...”
1 August 1514, the army of Moscow Grand Prince Vasily III, after a short siege, entered the ancient Russian city of Smolensk. Extensive Smolensk land was reunited with the revived united Russian state.
Anniversary in the Shadow
It makes sense to recall this anniversary right now for two reasons. Firstly, against the backdrop of the events taking place, regarded by a significant part of society as a new gathering of Russian lands, as well as events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War (which also occurred on August 1 for Russia), the half-thousand-year anniversary of the conquest of Smolensk from Lithuania is completely in the shadows. It seems undeserved for such a date. Secondly, this year some nationalist circles in Lithuania, Belarus, as well as in Ukraine, are going to solemnly celebrate the 500th anniversary of the victory of Lithuanian troops over Moscow in the battle of Orsha. This happened on September 8, 1514. The historical the fact took place, but did not have any effect on the outcome of the Russian-Lithuanian war of 1512-1522.
The only tangible geopolitical outcome of that war was just the accession of Smolensk to the Moscow State. And it would be fair to celebrate the anniversary of this event not only at the regional, but also at the national level.
By the way, it is a little about historical calendar dates and quite often confusion arising from them. If in 1914 the war for Russia began on August 1 in a new style, then the capture of Smolensk 1 in August 1514 of the year is always indicated in the old style. Is it possible to translate this date to a new style, given that in the XVI century the difference between the two calendars was 10 days? And, accordingly, to celebrate the anniversary of the accession of Smolensk 11 August? In the author’s opinion, this is valid only from the time when in some countries a new style was first introduced, i.e. Gregorian calendar. This happened only in 1582. Until that moment, the new style simply did not exist. Consequently, the translation of dates is also illegal. And it would be right to celebrate the anniversary of the capture of Smolensk this year exactly on August 1 according to the current calendar. However, it is permissible to mark this date in August and 1 in the old style, that is, 14 in August according to the current civil calendar, but not in any way at 11. But back to Smolensk.
From Rurik to Vitovt
Before the story of the reunification of Smolensk with the Russian state it seems important to recall how he ended up in Lithuania. From the middle of the XII century, Smolensk land (led by the city that already existed in 863) was one of the largest Russian states. One of the few international acts of ancient Russia surviving from the pre-Mongolian time - an agreement with the Livonian Order of the Year XNUM, eloquently testifies to its wide diplomatic and trade activity. Smolensk did not undergo the ruin of the Mongols and only from 1229 of the year was forced to pay some tribute to the Golden Horde, but did it on its own. Smolensk maintained formal independence until the beginning of the 15th century, although it was harder for him to do it in the conditions of the strengthening of neighboring Lithuania. In the 14th century, she gradually transformed the Smolensk principality into a vassal state. The forces of Smolensk were weakening because of the fragmentation of the principalities into minorities, and the rifts of candidates for the princely throne, which was happening everywhere in Russia at that time.
In 1395, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vitovt made a military campaign near Smolensk under the pretext of arbitration of disputes between local princes. By treachery having captured them captive, Vitovt planted his governor in Smolensk. However, the accession of Smolensk to Lithuania was not yet final. While Moscow (rather weak at the time; besides, the Grand Duke of Moscow Vasily I was Vitovt's son-in-law) diplomatically supported these actions of Lithuania, the Grand Duke Oleg of Ryazan opposed it. With him entered into secret contacts Smolensk, dissatisfied with joining Lithuania. In 1401, Oleg took Smolensk and elevated to the throne Prince Yuri, pleasing Smolensk.
Vitovt then twice unsuccessfully besieged Smolensk in 1401 and 1404. However, the Grand Prince Oleg of Ryazan died here. Vasily I of Moscow, to whom Yuri applied for citizenship, hesitated with an answer, fearing the wrath of his powerful father-in-law.
Taking advantage of this, Vitovt again in June, 1404, approached the city, and the nobles of the Prolith party opened the gates to him. So began more than a century-long period of Smolensk in the Lithuanian Grand Duchy.
In Lithuania, individual lands enjoyed some degree of autonomy, and until the beginning of the 16th century, Smolensk had a separate prince-governor (from the grand-ducal family). The Smolensk regiments led by Prince Lugvenia Olgerdovich (after his mother came from the clan of Tver grand princes) in 1410, played an important role in defeating the Teutonic Order troops in the battle of Green Forest in Prussia. At the same time, in the XV century, Smolensk citizens repeatedly attempted (unsuccessful) to secede from Lithuania.
Moscow, weakened during the “Shemyakina Troubles” period of the mid-15th century, was forced in 1449 year, under Vasily II “Dark”, to abandon the peace treaty “for all time” in favor of Lithuania of its claims to Smolensk land. However, the strengthening of Moscow at the end of the 15th century prompted the Moscow Grand Prince Ivan III to assimilate a new view on his power - as the successor of the ancient Russian grand dukes, who owned all the lands of Kievan Rus. In the negotiations that ended the wars between Moscow and Lithuania at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries, Ivan III, and then his son Vasily III, invariably put forward demands for the “return” of Smolensk, Chernihiv, Kiev and other ancient Russian lands. For this reason, and because Lithuania could not agree to this, those wars did not end in peace treaties, but only in temporary truces, as a rule, on conditions that could capture, in fact, owns it.
Similarly, under Ivan III the Great, Moscow won over vast areas of Lithuania, mainly the former Chernigov and Novgorod-Seversky principalities. Was among the annexed lands and the eastern part of the former Smolensk principality with the city of Vyazma. It was the turn of the accession of Smolensk itself, which wedged into the new possessions of the Grand Duke of Moscow. But this part of the program of collecting Russian lands was already completed by Vasily III.
At the end of 1512, the Moscow sovereign declared another war to Lithuania. The reason for her was the arrest of the widow of the former King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander, the Moscow princess Elena, the sister of Vasily III (she died soon in prison). The city of Smolensk, by virtue of its position as a frontier fortress, inevitably became the primary object of the actions of the Russian troops.
In 1513, the Russians twice approached Smolensk (for the first time - under the personal command of Vasily III). But these attempts to take the city were unsuccessful.
In the summer of 1514, a large Russian army, supplied with numerous artillery, approached Smolensk for the third time. The siege began on July 15. Two weeks later, the bombing of the city began. The Russians obviously took into account the experience of previous failures under the walls of Smolensk. A significant role in the rapid surrender of the city was also played by the mood of its inhabitants, who had prompted the Lithuanian garrison to enter into negotiations for surrender on the very first day of the shelling. Surely (although the sources do not mention this directly) during the time that has elapsed since the previous unsuccessful siege, agents of the Russian Grand Duke established contacts with the pro-Moscow-minded nobles of Smolensk. Be that as it may, the end this time came quickly. On July 31, the Lithuanian garrison of the city capitulated, and on August 1 the Russian army led by the Grand Duke entered Smolensk.
All attempts of the Lithuanians to repel Smolensk in the course of this war ended in failure. Under the truce 1522 of the year, concluded for five years, Smolensk remained the newly acquired possession of the Moscow state. Later, until the end of the Time of Troubles, this condition was repeatedly prolonged by subsequent armistice agreements.
The temporary loss of Smolensk and the final reunion
The entry of Smolensk into the Russian state in 1514 was not final. In 1611, after two years of heroic defense, the city was taken by the troops of the Polish king Sigismund III. But it was precisely at that first, almost century-old, period of the residence of Smolensk within Russia that the defensive complex of the Smolensk Kremlin was built - the most powerful of the medieval fortresses preserved in Russia. Brick walls in height from 13 to 19 meters and thickness up to 6 meters encircled the city in the perimeter of six and a half kilometers. Supervised the construction of the fortress from 1595 to 1602 year architect Fedor Kon. He was in time - the Smolensk Kremlin served a great service in the Time of Troubles, although it fell after a long unequal struggle.
Significant fragments of the fortress wall with 18 towers (from the original 38 towers) have reached our time. For more than a decade, there has been talk of the desirability of a complete restoration of the architectural complex of the fortifications of the Smolensk Kremlin ...
In 1632-1634 he had already served the Poles when, after the expiration of the Deulinsky truce 1619 of the year, the Russian army (Smolensk war) approached him. The siege army was commanded by voivode Mikhail Shein, who became famous for his defense of Smolensk in the 1609-1611. However, the end of the career and life of the heroic Russian military leader was sad. His army near Smolensk was not secured from the rear by other detachments of the Russian army, was left without any support, and at the end of 1633 was taken by Polish troops in the blockade ring. After a long defense surrounded, Shein achieved a very honorable surrender - with the right of the whole army to return to Russia, retaining the banner, cold and small weaponbut without artillery. However, Moscow did not consider this and the difficulties of Shein’s position near Smolensk. The glorified voivode was accused of treason and executed - completely unfair, according to most Russian historians.
In the 1654 year, during the next war with Poland, which erupted as a result of the well-known events in Ukraine, Russian troops again took Smolensk, and this time the city was forever incorporated into the Russian state. So simultaneously with the 500 anniversary of the first reunification of Smolensk with Russia, the 360 anniversary of its final reunion can be celebrated.
In May 1654, Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich left Moscow to personally lead the army, which was to take Smolensk. 28 June (old), he arrived at the army under the walls of the city. On August 16, an unsuccessful assault was launched, which cost the Russians heavy losses (see: Solovyov S.M. History of Russia from Ancient Times. T.10. Ch. IV). However, against the backdrop of the widespread success of the Russian troops, who took almost without resistance one by one the cities in Belarus, that is, already in the deep rear of the Polish-Lithuanian garrison of Smolensk, the latter soon found the resistance unpromising. And 23 of September 1654 of the year, as S.M. writes Solovyov, “under the walls of Smolensk, the opposite happened to what was seen here in the 1634 year: Lithuanian governors, leaving Smolensk, beat with their brow and laid banners in front of the sovereign of Moscow.”
Although much has been written about the great role Smolensk played in the future for the defense of Russia in 1812 and 1941, it is useful to remind her again, in connection with the anniversary.
In the 1812 Patriotic War, Smolensk became the site of the unification of the two Russian armies retreating from Belarus. Their initial connection was planned at Vitebsk, but was disrupted by the actions of Bonaparte. However, the Smolensk armies of Barclay de Tolly and Bagration nevertheless met.
The combination of Russian armies gave confidence to Russian officers and soldiers in the possibility and the need to immediately give a general battle to the invaders. And where was it to give, if not under the walls of Smolensk covered with the martial glory of the past centuries? In any case, the general conviction and mood in the Russian troops was such that Smolensk simply could not be left without a fight.
Commander-in-Chief Barclay de Tolly had other plans. He knew that, despite the combination of armies, the Russians were still much inferior to the enemy in the amount of manpower and artillery. Subsequent historians confirm this by evaluating the ratio of forces at that moment with such numbers: 180 thousand people from Bonaparte, 110 thousand in both Russian armies (specific estimates may differ from these figures from different authors, but not by much).
Unable to resist the general mood of the troops, Barclay decided to give the enemy a battle near Smolensk, but with limited forces. The significant rearguard of the army, which included the corps of generals Rajevsky and Dokhturov, was to succeed, as far as possible, to detain the pressing enemy near the walls of Smolensk, while the retreating Russian army had time to withdraw more material supplies from the city and destroy what could not be withdrawn. Barclay was not deceived by the fact that the medieval fortress, with such artillery, which existed at the beginning of the XIX century, could no longer serve as a strong point of defense. If Russian troops retreated into it, they would be trapped.
The battle on the approaches to Smolensk and in the city itself lasted three days - from 4 to 6 (16-18 n.st.) of August 1812, A.A. Kersnovsky believes that 4 August 15 thousands of Russian troops fought with 23 thousands of French and their satellites, and in the following days the French forces only increased. At the same time, the heroically defending Russian troops inflicted on the enemy damage to 12 thousands of people killed and wounded, themselves losing about 7 thousands.
“The Russians put up heroic resistance, the soldiers also had to withdraw requests and directly threaten to the rear: they did not want to carry out orders for retreat,” wrote Academician E.V. Tarle in the monograph "Napoleon".
He, in Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia, describes the battle of Smolensk in more detail, confirming his words with the testimony of contemporaries who participated in the battle.
“Russian troops fought near Smolensk in such a way that even in the most fluent, most business-like, dry French reports and memoirs, the authors continually note surprising episodes. The so-called Petersburg suburb of Smolensk has long been burning bright flames. Smolensk was already abandoned by the Russians, and French troops entered the burning city at once through several extreme streets. The Russian rearguard, led by General Konovnitsyn and Colonel Tolya, was desperately defensive, continuing to detain the enemy. The Russian gunners scattered through the gardens and single-handedly beat the advancing dense French chain and servants of the French artillery. The Russians did not want to leave there for anything, although, of course, they knew about the imminent near death. [...] With astonishment, witnesses stated that the soldiers were so eager to fight near Smolensk that the bosses had to drive them away with a sword where they too recklessly substituted themselves for French canister and bayonets.
[...] The Smolensk tragedy was especially scary because the Russian command evacuated most of the seriously wounded there from Mogilev, Vitebsk, Krasny, not to mention the wounded from the units of Neverovsky and Rayevsky. And these thousands of people suffering without medical care were gathered in that part of Smolensk, which is called the Old Town. This Old Town caught fire, even when there was a battle near Smolensk, and burned to the ground during the retreat of the Russian army, which could not save anyone from there. The French, entering the city, found an unforgettable picture in this place.
[...] Italian officer Cesare Loge with his unit from the corps of Italy's viceroy Eugene Beauharnais passed through Smolensk the day after the city was captured by the French. In his memoirs, he writes: “The only witnesses of our entry into devastated Smolensk are the smoking ruins of houses and the corpses of their own and their enemies, who fall asleep in a common pit. In a particularly gloomy and terrible form, the interior of this unfortunate city appeared before us. From the very beginning of hostilities, we have never seen such pictures: we are deeply shocked by them. At the sounds of military music, with a proud and at the same time frowning look, we passed among these ruins, where only unfortunate Russians were wounded, covered with blood and mud ... How many people burned and suffocated! .. ”.
[...] Even the soldiers who were used to the Napoleonic epic for 16 years to all sorts of horrors were suppressed by these Smolensk paintings. Before the invasion of Napoleon in Smolensk, there were 15 thousands of inhabitants. Of these, about one thousand remained in the first days after the French occupied the city. The others either died, or, having thrown all, fled from the city, wherever they looked, or they entered voluntarily into the composition of the Russian army that had retreated from the city. ”
Bonaparte intended to destroy the entire Russian army near Smolensk and was extremely annoyed that the Russians had retreated again, not accepting a general battle. In the first hours after taking Smolensk burned to the ground, he, in irritation, announced to those close to the end of the 1812 campaign of the year that he would not catch up with the Russian army. However, the rock very soon drew him to the bloody field of the Battle of Borodino, to the doomed fire of Moscow and to the disastrous retreat for the same ravaged Smolensk region.
It was during the retreat through the Smolensk land began the agony of the army of Bonaparte. The early November frosts (for Europeans) were hit, and the army of failed conquerors began to leave more and more frozen on the road. The survivors fled farther to the west ...
It is well known that after the battle of Maloyaroslavets, as a result of which the Russians retreated to Kaluga, Bonaparte decided to retreat to Smolensk, not the next Russian pursuit, just because Smolensk, as he thought, had stockpiled supplies for his entire army. It should have been so if the orders of the emperor of the French could be executed exactly. But his military governors and quartermasters did not have such an opportunity in Russia, engulfed in flames of popular resistance to the conqueror. So it was possible to do less in the Smolensk region.
The "great" army came to Smolensk, decreasing in size by almost two thirds. “This army left Moscow, numbering 100 thousands of combatant soldiers; in twenty-five days, it decreased to 36 thousand people, ”F.-P. de Segur, Napoleon's adjutant. The army was demoralized, poorly controlled, so there was no way to organize the correct supply even with the scarce reserves that were in Smolensk.
“Everyone thought only of their own well-being,” recalled A. de Kolenkur, especially close to the emperor, “and it seemed to everyone that the real secret of salvation from danger was to hurry, hurry and hurry. How was it possible to achieve any work from bakers and officials in such moods that brought the disorder to an extreme degree? Deprived of the essentials, many of the officers, including officers of the highest ranks, showed a bad example, implementing the principle of “save yourself who can” and, not waiting for their corps, rushed alone in front of the column in the hope of finding something to eat.
“The condition of the warehouses didn’t meet either our expectations or our needs,” Kolenkur remarks, “but since only a few soldiers were in their units, it was this mess that allowed everyone who was present to be present”. The main reason why Bonaparte failed to give his army a winter holiday in Smolensk was the continuing Russian offensive, which the “great” army could no longer hold back ...
Smolensk Region Front Roads
Do you remember, Alyosha, the roads of Smolensk,
As there were endless, evil rains,
As the krinks brought us tired women,
Pressing, like children, from the rain to their chest,
Like tears they wipe away by stealth,
As they whispered to us: "Lord, save you!"
And again they called themselves soldiers,
As of old it happened in great Russia [...]
The battles of World War II raged on Smolensk land for two and a half years - from July 1941 to October 1943.
The role of the Smolensk battle, which went from 10 July to 10 September 1941, as one of the key players in the breakdown of the Hitler blitzkrieg, is widely recognized in Russian historiography and in many foreign historians. Nevertheless, one can still find attempts to explain the delay of the Wehrmacht offensive against Moscow in the summer of 1941, by “strategic discussions” in the leadership of the Reich, and not by the stubborn resistance of the Soviet troops.
However, the facts show that near Smolensk the German army group “Center” was forced in July-August 1941 of the year to switch to a number of sectors, and then to defense everywhere.
The controversy in the Nazi entourage over what to take - Moscow or Kiev - was caused not by idle frivolity of the winners, but by the search for weak points in the Soviet strategic defense. The weakest point at that time was the Kiev direction.
It is quite obvious that if the Soviet defense in the central sector in July-September of 1941 were weaker, no “discussions” would prevent the German military leaders from developing an offensive in all strategic directions, as in the first weeks of the war. But - did not work. And the main “culprit” to this is the resistance (and mastery) of our troops, which has increased by that moment.
Actually, Smolensk itself was taken by the Nazis already on July 16 1941. However, to the east of the city, the enemy began to bind in the Soviet defense. Our troops repeatedly counterattacked and entered the outskirts of Smolensk. This continued until August 13. And in early September, 1941, as a result of a counter-offensive lasting several weeks, Soviet troops beat the city of Yelnya in the Smolensk region from the fascists.
In the military-historical works, the manner of actions of the Soviet command at that time is now being widely criticized. Indeed, many counterattacks were undertaken without proper preparation and rather weakened our troops before the coming defensive battles than the enemy. But this, of course, in no way diminishes the heroism of Soviet soldiers and officers in the Battle of Smolensk.
In October, 1941, in the east of the Smolensk region, near Vyazma, the drama of the surrounded troops of several Soviet armies broke out. Their heroic resistance for at least two weeks delayed the advance of the main forces of the German Army Group Center to Moscow.
It should be noted that the Supreme appreciated the importance of the struggle of the encircled troops.
The commander of one of the encircled armies, 19, is MF. Lukin, Stalin, according to some testimony, considered one of the main saviors of Moscow and personally helped him, on release from captivity, to recover in the ranks of the Red Army and the CPSU (b).
The liberation of Smolensk began in January 1942, when Soviet troops re-entered the eastern districts of the region, and stretched for almost two years. Only 25 September 1943, Smolensk was liberated, and by the end of October - the whole Smolensk land.
Smolensk region has become one of the most important areas for the deployment of guerrilla warfare in the rear of the Nazi invaders. Already in the late autumn of 1941, in the midst of the Hitlerites' last offensive against Moscow, the partisans of Smolensk region successfully disrupted transportation in the rear of Army Group Center, which the Wehrmacht High Command headmaster V. Keitel subsequently complained about in his prison memoirs. 3 August 1943, partisans of the Smolensk region (which then included part of the current Kaluga region) carried out a series of powerful sabotage on Wehrmacht communications as part of Operation Rail War.
In conclusion, we mention that the Smolensk land was the birthplace of such famous people of Russia as the commander Prince G.A. Potyomkin, naval commander P.S. Nakhimov, traveler N.M. Przhevalsky, composer M.I. Glinka, writers and poets M.V. Isakovsky and A.T. Tvardovsky, actors MA Ladynina, N.V. Rumyantseva and Yu.V. Nikulin, the first cosmonaut of the planet Yu.A. Gagarin and, according to some data, Soviet aircraft designer S.А. Lavochkin.
- Yaroslav Butakov
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