During the Great Retreat of the Russian Army 7 (20) in August 1915 was surrendered the St. George’s Fortress. It was one of the worst failures of the Russian weapons all his history. Lightning surrender of a first-class fortress, fully equipped with artillery, ammunition and fodder, entirely with a garrison of half the enemy’s grouping was unprecedented in the Russian military chronicle.
“The largest unexpected and shameful loss” was called the fall of the Novorgeyevsk fortress by Professor A.I. Utkin (Utkin A.I. The First World War. M., 2001). Military historian A.A. Kersnovsky spoke even harsherly: “On August X, the commandant of the fortress, the despicable General Bobyr, who had lost his head, ran to the enemy and, already sitting in German captivity, ordered to surrender to the fortress still holding. In the huge garrison there was neither General Kondratenka, nor Major Shtokvich, nor Captain Liko ... And in the morning of August 6, the Prussian landwehr drove a human herd into an inglorious captivity. The number of the garrison Novogeorgievsk was equal to 7 people. About 86000 was killed, and 3000 (of which 83000 was wounded) surrendered, including the 7000 general and 23 officers. The banners of the garrison were safely delivered to the army by pilots. The fortress lost 2100 serfs and 1096 field guns, all 108. Hurrying to capitulate, they forgot to disable most of the guns. The Germans equipped their Alsatian-Lorraine front with these guns, and the French, having won the war, set up these Russian weapons in Paris, on the Esplanade of invalids, to reproach their former brothers in arms ”(A. A. Kersnovsky. History of the Russian army).
Yielding to the main fortresses, which was right in the prevailing conditions, practically without a fight, the Supreme Commander Nikolai Nikolayevich made an exception for several strongholds — the fortresses of Kovno, Novogeorgievsk and Brest were tasked to stand to the end. Kovno fortress lasted ten days. 17 August, the fortress fell after an artillery bombardment of 1360 cannons that fired 853 thousands of shells. The commander of the fortress, General Grigoriev, behaved shamefully and fled the day before the surrender of the fortress. The Germans captured the vast reserves of the Russian army. The Kovno fortress became the base of the German army. Armaments were dismantled and taken to Germany, to strengthen the Western Front.
Then it was the turn of Novogeorgievsk. The Novorogievsky fortress was built on the site of the Polish fortress Modlin on the r. Wisla. She was ordered to be built by Napoleon in the Duchy of Warsaw to provide the crossing of the Vistula and the Narev. The fortress was built by French engineers 1807 — 1812. After the defeat of the army of the French emperor and the annexation of the Duchy of Warsaw to Russia, the fortress went to the Russian army. At the direction of Emperor Nicholas I, the Modlin Fortress was significantly expanded and in 1834 was renamed Novogeorgievsk. At the end of the XIX century, the fortress was modernized - a line of forts was built around the citadel.
The fortress was considered one of the strongest in Europe. So, military engineer Velichko, in 1892-1893. he personally participated in the work on the long-term fortifications of Novogeorgievsk, stressing that "the fortress of Novogeorgievsk was not only not inferior, but was technically stronger than the French fortress of Verdun". At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the authoritative encyclopedic dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron noted: “The triple row of fortress walls, wide and deep moats, high ramparts, lined with huge tools give the impression of impregnability; for the siege of Novogeorgievsk, the enemy would need at least 200 thousand troops, while 12 thousand is enough to defend it. ”
A decade later, the defensive power of the fortress increased even more. Before World War I, the fortress was again modernized, although the work was not completed in full. New fortifications could resist heavy weapons, including 420-mm howitzers. All researchers noted that the fortress had been improved for several decades, and it cost the treasury a very large expense. So, only the project, made two years before the war, assumed the erection of new fortifications inside the old series of forts and bundled them into forts, were going to spend 121 million rubles for its implementation, of which 3 of the year (1912-1914). ) 34 million rubles were released. At the same time, in 1913, the value of the entire expenditure part of the budget in the military department was 581 million rubles. Thus, Novogeorgievsk for a long time absorbed very large sums.
Interestingly, in 1910, the Russian Defense Minister Sukhomlinov decided that it was necessary to move the defense line in the advanced western theater inland to 200 kilometers, and Novorgeorgievsk remained the only outpost along its entire length. It was decided to cover Novogeorgievsk with a belt of new fortifications, and to link it with Zegrze and external fortifications of the Warsaw Fortress. That is, it was proposed to dismantle the old fortifications and even destroy them, and instead build new ones “from scratch”. On the eve of the war, when Europe already smelled of gunpowder, Sukhomlinov convinced Tsar Nicholas II of the need to abandon the defense of the advanced theater (Privislyansky Krai). The plans of the emperors and the military leadership of Russia for almost a whole century were torn down: Emperor Nicholas I, Alexander III, Milutin, Obruchev, Kuropatkin. The fortresses of Ivangorod and Warsaw on the Vistula, Zegrzh and Lomza on the Narev, all the forts connecting Zegrzh with Warsaw along the eastern front of the Vistula-Narevskogo fortified area and all the long-fortified bridge crossings across the Narev: Pultusk, Rozhany and Ostrolenka were abolished. Destroy these fortresses and fortifications commissioned as soon as possible. True, because of the silent sabotage of local authorities and the lack of money, the buildings were saved. Destroyed only part of the fortifications in Warsaw. The plan to build a new series of fortifications was not approved and implemented.
Thus, before the beginning of the war, the defense system, which for decades had been created in the western strategic direction under the emperors Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III, and the beginning of the reign of Nicholas II, was largely destroyed. Blown up forts, disarmed fortresses and savings on defense, and all this in the conditions of the approaching war with the advanced military power Germany. Not surprisingly, in 1915, the war minister Sukhomlinov was considered the main culprit in the defeat of the Russian army. Sukhomlinov was dismissed by the king from the post of military minister and put on trial.
In general, the fortress was considered to be equipped with means of defense and ready for a long defense. The serfs (especially artillery) were considered the elite of the Russian army, distinguished by higher combat training, discipline, and received money for maintenance more than ordinary field troops.
But, in battles, strong-willed and decisive leadership plays a huge role. Thus, in the shortest possible time, General Schwartz was able to turn the half-ruined fortifications of Ivangorod with a fallen garrison spirit into a stronghold, about which three storms of German-Austrian troops crashed. The new George Fortress was not lucky with the commandant. During the First World War, Nikolai Pavlovich Bobyr, general from cavalry, led the defense of the Novogeorgiyevsk fortress. He served all his life in staffs and fortresses, became a prominent orientalist, participating in a number of scientific expeditions, and had almost no combat experience. Probably, Bobyr could become a good scholar, but he led the main fortress of the Russian Empire, which had an exceptional strategic position. Describing the commandant of Novogeorgievsk as a military man, A.I. Denikin calls him “an unsuccessful follower of the dragoniros of show science”.
There was no Bobyr and assistants who could raise people to the feat. Chief of Staff of the fortress N.I. Globachev in the years of the Russian-Japanese war, where he was chief of staff of the 54 Infantry Division, "became famous" for his inability to conduct military operations. And one of the key posts in the Novogeorgiyevsk fortress - the chief of the fortress artillery - was occupied for a long time by a certain professor A. A. Svechin as “an unlucky bureaucrat ... indifferent to a soldier and to a war, unfamiliar with an infantry affair” (Svechin AA The art of driving a regiment. M.-L., 1930) General Karpov, who eventually resigned due to a delicate "economic misunderstanding."
To compensate for this state of affairs could professional and brave backbone of the officers. However, the fortress was deprived of this opportunity. From the outbreak of hostilities, experienced officers, in particular, serf artillery officers, were actively transferred to the army. Together with the requisition of serf guns for the needs of the field artillery, this, if not undermined, then reduced the combat potential of the Novo-Georgievsk fortress.
At the beginning of the war, the Novorogievskaya fortress played the role of an important railway junction and basing point during mobilization. By decision of the Supreme Commander Nikolai Nikolayevich, the formation of three siege artillery brigades begins, the bases for which will be Kovno, Brest-Litovsk and Novogeorgiyevsk fortresses. Heavy weapons were removed from the fortresses, and compensation was weak. During this period, the Russian General Headquarters planned the storming of Krakow, “a campaign to Silesia” and even “to Berlin”. However, these hopes were not justified.
A huge, if not decisive role in the fall of Novgeorgievsk, played a moral factor. From the very beginning of the First World War, the Russian soldiers, although quite vaguely imagined its goals and objectives, but still believed in the slogan: “For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland!”. True, religion for a large number of our soldiers and officers was no longer of such importance as in the nineteenth century. “Fatherland” - everyone understood it differently too. At the beginning of the war, a wave of patriotism captured almost everyone. True, the bulk of the common people was infinitely far from the goals of official propaganda. Dying for the unknown “Constantinople”, incomprehensible “Straits”, or “Dardanelles” - there were few willing people. After all, the enemy did not trample the actual Russian lands. And the officers were not disposed to communicate with the soldiers and some educational work. Especially with patriotism it became bad when hundreds of thousands of people were killed, injured or captured, and the army began to suffer defeat and retreat.
In the summer - in the winter of 1914 of the year, then in the winter - in the spring of 1915 of the year, during the course of several major offensive operations in East Prussia, Poland and Galicia, the color of the Russian army personnel was lost. Indeed, in the war, the bravest and selfless warriors are the first to die. During the war, some regiments lost 300-400% of their composition, that is, they changed their main composition several times. By the spring of 1915, the number of regular officers and non-commissioned officers in many infantry regiments of the Russian army was literally counted by units. And in many parts they all died and were injured. In their place came the former teachers and students, distinguished soldiers.
In the trenches, "selfish" moods gradually began to spread and come to the fore: "Survive at any cost", "Find a reason to be in the rear", etc. The number of deserters, "self-gunners" who surrendered to captivity without serious pressure from the enemy grew, and so on. . D. It is clear that this was not a one-step process, it went gradually. It all began with the voluntary surrender, desertion, “shootouts”, escape to the enemy, and ended, after the February Revolution and “freedom”, with the refusal of entire units to carry out orders of the authorities, abandoning positions, “fraternization” with the enemies and killing their officers , robbery of warehouses, etc.
Decomposition began quietly and did not cover all parts. There were selected units, like the 48-th Kornilov Infantry Division (“Steel”), the 4-th “Iron” Denikin Brigade (later the “Iron” Division), which not only solved the assigned tasks, but also helped the neighbors, were “wand- Gain "command. There were fit, resistant parts, good fighting with the enemy, for which the command was calm. But there were also unstable parts capable of retreating and even running under weak pressure and without orders.
Exactly such weak parts defended Novogeorgievsk. After the Russian Supreme Command decided to abandon Russian Poland, the 27 Army Corps was replaced by the 114 and 119 infantry divisions formed on the basis of the militia, as well as the 58 and 63 Western Front. The combat capability of the units formed on the basis of the militia was low. Many companies in the regiments were headed by ensigns who had recently completed their studies and did not have combat experience. The command did not take care of the proper combat training of the troops.
Great damage to the morale of the garrison was caused by the death of the chief of engineers of the fortress, Colonel Korotkevich, who was killed on July 17 during an inspection of the forward positions. Colonel Khudzinsky, chief of engineers of the Northern department of the fortress, died with him. There were rumors that Major General Krenke, head of defense of the Southern department of the fortress, went to the side of the enemy with a mass of important documents; they want him not to participate in the trip at all. But these rumors had a reliable basis: the Germans seized Korotkevich's documents, among which was the master plan for the fortifications of Novogeorgievsk with the designation of the locations of the heavy batteries.
Thus, in one day, the soldiers no longer trust the command, and the Germans obtained information about the whole fortress fortification system.
The ruins of the fortress at the confluence of the Vistula and Narew
To be continued ...