It is difficult to surprise the sophisticated reader. But I will try. Quote: “Now that more than eight years have passed from this difficult moment and the literature on this historical it’s very rich material that can be said with complete impartiality and obviousness that the violent death of the fortress prevented its natural death for only a few days or at most for a week. ”
Question: what kind of fortress in question? Hint: an excerpt from a military essay written by the colonel of the General Staff of Czarist Russia GD Romanovsky is quoted. Even having received such a hint, not everyone will find the right answer. And this is not surprising, since the opinion of Romanovskii sharply differs from what has been taught in schools for a century. Romanovsky writes completely "unthinkable" things about Port Arthur: it turns out that the senior commander, General Anatoly Stoessel, capitulated at the moment when the fortress essentially exhausted its ability to resist.
How so? Every schoolboy knows that Stoessel treacherously surrendered the city, when the fortress was still full of strength, there were a lot of shells, cartridges, all kinds of provisions. The soldiers rushed into battle, the officers did not think about the surrender and on the military council at Stoessel directly spoke about it and demanded to continue the resistance. But Stoessel deceived them, secretly sent parliamentarians to the Japanese and put all before the fact. As a result, the heroic defense ended in unprecedented betrayal.
Stoessel returned home, and there a trial awaited him. A lot of witnesses were interviewed, each step of the general was disassembled and carefully analyzed. And the natural sentence is the death penalty. True, Nicholas II eventually amnesty the traitor and Stoessel avoids the deserved harsh punishment. Nevertheless, the former general still does not receive any rehabilitation, and he is driven out of the army, living in disgrace and surrounded by contempt from all of Russia, and especially Portartourians who until the last heroically fulfilled their duty, are living out their days.
This is the dominant point of view in our society. The children know that the fortress could have fought for a long time, and the colonel of the General Staff Romanovsky, a member of the defense of Port Arthur, who was awarded the golden saber For Bravery, for some reason turns out to be a blind man who actually rehabilitates Stoessel. In fact, the investigative commission, which dealt with the Port Arthur case, found signs of a whole series of crimes in Stoessel’s actions, and the accusation consisted of many points. However, at the trial, it almost completely collapsed, shrinking to three theses:
1. He handed over the fortress to the Japanese troops, not having used all the means for further defense.
2. Inaction of power.
3. Minor violation of official duties.
By “inaction of power” was meant the following. In Port Arthur, Lieutenant-General Fock criticized in a mocking tone the actions of those not subject to him, but Stoessel did not stop it. For this “inaction of the authorities”, Stossel was then given a month of a guardhouse. The third point is called unimportant by the same court, so we will not consider it.
In the disputes about Port Arthur, I repeatedly noticed how people confused two different documents: the text of the prosecution and the final court decision. There were a lot of accusations, but at the trial, Stessel was acquitted on the absolute majority of points. And to the death penalty Stoessel was sentenced only for the first point - for the premature surrender of the fortress.
Romanovsky claims that Port Arthur could no longer hold. If he is right, Stessel is innocent, there is no betrayal. Therefore, I affirm that Romanovsky is actually rehabilitating the general and refuting the court decision.
But is it possible to trust a single testimony, even if such an authoritative person as Romanovsky, is a colonel at that moment? And what about the general condemnation and contempt that his former subordinates attacked on Stoessel? Let's see.
Here is a telegram to Stossel, Lieutenant Colonel Vadin and Staff Captain Solomonov: “In the difficult moment of the test that befell you, we ask you to accept expressions of our sincere sympathy and deep respect. Having survived with you both the glorious days of Port Arthur and the difficult days of the trial, we now with great hope await the last gracious royal word, and whatever happens with you, we will never forget how much the garrison owes you, our true leader, and on the instructions of which we performed our duty at a difficult time. "
The telegram of the former commander of the 15 East Siberian Rifle Regiment, Major General Gryaznov: and time will justify your determination. "
After the trial of Stoessel, the commission at the General Directorate of the General Staff, having carefully studied the circumstances of the siege of Port Arthur, issued a conclusion regarding the fortress position shortly before the surrender: “On December 10, the Japanese gained major success: they seized the first defensive line on the Western Front. The line of defense on the Eastern Front took on a position that was extremely unfavorable for defense. ”
December 20 night: “Taking the Big Eagle Nest put the second defensive line in such a position that it was almost impossible to stay on it ... again changed the position of the Eastern Front line even more for the worse ... the position of the third defensive line became extremely difficult marvel not only frontal, but also rear fire. "
The commission also found that by December 20 there were thousands of people in 11,5 positions, of which more than half had scurvy. But despite the data of such an authoritative source, there is still a ridiculous figure in journalism - 23, thousands of defenders of Port Arthur. At the same time, the army of General Legs, who besieged Port Arthur, numbered about 20 – 70 thousands of people by 80 December.
In such a situation, the fortress could not hold on much longer. The next general assault would turn into a massacre of the remnants of the Russian garrison, and even into a massacre of the civilian population and the wounded. In August 1904, the Japanese warned Stoessel that they did not guarantee the life of the city’s population if they took it during the assault. How did the defense commander respond?
“Order on the troops of the Kwantung fortified area. 4 August 1904 of the year. No. 496.
Glorious defenders of Arthur!
Today the impudent enemy through parliamentary Major Major Moki sent a letter with an offer to surrender the fortress. You, of course, know how the Russian admirals and generals could answer, with whom a part of Russia was entrusted; Offer rejected. I am confident in you, my brave comrades-in-arms, get ready to fight for Faith and your beloved King. Hooray! God is almighty help us.
Lieutenant-General Stessel ".
But what about the fact that Port Arthur surrendered unexpectedly to his defenders? This well-known thesis also needs to be checked, and here the memories of Portarturs will help us.
The military engineer Lilye kept a diary, regularly recording the events that took place.
Here is an entry from October 21 1904 of the year, that is, two months before the surrender of Port Arthur: “... there is a complete decline in animation. Everyone was obviously fed up with the tested impressions of all the horrors of war. ”
November 22: “The fortress is overworked and makes its last desperate attempt, sending its last defenders to their last battle ...”
November 25: “Many officers are fully aware of all the despair and recklessness of the position of both the fortress itself and its defenders.”
November 27: “In general, the position of the fortress is completely hopeless. There is even talk of surrender in the city. ”
The recording made by Lilier 19 of December, that is, on the last day of resistance, reflects the atmosphere of despair: “The mood in the garrison is the most depressed. Now a lot of voices are openly distributed about the complete impossibility of further defense of the fortress ... ”
Maybe Lilya is wrong? Judges only by itself? Well, there is a passage from the memory of Kholmogorov, a priest from Port Arthur: “December 19 Day. There was gunfire and rifle gunfire, but not assault. December 20 we waited for the decision of their fate, and even began to prepare for death. What was our surprise when we woke up in the morning of 20, we did not hear the cannon and rifle guns at all. Perplexed about what this meant, I hurried to the regimental office and learned there that Gen.-Adjutant Stessel had begun the negotiations with the Japanese on Port Arthur since the evening.
How did this garrison of the fortress? As for the officer circle familiar to me and the defenders of the positions of the right flank, whose opinions I had occasion to learn, they all regarded this as the logical and inevitable end of a hopelessly lost cause. Nobody, no lower ranks, no officers, expressed their desire to keep on. ”
Another key to truth
In the history of defense of Port Arthur there is another common plot. This is a confrontation of patriots led by the heroic General Roman Kondratenko and a certain “party of cowards and capitulators”, consisting of Stessel and his “accomplices” - General Fock and Colonel Reis.
It is alleged that while Kondratenko was alive and led the defense, the Japanese suffered one defeat after another, but when he died, the “party of traitors” lifted its head and quickly brought the fortress to surrender.
Indeed, Kondratenko was killed on December 2 1904 of the year, and only 18 days later Port Arthur surrendered. But does it follow from this that the city could last longer?
On November 25, the Fortress Defense Council was held, and it was suggested that January 1 1905 was the deadline until which the garrison was able to resist.
Kondratenko participated in this discussion. And in those years it was accepted that if the opinion of the council member disagrees with the majority and the officer himself wants to emphasize his disagreement, then the “special opinion” of this person is recorded in the protocol separately from the general text. If a council member believes that his words were distorted when they were recording, then he has the right not to sign the protocol at all. Kondratenko did not express any particular opinion and wrote the text. In other words, he did not protest against the thesis that the city can hold only until January 1, 1905.
In reality, Port Arthur fell on December 20, and the remains of the garrison were withdrawn from the December fortress 23. As you can see, there is no fundamental difference between these dates and January 1. In addition, Portarture Dudorov later recalled that when the Japanese captured Mount High, Kondratenko himself said that this was the beginning of the end. Indeed, this event dramatically worsened the situation of the defenders. From Vysokaya, important sections of the fortress and the harbor where Russian ships sheltered were viewed. The Japanese equipped the High Observation Point, thanks to which they were able to make artillery fire adjustments.
It was Kondratenko who oversaw the High Defense, and then he also organized a counterattack in order to regain control of this key point. Counterattack failed. High called the key of Port Arthur, and this key was in the hands of the enemy during the life of Kondratenko, and Stoessel, whoever he was, has nothing to do with it.
And by the way, why would Stossel be a coward and a traitor? To begin with, he is a participant in the Russian-Turkish war, then fought in China during the Boxing Uprising, and had awards. Neither in cowardice, nor in mediocrity is not noticed. In Port Arthur was wounded in the head, but did not surrender the command. Moreover, when the Japanese began to gradually lash the city, he received a written order from Kuropatkin to leave Port Arthur. Stoessel refused and asked Kuropatkin to allow him to continue to lead the defense. You will laugh, but then it is this fact and put Stossel in the blame. They said that he did not obey the order and "spontaneously" remained in the fortress. Here, a phrase from the film “About the Poor Hussar Say a Word” immediately comes to mind: “I still understand when an impostor is on the throne. But the impostor on the block? "
This phantasmagoria does not end there. Anyone who reads the verdict of the Supreme Military Criminal Court in the case of the surrender of the fortress of Port Arthur will be surprised by the wording. At first, Stessel is sentenced to death. Then the same court in the same document appeals to the tsar with a petition to commute the sentence to ten years imprisonment. He motivates his request by saying that the fortress “stood up under the leadership of Lieutenant General Stoessel's unprecedented stubbornness in the annals of military history defense” and also “that during the entire siege Lieutenant General Stoessel maintained the heroic spirit of the defenders of the fortress”.
What do we see? "Traitor" directs the defense so much so that it amazes with its perseverance. "Coward" successfully supports the heroic spirit of the defenders! Agree, something is wrong here.
And the last. The thesis that Stoessel passed the city contrary to the opinion of the military council.
Indeed, shortly before the fall of the fortress, another military council was held, at which the current situation was discussed. What the officers said was recorded in the meeting log, and this document was made public a long time ago.
Anyone can be sure that very strange things were happening on the council. One by one, the officers described in detail the desperate position of the fortress, explained for a long time why it was impossible to hold on, but nevertheless called for the defense to continue.
Here are typical examples.
Lieutenant Colonel Dmitrevsky: "You can still defend, but for how long, it is not known, but it depends on the Japanese ... We have almost no means to repulse the assault."
Major General Gorbatovsky: "We are very weak, there are no reserves, but it is necessary to keep and, moreover, on the front line ..."
I assure you, most of the meeting participants argued in the same way. However, in fact, this is not surprising. Nobody just wants to be known as a coward, nobody wants to get into a situation where a finger is pointed at him as the person who offered to give up. To some extent, subordinates set up their commander, who perfectly saw that there was nothing to defend, and responsibility for an unpopular decision would lie only on him.
Here it is appropriate to recall the military council in Fili, where the majority of votes were for the defense of Moscow.
Kutuzov, contrary to the opinion of the military council, passed Moscow, but went down in history as an outstanding commander and patriot of Russia. Meanwhile, Stoessel, who defended a completely blocked city in China for many months, thousands of kilometers from the vital centers of our country, who inflicted a series of heavy defeats on the Japanese, is still cursing as a traitor.
Those who had tried Stoessel knew the circumstances of the military council and, I think, perfectly understood what really happened. And despite this, sentenced to death. In general, the more you study the circumstances of that trial, the more the impression is that they simply made a scapegoat out of the general. This, at least, and most likely the court was completely ordered, that is, they deliberately slandered the true hero of Port Arthur in order to demoralize the army, expel the real patriot from its ranks, and maybe save the traitors and saboteurs by hanging their crimes on the brave and honest, but inexperienced in the intrigues of the general.
Among the judges was Nikolai Vladimirovich Ruzsky, that is, the person who later became one of the main participants in the overthrow of Nicholas II. By the way, he, along with Guchkov and Shulgin, was present at the "denial" of the king. Do you know who the prosecution represented at the trial? Alexander Mikhailovich Gursky, who was later appointed by the Provisional Government to be the chairman of the Main Military Court. Admiral Grigorovich gave testimony against Stessel - later the Minister of the Navy and one of the most important participants in the February revolution.
All of these are future Februaryists, that is, people who have thought to arrange the overthrow of state power in the midst of World War II. I am not going to argue now about whether Nicholas II deserved to be overthrown or not. But the fact is that a coup d'état during the war in any case led to a loss of controllability of the country, disorganization of the army and a sharp drop in defense capability. Treason in Russia started up not in the 1917 year, but much earlier.