Peter I entered history as an outstanding statesman and military leader of Russia, the founder of the regular army and fleet, a talented commander and diplomat, whom even in the West, when compared with Frederick II, was called "a truly great man."
The most important reforms of Peter I are military reforms. Held under the conditions of rapid economic and political growth, they turned Russia into one of the most powerful military powers of Europe, allowed to return to the Baltic Sea, to seize all those "that was absolutely necessary for the natural development of the country."
Creating a regular army, Peter I went a new, independent way, different from the Western states, where by that time the mercenary-recruiting system of recruitment into the army was finally formed. Soldiers of any nationality who served only for salaries were accepted for military service. The exception was Sweden, whose army was staffed largely by its own "settled soldiers". Peter I, well aware of all the advantages of a homogeneous army in terms of national composition, retained the old Russian experience of recruiting “dutch people” from a certain number of peasant and township courtyards. He gave this system a strict order and established a life-long (later 25 years) service for soldiers on full state support. In 1705, the “handlers” became known as recruits.
Recruitment duty, undoubtedly, laid a heavy burden on the shoulders of ordinary people. However, a new way of recruiting a regular army allowed to quickly replenish it with people and was the most perfect for its time. Immediately after the Azov campaigns, the Russian tsar began a gradual abolition of the Strelets army, and in return ordered him to begin the formation of the first 30 regiments of the regular army.
The system of education and training of troops introduced by Peter I was also advanced. If in hired armies a drill and cane discipline were imposed, and the fighting spirit was “maintained” by the fear of punishment, then in the Russian army “moral training” of soldiers began to be based on such character traits of the Russian people as national pride and patriotism, hatred for foreign invaders, readiness for self-sacrifice in the name of the Fatherland, etc. Of course, the same feudal system prevailed in the army then, as in all of Russia, but the soldier was inspired to be a defender of the Motherland, and his title was honorable.
"... You must not think," said Peter I before the battle of Poltava, "that you are fighting for Peter, but for the state." All this found understanding among the soldiers, all the more so that the king demanded a strict but respectful attitude towards his subordinates and care for their needs from the officers: “To praise their good deeds and to repay them. For the thin, they are firmly and diligently punished. ”
Peter I was an opponent of drill and parade training, demanded to teach what is necessary for the fight, introduced new forms and methods of training, close to combat conditions, "like in the battle itself." To this end, he introduced the bilateral field exercises of the troops - maneuvers that were not practiced yet in the European armies of the time. They were considered "supposedly a precursor of the case." To avoid a pattern in the application of the tactical provisions of the statute, as it was in the foreign armies, the king-reformer sought to develop an initiative in his subordinates. In additions to the 1716 military regulations of the year, developed by him, it was stated that the regulations describe the orders, but not every possible case is described, "but therefore the statute should not be kept like a blind wall." This was the beginning of the best traditions of the Russian army, which were carefully preserved and developed by progressive commanders of Russia over the centuries. Many of them have survived to this day.
The homogeneous national composition of the Russian army, the advanced system of education and training of troops, the progressive nature of the wars that Peter the Great led, gave him soldiers with significantly higher moral and fighting qualities than in the Western armies. The army of Peter I was equipped with an advanced, quite modern infantry weapons and the latest artillery, had a coherent organization that ensured close cooperation in the battle of infantry, cavalry and artillery. He skillfully used all this to use new tactical combinations on the battlefield, new methods of warfare, inaccessible to mercenary armies. The Russian army became the ancestor of the most advanced trends in the art of war, which was born on the battlefields of the Northern War.
Due to the international situation that had developed by the beginning of the 18th century, Russia was unable to prepare for the war with Sweden of Charles XII in advance, therefore its army was created during the war. The first bitter lesson for the Petrine regiments, scrawled and almost untrained, was the heavy defeat at Narva (1700), where they faced a highly experienced Swedish regular army. Fortunately for Russia, her young king had the ability to soberly evaluate events and draw the right conclusions, both from success and failure. After the failure of Narva Peter unleashed a stormy activity to create and train the army, which soon began to bear fruit.
For the commanding art of Peter I in the Northern War, first of all, the decisiveness of the strategy is typical. Against the background of the wars of the West with their cordon strategy and long maneuvering, the strategy of the Russians became a new word in the art of war. Its appearance was determined by the decisive and progressive nature of the political goals of Russia, which was waging war for the return of the exit to the Baltic Sea, which was so necessary for its development. Peter I’s deep understanding of the relationship between strategy and politics is the most important feature of his commander’s art.
Peter realized that the “classical strategy” that prevailed in the West, in which the commanders, in fear of losing their army, tried to avoid decisive battles, was not suitable for the Russian state. Such a strategy led to insignificant results in the war. For him, however, he needed a complete victory over Sweden, and Peter I decided to reach it by crushing the military power of Sweden on land and at sea, which, along with the army, required a strong fleet. The idea of the need for a fleet for Russia was clearly expressed in the Peter the Great Sea Charter 1720 of the year: "Every Potentate (sovereign) who has a single land army has one hand, and which the fleet has both hands."
Peter I developed new active forms of war, in which maneuver was not an end in itself, but a means of achieving favorable conditions for holding a general battle and completely defeating the enemy’s armies. Combining determination with caution, he went to the general battle consistently, mobilizing all the reserves of the state, skillfully combining various forms of struggle, defense and attack. Both with defensive and offensive actions demanded high activity and initiative.
Possessing a rare insight, Peter I skillfully extracted strategic benefits from the current military-political situation, correctly choosing the direction of the main attack and the form of military operations. It is known that in the first period of the Northern War (from 1700 to 1706), after the defeat near Narva, he adopted a defensive plan. But the defense of the Russian army was exceptionally active, not peculiar to the military art of the West. In addition, the Russian commander skillfully took advantage of the miscalculation of Charles XII, who overestimated the results of the Narva victory and decided to transfer the main military efforts to Poland in order to defeat it and thus, as the Swedish king assumed, to complete the conquest of the whole Eastern Europe.
Preparing the country for defense and directing all his indomitable energy to the creation of a large regular army and navy, Peter I simultaneously launched a “small war”, setting himself the aim of defeating the Swedish troops left in Estonia and Livonia. The Russian army did not sit out in the cities and fortresses in anticipation of the enemy, and she was looking for him. Peter I did not miss any opportunity to strike at the enemy troops, exhausting the forces of the Swedes with unexpected attacks. So, in 1701, they were defeated at Erestfere, in 1702, at Gummelshof, on the Izhora River, near Kexholm (Priozersk) and Noteburg (Petrokrepost). In the 1703 year, the Swedish fortresses of Nyenskans, Yamburg, Koporye were taken, in the 1704 year - Derpt (Tartu) and Narva with Ivangorod.
As a result of vigorous actions during 1701 -1704. All the Swedish troops located in the region of the Gulf of Finland and on the Neva shores were broken up in parts. The Russian army reached the Baltic Sea. With a defensive general plan of war, Peter I already at that time was able to achieve its first strategic goal. The young army of Peter gained combat experience in the “small war,” hardened, believed in her strength. “We finally achieved that,” wrote the commander, “that the Swedes are already winning.”
Now Russia faces a new challenge - to firmly establish itself on the Baltic coast. Peter I saw her decision in the construction of new fortresses and in the intensive work on the creation of the Baltic Fleet and its first bases.
In 1703, the construction of St. Petersburg began, and to protect the approaches to it from the sea, the same year Kronslot was built on Kotlin Island. Ahead of the fortress were erected forts, reinforced coastal artillery. The Baltic Fleet, which by the year 1708 numbered 46 large warships (frigates, galleys, firefighters, brigantines), was created at a rapid pace.
Peter's military art was most fully revealed in the second, most crucial period of the Northern War (from 1707 to 1709), when Charles XII, encouraged by England and Holland, launched an invasion of Russia. Like other Western conquerors who attacked the Russian lands, the Swedish king aimed the main blow at Moscow. Peter I divined the plans of the enemy and contrasted them with his deeply thought-out plan of military operations. Concentrating the main forces, including the newly created 50-thousand-strong reserve army, to cover the Moscow strategic direction, he fought to delay them countries, exhausting enemy forces in defensive battles, destroyed them in parts by strikes of mobile units, disrupted communications, supplies, etc. The Swedes very quickly began to experience an acute shortage of food and fodder. In our land, the rule generally accepted in those years was not justified, according to which "war should fuel the war." That is why Charles XII already in September 1708 of the year was forced to abandon the march on Moscow and turned his army towards Ukraine, where he relied on the help of the traitor Mazepa and the sympathy of the population. This was the undoubted success of Peter I. With skillful actions, he achieved a change in the strategic situation, imposed his will on the Swedish king.
The Russian commander immediately gained from the prevailing conditions in the theater of military operations. With great skill, he carried out an exceptional complexity maneuver - a parallel strategic pursuit of the enemy with his main forces. During his sweeping communications, the Swedes were attacked by mobile detachments separated from the main forces. The culmination of parallel persecution was the battle of the village of Lesnoy (September 28 (October 9) 1708), in which a mobile detachment of cavalry and infantry under personal control of Peter utterly defeated the sixteen thousandth corps of Levengaupt, who was in a hurry to unite with the main army of Karl XII and hanging a huge army ammunition and food. Peter I himself assessed the victory at Lesnaya as “the mother of Poltava victory”.
Victory changed the balance of power. The “small war,” which Peter I had waged with such skill and care until this time, bore fruit. The strategic initiative was taken out of the hands of the enemy. Now Peter I began to look for the general battle. But considering it a dangerous business, he was still calculating, he carefully prepared himself, he chose the most advantageous moment for the decisive blow in order to act for sure. Such a moment presented itself in the summer of 1709, when the Swedish army, not having received the expected help in Ukraine from the Cossacks and the support of the population, deprived of the defeat of the Forest replenishment, ammunition, food, was in a strategic impasse. Concentrated in the region of Poltava, she was bogged down in an unsuccessful siege of this small city.
8 June Peter I decided to attack the Swedes. By the end of the month, he concentrated the main forces near Poltava, and with separate detachments he blocked the Swedish army. To participate in the battle, 42 thousand people and 72 guns against 20 thousand men and 4's guns left by Charles XII were allocated (28 Swedish guns without ammunition were in the train). June 27 Russian army commanded by Peter in the Battle of Poltava completely defeated the Swedish troops. Their remnants, overtaken as a result of organized persecution, quickly capitulated. Under Poltava, the military might of Sweden was crushed on land and the outcome of the Northern War was predetermined.
In subsequent years, the Russian army completed the defeat of the Swedish troops in the Baltic States, captured Finland. The young Russian fleet, created by Peter, by its victories at sea, deprived Sweden of its sea power. At this stage of the war, especially in the battles of Gangut and Grengam, Peter I declared himself and as a talented naval commander. He skillfully organized the strategic interaction of the naval forces with the ground forces.
Peter I enriched not only the strategy, but also made a major contribution to the development of tactics. Deeply understanding the essence of the battle, and using the high combat and moral qualities of the Russian soldier, he became the first in the conditions of linear tactics, based on fire fighting, found the right combination of fire and bayonet strike. In contrast to Western European views, Peter I considered fire only as a means of preparing a bayonet attack. Since then, the Russian infantry has gained fame unsurpassed in force of the "bayonets."
An innovation was also introduced in the construction of a linear order of battle. Peter I refused to evenly distribute forces on the front, began to focus them on the most important areas, to allocate private and general reserves to build up the force of impact from the depths. For example, in a battle near Lesnaya, the main lines are amplified by grenadier companies set between them. In the Battle of Poltava in a new way, in two lines, each regiment was built. The second-line battalions essentially performed the role of private reserves, supporting the first line of their regiments in battle. In addition, Peter left a general reserve of the 9 battalions in the fortified camp. Thus, he gave the order of battle a certain depth. For the convenience of maneuver in battle, the linear order of battle often dismembered along the front.
Contrary to the patterns of linear tactics, when troops built with solid lines and strictly tied to their place as part of battle formation, were deprived of the possibility of maneuver and interaction along the front, the Russian commander demanded: “We must firmly watch each other for a second, and when the enemy goes on one wing, then the other wing of the enemy from the rear or flank to attack "". His improvements in order of battle and were aimed at achieving this requirement, as well as at eliminating the basic flaws of linear tactics. Created eat the depth order of battle and the dismemberment of Peter I predetermined the further development of tactics, he took the first steps on the way to the tactics of deep battle.
The newly adopted order of battle and the high fighting qualities of the soldiers allowed the Russian army to abandon the rule that existed - to fight only on the open level terrain. Moreover, seeing in it the weakness of the Western European armies, the Russian commander demanded to use rough and wooded terrain for battle.
The experience of military operations in the Lesnaya area and in Finland clearly showed the advantages of the Russian army in combat on rough terrain. A new step forward was made in the organization of interaction on the battlefield of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Peter I abandoned the traditional location of cavalry in the columns on the flanks of the battle formation. To enhance its activity in battle, he built cavalry, like infantry, most often in full lines for a joint attack.
For a closer cooperation of artillery with other branches of the armed forces, regular regimental artillery is introduced into the infantry and cavalry regiments. The field artillery began to unite into large batteries, which occupied firing positions in the most important areas.
An unusual and new in the field of tactics was the engineering training of Peter I of the battlefield near Poltava. The advanced position built by him in the form of a redoubt system allowed the enemy army to disrupt the battle formations of the enemy army, dismember its columns and beat the enemy piecemeal, and then deliberately retreat the cavalry to bring it under the flank fire attack of the entire Russian army from the fortified camp.
The Russian regular army created by Peter I and the principles of military art developed by him predetermined the development of military affairs in Russia for many decades. The provisions of the Petrovsky Military Charter of 1716 of the year were the basis for all subsequent statutes of the Russian army until the end of the XVIII century. They were supplemented and developed in the instructions and manuals of such outstanding commanders as P.A. Rumyantsev, A.V. Suvorov, M.I. Kutuzov. These great commanders considered themselves the disciples of Peter, the successors of the Russian military traditions established by him. The military legacy of Peter I was the source from which they and other leading figures of Russia drew principles for organizing, educating and training the army, the rules of warfare and combat, and learned to win. A.V. Suvorov called him a great man and the first commander of his age in all respects.
The role of Peter I in the development of military art goes far beyond the national framework. Not only in Russia, but also abroad his military activity was investigated, his experience was used. The Russian commander was one of the largest military authorities for Napoleon, who carefully studied the history of the Northern War before going to Russia. Peter I as high as a military leader and commander, many other European commanders. His military theoretical legacy was appreciated by domestic military science.
Kresnovsky A. History of the Russian Army: M .: Golos, 1992. C. 17-67.
Porfiryev E. Peter I - the founder of the military art of the Russian regular army and navy. M .: Voenizdat, 1962, S. 97-104
A group of authors. History of military art. t.1. M .: Military Publishing, 1983. C. 114-118
Ivanov V. The Military Art of Peter I. // VIZH. 1982. No.8. C. 66-70
Shishov A. Poltava battle [1709 g.] // Army collection. 1995. No.7. C.3-7.