Corsairs in the Russian service

From the universal school course stories Russian students will learn about the "famous corsairs" Francis Drake and John Hockens, whom Elizabeth I elevated to the nobility for services to the English kingdom, rewarded with naval ranks. Much less domestic lovers of history are aware of the merits of "sea wolves" in front of the Russian state. It's a pity, because their biographies can add additional color to important points in the history of our country.

One of the first corsairs who switched to the service of the Russian Empire was the Greek Ioannis Varvakis (in Russia he was named after Jan Varvach, and then - Ivan Andreevich Varvatsi). His bright destiny even inspired the Greek director Yannis Smaragdis to create the film “Pirates of the Aegean Sea”, released in 2012 year.
Varvakis was born in the 1732 year (according to other data, in the 1750 year) on the small and native Psara island for Homer. From a young age he was engaged in maritime trade. However, in the XVIII century, the line separating trade in the Aegean Sea from robbery was very conditional. No wonder the old Greek saying says: "To trade well, you have to be a warrior." The title of captain, which the young Varvakis possessed, meant in Greece not just a maritime qualification or position, but also the person who headed the team of the so-called cross brothers — free sailors who were grouped near a church they worshiped.

An important feature of Greek piracy in the XVIII century was its national liberation coloring. Representatives of the Ottoman administration and Turkish merchant ships became the main targets of attacks by the corsairs of Hellas. Nevertheless, the corsage in the Aegean Sea was not exclusively Greek occupation, and the Turkish sailors, including the military, were actively engaged in this. As Yevgeny Tarle noted, they committed pirate attacks on the ships of not only hostile nations, but also neutral and even friendly powers.
The scale of the corsair activity of Varvakis is evidenced by the fact that the Turkish sultan promised a large reward for his head. With the beginning of the Baltic Archipelago Expedition fleet Russia (1770), Varvakis, like many Greeks, Albanians and Balkan Slavs, voluntarily joined in his own ship the Russian squadron under the command of Count Alexei Orlov and Admiral Grigory Sviridov. By May 1771, there were already 2659 natives of the Balkan Peninsula in service in the Russian Navy.
26 June 1770, the entire Turkish fleet in the Aegean Sea was destroyed in the nightly Chesme battle. It is with participation in this battle that the beginning of the service of Varvakis to the Russian state is linked. Over the next three years, he participated in the blocking of the Dardanelles, cruising (patrolling) the Russian fleet of the coast of the Balkans, Asia Minor and other regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. These actions were aimed at curbing the transportation of goods to the capital of the Ottoman Empire, to “starve” Constantinople. They were often accompanied by the seizure of "prizes" (goods that belonged to the Turks or could be recognized by the military). Cruising was carried out by detachments that included both the regular ships of the Russian fleet and the ships of the Greek or Slavic captains-fittings who had received Russian patents.

Corsairs in the Russian service

Figure in the church book of the frigate Lambros Kachonis

In 1772, Jan Vorvachu (as indicated in the imperial decree) was granted the rank of lieutenant. In the spring of 1774, he commanded the landing party at 130 of the Ipsarians, who took the Turkish battery in the Strait of Chios. After the end of the Russian-Turkish war of 1768 – 1774, Varvakis, like many of his compatriots, moved to the Russian Empire at the call of Catherine II. Greek immigrants were granted substantial benefits and guarantees. On 20 years they were exempted from paying taxes. State funds were used to build houses, hospitals, churches, shops, barracks, gymnasiums for immigrants. Each of the immigrants received a lump sum of 12 rubles and food for a year. In addition, the Russian government handed over fishing factories to the Greeks and granted them the right to trade throughout the state without any restrictions. To settle the Greeks allocated land at the fortresses of Kerch and Enikale, on the territory of the future Yalta district, and then near Taganrog.
The Russian government was extremely interested in the services of the Greeks in the development of the navy in the south, the establishment of maritime trade. Apparently, Varvakis had important proposals on this account, as he received a personal audience with the empress. The royal reception for the former Greek corsair was organized by Grigory Potemkin, he also had a very great influence on the further fate of Varvakis in Russia. The Grand Duke proposed to direct Greek's boiling energy to the economic development of the Astrakhan province, of which he became Governor-General in 1776 year.
From the hands of the Empress, Varvakis received confirmation of an officer's patent, a thousand ducats and the right of duty-free trade in the Astrakhan province for a period of 10 years. True, in the first years of his life in Astrakhan, Varvakis performed primarily military-diplomatic functions. Under the command of his comrade Marco Voinovich, he participated in a responsible expedition to create a Russian trading post on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Varvakis organized trade flights to Persia itself, and then began renting large fishing vessels in the Caspian. In the year 1789 for success in the economic development of the Caspian region now Ivan Andreevich Varvatsi received Russian citizenship, the title of court counselor and hereditary nobility.
Trade and fisheries in the Caspian were very profitable occupations and allowed Ivan Andreevich to quickly earn a million fortune, to do charity work. In total, he spent up to 3,5 million rubles on charity and socially useful affairs in Russia and 1,4 spent million rubles in favor of Greece. In Astrakhan, Varvakis participated in the construction of a city canal, named for him Varvatsievsky. The 75-meter cathedral bell tower, the stone hospital on 50 people and the Tikhvin Church attached to it were built at his expense. In Taganrog, he generously donated to the construction of the temple of Alexander Nevsky in the Greek Jerusalem Monastery. In 1812, the Greek sent funds to help the Russian army fighting against Napoleon. The merits of Ivan Andreevich were awarded the Order of St. Prince Vladimir, IV degree and the Order of St. Anna of the second class.
In the 1823 year, Varvakis returned to Greece, where, until his death (1825 year), he fought Ottoman rule. In modern Greece, he is a very revered historical figure.
Probably the most famous privateer who switched to the Russian service was US citizen John Paul Jones. True, objectively, he began to act in the interests of the Russian state long before Catherine II elevated Jones to the rank of Rear Admiral of the Russian Navy. Robbering in the interests of the governments of the United States and France, Paul Jones delivered a lot of trouble to the English fleet at the very time when the decision was made to annex the Crimea to Russia. Britain tried to counteract the strengthening of Russia at the expense of Turkey, but was tied with the war with the American militia and privateers.

House Varvatsi in TaganrogDom Varvatsi in Taganrog

A critical attitude towards the British authorities was formed by Paul during his Scottish youth. After moving to 1773 in North American Virginia, the Scot became close to the future author of the US Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, and fell into the whirlpool of the anti-British uprising. In 1775, he raised a stars and stripes flag over the first warship of the American states. The following year, commanding the Providence 12-gun sloop, Paul Jones captured or destroyed more than thirty English ships. In October, 1777, his vessel was able to deliver ammunition and food to New York for George Washington’s besieged from land and sea troops to New York. Then, settling in French Brest, the American marque on the 19-cannon corvette conducted daring raids off the British coast, attacked British ships, making it difficult to supply the royal army in North America.
In 1779, Paul Jones performs his most famous feat of the sea. On the 40-gun ship “Poor Richard”, suffering a hopeless defeat from the newest 50-gun English frigate “Serapis” and 20-gun sloop “Countess Scarborough”, Paul ventured to the boarding and won a victory. Immediately after this fight ended, “Poor Richard” sank. A privateer won a similar victory at the end of 1779 on the way back from Europe to North America.
In America, Paul Jones congress awarded the highest distinction of the United States - the Medal of Honor, and he was awarded the gratitude of "the whole nation." However, after the conclusion of the Versailles Peace 1783 year and the abolition of privateering in the United States, he remained out of work. For several years, the American hero lived in Europe until he received (in 1787 year) an invitation from Catherine II to go to the service of the Russian Empire.
There was a Second (Potemkin) Russian-Turkish war. The regular Black Sea Fleet of Russia was still being created, the lack of experienced officers was one of its main problems. Paul Jones was given the command of a semi-courier squadron of sailing ships in the Dnieper-Bug estuary (he replaced the Greek Panayot Aleksiano at this post). This appointment provoked protests by the Greeks and the British, who served in the Black Sea Fleet. The latter reasonably considered Paul Jones "a traitor and a pirate." However, this conflict was compensated by the friendly relations of the American with Alexander Suvorov, who commanded the corps guarding the Black Sea coast from the mouth of the Bug to Perekop.
23 May 1788, Paul Jones raised his counter-admiral flag on the St. Vladimir flagship. Under his command were three battleships, five frigates and six small sailing ships. At the head of this squadron 7 June 1788, he took part in repelling the attack of the Turkish squadron, which broke through to Kherson.
17 – 18 June, an American became one of the main actors in a successful battle for Russia that took place near Ochakov. The ships of his squadron took part in an unexpected attack on the Turkish squadron, forcing the enemy's gun ship to be stranded (destroyed by Russian rowing ships). Subsequently, during a personal correspondence with Potemkin, Paul Jones insisted that it was he who had the idea to install a hidden battery on the Kinburn Spit, which caused the greatest damage to the Turks. Before his departure to St. Petersburg in the autumn of 64, he had several successful battles. In September, his subordinates captured a significant Turkish rowing ship, and a month later, Jones' squadron destroyed an entire enemy detachment of several ships. Successful actions of the Russian fleet in the estuary made it possible at the end of 1788 to take the powerful Turkish fortress Ochakov.
In the spring of 1789, Jones inspected Kronstadt, as well as developing a number of projects for the Russian government. Among them - the conclusion of the military alliance of Russia and the United States, joint naval operations in the Mediterranean against Turkey and Algeria. Developing this idea, he proposed to create a political and economic union against England. Jones' projects were considered relevant, but premature.
In September, 1789, during a two-year vacation, Paul Jones left Russia. He was not able to return to our country, since 18 July 1792, he suddenly died in Paris (at the age of 45 years). Paul Jones is considered the founder of the US Navy. In 1905, in recognition of his achievements, the reburial of the body of the famous sailor on the territory of the US Naval Academy was held in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt.

One of the most successful privateors' floaters under the Russian flag was assembled in 1788 by the efforts of the Greek Lambros Kacionis (in Russia his name was Lambro Cachoni). This native of Levadia, Greece, at 18, volunteers to join the Russian fleet during the First Archipelago Expedition. After moving to Russia, Kachoni enlisted in the Greek regiment of the Russian army, rose to the rank of captain, and gained noble dignity.
At the beginning of the Second Russian-Turkish War, the Russian naval forces in the south were so much inferior to the Ottoman fleet in terms of size and equipment that even a squadron built for Catherine II’s voyage to the Crimea was put under arms. Many of its vessels were hastily armed and adapted for actions against the enemy. The weakness of the Black Sea Fleet should have been compensated by detachments of armed civilian courts. Fortunately, since the time of the First Archipelago Expedition on the Black Sea coast of Russia, thousands of Greeks have settled, many of whom were skilled navigators and offered their services to the Russian command on the basis of privateering. One of them was Lambro Cachoni.
In October, the first letters of marqueres were issued on the Black Sea by order of Grigori Potemkin on the Black Sea. True, this is due to the peculiarities of the organization of maritime affairs in Russia. If in Europe the owners of letters of marque independently equipped and maintained ships, recruited teams (in the hope of earning money from military mining), in Russia the state played a great role. The Russian state allocated weapons and supplies for the privateers, paid a salary, assigned officers to the captains of such ships. This was due to the fact that domestic shipowners were not so rich, in addition, in Russia there was a ban on private ownership of guns. In the 1787, the Black Sea Fleet already contained 1790 of mariners and 37 sea boats. These were mainly ships with Greek commanders and Greek crews.
In October, the squad of Kachoni on boats 1787 seized a Turkish vessel not far from Hajibey, later called the “Prince of Potemkin-Tavrichesky”. Armed with a dozen guns with a team at 60, the Prince of Potemkin man became a thunderstorm of the Turkish merchant fleet in the Black Sea. Privateers have manifested themselves in many operations against the military forces of Turkey, acting both as part of regular squadrons and independently. In the summer of 1788, during the sea battle at Ochakov, the sailing squadron of Paul Jones included the letters of marquets “Potemkin”, “Holy Anna”, “Our Lady of Turleni”, “Mayilet”, and “Bee”. The 19 mariner ships disembarked the landing in 1789, near the port of Constanta.
In order to divert the forces of the Turkish fleet from the Black Sea in 1788, the Russian command began preparations for an operation in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was planned to be carried out by the forces of the Baltic Fleet and marque squadrons (the campaign of the ships of the Baltic Fleet was canceled due to the beginning of the Russian-Swedish war). By the decision of Grigory Potemkin, by that time, Major Lambro Kachoni had already been sent to Trieste with the task of forming the privateer's flotilla for "actions against the enemy ships under the Russian flag." In Trieste, the Greek bought, equipped, equipped a three-masted ship “Minerva Severnaya” with private donations and own funds. In February, 1788 of the year was even examined by the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, giving a very favorable assessment.
February 28 “Minerva Severnaya” began cruising the Greek archipelago, during which a marx squadron began to form from captured and joined ships. By May 1788, it numbered 10 ships (around 500 sailors) and was so intensified that it was able to carry out a successful assault on the Turkish fortress on the island of Kastel Rosso. This island has become one of the support bases of privateers.
The Turkish command was forced to send a squad of 18 ships to the fight against the Russian-Greek flotilla. However, the Turkish expedition ended in vain, and Catherine II was so impressed with the successes of the capers that she ordered "to draw this flotilla into her own ministry ... to pay all the costs and content thereof."

battleship Saint VladimirLinkor "Saint Vladimir"

In the autumn of 1788, Kachoni, at the head of his squadron, returned to Trieste, where, at the expense of the funds raised by the kanar and with the financial support of the merchant Nikolai Jorge, he began to prepare a new campaign. The Russian command, however, helped him to resolve the conflict with the Austrian authorities (at the end of 1788, the Greek even went to prison), supplied the court with provisions.
In 1789 – 1790, the squadron of Kachoni, along with a detachment of Maltese taken to the Russian service, Guglielmo Lorenz, increased the strikes against Turkish forces in the Mediterranean. Although the successes of Kachoni were overshadowed by the complaints of European ambassadors about the looting of neutral courts, as well as the conflict with the Mediterranean command of the Russian naval forces. This conflict was caused by the desire of the command, based in the Sicilian Syracuse, to limit the independence of Kachoni, to give "greater regularity" to the structure and actions of the squadron.
17 – 18 May 1790 of the year in battle between the islands of Andros and Evia the Greek flotilla suffered a heavy defeat from the superior forces of the Turks. Kachoni himself was wounded and was saved by a miracle. However, collecting the surviving ships, he continued to fight with the Turks. For military service, Lambro Kachoni was promoted to colonel and honored with the Order of Saint George of the 4th degree, he received land ownership in the Crimea.
Signs of attention of the Russian authorities did not prevent the colonel to respond very sharply to the conditions of the Yassky peace treaty 1790 of the year. Kachoni considered them a betrayal of the interests of Greece and refused to lay down weapon (as stated in his appeal in May 1792). However, in the absence of support from Russia, the Greek corsairs were quickly defeated. Kachoni himself tried to recuperate to fight the Turks in the Venetian Ionian Islands. In 1794, the Greek was allowed to return to Russia, and in September 1795, he was awarded a second audience with the Empress. After the ascension to the throne of Paul I, Kachoni offered his services to fight the French in the Mediterranean. Moving away from military affairs, he was engaged in distillation, agriculture and maritime trade in the Crimea. Lambro Kachoni’s life was tragically interrupted near Kerch in 1805. In Greece, his name today remains a vivid symbol of the national liberation struggle.
That was the fate of the three “sea wolves” who entered the service of the Russian state in the second half. XVIII century. When deciding on the Russian service, they were guided by different motives, had very different service stories. These fates are vivid examples of how, in the most difficult historical period for Russia, the state was very pragmatic about the selection of foreign personnel to solve difficult tasks, it was able to find a worthy use of the talents of each of them.
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  1. +5
    3 July 2016 06: 35
    Interesting. And it is significant for what merits Russian citizenship could be obtained.
  2. +7
    3 July 2016 07: 11
    There were earlier such "workers" in the Russian service. Remember Carsten Rode, for example. Ivan the Terrible issued a security letter to Karsten Rohde - “... to take the enemies by force, and to find their ships with fire and sword, to engage and destroy according to our majesty letters ... And to our governors and orders people of that chieftain Carsten Rode and his skippers, comrades and assistants in our havens on the sea and on the land in care and honor to keep. "
  3. +3
    3 July 2016 07: 15
    Lambro Kachoni's life was tragically interrupted near Kerch in 1805.

    Unclear. The time and place of death are indicated exactly, but the author did not mention the reason for unclear reasons. It's a pity. I am sure that he knows it.
    1. 0
      4 July 2016 02: 23
      The author avoided covering many interesting facts from the lives of these individuals. Perhaps on purpose, so that readers "come" to them on their own.
  4. +2
    3 July 2016 08: 03
    Thank you, one of the interesting pages in our history ..
  5. +5
    3 July 2016 08: 08
    One of the first corsairs who entered the service of the Russian Empire was Greek Ioannis Varvakis

    One of, but not the first.
    1566 - the Livonian war is in full swing. Narva is in the hands of Russians, but Swedish and Lithuanian ships block this important trading port. To combat the robbery in 1570, Tsar Ivan created the Russian corsair fleet, which won several brilliant victories.
    Naturally, Russia had neither ships nor access to this sea. Ivan the Terrible markedly intensified the activities of his spies in Europe, setting them the task of finding a man who would have authority among sailors and was known as a notorious pirate. Imperial ambassadors were able to interest the famous Danish pirate Karsten Rode. It is not known whether Rode came to Moscow or all the negotiations between the tsar and the pirate were conducted through intermediaries. One way or another, Rode agreed to piracy in the Baltic Sea for the good of Russia, more precisely Russia.
    The terms of the contract between the king and Rode are interesting. Having received the consent of the pirate, Ivan the Terrible assigns him the title of “punished captain” and issues a privateer certificate. This paper gave this person the authority to conduct military operations at sea on behalf of Russia. This is the first reliably established fact of issuing a letter of marque by the Russian state.
    So, Rode received “initial capital” from Ivan the Terrible and bought a small sailing and oar boat (according to some sources, pink, according to other sources, flutes) in the port of Ahrensburg on the island of Ezel (now - Estonian Saaremaa) from Ivan the Terrible.
    Here, the necessary supplies were acquired and a team was recruited. According to some reports, Ivan the Terrible sent Russian pomors and Moscow gunners to Saaremaa, which were to become a guarantee of Rode’s successful activity, and at the same time lead the “proper investigation” for the pirates. The ship's displacement did not exceed forty tons, but already had several cannons on board. It is possible that they were delivered to the ship from Russia along with the gunners.
    Polish and Swedish kings were surprised to find that an unknown enemy had appeared in the waters of the Baltic Sea. Intelligence left no doubt - this is the fleet of Ivan the Terrible. And soon the first ship, intended for the new fleet of Russia (one of the three captured) arrived at the port of Narva. Opponents of Russia realized that it was no longer possible to wait, and first of all they piled on the whole world on Narva. For several days, the defenders of the fortress could not stand the siege. Russia lost Narva, and with it the only access to the Baltic Sea.
    The troops of Ivan the Terrible continued to suffer defeat after defeat and were soon thrown back from the sea at a fairly decent distance. Then the fleet of "Ivan the Terrible's corsairs" ended.
    It is possible that the corsairs in Russia were earlier, long before John the Terrible. Merchants mostly walked along the seas and rivers (and pirates, of course, are the same earplugs for example). And among the Russian merchants there were enough dashing people ready to earn extra money on the robbery of foreign colleagues. It is not known whether princes issued privateer certificates to them in Russia ... At least they did not find written evidence of this.
    1. +3
      3 July 2016 08: 44
      And there is. With earplugs. With Vaska Buslaev, everything started here.
    2. +1
      4 July 2016 09: 09
      Yes, this is even covered in fiction by the wonderful writer and sailor Konstantin Sergeevich Badigin. His book is called "The Corsairs of Ivan the Terrible"
  6. +3
    3 July 2016 12: 53
    By the way, in the USA John Paul Jones did not receive the rank of admiral, he remained a commander. So - the national hero of the United States - rear admiral of the Russian fleet.
  7. +2
    4 July 2016 08: 42
    Americans have an Arly Burke class destroyer named John Paul Jones
  8. +1
    4 July 2016 09: 22
    Having made a short excursion through the Internet, I discovered that our reputable site exhibited similar material five years ago. Interesting article. Anyone interested can get acquainted ...
    ... The First Russian Fleet - Pirates of the Terrible Tsar
    16 March 2011 ...
  9. +1
    4 July 2016 12: 25
    The material is interesting! But the attitude towards Paul Jones among Russian commanders was, let's say, "ambiguous", because many considered him a "pirate" and considered it beneath their dignity to communicate with him (for the gallant eighteenth century).