320 years ago, 29 July 1696 g., The Russian army took the Turkish fortress of Azov. The whole of the Don became free for the Russian courts. However, it was not possible to completely “cut a window” on the Black Sea coast, in order to complete the business it was necessary to capture Kerch (Old Russian Korchev), a city on the shore of the Kerch Strait, for a free exit from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea. With a more radical solution to the problem, destroy the Crimean Khanate and seize the Crimean Peninsula. And for this we needed a fleet.
Azov campaigns in practice showed the importance of artillery and fleet for warfare. And Peter drew conclusions from this, he should not be denied organizational skills and strategic thinking. On October 20, 1696, the Boyars' Duma proclaimed “To be sea vessels ...”. An extensive military shipbuilding program is approved for 52 (later 77) ships.
At the turn of the XVII-XVIII centuries, naval fleets began to play an increasing role. It was difficult to obtain the status of a great power without ships. Hundreds and thousands of ships had already been cut through the sea and ocean expanses, new sea lanes were mastered, trade developed rapidly, new ports and shipyards were built. International trade went beyond the sea basins - the Mediterranean, Baltic, and North Seas. There were huge colonial empires, whose power was held mainly by strong fleets.
During this period, England and Holland occupied the first places in the power of the fleets. In these countries, the revolution cleared the way (and in a very bloody way) for capitalist development. Spain, Portugal, France, Venice, the Ottoman Empire, Denmark and Sweden also had strong fleets. All these states had an extensive sea coast, a long tradition of navigation. A number of states created the colonial empires - Spain, Portugal, or they were built at full speed - England, Holland, France. Resources of the conquered territories gave a powerful impetus to the development of Western predators.
The Russian state was in a different position. Our country was the heir to the ancient maritime traditions. To tie history the emergence of the Russian fleet with the border era of Peter I - a clear mistake. In the period of the Old Russian state, the Black Sea was called the Russian Sea, as it was controlled by the Rus-Russians, and the Baltic Sea was the Varangian Sea - the Vikings controlled it long before the heyday of the German Hansa (the Hansa itself was created on the basis of the Slavic cities and their trade relations). The Russian princes built fleets from hundreds and thousands of ships when they went to Tsargrad-Constantinople. But by this period, Russia-Russia was pushed back into the continent. In the northwest, access to the Baltic Sea was blocked by Sweden. The Kingdom of the Swedes at that time became a powerful empire with a professional army and a strong fleet. The Swedes seized the Russian lands along the shores of the Gulf of Finland, controlled a large part of the southern Baltic, turning the Baltic Sea into a “Swedish lake”.
Only on the coast of the White Sea, hundreds of kilometers from the main economic centers of Russia, did we have the port of Arkhangelsk. He gave limited opportunities for maritime trade - was remote, and in winter navigation was interrupted due to the severity of the climate. Astrakhan provided Russia with economic ties only with Persia and the region of Central Asia. The Russians began to develop Siberia, but in order to use the waters of the Pacific Ocean for relations with other countries and regions, it took more than one century.
Access to the Black Sea closed the Crimean Khanate (vassal Ports) and the Ottoman Empire. The Turks and the Crimean Tatars held in their hands the entire northern coast of the Black Sea, with the mouths of the Danube, Dniester, Southern Bug, Dnieper, Don, Kuban. And, on a part of these territories, Russia had historical rights - they were part of the Old Russian state. One of the military strongholds on these lands was the Turkish fortress of Azov, located at the confluence of the Don River into the Sea of Azov.
The situation was aggravated by the fact that the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean Khanate, Sweden were hostile states of Russia. The sea coast in the south and north-west was a convenient base for an offensive on the Russian lands. On the southern frontiers, there was an almost uninterrupted battle with the hordes of the Crimean Khanate and other predators, if there were no major campaigns, then small raids by enemy units were commonplace. The Crimean Khanate was a real parasitic public entity that lived at the expense of robbery, hijacking for sale into slavery of thousands and tens of thousands of Slavs. Only in the first half of the 17th century, the Crimean hordes were ousted and sold into slavery to 200 thousand Russians.
The Ottomans, relying on numerous fortresses, outposts in the northern Black Sea region and the Crimean horde, not only kept South Russian lands under their control, but also planned to expand their zone of influence. Although the Ottoman Empire experienced a serious internal crisis by the end of the 17th century, it was still a powerful country with a huge military-economic and demographic potential. Its possessions stretched from Gibraltar to the Balkans, from the northern coast of the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The Army of Ports was considered one of the strongest and most numerous in the world. The Turkish fleet was large in number of pennants and had a great experience in fighting. For two centuries the Turks fought with the land forces and fleets of Austria, France, Spain, Venice, the Order of Malta, Tuscany. Istanbul had beautiful forests to build ships from the Black Sea coast, hemp and canvas came from Egypt, resin and lard from Albania and Wallachia. The Turks had excellent harbors in the Black Sea, the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara. Military specialists (for example, gunners) were hired from the French, the British, the Dutch. Slaves for rowing ships supplied the Crimean Tatars. The Turkish fleet completely dominated the Black Sea and could quickly replenish power from the Bosphorus and the Mediterranean. Turkey with the help of the fleet could transfer additional troops to the garrisons of the Northern Black Sea region from the metropolis.
Thus, access to the Baltic and Black Sea was important both from the point of view of military-strategic necessity (access to natural lines of defense) and restoration of historical justice (return of the original Russian lands), and from economic considerations. The Baltic States and the Black Sea region needed to be returned in order for the Russian civilization to gain natural strategic frontiers in the northwest and southwest. The isolation from the main sea trade routes of Europe (Baltic - North Sea - Atlantic, Black Sea - Mediterranean - Atlantic) adversely affected the economic development of the Russian state. Therefore, the struggle for access to these seas has acquired paramount importance for the future of Russia.
Since the XVI century, Russia fought against the Crimean and Nogai hordes. Moscow wanted to secure its southern frontiers, to stop the practice of regular armed uprisings and raids on Russian lands, to begin processing rich southern lands (the so-called “Wild Field”). And in the future, to get access to the Black and Azov Seas, in order to develop economic communications. In the course of this struggle, Russia clashed with Porto, whose vassal was the Crimean horde. Istanbul created a number of powerful strongholds in the Northern Black Sea region and planned to develop an offensive to the north, in the lands of the Commonwealth and the Russian state. So, the Ottomans planned to include in their sphere of influence the former lands of the Astrakhan and Kazan Khanates, and Little Russia.
The Russian-Turkish war of 1672-1681, which was marching with varying success, ended with the Bakhchisaray world concluded in 1681 for 20 years, under the conditions of the present situation. Western Little Russia, which became a real wasteland after the war, and Podolia were in the hands of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire easily went to this world, as the war with Austria was coming. In this war, Austria, with the support of Poland, won up. However, the interval between the wars was short.
In 1683, Poland and Austria formed an alliance (Holy League) against the Ottomans. Venice joined the union, and he was supported by the papal throne. The allies planned to knock out the Ottomans from Europe and were going to attract new allies. In 1684, negotiations began on this in the village of Andrusovo and lasted almost two years. Moscow agreed to join the union, but under the condition of concession from Poland to Kiev. The negotiations went on for a long time, the Polish ambassadors for a long time did not agree to the conditions of the Russians, but under pressure from the allies they were forced to concede. 26 April 1686, the Eternal Peace of Russia was concluded with the Commonwealth. Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for remuneration in 146 thousand rubles was inferior to Kiev in Russia, Smolensk departed forever to Moscow, and Right-Bank Ukraine remained dependent on Poland, Left Bank was leaving to Russia. Russia pledged to break the world with Porto and attack the Crimean Khanate. Thus, Russia joined the Holy League in 1686.
The Sofia government wanted to strengthen its authority with this union. Sophia and her favorite Prince Vasily Golitsyn needed a loud victory. In 1687 and 1689 under the leadership of Prince Vasily Golitsyn, campaigns against the Crimean Khanate were undertaken, but they did not bring success. Benefit they brought only to the allies, distracted the enemy forces. And for the Russian campaigns turned into serious losses without any positive results.
Military operations were stopped, but Moscow and the Port did not make peace. In 1689, the city of Sofia was overthrown, but the government was actually led by Peter’s mother, Natalya Kirillovna. The young king was busy with “march and neptune fun”, and Natalia’s government pursued a cautious policy, avoided sharp turns — they didn’t fight with torment, but did not make peace either, so as not to annoy the allies. The Ottomans were satisfied, with Russia it was possible to wait, transfer forces to other directions.
True, this calm was temporary. Istanbul was not going to give up its positions in the Northern Black Sea region, moreover, the Turks were clearly preparing for future battles. They launched the construction of new fortresses. Previously, near the mouth of the Dnieper, they had two strongholds, Ochakov and Kyzy-Kermen. Now five were erected at once: Aslan-Kermen, Tavan, Mustrit-Kermen, Islam-Kermen, Mubarek-Kermen. Fortresses were moving closer to the Russian possessions. New fortresses were built both for defense and as bridgeheads for future offensive operations. The Crimean Tatars still “fought”, that is, they robbed and devastated Little Russia, taking people into slavery. In 1692, the Crimean Khan attempted to break into Great Russian lands. However, Boris Sheremetev responded with lightning speed and moved 40-thousand towards the Crimean horde. army. The Crimean Tatars, as usual in this case, did not join the battle and left to plunder the Polish lands (in fact, Western Russian, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). Thus, the resumption of active hostilities sooner or later was inevitable. Russia and Turkey were divided (and shared) by the fundamental contradictions of a geopolitical, military-strategic, historical nature, which only a decisive victory of one of the parties could solve.
In January, 1694, Natalia Kirillovna, passed away. The independent government of Peter I began, although he never prepared for the kingdom, he did not study the complex and diverse issues of government. 1695 year was a turning point in the life of Peter. Military games, which almost completely absorbed his energy and time, were left behind. They were replaced by a real war, which lasted almost the entire reign of Peter. The Azov campaigns became the first independent step of the rule of Peter Alekseevich.
As a result, the continuation of the war with Porto became the priority of Peter I's foreign policy in the early years of autocracy. There were several reasons for this:
- first, Moscow was at war with Istanbul, and the allies of the anti-Turkish alliance pressed on Peter I and demanded to continue military operations. Powers of the Sacred League got it hard. The Ottoman army defeated the Austrians near Belgrade. The Crimean hordes completely ravaged the Commonwealth with their raids. Polish king Jan Sobessky began to blackmail Moscow. He wrote that the Russians did not make any contribution to the general struggle with Turkey. He promised that he would break the “eternal peace” with Russia, instead he would conclude a separate agreement with the Sultan, and the king would demand to return the lost Smolensk, Kiev, to the Left-Bank Ukraine;
—Secondly, the war with Turkey seemed to be an easier task than the conflict with Sweden, which closed the way to the Baltic. Turkey fought on other fronts and could not throw considerable forces into the war with Russia;
- thirdly, the capture of Azov could protect the southern borders of Russia from the raids of the Crimean Tatars;
- Fourthly, Peter dreamed of creating a fleet, the establishment of the Azov flotilla could be the first step towards the realization of these plans.
First Azov campaign (1695)
Russian high command has made a good campaign plan. It was decided not to attack the Crimean Khanate, where it was necessary to go through the desert lands, exhausting the troops, which led to the failure of the Golitsyn campaigns, but to strike at Azov. Changed and the route - decided to go through the areas of the Volga and Don. The first Russian army under the command of Count Boris Petrovich Sheremetyev, together with the Cossacks of Mazepa, was to operate in the lower reaches of the Dnieper, attack enemy fortresses and divert the attention of the Ottomans. They planned to gather up to 100 thousand soldiers and Cossacks. Second 30-thousand The army under the command of Tsar Peter I and his closest associates Fyodor Golovin, Patrick Gordon, Franz Lefort was to take Azov.
The campaign on the Azov was tried to be carried out in secret, the army was formed from the best regiments of the new regular army - Preobrazhensky, Semenovsky, Lefortovo, Butyrsky, and the archers included in it. The army was supported by Don Cossacks, who knew the battle area well. In the winter and spring of 1695, on the Don, transport ships were built: planes (river sailing-rowing vessel of length 25-30 m), sea boats and rafts for the delivery of troops, artillery, ammunition and food.
It should be noted that Azov was one of the main outposts of the Ottoman Empire in the Black Sea region. Azov had three lines of powerful fortifications - an earthen wall with a moat and palisade, a stone wall with 11 towers and an internal castle. The fortress was defended by more 100 guns, and higher along the Don, the Turks built two powerful towers, which blocked the river with chains and artillery. But the garrison was small, 3 thousand people, the Ottomans had the opportunity to strengthen it by sea, so they did not hold large forces in the fortress. Therefore, the Russian commanders built the calculation on surprise - to take the fortress in stride, crush the enemy by tenfold superiority. In order to move faster, they did not even take heavy guns.
However, these calculations crossed out gross errors. Instead of one commander-in-chief, Peter appointed a “consultation” of his comrades Lefort, Gordon and Golovin. They had to make a joint decision, and the king claimed it. Although Golovin had no military experience, and Lefort did not lead large formations, possessing only the experience of a junior officer. They did not hide the war plan with Turkey, chatted about it at all feasts and feasts. Therefore, in Istanbul, we learned about the preparation of the Russian expedition to Azov. The Turkish command managed to strengthen the Azov garrison to 7-10 thousand soldiers. Thus, a sudden strike failed. The enemy managed to prepare for the defense.
In the spring of 1695, the army came out of Moscow; on the Strug and other river transports it went along the Moscow River, the Oka and the Volga. On the Volga, they reached Tsaritsyn, where they switched to the Don. We moved slowly, waited for the spring thaw, waited for the stragglers. Only in early July, the army was at Azov and blocked it from land. 2 July began siege work and shelling of the fortress. The siege went stupidly: the Turks actively made attacks, prevented the construction of siege camps from the camp; the Crimean cavalry from the steppe constantly made raids, attacked carts, interfered with the supply of the army; when the batteries opened fire, it turned out that light weapons could not harm the walls. The king himself behaved like a boy, shot from a cannon, dug trenches, all this was interspersed with noisy revels. Gordon wrote: "Judging by our actions, sometimes it seemed as if we did not start all this seriously."
Don Cossacks were able to capture the towers (fortifications) above Azov (14 - 16 July), which allowed them to bring cargo to the Russian military camp itself. By the beginning of August, the advanced trenches led approximately 50 meters to the shaft of the fortress. Decided to go on the assault. Although Gordon objected that it was impossible to attack. There were no breaches in the walls; without a sufficient number of assault ladders and fascines for filling the moat, the assault could have ended in a pitiable way. But he did not listen. Early in the morning of August 5 the storming of the fortress began. Over 4 thousand Russian soldiers rushed to the Turkish stronghold, for several hours was a bloody battle. The Turks fought back with great stamina. Butyrsky and Tambov regiments were able to take the corner bastion at the cost of large losses. But the division Golovin was late with the attack. The Turks transferred reinforcements and repulsed the fortifications. As a result, all Russian attacks were repulsed. The Cossack detachment, which was supposed to attack the fortress from the Don, coming up on their boats, also did not succeed. The assault cost only those killed in 1,5 thousand people.
The unsuccessful assault revealed a number of serious flaws in the Russian army: they could not establish a blockade of the fortress from the sea; there was not enough experience in the siege of fortresses and the corresponding artillery and equipment; lack of organization, discipline, lack of unity of command, a single supreme command. Golovin, Lefort, Gordon could not organize concerted actions, quarreled. Peter could not coordinate their actions. In addition, it is worth noting that during the planning period for the operation, the Russian command decided that the ground forces were sufficient for an assault, but underestimated the importance of the Turkish fleet. Ships sent from Istanbul to Azov constantly moved fresh units (to replenish the garrison suffering from shelling), they brought weapon, ammunition, food. The Black Sea at that time was actually a “Turkish lake”. Russia did not have warships and could not prevent the enemy. Therefore, the Turkish garrison was not exhausted by the siege and could successfully resist the Russian assault.
Turks continued raids. Mine digging discovered and blew. Peter showed obstinacy, ordered to dig new ones. Only completed their 20 September. September 25 Russian troops went to the second assault. He was better prepared and organized, but the Turks repulsed him too. Of the two minutes worked one. The Lefortovo regiment burst into the breach, but it was knocked out by a counterattack. And at night frosts hit. As a result, the military council decided to lift the siege and withdraw the troops to the winter quarters. During the winter period, hostilities in Europe were mostly not conducted, due to the natural conditions - cold, muddling, off-road, supply difficulties, etc. The departure began in early October. 3 thousand detachment left to protect the captured fortifications. The waste turned into a catastrophe: they walked across the steppe under cold rains, with overnight nights in the cold. Soon the “great snow” fell. For soldiers with a summer outfit, it was a nightmare. Thousands of soldiers froze and froze.
The Dnieper army, which was led by Sheremetyevo, acted more organized, and therefore achieved victory. Sheremetev's troops fought off three fortresses from the Turks: July 30 - Kyzy-Kermen (Berislav), August 1 - Eski-Tavan, August August 3 - Aslan-Kermen. Kyzy-Kermen was weaker than Azov, but also a tough nutlet - stone walls, 30 guns, a strong garrison under Amir Bey. Nearby were the Tatars of the Khan's son, Prince Nureddin, who planned to cut off the communications of the Russian army and attack the rear. But Sheremetev knew his business well: he set up cavalry barriers against the Crimeans, built a fortified camp, ordered tents to lay the fortress, put batteries. Janissaries tried to make a sortie, but they were crushed in a head-on battle and driven behind walls.
Since July 27 opened the bombing, began to dig mines. 30 July a mine blast punched a huge hole in the wall. Amir Pasha understood that it was useless to resist and capitulated. The Russians managed almost no losses, “they took a lot of things, as well as belongings”. In other fortresses panicked and decided to flee. The garrisons of Aslan-Kerman and Tavana fled to Ochakov, they were occupied without a fight. Then Sheremetev took two more fortresses - Mustrit-Kermen and Mubarek-Kermen. Hold the fortress, he had no orders, and funds. Therefore, destroyed the enemy fortifications and safely led the army to the winter apartments.
In Port, the departure of the Russian army from Azov was perceived as a victory. The Turkish command decided that in the near future the Russians would not be able to repeat the siege and should not wait for the threat. But Peter was a stubborn, purposeful man, so failure did not embarrass him, he knew how to draw the right conclusions from his defeats. All the troops did not have time to return to Russia, as they began to develop a plan for a new campaign.
To be continued ...