Heroes Of SHIPKA. As a Russian soldier patch holes in the planning of the war

Protection “eyrie” orlovtsami and brancati. Artist Alexey Popov. © /

Public Domain

140 years ago, July 19, 1877, began one of the most significant and characteristic operations of the Russian army. A couple of days before our troops during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 in the North and the South attacked the SHIPKA — “the gateway to the Ottoman Empire”, one of the most convenient passes of the Balkans. After these attack the troops of the Turkish commander, by Hulusi Pasha left the pass, leaving all the guns. The Russians had occupied the SHIPKA. Never went out for the next five months.

And we, in the West the huge popularity of the provocative statement: “Scratch Russian — find a Tartar.” It refers to the times of the Tatar-Mongol yoke, they say, almost three hundred years under the Tatar yoke made of Russian natural Asians.

On the eve of the yoke. The outcome of the battle of the Kalka river brought the Mongol invasion

“Assemblage point” of the war

Even in this utterly mendacious phrase, you can find a grain of truth. Some peculiarities of Russian way of waging war actually dates back to those times. In particular, the phenomenal stability of the Russian defense. Despite the loss — that is to say, “for the price”. The fact that throughout the dark period of the Horde raids and punitive expeditions battle tactics of the Russian army was reduced to ensure that, taking any turn, to bleed. Thereby giving the civilians a chance to escape in the woods, swamps and avoid the carnage and the almost total extermination. If you look at the most glorious, the most high-profile and famous battles of the Russian army over the past half a Millennium, it will turn out that in its structure, they were all defensive. The battle of Kulikovo. Standing on the Ugra. Poltava. Borodino. Stalingrad. Each of them is an important stage in the strengthening and exaltation of our country.

These qualities — stability and contempt for losses were, as in all these cases, initially be the basis of operations that is built around them. But more often they manifest spontaneously. Just for the reason that the generals at the planning stage have made a number of mistakes. And war, plotted as a ceremonial procession and overturning the enemy began to slip, and then completely turn into a series of defeats with a predictable shame in the final.

Then the stability of the defense was a magic magic wand. And this is just a case of SHIPKA. The mountain height m. 1523 of the same name and is a small Bulgarian village became the “assemblage point” of the campaign — the place where the fate of the war. Without the main qualities of the Russian soldier but this fate would be quick and record.


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Someone who’ll sit out

On the path of the Russian armies to the heart of the Ottoman Empire there were two natural obstacles — the Danube and the Balkan mountains. Theoretically it was supposed to cross the Danube and occupy the bridgehead and key points to make sure there have nothing at risk, take precautions, and at the same time to move forward and occupy the passes.

In principle, everything was done exactly as it was supposed to. With the exception of one. “To take precautions” mistakes were made close to critical. Our command thought that by crossing the Danube, and the occupation of Nicopolis, the Turks will go to the defensive. And that means you can safely capture the passes and make a triumphant March towards Constantinople.

Russian-Turkish and folk. The war, which feared the power, but wanted Russia

The impact of The Turkish of mushir (Marshal) Osman-Pasha in the direction of Plevna, already occupied by our troops, was a surprise. Ironically, he took Plevna in the same day, adjutant-General Nikolay Svyatopolk-Mirsky — SHIPKA. The situation is very unpleasant. On the one hand, the main pass through the Balkans with us. On the other — the Turks in one move has jeopardized our bridgeheads on the Danube. To move on, leaving in the rear occupied by the enemy strong points — complete madness. Plevna had to take. And SHIPKA is to defend at all costs, to not lose at least this achievement.

Began a fascinating game of “who will ride”. The Turks at Plevna or the Russians at the SHIPKA pass. But it’s one thing to sit in the city, though besieged on all sides by the enemy. And quite another — on a mountain pass. Without shelter, Roy dug in the rocky soil, to somehow defend against a hurricane of fire. Without a source of water. Without food reserves of their own are simply not taken, as well as winter clothes. Why? After all, the war will end soon — to Constantinople in the same hand! Given that the “General frost” at that time fought against our own, so much so that gun oil froze, and overcoats and hoods, promerznut through, broke in his hands: “there is No way to start a fire. Overcoat of the soldier was covered with a thick icy crust. Many people can not bend the arm. Movement became very difficult, and fallen can’t get up without assistance. The snow covered them for some three or four minutes. Overcoat so cold floors don’t bend and break. People refuse to eat, gather in groups and are in constant motion to warm up a little. Frost and blizzards nowhere to hide”.

“Snow trench” (Russian positions in the SHIPKA pass). Vasily Vereshchagin. Source: Public Domain

Bitter porridge SHIPKA

In other words, the Russians at the SHIPKA pass in 1877 were roughly in the same position as that of the Germans at Moscow in 1941 With the only exception that the Russian locals helped as much. Besides, there is a popular saying that German death — the Russian in this particular case, if not good, then tolerable.

Go to the East. As Russia fought for the “Slavic brothers”

Some episodes of “SHIPKA” seat deserve direct quotations of participants and witnesses. Here , count Nikolay Ignatyev: “Only that I was the correspondent of the English “daily news” Forbes. He arrived at SHIPKA 12 August and remained there from 5 am to 7 PM. He is in awe of our soldiers, and also praises the Bulgarians. Said, he saw about a thousand residents of Gabrovo, among whom were many children, under a hail of bullets was carrying water for our soldiers and even arrows to the front. With the amazing dedication they carried the wounded from the battlefield…”

Here , General Victor Krenke: “the Position of the SHIPKA pass desperate; though the attacks were repulsed, but the Turks are more and more deployed on the surrounding heights, oxen raised there guns, and gun fire so strong that there is no corner in all the defensive positions, where you could hide from the shots…”

“The battle at SHIPKA”. Alexei Kivshenko. Source: Public Domain

Here is an outstanding doctor Sergei Botkin: “the Nerves to the limit. You begin to ask yourself the same question: do we really have to retreat under the pressure of these numerous Turkish hordes, rushing to pass? Soldiers don’t get discouraged, eat my bitter porridge, and wounded, leaving the position, even joking, as if nothing had happened. If by chance the Turkish bullets fall into a pot of porridge, saying that the Turks sent them salt. Some argue that we stand and will certainly win. Let’s hope!”

It was possible to hope only for the very qualities of the Russian army, from which it all began. They did not disappoint. War, as we know, ended with the victory. Victory, as expected, noted the parade. It was going to take part and those regiments which defended SHIPKA. But their appearance was so struck by his unpresentable gentlemen from headquarters, that the heroes of SHIPKA put somewhere in a corner, shielding the backs of more fit and good soldier. Then was born a bitter saying: “At the parade back, but as it is ahead.”


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