The Russian emperor, who possessed a military talent, saved his country from wars, turning it into one of the most powerful powers in the world.
In the history of the Russian Empire, its penultimate autocrat, who was born on March 10, 1845 and ascended the throne on March 14, 1881 *, Emperor Alexander III, the father of the future Emperor Nicholas II, entered under the name of the Peacemaker. His reign, alas, was meted out for a short period, only 13 years, but these incomplete one and a half decades were spent with exceptional benefit. And primarily because the country, through the efforts of the monarch, avoided all possible wars, although it was Alexander III who once uttered the famous maxim that Russia has only two loyal allies - its army and navy.
This conclusion was made by the emperor on the basis of personal experience. Despite the unofficial title of tsar-peacemaker, Alexander underwent a very serious military baptism, while still being the crown prince and heir to the throne. During the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, Adjutant General Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov commanded the famous Ruschuk (Eastern) detachment, which played an important role in the course of hostilities. The detachment covered the eastern flank of the Danube army and during the entire campaign never gave the Turks the opportunity to inflict a serious flank attack on the Russian troops.
The Tsarevich, together with his father, Emperor Alexander II, went to the active army on May 21, 1877. As he confessed in a letter to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, who commanded the Russian troops in the Balkans, “I remain completely unaware of my fate … This unresolved situation of mine is very unpleasant and difficult …” However, it did not remain unresolved for long. Already on July 26, 1877, Alexander Alexandrovich signed order No. 1 for the troops of the Ruschuk detachment, announcing his appointment to the post.
It is worth making a small digression in order to understand why the Tsarevich was put in command, albeit not the main, but very important detachment of the army that fought in the Balkans. To begin with, while his older brother Nikolai Alexandrovich was alive, he had no great chances to take the throne, and therefore he was being prepared for a military career. According to the custom of the royal family, on his birthday, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich was appointed chief of the Astrakhan Carabiner Regiment, enlisted in the lists of the Life Guards of the Gusar, Preobrazhensky and Pavlovsky regiments, and three and a half months later he was also appointed chief of the Life Guard of the Finnish Infantry Battalion. For the first time, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich performed his official duties on August 1, 1851, when, in the form of a private life guard of the Pavlovsky regiment, he stood at the clock at the monument to Emperor Paul I that was opening in Gatchina.
Grand Dukes Alexander Alexandrovich, future Emperor Alexander III (left), and Vladimir Alexandrovich (right)
Two years later, when Alexander was awarded the rank of second lieutenant, his military training began, stretching for 12 years. Educators, led by Major General Nikolai Zinoviev, taught the Grand Duke to march, rifle techniques, the front, changing the guard and other wisdom. But military science alone (except for drill techniques, the grand dukes were taught tactics and military history), the matter was not limited: Alexander, like his brothers, studied Russian and three foreign languages - German, French and English, as well as the Law of God, mathematics, geography, general and Russian history, reading, calligraphy, drawing, gymnastics, horse riding, fencing, music.
In 1864, Alexander Alexandrovich, who had already received the rank of colonel by this time, for the first time left for a camp gathering at Krasnoe Selo, commanding a rifle company of a training infantry battalion. In the same year, on August 6, he received the first order for service - St. Vladimir, 4th degree. In total, in the first twenty years of his life, Alexander Alexandrovich went from ensign to major general. After the death of his elder brother Nicholas in April 1865, having become the Tsarevich from the Grand Duke, Alexander was included in the lists of all guards units of the Russian Imperial Army and on September 24, 1866 was promoted to lieutenant general.
But all these career jumps and appointments remained by and large only preparation for real military service. And although it was already clear that Tsarevich Alexander was not waiting for a military, but for an imperial future, he could not escape the war. On April 8, 1877, Alexander Alexandrovich, together with Alexander II, left St. Petersburg for Chisinau: there was supposed to be a parade of the army preparing for the invasion of the Balkans. It started four days later. And three months later, the emperor granted the heir's request to participate in hostilities: the order on the appointment of Tsarevich Alexander as the commander of the Ruschuk detachment was signed by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, the commander-in-chief of the army, on July 22, 1877.
Mikhail Sokolovsky, a Russian military historian, a member of the Society of Military History Zealots, briefly but substantively spoke about how successful the command was. Here is what he wrote: “During the command of this (Ruschuksky. - Author's note) detachment, Alexander Alexandrovich participated: on October 12 - in an enhanced reconnaissance of the enemy's location and on November 30 - in the battle at Trestenik and Mechka. On September 15, he was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of St. Vladimir 1 st. with swords at the rescript, which, by the way, stated: "The prudent orders of Your Imperial Highness during the command of a separate significant detachment in the army, which are fully consistent with the types of commander-in-chief and the general plan of the campaign, give you the right to special Our gratitude; Our troops have repeatedly repelled all the attacks of the outnumbered enemy and, moreover, have shown their excellent qualities."
Reception of volost elders by Alexander III in the courtyard of the Petrovsky Palace. Artist I. E. Repin
On November 30, the Tsarevich was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of St. George, 2nd Art. In the rescript given on this occasion, by the way, was given: "A number of valiant feats performed by the brave troops of the detachment entrusted to you brilliantly performed the difficult task entrusted to you in the general plan of military operations; for five months, remained unsuccessful and, finally, on November 30 of this year, desperate attacks on Mechka were courageously repulsed under your personal leadership "… From January 10 to 13, 1878, Alexander participated in the offensive of the Northern Detachment under his personal command and the pursuit of the Turkish army from Kolo -Lam to cr. Shumle, and on February 26 of the same year he was awarded a gold saber decorated with diamonds with the inscription: "For excellent command of the Ruschuk detachment." Tsarevich Alexander, taking a prominent part in the last Russian-Turkish war and receiving three military awards for it, returned to St. Petersburg on February 6, 1878, having been absent for ten months without two days."
It should be noted that the tsarevich received all the awards for the Balkan campaign quite deservedly. For example, after the battle on August 24, 1877 near the town of Ablovo, stopping the offensive of Mehmet-Ali's troops at a high price, the Tsarevich decided to withdraw his troops and began a complex flanking maneuver, categorically suppressing panic and quite professionally leading the retreat. And later military historians recognized that the success of this maneuver was largely ensured precisely by the composure and calm disposition of the commander. The famous German military theorist Field Marshal Helmut Moltke recognized Alexander's maneuver as one of the best tactical operations of the 19th century!
A difficult, sometimes tragic military experience (after the Ablovsk battle, Alexander Alexandrovich wrote to his wife Maria Feodorovna: "I spent a terrible day yesterday and I will never forget it …") the battlefield, avoiding wars. And for all 13 years of his reign, he strove to make Russia as strong as necessary in order to discourage his opponents from even the thought of a war with her. Under Alexander III, the former chief of staff of the Ruschuk detachment, Pyotr Vannovsky, became minister of war, which allowed the emperor to freely implement almost all of his plans aimed at strengthening Russian military power. Under him, the fleet received 114 new ships (including 17 battleships and 10 armored cruisers) and became the third in terms of total displacement in the world. At the same time, it was possible to significantly change and simplify the command and control system, strengthening the one-man command and restructuring the command vertical so that the threads of military command went not along the arms of the troops, but through large subunits - this ensured much greater efficiency of forces and means.
Many other military spheres have also radically changed: the system of military education has been adjusted and rebuilt, the salaries of junior officers have been increased, and the quartermasters have been brought in line. Finally, Alexander III and Vannovsky did everything to make the army men and sailors feel really the main allies of the country. And this, perhaps, betrays a large and perspicacious military leader in the penultimate Russian emperor much more than successes on the battlefields. In the end, the country that is better prepared for it wins the war. And this means that the greatest victories are won by the one who forces the enemy to completely abandon the attack.