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Empire on fire. First year of war 1914

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The image of the main character of the book is collective, many young people from peaceful life voluntarily stepped into the trenches of the First World War, guided by a love of the Fatherland. Including future world-famous scientists.

In honor of Sergei Vavilov, a crater on the moon was named, several scientific vessels, postage stamps were issued, monuments and plaques were erected…

But the best monument to him was a small photo album “I Look at the War”, released on his 120th birthday and immediately became a bibliographic rarity due to the tiny circulation. The album contains diary entries, poems, drawings and photographs of Ensign Vavilov, made on the fronts of the First World War.

And no matter what they say about Russian military officers of those dashing years, but three objects on the map of the Moon are named after the junior officers of the Russian army — ensigns Sergei Vavilov, Vladimir Zvorykin and Yuri Kondratyuk.

In total, during the First World War, in Russia, about 220 thousand people were promoted to officers, including 78,581 people from military schools and 108970 from ensign schools, that is, more than three years more than in the entire history of the Russian army before the first world war.

Considering that immediately after the mobilization, before the start of the release of wartime officers, the number of officers was approximately 80 thousand, the total number of officers will be 300 thousand.

From this number, the losses incurred during the war years should be subtracted. The direct combat losses of those killed, died from wounds on the battlefield, wounded, captured and missing amounted to more than 70 thousand people, 71,298, including 208 generals, 3368 headquarters officers and 67772 chief officers, out of the last 37,392 warrant officers.

In many cases, wartime officers commanded companies and, in many cases, battalions, these were often boys who had been high school students and students yesterday, many of whom had become lieutenants and staff captains, and even captains, as lieutenant colonels by the time of the February coup. officers issued in wartime, as not having received a complete military education could not be made. Over the entire period of the war, the officer corps was almost completely replaced, from 300 to 500% of officers were replaced in infantry units, that is, from three to five times the officers changed in different combat units, from 15 to 40% in cavalry and artillery

Such data are given in the statistical directory “Russia in the World War of 1914—1918 in Figures”, published already in Soviet Russia in 1925.By February 1917, the officer corps included the majority of educated people in Russia, since almost all people who had education in the volume of a gymnasium, a real school and equal educational institutions and who were fit for health reasons were promoted to officers.

Since the traditions of military education in military schools have not been interrupted, it cannot be said that officers will radically change in morale and attitude to their duties. The vast majority of wartime officers performed their duty no less sacrificingly than regular officers, and were proud of their belonging to the officer corps. As one of them recalled: “Just think that most of us were national teachers, small servants, poor merchants, wealthy peasants… became” your nobility “… So, it happened. Now we are officers… No, no, and squint your eyes on the epaulette. We see the soldiers coming towards us from afar and jealously watch how they salute.”

Petersburg — Peterhof August 1914

still peaceful city

On the morning of Friday, July 31, in the still peaceful capital of the Russian Empire, announcements of general mobilization were posted all over St. Petersburg. People gathered at these ads. The population of a great power gradually began to come to understand that the war had already knocked on their house.

Sometimes there were sorrowful sobs of women who found out that their husbands and sons would most likely go to war. Sometimes, some recently praying mantis often began to be baptized, often whispering with white lips: “God save your people!”

By evening, drinking establishments were crowded. Starting from early morning, the people gradually filled the rooms, which from their doors threw streams into the street with increasing intensity, drunken peasants bawling sometimes rollicking, then sad songs, laughter rang out in mocking with drunk tears spreading across their faces.

On this day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov dined and decided to work more. The last papers should be put in order, so that future historians could lay the whole burden of blame for unleashing a terrible war on the Germans. The fact that the war would be terrible did not raise any doubts among the Minister.

“Will William be frightened of England’s participation in the war and at the last minute refuse his challenge? The minister thought intensely. — How then to provoke him, like a bull: on a bullfight, and put him in the role of an arrogant to universal peace? After all, it is very important for all systems of unions… On whose side will Italy, for example, take the floor? The Italians will be extremely indignant that their allies did not ask about such an important matter as the beginning of the war… And if now the alliance of Italy with Austria-Hungary and Germany is cracking and slowly falling apart, then William’s tactlessness will completely undermine him. Moreover, Italy’s own interests in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Balkans are diametrically opposed to the Austrian …”

The old mahogany grandfather clock in the corner of the ministerial cabinet melodiously rang eleven. Sazonov got up from his chair to put the dispatches in the safe, but the secretary came in and reported that the German ambassador Count Purtales was asking for a meeting.

“Here it is, the presentation of an ultimatum! The minister thought with satisfaction. “Hooray, William decided to become the culprit of the war!”

— Invite the ambassador! — ordered Sazonov.

Count Purtales appeared immediately, as if standing outside the door. He nearly ran to the minister’s desk.Usually taut and handsome, with whitish meek eyes, a sweet smile, a half-hidden wedge in a gray beard and a neatly trimmed mustache, about a nimbus of gray hair on a half-elongated oblong head, the count now wants to portray the anger and indignation that relies on him according to the script sent from Berlin along with text of an ultimatum. But he does not succeed badly in this, because he has always sincerely and cordially been friends with Sazonov, with the St. Petersburg light, where he was loved and respected.

His “formidable” look is more like confusion, there are tears in the eyes of the ambassador, but he tries to speak in a firm voice.

— Mr. Minister! — he declares. — I am authorized by my government to demand from Russia to stop all its mobilization measures both on the German and on the Austro-Hungarian border!.. If the Russian mobilization is not interrupted, then the whole German army will mobilize!..

The ambassador looks pointedly at his watch. On them — half past eleven.

“The deadline expires in exactly twelve hours!”

As if dumping a heavy burden, the ambassador is being transformed. From the pompous, hard-core messenger of the German Empire, he turns into a bewildered and miserable old man.

— Agree to demobilization! Agree to demobilization! You must agree to demobilization!.. — he mutters in a rattling voice from excitement and looks imploringly at Sazonov.

Sazonov, who was almost overcome by trembling before the ambassador arrived, has now completely calmed down. He firmly answers Count Purtales:

— Mr. Minister! I can only confirm what His Majesty Emperor Nicholas II told you today. As long as there is at least one chance to prevent a war, while negotiations with Austria can continue, Russia will not attack. However, it is technically impossible for us to demobilize the army without upsetting the entire military organization. Even your general staff cannot dispute the legality of this consideration!..

Purtales makes a gesture of despair.

— Agree to demobilization! — as he says the spell.

Sazonov stares coldly at the ambassador. Purtales turns and the shuffling gait of a weak person leaves.

August 1

Saturday’s official day of official St. Petersburg was already ending, but there was no German note drawing a line under the ultimatum presented yesterday. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, rumors spread that Wilhelm had changed his mind that there could still be a pacification of Austria and negotiations with Berlin. Many of the officials of the diplomatic department went to their summer cottages with this.

Only in the evening Sazonov was informed that Count Purtales again required a meeting. The Minister realized that the decisive hour had come. Sergey Dmitrievich crossed himself into a small picture before moving from the apartment to the official office.

Having removed the glove, the ambassador takes out an envelope from thick white paper with seals decorated with the German emblem from the inside pocket of his gold-embroidered uniform, and solemnly, as if making a salute with a sword, hands it to Sazonov.

Both understand that the moment of transfer of the envelope with the declaration of war in itself will not open the river of blood. It will begin to pour only when two military vehicles collide, when the troops come into contact. Two old people understand that a lot of them connected personally and will continue to connect, no matter what, on any fronts that will lie between them. But the symbolism of the act is such that both startle, as if from an electric shock, when a white envelope passes from the ambassador’s hand to the minister’s.

Sazonov — this is necessary for the story — utters his phrase again:

“You are committing a criminal case!”

— We defend our honor! — the ambassador speaks with trembling voice. He is extremely upset and barely standing on his feet.

Sazonov opens the envelope and reads the text of the declaration of war. The note is short. The last, most significant phrase strikes him first:

“His Majesty the German Emperor, my august monarch, on behalf of the empire accepts the challenge and considers himself at war with Russia!”

Turning to the introductory part, Sazonov suddenly sees in brackets two versions of the wording. To the amazement of the minister there is no limit. Indeed, the negligence of the scribes makes the note not a document creating history, but a laughing stock, at the same time, of embassy officials who issued it in this form.

Sazonov read aloud these two options.

Then the minister stares at the ambassador point-blank and raises one eyebrow in surprise.

Purtales himself is amazed and cannot say a word. He blushes, then turns pale, tears begin to shine in his eyes.

Sazonov finishes reading and solemnly utters:

“The curse of the nations will fall upon you!”

“We only defend our honor!” — Again, but already in a whisper, repeats Count Purtales.

“Your honor was not affected,” Sazonov continues with pathos.“You could have averted war in one word, but you do not want it!” Remember that divine providence exists and it will punish you!

“It is true, there is divine justice!.. And it will punish you!.. Divine justice!” — mutters the confused and depressed ambassador.

With almost no control over himself, poor Purtales heads for the open window and stops, buried in the curtain. The old weak man cries quietly, hiding his face from the minister.

— Could I know that this will end my stay in Russia?! — heard through sobs.

Sazonov walks up to him, puts a little hug on his shoulders and tries to calm an old friend who has now become an enemy.

“Dear Count, I will never forget you… Let us now say goodbye as good friends…” Sazonov offers.

“Goodbye, goodbye!..” Purtales hugs him.

No one in Petersburg knows that from now on Russia is at war with the German Empire.

August 2

On the eve of Saturday night, all of Petersburg already knew that Germany had declared war on Russia. By three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, officers of the St. Petersburg Military District Guard and senior dignitaries of the empire were convened at the Winter Palace for a solemn prayer service and the declaration of war on Germany. It is ordered to appear in marching uniforms, to statesmen — in ceremonial uniforms.

The morning began with a bell ringing in all the churches, crowds of purely dressed people gathered from all parts of the city to Nevsky, Millionnaya, Palace Square and the Neva embankments.

On the morning of August 2, 1914, the king issued a decree on the outbreak of hostilities. It was a sparkling, hot summer day. The Palace Square, one of the largest in Europe, was crowded with thousands of onlookers languishing from the heat, crowds of excited people carrying flags, icons, awaiting the appearance of the monarch in order to express his patriotic feelings in his presence. On the other side of the Neva where the king was supposed to arrive from Peterhof, thousands of people crowded on bridges and river embankments, singing and shouting greetings. Neva was covered with yachts, steamboats, sailboats, fishing boats, boats with raised flags and with many spectators on board.

When the emperor and the empress descended to the Neva embankment, waves of welcoming cries swept: “Father, father, lead us to victory!” Nikolai was dressed in the full uniform of the infantry regiment, Alexandra Fedorovna in a white dress. She raised the brim of her elegant hat so that people could see her face. Four great princesses followed the king and the empress. Tsarevich, still not recovering from the accident at the “Standard”, remained in Peterhof.

Entering the palace, the king and the empress slowly proceeded along the large stairs and wide corridors of the palace, filled with people. Nikolai Alexandrovich walked through the crowd, bowing and nodding. Men and women fell to their knees and enthusiastically tried to kiss his hand. The service took place in the huge white marble hall of Nikolaev, where 5 thousand people gathered in the flickering of candles. The altar erected in the center of the hall was decorated with a significant shrine — the icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir…

After the ceremony, the king and the empress went to the people gathered outside the walls of the palace. When they appeared on the high balcony draped with red cloths, a huge crowd knelt. Nikolai raised his hand and tried to speak. The front ranks were quiet, but in the latter the excitement and movement of people were too great, and the king’s words were drowned in noise. Shocked Nikolai bowed his head.In response, people, under the influence of their overwhelming feelings, sang a national anthem, the melody of which was used by Tchaikovsky in the finale of the “Solemn Overture of 1812” — “God Save the Tsar.”

Clutching each other’s hands, a man in uniform Emperor Autocrat, and a woman in a white dress, the Russian Empress stood on the balcony and cried with the people. “For those who were on their knees then,” said Paleolog, “the tsar was a real autocrat — military, political and religious dictator, the absolute master of the soul and body of the people.” And so it was throughout the empire: an explosion of inspiration, crowds of people on the streets, laughter, tears, singing, exclamations, kisses. A wave of patriotism swept Russia. Workers left red revolutionary flags and took up icons and portraits of the king. Students left universities and voluntarily left the army. The officers who met on the streets were enthusiastically shaking in their arms.

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