Among the Russian military leaders of the Caucasian War, perhaps, there is no more complex and multifaceted personality than Alexei Petrovich Yermolov, whose name is associated with the beginning of the conquest of the Caucasus. It was under Yermolov’s command that Russian troops in the Caucasus had to deal with such a new phenomenon as the Eastern war - fighting, when victory is achieved not only on the battlefield, and is not always associated with the number of enemies killed or captured. The inevitable component of such a war is humiliation and robbery of the defeated enemy, without which victory could not be achieved in its full sense. Hence the extreme cruelty of the actions of both sides, which sometimes did not fit in the head of contemporaries and descendants.
However, pursuing a strict policy, Yermolov paid great attention to the construction of fortresses, roads, glades and the development of trade. The most difficult activity for the troops was the construction of roads and glades, coupled with an enormous amount of work and constant clashes with the enemy. For example, when laying glades, the forest was cut down to a distance of an effective rifle shot, that is, if the terrain allowed it to a distance of up to 500 meters on both sides of the road. Such a very time consuming, and hard work made it possible to exclude the possibility of a surprise attack on the columns of troops.
The regimental structure of the Caucasian corps is also changing. If usually the infantry regiment consisted of two or three battalions, now nominally the regiments turn, if not into divisions, then they certainly grow to the size of a brigade. Thus, the 77th Tengin Infantry Regiment had a five-battalion composition, while the Tiflis Infantry Regiment had grown to an eight-battalion composition. Another notable feature of the Caucasian War was the rather wide use of service dogs. The dogs carried guard duty while guarding the fortifications - as a rule, at night they were released behind the fortification shaft until morning. To keep the dogs allocated some money from the treasury. In the future, this experience was long forgotten in the wars of the second half of the XIX century.
From the very beginning, it was relied on the gradual development of new territories, where military campaigns alone could not give complete success. Suffice it to say that the troops lost at least 10 times more soldiers than from direct clashes.
True, the only lever of policy in the territory being mastered, in the absence of the administrative apparatus, was the army in the hands of Yermolov. It is around the backbone of the army that the civilian system of governance of the Caucasus will begin to take shape. Yermolov conducted an audit of fortresses and cities, ordering him to leave a number of fortifications built without taking into account the sanitary conditions of the area. So, the fortification of St. Nicholas in the Kuban was left, and the regional center was moved from Georgiyevsk to Stavropol. The basis of future cities were military settlements, in the creation of which Alexey Petrovich was much more successful than Arakcheev. He put forward and legally implemented the idea of creating the so-called "married mouth" and achieve benefits for the wives of recruits who served in the Caucasian Corps. Gradually, the exclusively military population was supplemented by immigrant peasants.
As far as possible, the legal system was streamlined, where Russian law had existed before, laws in force in Georgia, as well as local customs of the mountaineers. In 1822, the Caucasian province was transformed into a region with four counties. The institute of bailiffs, who were essentially military officials, was introduced to control the territory. Their task was to supervise the life of the mountain population in order to prevent speeches. In Dagestan, where radical transformations in a short time were impossible to implement, Yermolov confined himself to changing the most hostile nobility and clergy with their more loyal representatives, who exercised power under the control of Russian military officials. The slave trade was destroyed whenever possible, and in Georgia in 1824 the peasants received the right to receive personal freedom for redemption. By the way, the experience of peasant redemption of personal freedom on state subsidies will later be used in Russia in the 40s of the 19th century. Not all the administrative and economic reforms of Yermolov were successful, but nevertheless, among the strip of military campaigns, having limited resources, Yermolov managed to initiate the planned establishment of Russian statehood in the Caucasus. The rigid but consistent line of Yermolov was not continued by his successors in the 30s - early 40s of the 19th century. Such a temporary rejection of the strategy Ermolov delayed the war for several long decades.
Politics A. P. Yermolov was continued by his friend and associate Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov - one of the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812 and the commander of the Russian occupation corps in France. In 1845, appointed to the post of viceroy, Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov made the last major attempt to end Shamil's power with one decisive blow - taking the aul Dargo. Having overcome the rubble and resistance of the highlanders, the Russian troops managed to take Dargo, near which they were surrounded by the highlanders and forced to force their way back with huge losses.
From 1845, after the unsuccessful Darginsky expedition, Vorontsov finally returned to the strategy of Yermolov: the construction of fortresses, the construction of communications, the development of trade and the gradual narrowing of the territory of Imamat Shamil. And then the game of nerves unfolded when Shamil tried to provoke the Russian command on a new long march through repeated raid operations. The Russian command, in turn, was limited to repelling raids, continuing to pursue its line. From this point on, the fall of Imamat was a matter of time. Although for several years the final conquest of Chechnya and Dagestan was delayed by the Crimean War, which is difficult for Russia.
The final stage of the Caucasian War in Chechnya and Western Dagestan was associated with the activities of Prince Alexander Ivanovich Baryatinsky, who in many ways continued the line of Yermolov and Vorontsov. After the unsuccessful Crimean War, voices were heard in the Russian top that it was necessary to conclude lasting peace with Shamil, denoting the boundaries of the Imamat. In particular, this position was held by the Ministry of Finance, pointing to the huge and, in an economic sense, unjustified expenditures on the conduct of hostilities.
However, Baryatinsky, thanks to his personal influence on the tsar, not without difficulty achieved the concentration in the Caucasus of enormous forces and means, about which neither Yermolov nor Vorontsov could even dream. The number of troops was brought up to 200 thousand people who received the latest weapons for those times. Avoiding large risky operations, Baryatinsky slowly but systematically squeezed the ring around the villages that remained under the control of Shamil, occupied one stronghold after another. The last stronghold of Shamil was the high-mountainous aul Gunib, taken on August 25, 1859.
- Gordin Ya. A. Ermolov. M., 2014.
- Degoev V.V. Caucasus and Great Powers. M., 2009.