- Mar 3, 2001
Tales of the Rus: Chapter IX, "Where Have All The Soldiers Gone?"
- Images of War, 1734-1757
The Mughal War of 1734-1735And it came to pass that the mighty Mughal Empire had pissed off the Russian Court once too many times, and the Tsarina Anna decided in her great wisdom to show the ragheads the taste of cold steel! Come fall 1734, a great host had been assembled, and it swarmed south into the region of Afghanistan with the goal of conquering Samarkand, Surkhandarya, and Kabul.
Alas, it was not to be. The Sultan of Constantinople began making threatening sounds demanding that Russia end its war at once, which were duly ignored, but rather more importantly, France, monster of the west, invaded Venice in the winter of 1734. The Asian forces being too far from Italy to affect the outcome directly received no more reinforcements, and it was a grateful commander who accepted the Mughal offer of Samarkand, Surkhandarya, and Kalat the following year, at a time when Mughal reinforcements were finally coming to bear and his armies were being swamped. Apparently, nobody had informed the Great Mughal that Russian forces were desperately needed elsewhere, for needed they certainly were.
The War of French Aggression of 1734-1737The French would-be hegemon attacked Italy in the winter 1734-35, and invaded with overwhelming forces. The valiant Italians fough desperate rear-guard actions aided by the Russian expeditionary corps under the best Russian commander at the time, General Tottleben, whom a gypsy fortuneteller had once foretold would live until 1765. She proved to be fatally wrong, as it were.
In a devious move, France had neglected asking its lapdog, Austria, into the war, in an attempt to bar the anti-French alliance of Poland and Russia from overrunning Austria on the way to Venice, but the deviousness was of limited scope, as Poland and Russia declared war on Austria, to force open the path. Meanwhile, the Russian black seas fleet transported reinforcements back and forth from Kerch to Venice itself, reinforcing the Venetian defenders.
Alas, the relief of Italy was not to be. With all the Northern Russian armies marching south for the assault on Austria, and the Polish armies fighting the first major battles against the Austrian armies, Sweden declared war on Russia. In retaliation, Poland declared war on the Swedish ally Denmark, but that was of scant relief to either Russia or Italy. With 200,000 high-tech exceptionally well led Swedes pouring into Finland and the baltic provinces of Livland and Estland, the Tsarina had to, regretfully, recall her armies before they reached Austria, lest the Capital and Russia itself fall to the Swede.
Without Russia to provide the bulk of the forces, Poland chose to abort its invasion of Austria in order to prosecute the Danish war, and Italy was now wholly without reinforcements, save the 50K-60K transported by sea every five months from Russia, and they were in no way enough. With the massive Ottoman buildup on the Turkish-Russian border requiring a significant army presence in case of attack and an ongoing war in the north, there were sadly no more forces to be found. It was even considered to recall the Manchurian Expeditionary Corps, but the logistics of marching across half the world meant that it would, undoubtedly, arrive too late.
In the end, Tottleben fell to the French and Italy was forced to make peace with France giving up Liguria and Emilia.
Italy is Lost
The War In The West 1735-1738 and 1738-1739Spain, a silent partner in the Franco-Austrian undertaking under suspicion of funding France's partners in crime (a suspicion strengthened considerably when Sweden, declaring war on Russia, claimed to do it on behalf of France AND Spain), was itself attacked by England who Portugal, in a furious colonial war that ended with Curacao ceded to the Netherlands and Tobago and Trinidad ceded to England. Thus did the two mightiest non-French allies go out of their way to avoid offending the French, abandoning Venice to her fate.
But peace was not theirs to choose. In summer 1738, the French declared war on England. Who knows what moves the minds of politicians? No sooner was Spain defeated, than it switched sides and joined England, the Netherlands, and Portugal in fighting France and Austria. This was probably the shortest war of the decade, as it ended within six months with a status quo ante peace and nary a shot fired. A very poor show indeed.
The War of Swedish Betrayal of 1735-1738With the Swedes pouring into Finland and attacking the baltic in fall 1735 and the Russian armies enroute to Austria turning around and force-marching to the relief of the North, St. Petersburg itself came under threat. Hastily raised forces managed to stall the initial Swedish assault while taking dreadful casualties, but in summer and fall 1736 Sweden was ascendant, destroying several Russian armies to a man.
Fighting in Finland, 1736
Yet Russias's greatest general won though again. General Winter supported by untold thousands of hastily raised infantry eventually ground down the invaders, and by summer 1737 Russia began retaking the conquered provinces. Meanwhile, Poland had occupied Swedish Vorpommern, and was overrunning Jutland in its separate war with Denmark.
Turning the Tide, 1737
By 1738 the weary Russian forced had finally evicted the Swedes and stood poised to invade Sweden itself, but the Russian casualties had been immense, and there was little support for pressing the war to its ultimate conclusion. Peace was settled with Vorpommern ceded to Poland from Sweden, but peace did not descend upon Russia.
The main reason against continuing the attack into Sweden itself was self-evident: The Ottomans had finally launched their attack.
The Turkish Invasion of 1735-1738Invading with an advance guard of 300,000 men, the 110,000 valiant defenders guarding the Southern border were rapidly defeated. Massive recruitment efforts began throughout Russia, despite the ever growing war exhaustiong, which was finally beginning to hurt, and the armies of the North, newly victorious against the Swedes, hastened to the south, but for a month after the destruction of the southern armies, the Turk was unopposed.
The Turkish Invasion, 1738
Soon, with Russian forces hurly piecemeal into the fray, the Turk took heavy enough casualties, that his advance was halted pending reinforcements. Unfortunately, reinforcements were not in short supply from the Turkish conscription centres.
Turkish reinforcements arrive
Where were the Polish alliance forces at this time? Safely back in Poland, polishing their boots. Apparently, the Polish king had, without consulting with Russia, made a deal with the Sultan. If the Sultan would wait until the end of the French War to attack, Poland would honour her treaty obligations in word - but not in deed. The Tsarina was NOT amused. Meanwhile, the Polacks had conquered Magdeburg and Mecklemburg from Denmark. In this her hour of need, her ally chose to forsake her. To her death in 1740, she never forgave the Polacks.
But Russia was not beaten yet. With the northern armies arising, and fresh recruits from Moscow arriving on a daily basis, the great battle was fought on the plains of the Crimea.
Battle of Kouban
Despite numerical superiority and inflicting severe casualties, the Russian forces were in the end destroyed to a man, and all thoughts of a quick victory were abandoned. The Turks had the upper hand, and the Russian army prepared for a long defensive war.
Yet it was not to be. The Turk, wiser than many had expected, offered to make peace immediately in return for Daghestan, which offer was immediately accepted. Russia had bled enough.
Peace descended on Russia as the armies were turned to the dreary task of suppressing the dozen rebellions that had sprung up during the war and left unattended due to greater pressures. It was a time of healing, and it was needed. It was also a time of building the first conscription centres, as Russia had finally caught up in military technology some twenty years after her neighbours. A time of healing, yes, but also a time of nurturing dreams of revenge.