In our minds, 1812 is firmly associated with the invasion of Napoleon. Well, of course, only from those who are at least something interested in our time without ideas.
The heroes of 1812, glorious Russian warriors, their faces are artistically immortalized in the portraits hanging “at the Russian tsar in the palaces” of the Winter Palace.
But the Persian bullets in 1812 stung the Russian soldiers no weaker than the French ones. In parallel with the war against the large part of Europe united by Napoleon, a long-term Russian-Persian war (1804-1813) was going on in the Caucasus.
The war broke out immediately after the annexation of various Georgian kingdoms to the Russian Empire. Russian troops took Ganja, conquered Baku. Then there was a short truce. And then military operations developed with renewed vigor.
The Russian command could not keep numerous troops in the Transcaucasus. They were needed in other theaters of military operations: Western and Turkish.
A handful of Russian heroes fought desperately against the Persians, but even among them were people of absolutely epic masculinity.
And the first among them was General Pyotr Stepanovich Kotlyarevsky (1782-1851). He was a real “god of war”, miraculously chosen for this service from a spiritual rank. Once General I.P. Lazarev (the same one who was murdered by the Georgian Queen Maria in 1803 with a dagger), who was passing through the village of Olkhovatka in the Kharkov province, where Kotlyarevsky’s father served as a priest, was forced to stay at their house due to the winter weather. Lazarev persuaded his father to give his son to military service, and the youth Pyotr Kotlyarevsky left for the Caucasus.
At the age of 14, he already took part in the capture of Derbent, in the Persian campaign of 1796. Kotlyarevsky received his first officer rank only after 6 years of service as a sergeant, in 1799.
Further, the hero quickly grew in ranks, the fighting episodes in the Caucasian military theater went one after another, almost continuously. He was wounded more than once.
In 1810, in fact, he performed a military miracle that is hard to believe. His battalion (500 bayonets) in the strategically important village of Mergi specially stayed to wait for the ten thousandth Persian corps, directed by advisers – British officers. With a sudden night attack, the Kotlyarevsky huntsman stabbed all the Persians with bayonets.
Further, already fighting against the Turks, he took the Akhalkalaki fortress, making his way to it by mountain paths up to the waist in the snow with his heroes-grenadiers. Then Kotlyarevsky conquered the entire Akhalkalaki region with Russian weapons, for which he received the rank of general at the age of 29 …
The year 1812 began, a glorious year not only for victories over the French.
Napoleon was already in Moscow when General Kotlyarevsky and two thousand one hundred and twenty Russian soldiers attacked 30 thousand Persians at Aslanduz, defeated them and stabbed them at night in an unexpected night bayonet attack. On the Russian side, 127 people died, the Persians were killed up to 9000.
The key fortress of Lankaran remained in Persian hands, with 4,000 elite troops vowing to die but not surrender. Kotlyarevsky had less than two thousand, but on December 31, 1812, the fortress was taken, and the Russian bayonets left no one alive from the besieged.
Before the assault, General Kotlyarevsky gave his troops an order that could only be carried out by those equal to Suvorov’s miracle heroes:
I consider it necessary to warn all officers and soldiers that there will be no retreat. We must take the fortress or all die, why were we sent here. I offered twice to the enemy to surrender the fortress, but he persists; so let us prove to him, brave soldiers, that nothing can resist the power of the Russian bayonet: the Russians did not take such fortresses and not from such enemies as the Persians, and these do not mean anything against them.
And further in the order were pragmatic, clear instructions on how everyone should act during the assault.
The assault was also costly for the Russian side: almost half of the detachment were either killed or wounded. After the capture of Lankaran, Persia ceased to resist and concluded the Gulistan peace on Russian terms …
The general himself was wounded three times during the assault, including in the head. He lost his right eye, his jaw was shattered, his face was damaged, and shattered skull bones protruded from his head. The soldiers carried the body of an almost lifeless commander 300 miles home through the mountains. The doctor who operated on him removed 40 skull fragments, but saved his life. As a sign of respect, the noble general paid this doctor a part of his pension all his life.
A heroic military career ended at the age of 31. His further life demanded, perhaps, even greater courage. For almost forty years, the infantry general Kotlyarevsky endured unbearable, excruciating pain from numerous wounds. And about his activities in the Caucasus in 1812, he competently said that Russian blood shed in Asia … is no less precious than shed in Europe … and the bullets of the Gauls and Persians cause the same suffering.
The absolute truth, making you admire a real Russian warrior.