“Ishmael was taken, thank God! Victory is ours…”

The capture of the fortress allowed Russia to avoid isolation and to wage war with several powerful Nations. December 24 – the Day of military glory erected in honor of the capture of the Turkish fortress of Izmail Russian troops under the command of A.V. Suvorov in 1790. About this event remembers Archpriest Alexander Ilyashenko.

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Archpriest Alexander Ilyashenko

The war of 1787-1791 was not the first Russo-Turkish war. In the seventeenth century when Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, the don Cossacks captured Azov and withstood a long siege, which was led by a huge Turkish army. But since then Russia could not get involved in a major war with Turkey, Tsar ordered the Cossacks to leave Azov. It was about half a century before the storming of Izmail. In the early XVIII century Prut campaign undertaken by Peter the Great, is a complete failure, the Emperor himself barely was captured and escaped it only cost a large ransom and territorial concessions. But since the second half of the eighteenth century, the fortunes of war began to accompany the Russian army.

The Turks, who suffered a series of defeats against the Russian troops, in order to compensate for the failure, demanded serious concessions from the tsarist government, in particular they demanded the right of inspection of Russian merchant ships that passed by their possessions. Such conditions of course, Russia could not accept. Not having received any response to this requirement, the Turks in 1787 declared war on Russia.

To that moment there was a tense international situation. England, France, Poland and several other European countries planned to help Turkey, whose cases were unsuccessful. Because at the end of 1790 in the city of Sistova assembled a conference where Christian Europe, will speak collectively, solved the question of assistance to Muslim Turkey against Orthodox Russia. If this Union was formed, Russia was both in isolation and in front of a strong coalition that would put Russia in a very difficult position.

“You rush in there to accept all the parts of Your team…”

Ishmael was a huge fortress, built by the last the then military science the best French and Prussian engineers. In the fortress there was a huge garrison, according to various estimates, from 30 to 40 thousand people, and from 200 to 300 guns. In addition, the Turkish soldiers had received the order of the Sultan, who demanded to stand to the last, and promised to execute all who remain alive in the assault of Ishmael, if that will be taken. That is, the Turks understood the importance of this fortress, and as needed, including their vital interests, to hold her.

The Storming Of Izmail. Engraving By S. P. Shiflyar

Russian troops, whose number was slightly less than the number of the garrison, had previously tried to hold a few storms, but they ended in failure. In the end, was assembled a Council of war, and the Russian generals decided to retreat from Ishmael. Of course, they understand the exceptional value of this fortress for the course of the war. But they also knew that began the winter, though not as severe as in Central Russia, but with the rain, humidity, all sorts of diseases and other difficulties associated primarily with the supply of a great army, is and food for soldiers, fodder for horses, ammunition.

Supplying the army is a huge problem, which is always extremely acute, and in the winter especially. The army command was aware that the Turks will fight to the death. Therefore, seeing the futility of the siege, and in order to protect their soldiers from unnecessary losses caused by the fighting and bad weather, the generals decided to lift the siege and to withdraw the army into winter quarters.

The decision is quite reasonable, caused by adverse circumstances, but the current international situation makes it unacceptable. Therefore, contrary to common sense, his Serene Highness Prince Potemkin, who understood, who is Suvorov realized his exceptional level as a great leader, able to do the impossible, sent him to lead the army siege, subjected to him all the generals, withdrawing the former commander General Gudovich.

25 Nov Prince Potemkin sent Suvorov order, stating: “the Fleet under Ishmael destroyed nearly all their vessels, and the direction of the city to the water is purified; he is to take with the help of God for the mastery of the city. For this, Your Excellency, kindly rush in there to accept all the parts of Your team, taking on the courts of its own as you can put infantry… Arriving at the place, look through the engineers position and weaknesses. The direction of the city to the Danube I deem the weakest… the Son of the Prince De Lin engineer, will use his ability. God give You aid! Notify me pochastu. Major-General and Chevalier de Ribas I ordered to treat You”.

Look at the noble language of the XVIII century! Respect of his Serene Highness Prince Potemkin – the second person in the state after the Empress, refers to Suvorov, appreciating his talent!

To the order attached was a personal message:

“Ishmael remains a nest of the enemy. And even though the message is terminated by fleet, but he knits his hands to far. My hope in God and your courage. Make haste, my noble friend! I warrant you there personal your will connect all the parts. Many tamo riwnodennyk generals, and that is always some kind of the diet indecisive. Ribas You will be around to help and entrepreneurial spirit, and zeal; be happy and Kutuzov. Ogledi all rasporedi, and pomalaza God, take. There are weaknesses, just walked together. Prince Golitsyn give instruction. When God will help, go higher.” See Potemkin already noticed and singled out Mikhail Illarionovich. And further: “pomalaza God do… when God will help.”

These words are an example of how profoundly religious were at that time the first men of the state, as they really relied on the help of God and with what unfeigned respect to each other.

Suvorov trained the troops

The arrival of Suvorov was remarkably raised the spirit of the army. A positive, fighting spirit is one of the most important conditions for the successful conduct of military operations, it is difficult to overestimate.

Upon arrival Suvorov immediately at a considerable distance from the fortress was not visible, constructed the layouts of the walls and moat surrounding the city, taught soldiers to climb these high walls, moat pre-throwing bundles of brushwood, tashinami – they are easy to carry and they are durable enough to withstand the weight of a huge number of people.

During the week Suvorov intensively trained troops, that they understand how to act in these precarious conditions. He toured the fortress, with the minimum distance, almost at the distance of a gunshot, considering the strong and weak points of the fortress. That is, he personally represented, what will be the soldiers to go on these fortifications under enemy fire. He further strengthened the fire siege artillery to suppress the enemy’s artillery. Had to bring it down before throwing troops into the assault. Otherwise Turkish artillery dared fire grapeshot all of the advancing column, running a tight formation. At close range buckshot is more destructive machine guns.

A. V. Suvorov. Artist. Kreuzinger

One wall of the fortress, facing the Danube, cleared the Turkish fleet, and informed them protected, was somewhat weaker than the other. The attack had been planned from this side, that had great significance. Suvorov that is skillfully prepared all the conditions for a successful assault.

No coalition could not change the course of events

When Suvorov arrived for Ishmael, he wrote a legendary letter. It reads: “Serasker, elders and society. I’m with the army arrived. 24 hours for reflection-you can surrender and will; my first shots – is already a bondage, assault and death. I leave it for your consideration.” The original of this text is stored in the Central military-historical archive, but it is crossed out. Obviously, Suvorov is it dictated, and then still felt that it was too harsh and need to speak more smartenna, diplomatic language. Wrote a more moderate text, but the same content:


from the General-in-chief and knight of Count Suvorov of Rymnik

Prevoshoditelstva Mr. Serasker Megamoto Pasha Idose, commander in Ishmael; and the venerable Sultans and other pashas and all officials.

Getting to the siege and storming of Izmail by Russian troops, the number being noble, but observing the duty of humanity, in order to avert bloodshed and cruelty, despite the fact buwembo, letting you know through these things to Your Excellency and honorable Sultan! And require return of the city without resistance. Here are displayed various methods to your benefit and all residents! What to expect from now through twenty-four hours strong you tell me to the perception of action.

Otherwise it will be difficult to benefit humanity, when they can not be spared, not only one, but the women and innocent babies from irritable army; and no one like You and all the officials before God to give an answer they should.

Dec 7 th day 1790″.

In response, the Turks have requested a ten-day period for reflection. But it was obvious that they are just playing for time in the hope that they will have reinforcements. Suvorov showed leniency and said that, contrary to his custom, gives them another 24 hours.

And here’s a deep December night, in 3 hours, the Russian columns began to move to the intended place. Everything was very well thought out, the commanders knew where to go, acted precisely according to plan. It is very interesting that in the Russian army already in the quality of the signals applied flares. The Turks did not understand that the missiles indicate the beginning of the storm or something else, ran them every night for a few pieces without a system. At 8 o’clock in the morning the Russian troops climbed the walls, and on the struggle went on in the city.

“The storming of Izmail”, detail of diorama

Suvorov, when passed on the streets of the city, was ordered to enter a battery of light guns, so they shot cleared the streets from the defending Turks. By noon the city was taken, the Turks resisted, the commandant of Izmail Idosi Mehmet Pasha, a very brave soldier, was killed in this battle.

The attack was made so vigorously and so rapidly that the desperate resistance of the Turks was broken. The Turkish losses were enormous, they fought to the last.

On the capture of Izmail Suvorov sent a report to Potemkin:

“His Serene Highness Prince Sir!

The walls of Ismail, and the people fell before the feet of the throne of Her Imperial Majesty. The assault was prolonged and megatropolis. Ishmael was taken, thank God! Victory is ours… Your Lordship I have the honor to congratulate you.

General Count Alexander Suvorov-Rymniksky

11 Dec 1790. Ishmael“.

When the Systems came the stunning news of the capture of this impregnable fortress, the conference, which gathered there, has lost the meaning, because Turkey suffered a decisive defeat and was unable to continue the war. No coalition could not change the course of events. The capture of the fortress allowed Russia to avoid isolation and to wage war with several powerful Nations.

Because winning a Ishmael was really strictly necessary for Russia, she decided the weight and military, diplomatic, and political problems. Great men of the eighteenth century had the ability to very broad, global look at the problem and finding an unexpected and effective solutions…

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