Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov

Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov[1] (Russian: Алексе́й Петро́вич Ермо́лов, IPA: [jɪrˈmoləf]; 4 June [O.S. 24 May] 1777 – 23 April [O.S. 11 April] 1861) was a Russian Imperial general of the 19th century who commanded Russian troops in the Caucasian War. He served in all the Russian campaigns against the French, except for the 1799 campaigns of Alexander Suvorov in northern Italy and Switzerland. During this time he was accused of conspiracy against Paul I and sentenced to exile. Two years later he was pardoned and brought back into service by Alexander I. Yermolov distinguished himself during the Napoleonic Wars at the Battles of Austerlitz, Eylau, Borodino, Kulm, and Paris. Afterwards he led the Russian conquest of the Caucasus.

Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov
Aleksey Yermolov, no later than 1825, by George Dawe.
Born4 June 1777
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died23 April 1861 (aged 83)
Moscow, Russian Empire
Allegiance Russian Empire
Service/branchImperial Russian Army
Years of service1787–1827
RankGeneral of the Infantry
Battles/warsKościuszko Uprising
Persian Expedition of 1796
Napoleonic Wars Caucasian War
Russo-Persian War (1826–28)
AwardsOrder of St. Andrew
Order of St. George
Order of St. Vladimir
Order of Saint Anna
Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
Order of the White Eagle

Early life

Yermolov was born on 4 June 1777 in Moscow[2] to a Russian noble family from the Oryol gubernia. He graduated from the boarding school of the Moscow University and enlisted in the Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment on 16 January 1787. Four years later, he was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to the Nizhegorod Dragoon Regiment with the rank of captain. He briefly taught at the Artillery and Engineer Cadet Corps in 1793 before being sent to fight the Polish insurgents in the Polish campaign of 1794. He participated in the assault on Praga and received the Order of St. George (4th class) on 12 January 1795. The next year, Yermolov took part in the Persian Campaign along the Caspian Sea. However, he was arrested on 7 January 1799 for alleged participation in conspiracy against Tsar Paul I and spent two years in exile to Kostroma, where he taught himself Latin.

After the assassination of Paul I in 1801, the new emperor, Alexander I, pardoned Yermolov, who returned to the military and began studying the works of Alexander Suvorov, whose disciple he now considered himself. Yermolov was appointed to the 8th Artillery Regiment on 13 May 1801; he then transferred to the horse artillery company on 21 June 1801.

Napoleonic Wars

General Yermolov lead the counterattack on the Great Redoubt during the Battle of Borodino

His own military genius blossomed during the Napoleonic Wars. During the 1805 Campaign, Yermolov served in the rear and advance guards and distinguished himself at Amstetten and Austerlitz. For his actions, he was promoted to colonel on 16 July 1806. The following year, he participated in the campaign in Poland, serving in Prince Bagration's advance guard. He distinguished himself commanding an artillery company in numerous rearguard actions during the retreat to Landsberg as well as in the Battle of Eylau. In June 1807, Yermolov commanded horse artillery company in the actions at Guttstadt, Deppen, Heilsberg and Friedland, being awarded the Order of St. George (3rd class, 7 September 1807). He was promoted to major general on 28 March 1808 and was appointed inspector of horse artillery companies. In early 1809, he inspected artillery companies of the Army of the Danube. Although his division took part in the 1809 campaign against Austria, Yermolov commanded the reserves in Volhynia and Podolsk gubernias, where he remained for the next two years. In 1811, he took command of the guard artillery company and in 1812, became the Chief of Staff of the 1st Western Army.

During the 1812 Campaign, Yermolov took part in the retreat to Smolensk and played an important role in the quarrel between Generals Barclay de Tolly and Bagration. He opposed Barclay's strategy and appealed to Emperor Alexander I to replace him with Bagration. After the Russian armies united on 2 August, Yermolov fought at Smolensk and Lubino (Valutina Gora) for which he was promoted to lieutenant general on 12 November 1812 with seniority dating from 16 August 1812. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Borodino, where he was lightly wounded leading a counterattack that recaptured the Great Redoubt. For his courage, Yermolov received the Order of St. Anna (1st class). During the rest of the campaign, he served as a duty officer in the headquarters of the main Russian army and fought at Maloyaroslavets. In October–November 1812, Yermolov served in the advance guard under Miloradovich and fought at Vyazma and Krasnyi. In late November, he commanded one of the detachments in the advance guard under General Rosen taking part in the combats on the Berezina. On 3 December 1812, he was recalled to the main headquarters where he became the Chief of Staff of the Russian army. Three weeks later, he was appointed commander of the artillery of the Russian armies.

During the European campaigns of 1813 and 1814, Yermolov was in charge of the artillery corps of the allies. His able command proved crucial to their success in the Battle of Kulm. In 1813, Yermolov fought at Lützen, where he was accused of insubordination and transferred to command the 2nd Guard Division. He then fought at Bautzen, commanding the Russian rearguard during the retreat, and at Kulm where he was decorated with the Prussian Iron Cross. In 1814, he distinguished himself in the battle around Paris and was awarded the Order of St. George on 7 April 1814.


Yermolov's main tasks were to secure Russia's hold over Georgia and the khanates recently taken from Persia, to occupy the Caucasus range separating the new territories from the rest of the Empire and to subdue the ‘savage’ and hostile Muslim tribes inhabiting it. But first he had another, most urgent task: Yermolov had to travel on a mission to Tehran, to evade the execution of Alexander I's promise to restore to Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar part of the territories acquired by Russia in the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813 [3]

During his tenure as commander-in-chief in the Caucasus, Yermolov (by that time promoted to the rank of full artillery general) was responsible for robust Russian military policies in Caucasus, where his name became a byword for brutality. In a reply to the outraged Alexander I, he wrote, "I desire that the terror of my name shall guard our frontiers more potently than chains or fortresses."[4] He was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian forces in Georgia and commander of the Independent Georgian Corps on 21 April 1816. His promotion to the position was seen as a personal insult by his superiors and earned him many enemies at home.[5] He proved himself an able administrator and successfully negotiated with Persia in 1818, receiving promotion to general of infantry on 4 March 1818.

In 1817, he fortified a ford on the Sunzha river and founded the fortress of Grozny the following year. After repelling an attack by the highlanders, he undertook a punitive raid against them. His decisive measures did succeed in keeping many of the allied tribes loyal.

For ten years he was both commander-in-chief of the Georgian armies and the imperial ambassador to Persia. His independent character would often lead him to conflicts with the Ministry of War, exacerbated by the personal antagonism of many of its members. He was adored by his soldiers, often fraternising with them, and generally successful in combatting the highlanders of Dagestan, but failed to prevent multiple uprisings.

When, in 1825, Yermolov found out that Alexander Griboyedov was about to be arrested on charges relating to the Decembrist revolt, he warned him of it, enabling Griboyedov to destroy some compromising papers and avoid arrest.[6]

Yermolov's career came to an abrupt end in 1827 and he was replaced with Nicholas I's favorite Ivan Paskevich.[7] The exact reasons are unclear, but he was disliked by Nicholas and was blamed for not keeping the tribes in check. As Professor Moshe Gammer [2] writes:

Far from subduing the population, as his admirers up to the present have asserted, his activities rather intensified hatred to Russia, stiffened resistance to it and helped to enhance the role of Islam, in the form of the spread of the Naqshbandi tariqa (Sufi brotherhood) which would leave now resistance in the eastern part of the Caucasus and for some periods of time in some of its western parts too. [8]

Yermolov was discharged on 7 December 1827 with a full pension. However, four years later, Nicholas restored him in the rank (6 November 1831) and appointed him to the State Council; Yermolov's rank of general of infantry was confirmed in 1833.


Portrait of Yermolov by Pyotr Zakharov-Chechenets, 1843
Alexey Ermolov
Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov

During the last 30 years of his life, Yermolov lived in seclusion at his manor near Oryol. He was asked to lead a peasant militia during the Crimean War but declined on account of poor health. He died on 23 April [O.S. 11 April] 1861 in Moscow and was buried at the Trinity Church in Oryol.

Yermolov left very interesting and valuable memoirs on his service in 1796-1816. His Zapiski (Memoirs) are divided into three parts covering his early career, the Napoleonic Wars, and his service in the Caucasus. They were published posthumously in two volumes


In addition to the decorations already mentioned, Yermolov was decorated with the Russian Orders of St. Andrew the First Called, of St. Vladimir (1st class), of St. Alexander Nevsky, of the White Eagle, and of St. Anna (1st class); foreign orders received included the Prussian Orders of the Red Eagle (1st class) and the Pour le Mérite, the Military Order of Maria Theresa (3rd class), the Baden Order of Karl Friedrich, the Persian Order of the Lion and the Sun, and two golden swords for courage (including one with diamonds).

Impact and trivia

Yermolov was one of the best artillery officers in the Russian army. He proved his abilities throughout the Napoleonic Wars and later in the Caucasus. However, he was also a shrewd and cunning courtier, who often intrigued against his superiors. Because of his enigmatic character, Yermolov was often described as the "Modern Sphinx". He proved himself a ruthless and effective ruler in the Caucasus.

He was a character in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace, and in Prokofiev's opera of the same name, based on the novel.


Yermolov is a highly controversial historical figure. He is respected by Russian people for his military skills, and hated by many Caucasus nations for his brutality.

In Russia, he was famous for military prowess, bravery and strategy. His charismatic leadership of imperial armies was romanticized in poems by Alexander Pushkin, Vasily Zhukovsky, and others.[9]

However, in the Caucasus (with the exception of Ossetia), Yermolov is infamous for atrocities he had committed.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

As Caucasus expert Charles King puts it:

Ermolov was a quintessential frontier conqueror. He was the first to employ a comprehensive strategy for the subjugation of the Caucasus highlands, and his brutal methods would be used, in one form or another, by tsarists, Bolsheviks, and Russian generals into the twenty-first century.

Ermolov was the most celebrated and, at the same time, the most hated of Russian commanders in the Caucasus theater. To St.Petersburg society he was the gallant, Latin-quoting senior officer. For generations of indigenous mountaineers he was the dreaded "Yarmul" who razed villages and slaughtered families. Although he gained the supreme confidence of one Tsar, Alexander I, he was treated with suspicion by another, Nicholas I. He was responsible for implementing a series of policies that were at the time hailed as vehicles for civilizing the benighted Caucasus frontier but today might very well be called state-sponsored terrorism.[16]

This is how Baddeley [17] describes him:

In person no less than in character Yermolov impressed all who came near him as one born to command. Of gigantic stature and uncommon physical strength, with round head set on mighty shoulders and framed in shaggy locks, there was something leonine in his whole appearance, which, coupled with unsurpassed courage, was well calculated to excite the admiration of his own men and strike terror into his semi-barbarous foes. Incorruptibly honest, simple, even rude in his habit, and of Spartan hardihood, his sword was ever at his side, and in city as in camp he slept wrapped only in his militarry cloak, and rose with the sun.


  1. ^ Also transliterated Ermolov.
  2. ^ Григорий Шенкман. Они родились в 1777 году. p 74 Алетейя, 2008 ISBN 5914190932
  3. ^ Gammer, Moshe. ‘Proconsul of the Caucasus’: a Re-examination of Yermolov. Social Evolution & History. Volume 2, Number 1 / March 2003. pp.177–194. [1]
  4. ^ Lesley Blanch The Sabres of Paradis; p. 24
  5. ^ Lesley Blanch The Sabres of Paradise pp. 23-24
  6. ^ Отметим, что Ермолов, получивший в конце 1825 года приказ об аресте служившего при нем Грибоедова, предупредил знаменитого драматурга о грозящей ему опасности, что дало возможность писателю уничтожить компрометирующие документы. Иначе Грибоедов, несомненно, был бы осужден по делу декабристов, так как со многими из них его тесно связывали не только литературные вкусы, но и политические убеждения.
  7. ^ Frederick W. Kagan. The Military Reforms of Nicholas I: The Origins of the Modern Russian Army, Palgrave, 1999, ISBN 0-312-21928-8, p.291.
  8. ^ Gammer, Moshe (September 2013). "Empire and Mountains: The Case of Russia and the Caucasus" (PDF). Uchitel Publishing House.
  9. ^ Also known in some English language sources originating from German as Alexei Petrowitsch Jermolow
  10. ^ King, Charles. The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus.
  11. ^ Dunlop, John. Russia confronts Chechnya: Roots of a Separatist Conflict
  12. ^ Gammer, Moshe. Lone Wolf and Bear: 300 years of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule
  13. ^ Wood, Tony.Chechnya: The Case for Independence
  14. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook
  15. ^ Lieven, Anatol. Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power
  16. ^ King, Charles. The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus. Page 45
  17. ^ John F. Baddeley, Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, Chapter VI, 1908

Further reading

  • In 2005, Ravenhall Books published his memoirs under titles The Czar's General: The Memoirs of a Russian General by Alexey Yermolov, translated and edited by Alexander Mikaberidze.
  • Gammer M. "Proconsul of the Caucasus": a Re-examination of Yermolov. Social Evolution & History 2(1): 177-194.

External links

Media related to Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov at Wikimedia Commons

Alexey Yermolov

Alexey Yermolov is the name of:

Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov (1772–1861), Russian general and statesman

Alexey Sergeyevich Yermolov (1846–1917), Russian economist, politician and statesman

Caucasian War

The Caucasian War (Russian: Кавказская война; Kavkazskaya vojna) of 1817–1864 was an invasion of the Caucasus by the Russian Empire which resulted in Russia's annexation of the areas of the North Caucasus, and the ethnic cleansing of Circassians. It consisted of a series of military actions waged by the Empire against the peoples of the Caucasus including the Adyghe, Abkhaz–Abaza, Ubykhs, Kumyks and Nakh and Dagestanians as Russia sought to expand. In Dagestan, resistance to the Russians was described as jihad.Russian control of the Georgian Military Highway in the center divided the Caucasian War into the Russo-Circassian War in the west and the Murid War in the east. Other territories of the Caucasus (comprising contemporary eastern Georgia, southern Dagestan, Armenia and Azerbaijan) were incorporated into the Russian empire at various times in the 19th century as a result of Russian wars with Persia. The remaining part, western Georgia, was taken by the Russians from the Ottomans during the same period.

Chechen–Russian conflict

The Chechen–Russian conflict (Russian: Чеченский конфликт, Chechenskiy konflikt) is the centuries-long conflict, often armed, between the Russian (formerly Soviet) government and various Chechen nationalist and Islamist forces. Formal hostilities date back to 1785, though elements of the conflict can be traced back considerably further.The Russian Empire initially had little interest in the North Caucasus itself other than as a communication route to its ally Georgia and its enemies, the Persian and Ottoman Empires, but growing tensions triggered by Russian activities in the region resulted in an uprising of Chechens against the Russian presence in 1785, followed by further clashes and the outbreak of the Caucasian War in 1817. Russia only succeeded in suppressing the Chechen rebels in 1864.

During the Russian Civil War, Chechens and other Caucasian nations lived in independence for a few years before being Sovietized in 1921. During the Second World War, the Chechens saw the German invasion as an opportunity to revolt against the Soviet regime. In response, they were deported en masse to Central Asia where they were forced to stay until 1957.

The most recent conflict between Chechen and the Russian government took place in the 1990s. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Chechen separatists declared independence in 1991. By late 1994 the First Chechen War broke out and after two years of fighting the Russian forces withdrew from the region. In 1999, the fighting restarted and concluded the next year with the Russian security forces establishing control over Chechnya.

Fath-Ali Shah Qajar

Fath-Ali Shah Qajar (Persian: فتح‌على شاه قاجار‎; var. Fathalishah, Fathali Shah, Fath Ali Shah; 25 September 1772 – 23 October 1834) was the second Shah (Qajar emperor) of Iran. He reigned from 17 June 1797 until his death. His reign saw the irrevocable ceding of Iran's northern territories in the Caucasus, comprising what is nowadays Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, to the Russian Empire following the Russo-Persian Wars of 1804–13 and 1826–28 and the resulting treaties of Gulistan and Turkmenchay. Historian Joseph M. Upton says that he "is famous among Persians for three things: his exceptionally long beard, his wasp-like waist, and his progeny."At the end of his reign, his difficult economic problems and military and technological liabilities took Iran to the verge of governmental disintegration, which was quickened by a consequent struggle for the throne after his death.


Gantiadi (Georgian: განთიადი [gɑntʰiɑdi] (listen); Russian: Гантиади) or Tsandryphsh (Abkhazian: Цандрыҧшь; Russian: Цандрыпш), is an urban-type settlement on the Black Sea coast in Georgia, in the Gagra District of Abkhazia, 5 km from the Russian border.

Georgian Military Road

The Georgian Military Road (Georgian: საქართველოს სამხედრო გზა, [sakartvelos samkhedro gza], Russian: Военно-Грузинская дорога, translit. Voyenno-Gruzinskaya doroga, Ossetian: Арвыкомы фæндаг [Arvykomy fændag]) is the historic name for a major route through the Caucasus from Georgia to Russia. Alternative routes across the mountains include the Ossetian Military Road and the Transkam.

Georgia–Russia border

The Georgia–Russia border is the state border between Georgia and Russia.

It runs mostly along the Caucasus range and thus closely follows the conventional boundary between Europe and Asia.

Peaks along the border include Shota Rustaveli Peak, Dzhangi-Tau, Shkhara, Dzhimara, Kazbek and Tebulosmta.

Ivan Paskevich

Prince (1831) Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich (Russian: Ива́н Фёдорович Паске́вич; 19 May [O.S. 8 May] 1782 – 1 February [O.S. 20 January] 1856) was a Russian Imperial military leader of Ukrainian Cossack ethnicity. For his victories, he was made Count of Yerevan in 1828 and Namestnik of the Kingdom of Poland in 1831. He attained the rank of field marshal in the Russian army, and later in the Prussian and Austrian armies.

Juan Van Halen

Juan Van Halen y Sarti (16 February 1788 – 8 November 1864) was a Spanish military officer. After fighting for the losing side in the Peninsular War, he was forced to flee to Spain. Van Halen became a military adventurer throughout Europe and went on an 18-month tenure as a colonel in the Russian Caucasus Dragoon Regiment until his removal by Tsar Alexander I of Russia.

Nikolay Motovilov

Nikolay Alexandrovich Motovilov (Russian: Николай Александрович Мотовилов; 3 May 1809 – 14 January 1879) was a Russian landowner, Justice of the Peace, businessman and Fool for Christ. He is primarily known as the first biographer of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. In Russian Orthodox tradition he is often referred as the Servant to Seraphim and the Theotokos.Motovilov was born in Simbirsk to a noble family, and graduated from Kazan University. According to his notes, he once tried to commit suicide by drowning in Chyornoye Lake near Kazan, but was stopped by an apparition of the Theotokos, whom he claimed to have led him throughout the remainder of his life. Motovilov became acquainted with Saint Seraphim of Sarov and became one of his disciples.

Motovilov wrote down many of his conversations with St. Seraphim, including his favorite, Seraphim's Talk On the Purpose of the Christian Life, that occurred in November 1831 in the forest near Sarov. This event has been depicted in several different icons of St. Seraphim, and is considered one of modern Orthodoxy's most important spiritual treasures.

In 1827 Motovilov started government work in Simbirsk. He had a conflict with Freemasons there, and was arrested and imprisoned in 1832 on trumped-up charges. Motovilov later claimed that these charges were fabricated by his Freemason enemies, including Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov. In 1833, Motovilov was released from prison by order of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, but lost all chances for employment with the government thereafter.In 1840 Motovilov married Yelena Ivanovna Meliukova, the niece of a pupil of St. Seraphim, schemo-nun Marfa, and settled down on his estate near Simbirsk. Here he worked ceaselessly to glorify the name of Seraphim, who had died in 1833. Motovilov wrote numerous letters to important personages, including the Emperor himself, endeavoring to demonstrate the depths of Seraphim's prophetic gift and philosophy. He also organized large business ventures such as the Svyato-Preobrazhensky Bank, assisting in the migration of "millions of peasants" from Central Russia to Siberia. Motovilov spent the proceeds of his ventures on the Serafimo-Diveevsky Monastery. Acquiring the nickname The breadwinner of Diveyevo Monastery (Питатель Дивеевского Монастыря), Motovilov increasingly behaved as a Fool for Christ, with neighbors considering him mentally ill. He died in 1879, and was buried at Serafimo-Diveyevsky Monastery.

Seraphim of Sarov, whose name Motovilov had worked so hard to bring to Russian public awareness, was canonized in 1903. He remains one of the modern Orthodox Church's most beloved saints.

Motovilov's manuscripts were mostly left unpublished, and were stored in disarray in baskets kept in the attic of his house. In 1903 Motovilov's widow passed the baskets with the manuscripts—by now filled with feathers and chicken droppings—to the religious writer Sergei Nilus. Nilus eventually found a way to decipher the materials and published them. Motovilov's materials became the main source for the biography and teaching of St. Seraphim, the teachings of St. Anthonius of Voronezh, founder of Serafimo-Diveevsky Monastery, and nun Alexandra of Diveyevo. Motovilov's writings also strongly influenced the works of Nilus.

In one of Nilus’ books "On the banks of God’s river" we find a most extraordinary prediction of Seraphim Sarovsky, carried to us by Nikolay Motovilov. It is known as “The Great Mystery of Diveevo”. It says that rev. Seraphim would be taken to heaven before his due time to be later resurrected by God in the times of a greatest neglect of Christian belief. After his resurrection, he will start the world-wide Sermon of repentance

Order of battle of the French invasion of Russia

This is the order of battle of the French invasion of Russia.

Order of the Lion and the Sun

The Imperial Order of the Lion and the Sun was instituted by Fat’h Ali Shah of the Qajar Dynasty in 1808 to honour foreign officials (later extended to Persians) who had rendered distinguished services to Persia. In 1925, under the Pahlavi dynasty the Order continued as the Order of Homayoun with new insignia, though based on the Lion and Sun motif. This motif was used for centuries by the rulers of Persia, being formally adopted under Mohammad Shah.

The order is abbreviated as KLS which actually stands for Knight of Lion and Sun.The order was senior to the Order of the Crown. It was issued in five grades.


Oryol or Orel (Russian: Орёл, IPA: [ɐˈrʲɵl], lit. eagle) is a city and the administrative center of Oryol Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River, approximately 360 kilometers (220 mi) south-southwest of Moscow. Population: 317,747 (2010 Census); 333,310 (2002 Census); 336,862 (1989 Census).

Pyotr Zakharov-Chechenets

Pyotr Zakharovich Zakharov-Chechenets (Russian: Пётр Захарович Захаров-Чеченец; 1816 – 1846) was a Russian painter of Chechen origin. He is believed to be the only professional painter of Chechen origin in the 19th century.

Russian Army order of battle (1812)

The Imperial Russian Army in June 1812 consisted of three main armies and other military formations. The Commander in Chief of the Army was Emperor Alexander I.

St. Nicholas Church, Baku

Church of Saint Nicholas (Russian: Собор Св. Николая Чудотворца) was a Russian Orthodox Church built in Baku between 1850 and 1857.

Timeline of Grozny

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Grozny, Chechen Republic, Russia.

Valerian Madatov

Prince Valerian Grigoryevich Madatov (Russian: Валериан Григорьевич Мадатов, Armenian: Ռոստոմ Մադաթյան, Rostom Madatyan) (1782 – September 4, 1829) was a Russian prince and a lieutenant-general of the Russian Empire.


Yermolov may refer to:

Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov, Russian Imperial general of the 19th century who commanded Russian troops in the Caucasus War, Russo-Persian Wars, and Napoleonic Wars

Alexey Yermolov (disambiguation), several meanings

Alexander Petrovich Yermolov (1754–1834), Russian courtier

Alexey Sergeyevich Yermolov

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