Flash-версия сайта доступна
по ссылке (www.shirogorov.ru):

Карта сайта:

War on the Eve of Nations. A post mortem



On 14 July 1500—right in the middle of the year that divided the second millennium of the current era of human history between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Time—in the centre of Europe, halfway from Britain to the Ural and halfway from Scandinavia to the Caucasus, around 100 kilometres east of the city of Smolensk, on the forested and swampy plane marked by the triangle confluence of the rivers Vedrosha, Trosna and Polna, two huge armies met. They clashed, predicting the future split of Europe into East and West, forecasting the outcome of the struggle for domination in Eastern Europe and outlining the partition of former Rus’ into Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus—so troublesome in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and so turbulent in the twentieth and twenty-first. It was the battle of the transition from the past to the future, the engagement of the crossroads of history.

The envoy of the German Empire to Moscow, Sigismund von Herberstein, referred to the day of the Vedrosha battle as the instant reverse in Moscow’s favour of all the diligent construction of Lithuania accomplished by its famous Grand Prince Vitovt over many years.8 Since Herberstein’s eyewitness treatise of 1549, the estimations of both contemporaries and historians have followed or expanded on the testimony. The Vedrosha engagement concluded the states-building and military development in Eastern Europe of the last half of the fifteenth century and established trends which would dominate the region in the sixteenth century. Nevertheless, the event itself remains obscure.

It is evident that the battle of the Vedrosha was the pivotal event of the broader confrontation. But its place in the confrontation is unclear. Even for the campaign of 1500, the plans of the belligerent sides must be deduced without direct sources. The campaign of 1500 was the focus of the political, military, economic, demographic and ideological developments of the preceding half-century. But in what kind of outcome did it crown them? Was it a feat of arms, dynastic climbing or the triumph of nation? Of what nation?

The battle of the Vedrosha isn’t popular among experts on the military history of the Early Modern Time, who treat it as a crucial but misty episode of the Moscow–Lithuanian wars of the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries. They skip it because the juicy details which attract their attention in military events are absent and because the Military Revolution cliché in which Early Modern military history is now wrapped doesn’t work on it. There is a lot to tell about this battle, tearing away the cliché-wrapping and portraying the story of the real armed conflict—from the military buildup and strategy to the dogfight. It starts with the surprising question: who confronted whom?

The Lithuanian side is more or less known. According to the Polish Chronicle of Poland, Lithuania, Samogitia and All of Ruthenia authored by Maciej Stryjkowskij and the anonymous Lithuanian Bychowiec’s Chronicle the grand hetman (from the German for captain, Hauptmann) of the Grand Principality of Lithuania, Prince Constantine Ostrogski, led the modest army of 3,500 horsemen “besides footmen.”9 Probably they were the mercenary corps of the bigger army overlooked by the chroniclers.10 This lapse by the Polish observers wasn’t surprising. The men of the mercenary corps were hired from among the Polish nobility, so they were considered deserving of the attention. Agents in Poland collected mercenaries for the Lithuanian Grand Prince Alexander in line with the Unia (Union) of 1499, military alliance settled between Poland and Lithuania; the Lithuanian offshore treasury office in the Polish town of Poznan financed the hire.11 But Ostrogski also had Lithuanian troops which were worth recording. As a country of four million people from the Baltic shores to the Black Sea Steppes, the Grand Principality of Lithuania moved out an army quite discernable in the Polish Chronicle of Lithuania and Samogitia as the overall noble levy, though its numbers are unknown.12 The mobilisation for the campaign of 1500 was accomplished in good time; Alexander was personally in charge of it. In the town of Borisov, the grand prince appointed Ostrogski to head the army. He accompanied it to the river Bobr where he ordered Ostrogski to advance on the Moscow-held town of Vyazma and look for the enemy.13

While the composition of Ostrogski’s army is unclear, its political shape noted in the Chronicles is correct. It consisted of the Lithuanian, Western Rus’ (present-day Belarus) and South-Western Rus’ (present-day Ukraine) forces fighting as a bloc. Its military array—the balance of foot and horse troops, the use of artillery and fieldworks, the organisational structure, the line of command and the inherent tactics—was ignored by the chroniclers. It is represented as some obscure mass. The names of its leaders are listed only among the losses. Their command functions are omitted. This defect of the Chronicles’ evidence is the rarest point of agreement among current Belarussian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian historians.14

What about the other side of the hostilities? The impenetrable fog of time has condensed over it. It was the army of the Grand Principality of Moscow that confronted Ostrogski. Data about it are limited to the propaganda numbers of Bychowiec’s Chronicle and Stryjkowskij’s tale of 40,000 “excellently equipped” horsemen “besides footmen.”15 A minimum is known about its composition and organisation from the Russian Ustyug’s Chronicles.16 According to the Moscow “Mission Books” (the registers where the campaigning details were recorded), the Moscow army included the definite divisions, known as Gosudarev Dvor and Sila of Tver. It was divided into five tactical regiments and it was commanded at the top by Prince Daniel Patrikeyev, nicknamed as Shchenya (the Cub), Boyarin (his court title) Yury Koshkin and Khan Muhammed Emin.17

The progress of the encounter is even less known than the forces involved. The hesitant manoeuvres of Koshkin and the pointed march of Ostrogski are mentioned, as well as the vanguards’ action, the tenacious fight of the main forces and the sudden charge of the fresh Moscow reserves on the exhausted Lithuanians. Without data about the troops involved, the details tell nothing.

Knowledge of the terrain could help, but the toponyms of the encounter are lost: neither the rivers Vedrosha, Trosna and Polna nor the field Mitkovo mentioned in the Chronicles are known in the vicinity of Smolensk. The location of the battle is still under discussion. While some historians place it in the outskirts of the town of Dorogobuzh,18 others move it some 20 kilometres to the south near the village of Aleksino between Dorogobuzh and the town of Yelnya.19 None of the possibilities is supported by the archaeological evidence.

The similar battle of Orsha, held only fourteen years later between the same participants not far away, received grandiose attention. It was described in tiny details in Chronicles, memoirs, letters and pictures20 although it was fought only to reverse the fortunes of the Vedrosha engagement and it failed at that.

Observers of the time had their reasons for disregarding or hiding the data about the Vedrosha battle and depicting the Orsha one as if in a vacuum. It’s a loss for historical curiosity, but it’s quite reasonable. Though interconnected, the two events nevertheless belonged to different historical epochs. The Vedrosha engagement crowned the preceding epoch, the Orsha battle promoted the epoch that followed. The verge between them was sharp like a sabre edge.

The war between Moscow and Lithuania, with the climax battle of the Vedrosha of 1500, completed the geopolitical restructuring of Eastern Europe that started circa 1450 and was fixed in 1500. During that half-century everything changed in Eastern Europe, including the number, shapes and power hierarchy of states, their inner contents, interrelationships and even names. The competition for territories in the states-building ebbed in 1500 and the conflict over hegemony in the region tided. The battle of Orsha in 1514 became one of the first big engagements of it.

The military conflict over hegemony in Eastern Europe continued for another two centuries; its events and persons have been researched in historiography. The armed conflict of the epoch of the states-building that preceded it isn’t generalised at all. The situation calls for a reconstruction of the Vedrosha engagement in the study of the epoch it concluded. The case study of the battle of Vedrosha turns the battlefield story of the engagement into the military history of the half-century.


Хроника сумерек Мне не нужны... Рогов Изнанка ИХ Ловцы Безвременье Некто Никто

сайт проекта: www.nektonikto.ru

Стихи. Музыка Предчувствие прошлого Птицы War on the Eve of Nations

на главную: www.shirogorov.ru/html/

© 2013 Владимир Широгоров | разработка: Чеканов Сергей | иллюстрации: Ксения Львова