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Humanitarian sciences in Siberia

2018 year, number 2

ANNIHILATION VS. ATTRITION: KARS’ BLOCKADE IN 1855 IN THE LIGHT OF STRATEGIC PERCEPTION OF RUSSIAN AND ENGLISH COMMAND

D.Yu. Plotnikov
Institute of History SB RAS, 8, Nikolaeva str., Novosibirsk, 630090, Russian Federation
Keywords: Крымская война, Кавказский ТВД, стратегия сокрушения, стратегия измора, Н.Н. Муравьев, Ф. Вильямс, Crimean War, Caucasian theater of operations, strategy of annihilation, strategy of attrition, N.N. Muraviev, F. Williams

Abstract

The article aims to establish the influence of the Russian and English strategic perceptions exerted in the course of the blockade of Kars over the planning, the conduct of operations, and the results of the 1855 Caucasian campaign of the Crimean War of 1853-1856. The existing historiography of the Crimean War at the Caucasian theater of operations tends to create factual accounts or review tactical and operational methods, or the armies involved. However, the existing body of research does not complement the tactical and operational criticism with the analysis of the opposing side’s strategic perceptions. The article is based on the dialectical approach to the history of the military art, introduced by Hans Delbrück, who viewed the evolution of military art as the interaction of two opposing principles - annihilation and attrition. When applied to the analysis of Kars’ blockade in 1855, this approach allows establishing that the Russian command represented by N.N. Muraviev, the general of infantry, the Commander of the Separate Corps and the Viceroy of the Caucasus, was trapped within the paradigm of annihilation going back to Napoleonic Wars. Because of this approach, the Russian general devoted all his attention to Kars’ blockade, which had harbored the greater portion of Turkish Anatolian Army. As a result, he generally ignored another important operational objective - Erzurum, the capital of the Eastern Anatolia and the city of considerable economic, political and strategic importance.On the other hand, the allied side represented by the British brigadier-general F. Williams, demonstrated more flexible strategic thinking that allowed perceiving conflict through the lens of the strategy of attrition with limited goals. This approach, combined with the understanding of the weaknesses of the Russian strategy, ensured more effective warfare on the Allied side and allowed keeping such an important asset as Erzurum until the campaign end, ultimately, until the peace negotiations.