Birthday anniversary of count Eduard I. Totleben, Russian military engineer, adjutant general, honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences

20 May 1818

8 (20) May 1818, in Mitau (Jelgava, Latvia), into the family of a merchant of the third guild was born Eduard Ivanovich Totleben, Russian military engineer, adjutant general, honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, a member of the State Council of the Russian Empire, count.

After the birth of the son, the family of Totleben moved to Riga, where the boy became interested in studying the fortifications, built redoubts in compliance with the rules of engineering. In 1832 his father took him to St. Petersburg, where the young man entered the engineering school. Totleben had an engineering practice in Riga engineering team, then - in the Grenadier engineer battalion of Dinaburg, and from 1840 he served as a lieutenant in a battalion of training near St. Petersburg, where his skills were noticed by a well-known at the time, military engineer, Adjutant General, K. A. Schilder. For his first technical tests Totleben was awarded the Order of St. Stanislas of the 3rd class (1842) and the Order of St. Anne of the third class (1847).

In 1847-1849 Totleben was in the Caucasus, where he was engaged in engineer maintenance of the fighting detachment of Prince M. Z. Argutinsky-Dolgoruky. For active participation in the capture of Salta, Gergebil, Akhta and other strongholds of the mountaineers, he was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir, 2nd class and the rank of captain. On his return from the Caucasus Totleben served as adjutant to Schilder, and in 1851 joined the Guard engineers and moved to St. Petersburg, where he became chief engineer of the Grenadier and Guards Corps.

In August 1854, during the Crimean War (1853-1856), Adjutant General M. D. Gorchakov sent Totleben to Sevastopol to help the Crimean Army of His Serene Highness, Prince A. S. Menshikov, great-grandson of the famous companion of Peter I, A. D. Menshikov. For his work of strengthening the defensive line of the city, in September the same year, military engineer Totleben was awarded the Order of St. George, 4th class and the rank of colonel. Totleben’s extensive system of lodgements, advanced trenches and redoubts, carefully adapted to the terrain, was a new word in the fortification. They provided the increased small arms’ fire, the made it difficult for the enemy to maintain the siege works.

In March 1855 Totleben was promoted to the rank of Major General, and in late April, after repulsion of the 2nd assault of Sevastopol, his name was listed at the marble slab of engineering school in St. Petersburg. On his return to St. Petersburg in December 1855, he supervised the construction of new fortifications of Kronstadt.

In 1856-1858 Totleben was abroad, where he was learning the organization of engineering and castles in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. On his return he was appointed Director of Engineering Department of the Ministry of War of the Russian Empire. With an active support of the Emperor Alexander II and the War Minister, Count D. A. Milutin, Totleben reorganized engineering taking into account the impact of rifled weapons and new methods of warfare. Under his leadership, were developed and implemented the plans for improvement of defenses and upgrading of all the forts from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Totleben also initiated the study of engineering by Russian infantry, cavalry and artillery. In 1869 he was awarded the highest rank of engineering - the title of engineer-general, and in 1871 - the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky.

In 1872 Totleben completed a two-volume work “Description of the defense of Sevastopol." After the introduction of Russian law on the compulsory military service (1874), he led the reorganization of the Corps of Engineers. During the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, the military engineer successfully led the siege of the Bulgarian town of Pleven, captured by the Turks. Under his leadership, were arranged the belts of fortifications, roads to maneuver, improved the system of supply of siege troops, dug trenches, dugouts, telegraph lines laid.

After the fall of Plevna, Totleben for some time commanded the Ruschukskiy detachment, and from April 1878 to January 1879 – the whole regularly Russian army. At the final stage of the war, he led the diplomatic negotiations on the signing of a peace treaty, and then created the conditions for the return of Russian troops to their homeland, the evacuation of sick and wounded. For the military services Totleben was awarded the Order of Saint George, 2nd class, and of St. Andrew, and on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the first bombardment of Sebastopol in October 1879 – was granted the title of a count. From1879, he had also been a member of the State Council, temporarily held the post of governor-general of Odessa and the commander of the Odessa Military District.

In autumn of 1882, Eduard Ivanovich Totleben went abroad for treatment, but his sickness increased, and 19 June (1st July) 1884 he died in the town of Soden near Frankfurt am Main (Germany). Totleben was buried in Riga (Latvia), but after a few months, with the consent of his family, his ashes were moved to Sevastopol, and were buried in the Brethren Cemetery, next to the graves of other heroes of the Crimean War.


Lit.: Генерал-адъютант Э. И. Тотлебен и падение Плевны // Герои и деятели русско-турецкой войны 1877-1878 гг. СПб., 1878; Журнал военных действий в Крыму, сентябрь-декабрь 1854 года. Симферополь, 2010; Зайончковский А. М. Краткая характеристика кн. А. С. Меншикова, кн. М. Д. Горчакова, адм. В. А. Корнилова, П. С. Нахимова и ген. Э. И. Тотлебена // История русской армии и флота. Вып. 10. М., 1913; Иволгин А. И. Тотлебен Эдуард Иванович // Большая советская энциклопедия. Т. 26. М., 1977; Сергеев-Ценский С. Н. Военный инженер Э. И. Тотлебен: Ист. Очерк // Витязи морей: Ист. очерки, рассказы, новеллы, статьи. М., 1985; Тотлебен Эдуард Иванович [Электронный ресурс] // Дворянский род Рогге. 2008. URL:; Шильдер Н. Граф Эдуард Иванович Тотлебен, его жизнь и деятельность: Биогр. очерк. Т. 1-2. СПб., 1885-86.


Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:

Генерал-адъютант Эдуард Иванович Тотлебен // Материалы для истории Крымской войны и обороны Севастополя: сборник, издаваемый Комитетом по устройству Севастопольского музея / Под ред. Н. Дубровина. Вып. 4. СПб., 1872;

Молодецкая битва на Зелёных горах и подвиги Тотлебена и Скобелева. М., 1878;

Тотлебен Эдуард Иванович // Энциклопедический словарь / Под ред. проф. И. Е. Андреевского. Т. 33а. СПб., 1901.