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Russian armies captured a Turkish fortress Izmail

22 December 1790

11 (22) December, 1790 during the Russian-Turkish war of 1787-1791 the armies of Alexander Suvorov captured impregnable fortress of Izmail.

The victory in the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774 ensured an access to the Black Sea for Russia. But under the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, a strong fortress of Izmail, which, from 1711, had been serving as a base for the Russian Danube fleet, was given over to Turkey.

In 1787 Turkey, supported by Britain and France, demanded that Russia revised the treaty: the return of the Crimea and the Caucasus, the invalidation of subsequent agreements. Having been refused, Turkey started the hostilities.

Despite the brilliant victories of the Russian army near Ochakov (1788), Focsani (1789) and on the river Ryamnik (1789), the enemy did not agree to accept the peace terms that Russia insisted on, and delayed the negotiations in every possible way.

In 1790, after unsuccessful attempts by generals I. V. Gudovich, P. S. Potemkin and Flotilla de Ribas to capture Izmail, Commander in Chief of the South Army, General-Field Marshal G. A. Potemkin ordered the General-in-chief Alexander Suvorov, whose troops stood near Galati, to take command of the units besieging Ishmael. Having taking command on 2 (13) December, Suvorov made the troops, which had retreated from the castle, turn back to Izmail, and blocked it from land and from the Danube River.

The fortress of Izmail was considered impregnable. It had the form of an irregular triangle, with its apex directed to the north. From the south, it was backed up by Danube River, from the west, north and east it was surrounded by an earth rampart over 6 km long and 6-8 m high, including 7 earth and stone bastions and a moat 12 m wide and 6-10 m deep, filled in some places with water up to 2 m deep. The garrison numbered 35 000 men and 265 guns. Commandant of the fortress was one of the most experienced Turkish generals Aidos Mehmet Pasha. Russian troops numbered 31 000 men and over 500 guns.

Having completed in 6 days the preparation of the assault, 7 (18) December, 1790 Suvorov addressed an ultimatum to the commandant of Izmail, demanding him to surrender the fortress. To the official letter Suvorov attached a note: "To the attention of Serasker, master sergeants and the society: I'm here with my troops. 24 hours for reflection – you can surrender and will be freed; my first shots mean no more freedom, assault means death. I leave it for your consideration". The ultimatum was rejected.

9 (20) December a military council assembled by Suvorov resolved to proceed immediately to the siege of the fortress, which was scheduled for 11 (22) December. At the council meeting Suvorov said: "The Russian army has twice besieged Izmail and twice fallen back; the third time here we must either win, or die with glory".

10 (21) December, at the sunrise, the assault preparation began with the fire from the flank batteries, from the island and ships of flotilla (on the whole about 600 guns). Preliminary bombardment lasted for almost 24 hours and ended 2.5 hours before the assault.

11 (22) December, 1790 at 3 o'clock in the morning was launched the first flare signaling the troops to line up in columns and march to the designated places. At 5:30 a.m. the columns started to assault the fortress. River flotilla approached the shore, and under the cover of artillery fire, landed troops. By eight o'clock in the morning, after fierce battle, Russian troops occupied all major fortifications. After that severe street fighting inside the city began: “narrow streets were full of defenders, from all the houses there was a shooting ... As many streets - as many separate units and battles...". At two o’clock in the afternoon all the columns entered the city center, at four o’clock the victory was won completely. Izmail fell. During the assault of Izmail particularly distinguished itself the column of General Mikhail Kutuzov, which captured the Kiliya gate. For his leadership and personal courage Suvorov appointed him the commandant of the city.

Turkish losses were enormous: more than 26 000 people were killed and 9 000 captured. In Izmail, were seized 265 guns, up to 3 000 pounds of gunpowder, 20 000 cannonballs and a lot of other military supplies, up to 400 banners, 12 ferries, 22 light vessels and a lot of rich loot, inherited by the army. Russians lost 64 officers (1 foreman, 17 staff officers, 46 chief officers) and 1 816 ordinaries killed; 253 officers (three of them major-generals) and 2 450 lower ranks wounded. The total number of losses amounted to 4 583 men. Some authors define the number of dead to 4 000, and wounded up to 6 000.

Izmail was taken by the army, which numbered less soldiers, than the garrison of the fortress - an extremely rare case in the history of warfare. Success was achieved by accuracy and secrecy of preparation, simultaneous blow of all columns, clear and precise definition of objectives.

For the storming and capture of Izmail Suvorov was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. Lower ranks were awarded silver oval medals, with the monogram of the Empress on one side and the inscription "for the outstanding courage in capture of Izmail, 11 December 1790" on the other. For officers was created a golden order with the words "for the outstanding courage" and "Izmail captured December 11, 1790”.

Capture of Izmail contributed to a swift and successful end of the war against the Ottoman Empire. December 29, 1791 (January 9, 1792), the Treaty of Jassy was signed between Russia and Turkey, which confirmed the annexation of Crimea to Russia and established Russian-Turkish border on the River Dniester. Under the Treaty of Jassy Izmail was returned to Turkey. The third time Izmail was captured by Russian troops was on 14 (26) September, 1809 during the Russian-Turkish war of 1806-1812 and it remained Russian under the Bucharest Treaty (1812).

Lit.: Раковский Л. И. Кутузов. Л., 1971. Гл. 5. День Измаила роковой; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://militera.lib.ru/bio/rakovsky/05.html; Елчанинов А. Г. Александр Васильевич Суворов // История русской армии от зарождения Руси до войны 1812 г. СПб., 2003. С. 350; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://militera.lib.ru/h/sb_istoria_russkoy_armii/27.html; На южных рубежах // Астапенко М., Левченко В. Будет помнить вся Россия. М., 1986. С. 16; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://militera.lib.ru/bio/astapenko/02.html; Рапорт генерал-аншефа А. В. Суворова князю Г. А. Потёмкину о штурме // Военно-исторический журнал. 1941. № 4. С. 127—132; Рогоза В. Взятие Измаила [Электронный ресурс] // История в историях. Б. д. URL: http://wordweb.ru/2009/01/21/vzjatie-izmaila.html

From the Presidential library materials:

Объявление Сената о заключении мира с Турцией [Дело] : авг. 1774 г. 1774;

Орлов Н. А. Штурм Измаила Суворовым в 1790 году. СПб., 1890.