Burkhard Christoph von Münnich

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Burkhard Christoph von Münnich
Stenglin Münnich engraving after Buchholtz 1760s.jpg
Count Burkhard Christoph von Münnich
Born (1683-05-09)9 May 1683
Neuenhuntorf, Duchy of Oldenburg, Denmark
Died 16 October 1767(1767-10-16) (aged 84)
Dorpat, Livonia, Russian Empire
Buried at private estate
Allegiance Pavillon royal de la France.svg France (Bourbons)
 Holy Roman Empire
 Russian Empire
Service/branch French Army
Army of Hesse
Army of Saxony
Russian Imperial Army
Years of service 1700–1762
Rank Field marshal
Commands held Russian Imperial Army
Battles/wars War of the Spanish Succession
Siege of Danzig
Russo-Ottoman War

Count Burkhard Christoph von Münnich (9 May 1683 – 16 October 1767) (Христофо́р Анто́нович Миних) was a German soldier-engineer who became a field marshal and political figure in the Russian Empire. He was the major Russian Army reformer and founder of several elite military formations during the reign of Anna of Russia. As a statesman, he is regarded as the founder of Russian Philhellenism. Münnich also was a hereditary engineer and a specialist in hydrotechnology. He had the grade of count of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. For all his contributions he is rather a forgotten Russian hero, whose resting place was later desecrated by the Soviet Army.

Early career[edit]

Münnich was born at Neuenhuntorf in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg in the military family of Anton Günther Mönnich (since 1688 von Münnich, an east-Frisian nobility). Beside the knowledge of the native Low German language he also learned the Latin and French languages. At an early age (17 year old) he entered the French service. Thence he transferred successively to the armies of Hesse-Darmstadt and of Saxony where he earned his title of a colonel and later Major General.[1]

In 1721, he was invited by the Russian ambassador in Warsaw Grigoriy Dolgorukov for engineering projects of the newly acquired northern territories. Around that time his father has died. Upon arrival to Russia he presented Peter I plans for the fortification of Kronstadt fortress, with which pleasantly surprised the Russian emperor. He was promoted to the Lieutenant General in 1722. Among his first undertakings was the completion of the costly Ladoga Canal, which had been under construction for more than a decade. For his engineering and military-engineering achievements he was promoted to the rank of the General-in-Chief in 1726 by Catherine I, and awarded the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky. In 1727, Münnich was appointed the Governor of Saint Petersburg city while the Imperial court was temporarily transferred to Moscow by Peter II. From 1728 to 1734 he was a General-Governor of Ingria, Karelia, and Finland as well as was awarded the title of a count. During his governorship Münnich improved the local ports, reinforced the newly established Peter and Paul Fortress (1703), and was thinking of building a bridge towards Stockholm.

Russian army reformer[edit]

Upon the coronation of Anna of Russia (1730), he was instructed to prepare the city for the return of Imperial court. After successfully accomplishing that Münnich was promoted to a General-Fieldmarshal, was appointed to the position of president of Russian War Collegiate in 1732 as well as given an order to re-organize the Russian army. Münnich became a founder of the Leib-Guard Cavalry Regiment, the Izmaylovsky Regiment, and the Shlyakhetskiy Cadet Corps which was destined to supply the future generations of officers. [1]

Münnich also reformed numerous other military formations as well as the War Collegiate itself. He established a new formation for the Russian army at that time, the Corps which consisted of 12 regiments Cuirassier Cavalry as well as the first Hussar regiments. Münnich revised the table of ranks and evened the salary of the Russian officers with the invited foreign military specialists. He was the first to introduce the sapper regiments to the Russian army as well as founded the Engineer School for Officers. During his administration some 50 other fortresses were erected which substantially improved the well-being of the Russian Armed Forces at that time. Due to the Andrey Osterman affairs, he was released of his duties.

Ottoman campaign of 1734-1739[edit]

In 1734, by the reference of Ernst Johann von Biron he was sent to take the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) and after a prolonged siege and evasion of Stanisław Leszczyński was heavily reproached. However after that in 1733, the Russian Empire was able to install Augustus III of Poland as the King of Poland (ratified in 1736).

In 1736, as the Commander of the Russian army he headed the Turkish campaigns besieging the important ports of Azak and Özi. On May 21, 1735 he stormed and sacked Or Qapı penetrating into the Crimea peninsula. Münnich destroyed the important Tatar cities of Kezlev, Aqmescit, and Bakhchisaray. He was forced out of the peninsula due to poor logistics and battle fatigue of his formations, while another General, Count Peter von Lacy, took Azak earning himself a rank of the General-Fieldmarshal. Münnich refused to resume the campaign the very next year, but he returned to the lower Dnieper steppes in 1737, and on July 2 took the fortress of Özi with the help of the Russian artillery. During the sack of Özi, he manually raised the regimental banner of the Izmailovsky Regiment on one of the towers of fortress after a successful attack. Also the siege of Özi was later mentioned in the comedy tales of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, based on the adventures of the page to Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick, Baron Münchhausen. Due to the heavy losses, the campaign was paused again while conducting negotiations in Nemirov (Podolie) without much result. In 1739, Münnich won the Battle of Stavuchany, took Khotyn two days later, and established himself firmly in Moldavia. His victory in this campaign was later mentioned in one of the Lomonosov's odes, considered to be the first poem of Russian literature. Threatening to burn down the capital of Moldavia, the city of Iași, he forced the Moldavian boyars to sign the annexation of Moldavia. After the Ottoman war he was awarded the Order of St. Andrew and the Golden Weapon for Courage. Due to military losses of the Habsburg monarchy and worsening of the relationship with the Swedish Hats, the Russian Empire had to sign the Treaty of Niš by which it had to return the newly acquired Nogai steppes while keeping the fortress of Azak.

Marshal Münnich now began to take an active part in political affairs, the particular tone of which was given by his rivalry with Biron, duke of Courland. Münnich's activity was brought to a close by the revolution of 1741; he was arrested on his way to the border, and condemned to death. Brought out for execution, and withdrawn from the scaffold, he was later sent to Pelym, Siberia, where he remained for several years, until the accession of Peter III brought about his release in 1762. [1]

Catherine II, who soon displaced Peter, employed the old field marshal as director-general of the Baltic ports. Münnich died four years later in Tartu and was buried at his estate nearby, where his grave was damaged by the Soviets. The Russian 37th Dragoons Regiment used to bear his name.[1]

Heritage[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

Attribution