Anatoly Stessel

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Anatoly Mikhaylovich Stessel
Anatoly Stessel in the 1890s.
Born(1848-06-28)June 28, 1848
DiedJanuary 18, 1915(1915-01-18) (aged 66)
Khmilnyk, Podolia Governorate, Russian Empire (now Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine)
Allegiance Russian Empire
Service/branchRussian Imperial Army
Years of service1866–1906
UnitImperial Russian Army
Battles/warsBoxer Rebellion
Russo-Japanese War

Anatoly Mikhaylovich Stessel (Russian: Анато́лий Миха́йлович Сте́ссель; German: Anatolij Stößel; 10 July [O.S. 28 June] 1848–18 January [O.S. 5 January] 1915) was a Russian baron of German descent, military leader, and general.


Anatoly Stessel was born in 1848 as the son of Lieutenant General Baron Vinogradov Stessel. He graduated from the Pavel Military School in 1866. Stessel was a participant of the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). He subsequently commanded the 16th Ladoga Infantry Regiment in 1897 and then from 1897 to 1899 the 44th Kamchatka Infantry Regiment. He was appointed to head the 3rd East Siberian Brigade (1899–1903) and distinguished himself for his role in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion, and was wounded in combat during the Battle of Tientsin. He was subsequently awarded the Order of St. George (4th degree).[1]

From August 12, 1903, Stessel was commander of the garrison of Port Arthur, Manchuria with a total of over 50,000 men. Occupied by the Russians since 1897, the defense of Port Arthur had been heavily enhanced and modernized in the intervening years, and its position was considered one of the most heavily fortified in the world.

With the start of the Russo-Japanese War, Stessel was promoted to governor of the Kwantung Military District in March 1904, and Lieutenant General Konstantin Smirnov was appointed to be his successor at Port Arthur. However, Stessel chose to interpret the orders to mean that Smirnov was his subordinate, and remained at Port Arthur, countermanding Smirnov's orders and denying his requests for supplies and reinforcements, and sending misleading telegrams to the Tsar blaming Smirnov for any setbacks. He also ignored orders from General Aleksei Kuropatkin to leave Port Arthur by a destroyer on July 3, 1904.[1] Stessel's command of the Port Arthur defenses was ineffective throughout the Siege of Port Arthur. In August, after the defeat at the Battle of Nanshan, Stessel refused Japanese offers to evacuate the women and non-combatants from Port Arthur and by autumn food was in short supply.

Nogi (Center left), Stoessel (Center right) and their staffs

With the death of General Roman Kondratenko on December 15, 1904, at Fort Chikuan, Stessel appointed the incompetent Alexander Fok in his place. On December 18, 1904, the Japanese exploded an 1800-kilogram mine under Fort Chikuan (東鶏冠山北堡塁 in Japanese), which fell that night. On December 28, 1904, mines under Fort Erhlung were detonated, destroying that fort as well.

On December 31, 1904, a series of mines were exploded under Fort Sungshu, the sole surviving major fortress, which surrendered that day. On January 1, 1905, Wantai finally fell to the Japanese. On the same day, Stessel and Fok sent a message to a surprised Japanese General Nogi Maresuke, offering to surrender. None of the other senior Russian staff had been consulted, and many were outraged.

The surrender was accepted and signed on January 2, 1905, at Shuishiying. After occupying the city, the Japanese were surprised to find large stores of food and ammunition, which implied that Stessel surrendered prematurely.[citation needed] While the surviving men and officers of the Russian garrison at Port Arthur were made prisoners-of-war by the Japanese, Stessel was allowed to return to St. Petersburg in comfortable quarters on a British passenger liner.[1] However, Stessel was discharged from the Imperial Russian Army on September 30, 1906, and was soon arrested with several other members of the Russian military and faced court-martial charges for cowardice and for surrendering Port Athur to the Japanese. After a year of deliberations, he was sentenced to death on February 7, 1908.[1] This sentence was later commuted to ten years imprisonment.

On May 6, 1909, Stessel was pardoned by Tsar Nicholas II[2] and continued his military service through the start of World War I. He died in 1915 in Khmilnyk (now Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine).



  • Connaughton, R.M (1988). The War of the Rising Sun and the Tumbling Bear—A Military History of the Russo-Japanese War 1904–5, London, ISBN 0-415-00906-5.
  • Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5.
  • Jukes, Geoffry. The Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905. Osprey Essential Histories. (2002). ISBN 978-1-84176-446-7.
  • Warner, Denis & Peggy. The Tide at Sunrise, A History of the Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905. (1975). ISBN 0-7146-5256-3.
  • Nozhin, Evgenii Konstantinovich; Lindsay, Alexander Bertram; Swinton, Ernest Dunlop. The Truth About Port Arthur. London. John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. (1908)


  1. ^ a b c d Kowner, Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 359-360.
  2. ^ New York Times