The Azov Siege Seat
On the square in front of the Cathedral trophies of the famous Azov siege seat occupy a place of honor. In 1637 the Cossacks, tired of Tatar raids and taking advantage of the war between the Ottoman Empire and Persia, captured Azov fortress. They moved their capital here. Azov became a free Russian city. The transition of the fortress to the Cossacks almost stopped the raids of the Tatars in the southern regions of Russia. Within a few months, trade caravans from Asian territories followed here. But it is clear that the Ottomans were not going to lose such a military pearl in the Don steppes. It was also clear that the fortress couldn’t be captured with haste. Therefore, the Sultan began careful preparation for the return of the fortress to the Ottoman Empire.
In 1641, the Ottoman flotilla rose near Azov: 70 galleys and 90 auxiliary vessels. A huge army approached the fortress walls by land. The army recently took Baghdad and defeated Persia. In total, not counting the compatriots and workers, at Azov gathered at least 150 thousand enemy soldiers. Cossacks, in comparison with this armed armada, seemed like a handful of madmen. In the fortress there were only about 5,500 people, including 800 women. Its defense was led by a Cossack ataman Osip Petrov.
Already the very first assault on the Azov citadel on June 30, 1641, it seemed, could be crowned with the complete victory of the turks. The bombing of the fortress, which lasted seven hours, gave excellent results. The gates and walls were broken and destroyed, and the houses in it were smashed into wood chips. After the artillery preparation, the assault by all forces of the Janissary regiments and a special six-thousand squad of European mercenaries began. Under the walls of the fortress, the Janissaries fell into the wolf pits system, previously dug by the Cossacks, with pointed poles installed on their bottom. This Cossack “surprise” did not delay, however, the Turkish Guard, and a powerful concerted strike by the janissaries seized “Toprakov-city” – a strategically key fortress suburb of Azov. The capture of “Toprakov” seemed to Turkish commanders so indisputable that they ordered eight banners to be brought into the suburbs, one of which was the personal standard of Hussein Pasha.
The banners were brought and turks already exulted about the indisputable victory. And at this time the central part of the square “Toprakov-city” exploded! The terrible powerful bomb filled with chopped iron rods literally smashed into pieces all the advanced, most determined battalions of the Janissaries. Instantly killed at least three thousand soldiers. There was a panic. At this key moment, the Cossacks rushed together in a decisive counterattack. Later, the Cossacks confessed that “there was no big attack of the first, such a cruel and bold attack did not happen to us: we used to cut with knives, face on our face, into that attack”.
After the first assault, Hussein Pasha understood that he couldn’t knock out the Cossacks from Azov easily. He gave an order to proceed with the methodical bombardment of the fortress from all siege weapons. The battle at the walls of the fortress was almost constant. With such tactics, a huge Ottoman army wanted to exhaust a few defenders of the fortress. The Cossacks, in fact, did not have time either to sleep or to rest. Women and girls climbed the walls, helping their husbands and fathers. The Cossacks suffered continuous losses, and only occasionally was their replenishment able to break into the fortress through the Turkish army or by water.
The commander of the siege, Pasha Hussein Delia, understood that frontal attacks were not beneficial, and decided to act with the help of digging. The Cossacks were able to detect 17 Turkish mine galleries and in time to blow them up. Soon less than 40 thousand fighters remained from the 150-thousand Ottoman army. Sultan sent selected units of the Janissaries for help, informing Hussein: “Pasha, take Azov or give your head”.
Autumn approached, rains and cold began, diseases began to spread among the besiegers. The Turkish army was melting every day. But the Cossacks in the fortress did not know about it. Their forces were running out, no more than 3 thousand soldiers remained alive. The walls – or rather, their remains – were in a deplorable state, ammunition and food were almost out. It was clear that in one of the closest attacks, the Ottomans would break into Azov. The Cossacks accepted the offer of ataman Osip Petrov to undertake the last military sortie and either chase the Ottomans or die in open battle. “And we, the poor, began to farewell,” the chronicle informs us.
What happened after that is known today as one of the canonical miracles. This is how His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia describes this: “The Cossacks courageously defended themselves, their city and Fatherland, and prayed strongly because they knew that, according to human reason, one can not defeat fifteen. And on the eve of the Holy Virgin Protection feast, a vision of the beautiful Lady appeared, dressed in purple, and the Cossacks believed that the Lady Protection extended over them in response to their courage, their will to win, their fervent prayers. And Turkish troops began to retreat from Azov without a fight, ending its blockade. ” And the truth is, when in the early morning of September 26 the Cossacks left the fortress, they found that the enemy camp had disappeared. A few hours ago, the Turkish army left the fortress, lifting the siege.
Realizing that the lonely fortress could not withstand the permanent war with the ominous Ottoman Empire, the Cossacks began to ask for help from the Russian Tsar. In January 1642 Zemsky Sobor was convened in Moscow with the question of Azov. But, despite the fact that the adoption of Azov under the patronage of Moscow gave the tempting prospects for access to the Azov and Black Seas, so openly to conflict with the Ottoman Empire was currently considered impossible (based on geopolitical considerations). In the summer of 1642, the Cossacks ended their “seat” and left Azov, having previously destroyed it to the ground. They took out 80 guns from the city, iron city gates, iron trade weights with an arrow. From the church of John the Baptist, they took the five-tier copper chandelier, the miraculous icon of John the Baptist and all the church plate. Now, this chandelier is located in the Resurrection Cathedral, the iron gates of the Azov Fortress and the yoke of the city trade weights are installed in front of the bell tower.