Now the name Kozma Kryuchkov means absolutely nothing to the overwhelming majority, and 100 years ago it thundered all over the country. Kryuchkov became the very first hero of the First World War.
Don Cossack Kozma Kryuchkov. - Now this name says absolutely nothing to the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens. But a hundred years ago it thundered all over Russia. Kryuchkov became the very first hero of the First World War to be awarded the St. George Cross. Poems were written about his feat, postcards with Kozma's photograph were sold in thousands of copies, a special batch of cigarettes with a portrait of Kryuchkov on a box was released, the most famous people in the country considered it an honor to meet this man.
Kryuchkov met the beginning of the war, being a clerk (this rank corresponded to the rank of corporal) of the 3rd Don Cossack Regiment of the 3rd Cavalry Division, which was stationed in Poland, on the border with East Prussia. The Russian units were preparing to attack, but the matter had not yet come to serious clashes with the enemy.
A departure from several Cossacks, among whom was Kozma Kryuchkov, on August 9 (July 28, old style), 1914, was sent to the outpost. On the morning of August 11, the Don people found a German horse patrol of more than 20 people. Although by this time only four remained in the Russian patrol (others were sent with reports to the regiment's location), the Cossacks decided not to avoid meeting the enemy. Most likely, the quartet of horsemen hoped to lure the Germans closer to our advanced units, but the Russian outpost that was closest to the scene suddenly withdrew.
As a result, the Cossack patrol found itself face to face with an enemy many times outnumbered. I had to engage in an unequal battle. Under the shots of the Cossacks, the German uhlans were at first confused, but finding that they were opposed by only four Russians, they rushed to attack them, surrounded them, not allowing them to scatter.
Participants of that fight Kozma Kryuchkov, Ivan Shchegolkov and Vasily Astakhov
Here is a description of this fight, made later from the words of Kozma Kryuchkov:
“… There were four of us - Kozma Kryuchkov, Ivan Shchegolkov, Vasily Astakhov and Mikhail Ivankov… We stumbled upon a German patrol, 27 people, including an officer and a non-commissioned officer. At first the Germans got scared, but then they climbed on us. However, we met them bravely and put several people to bed. Dodging the attack, we had to disconnect. Eleven people surrounded me. Not wanting to be alive, I decided to sell my life dearly. My horse is agile, obedient.
I was about to use the rifle, but in a hurry the cartridge jumped in, and at that time the German hacked me on the fingers, and I dropped the rifle. He grabbed the checker and began to work. Received several minor wounds. I feel the blood is flowing, but I realize that the wounds are unimportant. I answer for every wound with a fatal blow, from which the German falls down in a layer forever. After laying several people down, I felt that it was difficult to work with the saber, and therefore I snatched the pike from the German and with it one by one I laid the rest. During this time, my comrades dealt with others.
Twenty-four corpses were lying on the ground, and several horses that were not wounded were scurrying about in fright. My comrades received minor wounds, I also received sixteen wounds, but all empty, like injections in the back, in the neck, in the arms. My horse also received eleven wounds, but I then drove back six miles on it …"
Judging by the further story of Kryuchkov, a day later he received an award for his feat: “On August 1 (13 in a new style - author), the commander of the army arrived in Belaya Olita (in this inhabited locality there was an infirmary where the wounded Cossack was placed - author) General Rennenkampf, who took off the St. George's ribbon, pinned it on my chest and congratulated me on the first St. George's Cross."
For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that the number of German uhlans who fought with the brave Donets, and the losses incurred by them, differ in different documents, although not significantly. So in the order for awarding Kryuchkov, the number of the German cavalry detachment is 22 people. And in a report sent after the battle to the division headquarters, it is indicated that a total of 22 German uhlans were killed by the four Cossacks.
The 4th degree St. George Cross, received by Kryuchkov, became the very first such award presented in the Great War that had just begun.
Three comrades of Kozma also received insignia for this battle, but not so high - St. George medals.
Kozma Kryuchkov, who was only 24 at that time, became a national hero overnight. His feat was reported to the emperor himself, almost all the newspapers wrote. As mentioned in the memoirs of a contemporary, after being discharged from the hospital “at the station, the Cossack hero was seen off, and the audience shook him and his comrades in their arms. The local community presented him with a large monetary gift …”And subsequently Kryuchkov was repeatedly presented with presents. For example, the directorate of the Russian-Asian Bank specifically for hero # 1 ordered the gunsmiths to make a Cossack saber in a gold frame. Packages of enthusiastic letters from all over Russia came to Kryuchkov's name, parcels were sent to him, including those with all sorts of treats, which the hero himself and his colleagues ate to the full.
Interesting memories of the meeting with Kryuchkov (this happened already in the winter of 1915) were left by the famous singer Nadezhda Plevitskaya. On the request of the prima donna of the Russian stage to be photographed with him, the Don Cossack responded with a resolute refusal. And he explained it by the fact that he is, they say, a married man and therefore cannot be photographed with a stranger.
Russian Cossacks - Knights of St. George. In the first row - the legendary Kozma Kryuchkov
Having recovered from his wounds and returned to the active army, the famous Cossack went up for promotion. He was appointed chief of the convoy at the division headquarters. However, the soldier did not like such a "ceremonial" position, and soon Kozma asked to return him to his native regiment.
Kryuchkov went through the entire First World War, participated in many of its battles, was awarded another "George" and two medals. By 1917 he received the rank of sergeant-major and served in the Cossack regiment as a platoon officer.
The February revolution still elevated hero No. 1 in office - his comrades elected him chairman of the regimental committee. After the Bolshevik coup in the country, when the army began to collapse completely, Kryuchkov returned to the Don with his regiment. During the outbreak of the Civil War, he fought on the side of the whites. In the spring of 1918, Kozma Firsovich gathered a detachment from his fellow countrymen and successfully fought against the Cossacks of the future "Red Army Commander" Philip Mironov.
The hero was mortally wounded in mid-August 1919 near the village of Gromki in the Saratov province. He was buried in the cemetery of his native farm, Nizhne-Kalmykovsky, Ust-Khoperskaya stanitsa.
One with a checker
… From the memoirs of Major General Golubintsev, the leader of the uprising against Soviet power in the Ust-Medveditsky district: “In early August, near the village of Gromki, cornet Kuzma Kryuchkov, popular throughout Russia, was killed in the 13th regiment of the Ust-Medveditskaya division. world war. Kryuchkov commanded one of the subunits of the rearguard of the Don Army, keeping the Reds attacking in the area of the village of Ostrovskaya, near the bridge over the Medveditsa River. The bridge had to be held at all costs. A small group of the so-called screening Cossacks was located near the bridge.
The Reds, reaching the bridge, rolled out two machine guns on the sides of the bridge and began to dig in. Probably, Kryuchkov realized that there was a moment in which everything could be corrected. He jumped out with a saber to the bridge alone, shouting to the Cossacks on the run: "Brothers, after me, beat off the bridge." Five or six cover Cossacks rushed after him. However, a whole platoon of Reds, more than forty people, was walking towards them from the bridge … The Cossacks stopped. The Reds also stopped, seeing that only one person was running towards them.
According to the stories, Kryuchkov managed to run to the nearest machine-gun nest and cut down a machine-gun crew from the Chinese when he was mowed down from a nearby trench by a machine-gun burst. The fight nevertheless began, in the confusion the Cossacks managed to pull the hero out from under the fire. It was riddled with bullets. Kozma Firsovich died of his wounds on August 18, 1919 ".
During the years of Soviet power, his name was consigned to oblivion, and the heroism of Russian soldiers in that war was erased from Russian history. But then decades passed and a clear realization came that it was practically impossible to become the first knight of St. George, and therefore a symbol of heroism at the very beginning of the war, without good reason, that behind the first military feat of Kuzma Kryuchkov and his comrades in arms were the traditions of the Cossacks, military culture, fighting spirit and that the heroes of the First World War have remained in our military history.