Table of contents:
- The ups and downs of the Seven Years War
- The fall of Berlin and the cancellation of the assault
- Keys in the hands of a Russian general and respect for Frederick
- The legend of the keys in the Russian Orthodox cathedral
Berlin fell at the feet of the Russian army for the first time long before May 1945. In the fall of 1760, as a result of the Seven Years War, the Prussian city of residence had to hang a white flag in front of the corps of General Chernyshev. According to the widely known historical version of those events, the keys to Berlin were deposited in the St. Petersburg Kazan Cathedral. But none of their contemporaries saw them there with their own eyes.
The ups and downs of the Seven Years War
Dynastic strife among the European powers that be in the 18th century escalated into protracted battles "for the Austrian heritage." The Prussian autocrat Frederick II, on a wave of luck, managed to expand the borders at the expense of Silesia taken from Austria and make Prussia an authoritative European power. But Austria strove with all its might to restore face and integrity, as a result of which two powerful military blocs were formed: Austria and France opposed England and Prussia. In 1756, the Seven Years' War started. And Russia, by the decision of Elizaveta Petrovna, took an anti-Prussian position, since the significant strengthening of Frederick contradicted the foreign policy views of the Russian court and threatened the recently annexed Baltic territories. Russia entered the Seven Years' War more effectively than the rest of the parties, methodically winning key battles.
In August 1759, the Russian-Prussian clash at Kunersdorf thundered, crowning a series of previous victories. King Frederick II himself took command of the Prussian army. The latter managed to attack the Russian-Austrian formations with superior forces, capturing all the allied artillery and forcing Saltykov to retreat. Frederick prepared to celebrate victory, but the Russians still held the strategic heights. In an attempt to capture these points, all the Prussian cavalry perished. The throw of the last Friedrich's reserve to the Russian positions ended with the capture of the enemy commander. The ensuing offensive forced the Prussians to flee in panic, and Frederick II himself almost fell into the hands of the Cossacks. The trophy of the Saltykov army was the king's cocked hat, which is still kept in the St. Petersburg Suvorov Museum. And only inconsistency among the allies and some political motives prevented then to put an end to the war by the capture of Berlin.
The fall of Berlin and the cancellation of the assault
Berlin managed to take a year later. On October 3, 1760, Russian general Totleben, approaching the city, undertook an unsuccessful assault and retreated. Soon, additional Prussian units arrived in Berlin. In turn, generals Chernyshev and Panin were approaching to help Totleben, and the arrival of the Austro-Saxon forces did not leave the defenders of the Prussian city the slightest chance. The Prussians decided to leave Berlin without resistance, announcing the surrender of the garrison. After the events of 1757, when the Austrians were rampaging in Berlin, the Prussians preferred to surrender to the Russians. On the night of October 9, Prussian troops voluntarily left the city, giving no reason for the assault and destruction of their own lands.
Keys in the hands of a Russian general and respect for Frederick
Speaking with the Russians, the allied Austrian troops under the command of General Lassi, according to eyewitnesses, tried to plunder Berlin, which was immediately stopped by Russian soldiers. And the city civilians did not forget about it for a long time. It made no sense to hold the surrendered city under those circumstances, so after a few days the Russian-Austrian troops withdrew. From a military-strategic point of view, the capture of Berlin did not represent a particular triumph, but made a resounding political success. The phrase of the Elizabethan favorite Shuvalov flashed through the European capitals.
Inspired by the successes of the Russian army, he allowed himself to declare that if it is impossible to reach Petersburg from Berlin, then it is always possible to get from Petersburg to Berlin.
According to the military tradition that existed at that time, the symbolic keys from the capitulating city were handed over to the Russian general. According to some sources, with a remark about the humane attitude towards local residents. By the way, before these events, Frederick considered the Russian army to be a gathering of a barbarian, with whom it was not even worthy to fight. For this reason, until the very last battle, he did not personally command military operations against the Russians, but indicatively entrusted this to field marshals. But with each new victory of the Russian generals, his views changed. A couple of years after the end of the war, a military leader from the Russian Empire, Peter Rumyantsev, arrived in Berlin. By order of the Prussian king, the Prussian General Staff arrived at the Russian commander in full force with hats in hand. With such a curtsy Frederick pledged his deep respect.
The legend of the keys in the Russian Orthodox cathedral
A number of historians testify that when Hitler planned to occupy Leningrad in 1941, he saw the keys to the capital of the Germans as his hidden goal. According to some information, they were transferred for permanent storage to the clergy of the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg and placed near the grave of Kutuzov. There is also information that during the storming of Berlin already in 1945, some of the participants in the operation received exact copies of the keys stored in the Russian cathedral. But in reality, no one saw the original keys in the temple, as well as, for example, at least their photographs.
In the Kazan Cathedral there were keys to about a hundred cities that fell before the Russian army, but only after 1813. Some of these trophies are still kept in Moscow, and only a few can be seen at the grave of Kutuzov. But still, the keys to the gates of Berlin were in Russia. General Zakhary Chernyshev brought them to his Russian estate Yaropolets. According to the researchers of this issue, the keys were indeed kept for some time in the altar of the Temple of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, erected on the initiative of the military leader. After the Bolshevik revolution, the estate fell into disrepair, and with it a unique monument of church architecture began to crumble. The temple property was plundered, and in 1941 German troops entered it at all. Since then, the trail of the Berlin keys has been lost.
World famous actresses also grew up in Berlin. For example, Renata Blume, very popular in the USSR.