The Slavic Art of War

The foundations and philosophy of the Russian military school are described in “Science of Victory” by A.V. Suvorov. Unfortunately, not many modern commanders are familiar with this book. Suvorov, in his immortal work, takes a worthy excursion into the ancient past, in order to see how the ancient Rusichi (Slavs and Ariys) fought.

The land, on which our distant Ancestors lived, was rich and fertile, and constantly attracted the nomads from the east, and Germanic tribes from the west. In addition, our Ancestors often tried to explore new lands. Sometimes, such colonization took place peacefully, but often was accompanied by the fighting.

E.A. Razin, a Soviet military historian, in his book “History of Military Art” speaks about the organization of the Slavic armies during the period of V-VI century: “Slavic warriors were all adult males. Slavic tribes had squads that were manned by young, physically strong and agile warriors. In the foundation of the organization of the army, laid the division into Rods and tribes. The warriors of a Rod were headed by the elder, in charge of the tribe was either a chief or a knyaz.” In his book, the author also speak of how ancient authors mentioned the strength, endurance, cunning and bravery of the soldiers of the Slavic tribes, which, moreover, possessed the art of disguise.

Warriors of Slavic tribes were used to even hide behind small stones and behind the first bush they saw, in order to catch the enemy. One such ancient author describes an interesting incident, how a Slavic warrior, while skillfully using the available means of disguise, caught the enemy by the “tongue”: “This Slavic warrior, as he made his way close to the wall, covered himself with firewood and curled up in the grass. When a Goth came up to that spot, the Slav suddenly grabbed him and brought back alive into his camp.”

Another ancient author speaks of the skill of Slavic warriors to hide in the water: “Courageously they stand to stay in the water, often, some of those who remain at home are caught by a sudden attack, they plunge into the depths of the waters. At the same time, they keep in their mouth a specially made large, hollowed out reed, which reaches the surface of the water, and themselves, they lie on the back at the bottom of the river, breathing with the help of them: and they are able to do so for hours. So it is absolutely impossible to learn of their presence.”

The area, where the Slavs usually battled, has always been their ally. From the dark forests, river creeks, deep ravines Slavs attacked their opponents. Here is what Mauritius wrote: “Slavs like to fight with their enemies in places covered with dense forests, in the gorges and on the cliffs; always use to own benefit ambushes, sudden attacks and trickery, inventing many different ways day and night… With lots of help in the forests, they make their way there, for they can battle greatly in tight places. Often, they throw down weightless prey, as if under the influence of confusion and flee into the forest, and then, when the attackers go for the prey, they easily get up and cause great damage to the enemy. They are masters at doing this in a variety of different ways they invent for the purpose of luring the enemy.

Thus, we see that the ancient warriors prevailed over the enemy, in the first place, because of the absence of a template, cunning and a skillful use of their surroundings.

In engineering preparations, our Ancestors were also recognized specialists. Ancient authors wrote that the Slavs, in the art of crossing the rivers, surpassed “all people”. While serving in the army of the Eastern Roman Empire, Slavic troops skillfully organized for the crossing of rivers. They quickly made boats, and on them transferred large military detachments to the other side of the river. Camp Slavs usually made at an altitude, to which there were no hidden approaches. If there was a need to engage in battle in the open field, they organized the strengthening out of the wagons. Feofinat Siompatt reports about the campaign of a Slavic squad that led the fight against the Romans: “Since this clash was inevitable (and no signs of success) for the barbarians (Slavs), they placed the wagons, creating the encampment of them, and placed women and children in the middle of this camp. The Slavs tied the wagons, which created the strengthened and enclosed camp, from which they threw spears at the enemy. The strengthening of the wagons was a reliable protection from the cavalry.” For the defensive battle, Slavs chose inaccessible to the enemy position, or chose to cast a mount.

During the assault of enemy fortifications, they applied scaling ladders and siege machines. In tight formation, placing shields on their backs, Slavs stormed. From the examples above, we see that the use of the area in conjunction with the materials at hand, deprived the enemies of our Ancestors of the advantages that they initially possessed.

Many Western sources claim that Slavs did not have order, but that does not mean that they did not have battle order. The same Mauritius recommended to place a not very deep formation against them and to attack not only from the front, but also from the flanks and from the rear. From this we can conclude that Slavs battled in a certain order. Mauritius writes: ” … sometimes they take up a very strong position and, while guarding their rear, do not give the possibility to enter into a close fight, surround them or strike from the flank, or to come in from the rear.” The above example makes it clear that ancient Slavs had a certain order in battle, that they did not fight as a crowd, but orderly lined up according to Rods and tribes.

In the foundation of organization of Slavic warriors laid the social system, the division into Rod and tribal connections provided the necessary cohesion of the warriors in battle.

Thus, the use of battle order by Slavic warriors, which gave undeniable advantages in the battle against a strong enemy, proves that Slavs carried out military training with their regiments. After all, in order to act quickly in battle, enough practice is necessary until such actions become reflexes. Also, it was necessary to know the enemy, against which a battle was necessary.

The Slavs could not only skillfully fight in the forests and fields. To capture fortresses they used simple and effective tactic.

In 551 C.E., a Slavic detachment of more than 3,000 men, without encountering any opposition, crossed the river Istres. Towards the Slavs was sent an army of a larger force. After crossing the river Maritsa, Slavs divided into two groups. The Roman military commander decided to destroy their forces one at a time in the open field. Having a well-organized tactical reconnaissance and being aware of the movements of the enemy, Slavs outpaced the Romans, and suddenly attacking them from two directions, destroyed their enemy.

Following this, the Emperor Justinian threw against the Slavs a regular cavalry detachment. The detachment was stationed in the Thracian fortress Tzurule. However, this detachment was defeated by Slavs, who had in their ranks a cavalry that was not inferior to that of Rome. After destroying the regular field troops, our Ancestors began the siege of fortresses in Thrace and Illyria.

It was of great interest for the Slavs to take the seaside fortress of Theuer, which was located 12 days of marching from the Byzantine Empire. The garrison of the fortress of 15,000 troops was a formidable force. Slavs decided first of all to lure the garrison out of the fortress and destroy it. To do this, most of the warriors hid in an ambush near the fortress, and a small detachment went to the east gate and began to shoot at the Roman soldiers. The Romans, seeing that the enemy is not so numerous, decided to step beyond the fortress and to destroy the Slavs in the field. The besiegers began to retreat, pretending to the attackers, to be frightened of them, and fled. The Romans, carried away by pursuit, found themselves far ahead of the fortress walls. Then, those who waited in ambush rose, and, being in the rear of the pursuers, cut off their possible escape routes. And those who pretended to retreat, turning to face the Romans, attacked them. After destroying the pursuers, Slavs once again rushed to the walls of the fortress. The garrison of Theuer was destroyed. From the above, it can be concluded that in the Slavic army, there was a really good interaction among different units, intelligence and masking on site.

From all of these examples, it is clear, that in the VI century, our Ancestors had the perfect tactic for those times; they could fight and inflict serious losses to the enemy, who was much stronger and often possessed numerical superiority.

Perfect was not only their tactic, but also military equipment. Thus, during the siege of fortresses, Slavs used battering rams of iron, after setting the siege machines. The Slavs, under the cover of catapults and archers, moved the battering rams against the fortress wall, began to undermine it and punch holes.

In addition to the land army, Slavs had the navy. There are many written records of usage of their fleet in battle actions against the Byzantine Empire. Most commonly, the ships were used to transport troops and for landing operations.

Over the years, the Slavic tribes, in battles against multiple aggressors from the territory of Asia, with the mighty Roman Empire, with the Khazar Khanate and the Franks, defended own independence and united in tribal alliances.

In this centuries-old struggle, the military organization of the Slavs formed; appeared the military art of neighboring peoples and states. It was not the weakness of the opponents, but the strength and the Slavic art of war that ensured them victory.

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