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Totleben (Тотлебен) Eduard Ivanovich

Totleben (Тотлебен) Eduard Ivanovich (1818—1884)

Eduard Ivanovich Totleben was a famous Russian military engineer and general. He was in charge of fortification and sapper works of a number of important Russian military campaigns.

Totleben was born at Mitau in Courland (now Jelgava, Latvia). His parents were of German descent, and of the mercantile class, and he himself was intended for commerce, but a strong instinct led him to seek the career of a military engineer. He entered the school of engineers at Saint Petersburg.

Totleben joined the army in 1836. He was recruited as captain of engineers in the campaigns against Imam Shamil in the Caucasus, beginning in 1848 for two years.

On the outbreak of war between Russia and Turkey in 1853, he served in the siege of Silistria, and after the siege was raised was transferred to the Crimea. Sevastopol, while strongly fortified toward the sea, was almost unprotected on the land side. Totleben, though still a junior field officer, became the animating genius of the defense. By his advice the fleet was sunk, in order to blockade the mouth of the harbour, and the deficiency of fortifications on the land side was made good before the allies could take advantage of it. The construction of earthworks and redoubts was carried on with extreme rapidity, and to these was transferred, in great part, the artillery that had belonged to the fleet. It was in the ceaseless improvisation of defensive works and offensive counterworks to meet every changing phase of the enemy's attack that Totleben's peculiar power and originality showed itself. He never commanded a large army in the open field, nor was he the creator of a great permanent system of defence like Vauban. But he may justly be called the originator of the idea that a fortress is to be considered, not as a walled town but as an entrenched position, intimately connected with the offensive and defensive capacities of an army and as susceptible of alteration as the formation of troops in battle or manoeuvre.
Until June 20, 1855, he conducted the operations of defense at Sevastopol in person; he was then wounded in the foot, and at the operations which immediately preceded the fall of the fortress he was not present. In the course of the siege he had risen from the rank of lieutenant-colonel to that of lieutenant-general, and had also been made aide-de-camp to the tsar. When he recovered he was employed in strengthening the fortifications at the mouth of the Dnepr, and also those of Kronstadt. In 1856 he visited England, where his merits were honored.

In 1860 he was appointed assistant to the Grand Duke Nicholas, and he became subsequently chief of the department of engineers with the full rank of general. He was given no command when war with Turkey began in 1877. It was not until after the early reverses before Plevna that the soldier of Sevastopol was called to the front. Totleben saw that it would be necessary to draw works round Osman Pasha, and cut him off from communication with the other Turkish commanders. In due time Plevna fell. Totleben then undertook the siege of the Bulgarian fortresses. After the conclusion of preliminaries of peace, he was placed in command of the whole Russian army.

After the war Totleben was assigned to be Governor general of Bessarabia and Novorossiya. He also became a hereditary count.

In 1880 Totleben held the post of governor of Vilna, and after much suffering he died at Bad Soden near Frankfurt am Main.

USSR, 1969, Totleben monument in Sevostopol

USSR, 1980, Totleben monument in Sevostopol

USSR, 1977.03.16, Totleben monument in Sevostopol


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