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The Tsar Cannon in the Kremlin is a bombard, and she shot once
The Tsar Cannon in the Kremlin is a bombard, and she shot once

The Tsar Cannon has long become one of the symbols of Russia. Almost no foreign tourist leaves Moscow without seeing the miracle of our technology. She entered dozens of anecdotes where the Tsar Cannon never fired, the Tsar Bell never rang, and some non-working miracle Yudo such as the N-3 lunar rocket appear.

Let's start in order. The Tsar Cannon was cast by the famous Russian master Andrei Chokhov (until 1917 he was listed as Chekhov) by order of Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich. A giant cannon weighing 2,400 pounds (39,312 kg) was cast in 1586 at the Moscow Cannon Yard. The length of the Tsar Cannon is 5345 mm, the outer diameter of the barrel is 1210 mm, and the diameter of the bulge at the muzzle is 1350 mm.

At present, the Tsar Cannon is on a cast-iron decorative gun carriage, and nearby are decorative cast-iron cannonballs, which were cast in 1834 in St. Petersburg at the Byrd iron foundry. It is clear that it is physically impossible to shoot from this cast-iron gun carriage, nor to use cast-iron cannonballs - the Tsar Cannon will smash into smithereens! Documents about the tests of the Tsar Cannon or its use in combat conditions have not survived, which gave rise to long-term disputes about its purpose. Most historians and military men in the 19th and early 20th centuries believed that the Tsar Cannon was a shotgun, that is, a weapon designed to shoot shot, which in the 16th-17th centuries consisted of small stones. A minority of specialists generally exclude the possibility of using the gun in combat, believing that it was made specifically to frighten foreigners, especially the ambassadors of the Crimean Tatars. Let us remember that in 1571 Khan Devlet Girey burned down Moscow.

In the 18th and early 20th centuries, the Tsar Cannon was referred to in all official documents as a shotgun. And only the Bolsheviks in the 1930s decided to raise its rank for propaganda purposes and began to call it a cannon.

The secret of the Tsar Cannon was revealed only in 1980, when a large automobile crane removed it from the carriage and placed it on a huge trailer. Then the powerful KrAZ took the Tsar Cannon to Serpukhov, where the cannon was repaired at the plant of military unit No. 42708. At the same time, a number of specialists from the Artillery Academy named after Dzerzhinsky examined and measured her. For some reason, the report was not published, but from the surviving draft materials it becomes clear that the Tsar Cannon … was not a cannon!

The highlight of the weapon is its channel. At a distance of 3190 mm, it looks like a cone, the initial diameter of which is 900 mm, and the final diameter is 825 mm. Then comes the charging chamber with a reverse taper - with an initial diameter of 447 mm and a final (at the breech) of 467 mm. The chamber is 1730 mm long and the bottom is flat.

So this is a classic bombard

Bombards first appeared at the end of the 14th century. The name "bombarda" comes from the Latin words bombus (thunderous sound) and arder (to burn). The first bombards were made of iron and had screw chambers. So, for example, in 1382 in the city of Ghent (Belgium) a bombard "Mad Margaret" was made, named so in memory of the Countess of Flanders Margaret the Cruel. The caliber of the bombard is 559 mm, the barrel length is 7.75 caliber (klb), and the channel length is 5 klb. The weight of the gun is 11 tons. The Mad Margarita fired 320 kg of stone cannonballs. The bombard consists of two layers: the inner one, consisting of longitudinal welded strips, and the outer one - of 41 iron hoops, welded together and with the inner layer. A separate screw chamber consists of one layer of welded discs and is equipped with slots where the lever was inserted when screwing in and out.

It took about a day to load and aim large bombards.Therefore, during the siege of the city of Pisa in 1370, every time the besiegers were preparing to fire a shot, the besieged withdrew to the opposite end of the city. The besiegers, taking advantage of this, rushed to the attack.

The bombard charge was no more than 10% of the weight of the nucleus. There were no trunnions and carriages. The guns were laid on wooden decks and log cabins, and piles were driven in from behind or brick walls were erected for an emphasis. Initially, the elevation angle did not change. In the 15th century, they began to use primitive lifting mechanisms and cast copper bombards. Let's pay attention - the Tsar Cannon has no trunnions, with the help of which the weapon is given an elevation angle. In addition, she has an absolutely smooth rear section of the breech, with which she, like other bombards, rested against a stone wall or frame.

Protector of the Dardanelles

By the middle of the 15th century … the Turkish sultan had the most powerful siege artillery. Thus, during the siege of Constantinople in 1453, the Hungarian caster Urban cast a 24-inch (610 mm) copper bombard for the Turks, which fired stone cannonballs weighing about 20 pounds (328 kg). It took 60 bulls and 100 people to transport it to the position. To eliminate the rollback, the Turks built a stone wall behind the gun. The rate of fire of this bombard was 4 rounds per day. By the way, the rate of fire of large-caliber Western European bombers was about the same order. Just before the capture of Constantinople, a 24-inch bombard was blown apart. At the same time, its designer Urban himself was killed. The Turks appreciated the high-caliber bombards. Already in 1480, during the battles on the island of Rhodes, they used bombards of 24-35-inch caliber (610-890 mm). The casting of such giant bombards took, as indicated in ancient documents, 18 days.

It is curious that the bombards of the 15th-16th centuries in Turkey were in service until the middle of the 19th century. So, on March 1, 1807, when the British squadron of Admiral Duckworth crossed the Dardanelles, a marble core of 25 inches (635 mm) weighing 800 pounds (244 kg) hit the lower deck of the ship "Windsor Castle" and ignited several caps with gunpowder, as a result of which there was a terrible explosion. 46 people were killed and injured. In addition, many sailors threw themselves overboard in fright and drowned. The same cannonball hit the Asset and punched a huge hole in the side above the waterline. Several people could stick their heads through this hole.

In 1868, over 20 huge bombards were still stationed on the forts that defended the Dardanelles. There is information that during the Dardanelles operation in 1915, a 400-kilogram stone cannonball hit the English battleship Agamemnon. Of course, it could not pierce the armor and only amused the team.

Let's compare the Turkish 25-inch (630-mm) copper bombard, cast in 1464, which is currently in the museum in Woolwich, London, with our Tsar Cannon. The weight of the Turkish bombard is 19 tons, and the total length is 5232 mm. The outer diameter of the barrel is 894 mm. The length of the cylindrical part of the channel is 2819 mm. Chamber length - 2006 mm. The bottom of the chamber is rounded. The bombard fired stone cannonballs weighing 309 kg, the charge of gunpowder weighed 22 kg.

Bombard once defended the Dardanelles. As you can see, outwardly and in terms of the structure of the channel, it is very similar to the Tsar Cannon. The main and fundamental difference is that the Turkish bombard has a screwed breech. Apparently, the Tsar Cannon was made on the model of such bombards.

Shotgun King

So, the Tsar Cannon is a bombard designed for firing stone cannonballs. The weight of the stone core of the Tsar Cannon was about 50 pounds (819 kg), and a cast-iron core of this caliber weighs 120 pounds (1.97 tons). As a shotgun, the Tsar Cannon was extremely ineffective. At the cost of costs, instead of it, it was possible to make 20 small shotguns, which take much less time to load - not a day, but only 1-2 minutes. I will note that in the official inventory "At the Moscow Arsenal of Artillery Consists" # for 1730 there were 40 copper and 15 cast-iron shotguns.Pay attention to their calibers: 1,500 pounds - 1 (this is the Tsar Cannon), followed by calibers: 25 pounds - 2, 22 pounds - 1, 21 pounds - 3, etc. The largest number of shotguns, 11, accounts for 2-pound gauge.

And yet she shot

Who and why wrote the Tsar Cannon into shotguns? The fact is that in Russia all the old guns that were in the fortresses, with the exception of mortars, were automatically transferred to shotguns over time, that is, in the event of a fortress siege, they had to shoot with shot (stone), and later - with cast-iron canister at the infantry marching to the assault. It was inappropriate to use old guns for firing cannonballs or bombs: what if the barrel would blow apart, and the new guns had much better ballistic data. So the Tsar Cannon was written into shotguns, at the end of the 19th - the beginning of the 20th centuries, the military forgot about the orders in smooth-bore fortress artillery, and civil historians did not know at all, and by the name "shotgun" they decided that the Tsar Cannon was to be used exclusively as an anti-assault weapons for shooting "stone shot".

The point in the dispute over whether the Tsar Cannon fired was put in 1980 by specialists from the Academy. Dzerzhinsky. They examined the channel of the gun and, based on a number of signs, including the presence of particles of burnt gunpowder, concluded that the Tsar Cannon had been fired at least once. After the Tsar Cannon was cast and finished at the Cannon Yard, it was dragged to the Spassky Bridge and laid on the ground next to the Peacock cannon. horses, and they rolled a cannon lying on huge logs - rollers.

Initially, the Tsar and Peacock cannons lay on the ground near the bridge leading to the Spasskaya Tower, and the Kashpirov Cannon was at the Zemsky Prikaz, which was located where the Historical Museum is now located. In 1626, they were lifted from the ground and installed on log cabins, densely packed with earth. These platforms were called roscats. One of them, with the Tsar Cannon and the Peacock, was placed at the Execution Ground, the other, with the Kashpirova Cannon, at the Nikolsky Gate. In 1636, wooden roscats were replaced with stone ones, inside which warehouses and shops selling wine were set up.

After the "Narva embarrassment", when the tsarist army lost all siege and regimental artillery, Peter I ordered to urgently pour new cannons. The tsar decided to get the copper necessary for this by melting down the bells and old cannons. According to the “personal decree”, “it was ordered to pour into the cannon and mortar casting the Peacock cannon, which is in China at the Execution Ground on the Roskat; the Kashpirov's cannon in the new Monetary Yard, where the Zemsky order was; the Echidna cannon near the village of Voskresenskoye; the Krechet cannon with a cannonball of ten pounds; cannon "Nightingale" with a 6-pound cannon, which is in China on the square."

Peter, due to his lack of education, did not spare the most ancient tools of Moscow casting and made an exception only for the largest tools. Among them, of course, was the Tsar Cannon, as well as two mortars by casting Andrei Chokhov, which are currently in the Artillery Museum in St. Petersburg.

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