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Night Ride Across The Caucasus - SOLDIER (OST) !!BETTER!!

Over 1000 men of Russia's 131st Maikop Brigade had spent the night in the fields just north of Grozny, poised to advance at dawn. Viktor Kim, a nineteen-year-old conscript in command of a unit of four driving a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, received the order to move at 6.40 a.m. Their task was to take the airport, and they moved across the open fields to it with surprising ease. When they met no opposition they were told to head into the centre of town and occupy the railway station. Nikolai Ryabtsev was in the first battalion that pressed on to the centre, driving slowly in a column of thirty vehicles, tanks, armoured troop-carriers and self-propelled guns rumbling on their thick tank treads. A big, tall nineteen-year-old, Ryabtsev had started his military service six months before, one of tens of thousands of barely trained conscripts who made up the bulk of the Russian army. Now amongst the infantry, he was walking alongside the column, sometimes hopping back on to his armoured personnel carrier to ride a few blocks. They turned on to the wide avenue, Staropromyslovskoye Chaussee, that leads from the north-west into the city centre, packed with high-rise apartment blocks and other residential buildings. A few people were watching from their balconies, but the streets were deserted, with no traffic at all.

Night Ride Across The Caucasus - SOLDIER (OST)

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Within hours the square had turned into a horrific inferno of burning tanks and dead bodies. Ryabtsev was shot in the legs trying to haul a heavy machine-gun into the railway station building. He dragged himself behind the tanks and was pulled in through the window to a room that filled rapidly with wounded soldiers. Nikolai Zarovny, another young conscript, wag inside his light tank firing the gun when an anti-tank grenade seared into the side, bursting like a fireball. His clothes on fire, his face and hands scorched, he yanked open the hatch at the back and leapt out, stumbling over the dead bodies of his comrades as he dashed blindly into the station building. Badly burnt, he joined the growing number of wounded in the impromptu field hospital. As the fighting raged through the night, Ryabtsev remembers drifting in and out of sleep, hearing loud explosions and someone saying another tank had been hit.

With no idea what to do, where to take cover or how to break out of the nightmare, soldiers were thrown into panic. Tank drivers backed frantically away to hide, crashing over pavements and through courtyards in a desperate attempt to get to safety. As the afternoon wore on and the light began to fade, tanks careered wildly down the streets, often lost, reversing in panic when they saw trouble, yanking their machine-guns round and firing in all directions. Some soldiers dived into nearby buildings, barricading themselves into the basements. `They are hiding like chickens,' one fighter laughed scornfully.

`The Chechens would hit the first tank and the Russians in the tanks behind would run into nearby buildings to escape. There was a crazy game of hide-and-seek, with Russian soldiers hiding in apartments, bunkers and even toilets, and the Chechens hunting them with swords, knives and pistols,' Chauvel recalled. `There were lots of tanks hiding in back yards and behind walls. The Chechens said they were waiting for night-time. They let lots of tanks in, then blocked the streets, they wanted to capture them.

The Chechens, by comparison, were fearless and often merciless. Natural marksmen who learn to handle a gun as young boys, they picked off fleeing soldiers easily. Hundreds of volunteers ran in to grab weapons from the dead Russian soldiers, especially seeking the prized sniper rifles with night-sights, the more experienced hacking off the big machine-guns from the armoured vehicles.

For days he did not stop ferrying wounded and dead soldiers out of the west part of the city and towing burnt and broken wrecks back to base. Grozny was still alive with gunfire as he ventured close to the railway station and market, listening to the horrifying battle raging the other side. `The first night I hardly slept, I was so exhausted and cold,' he said.

I had brought with me from Constantinople, on the advice of merchants, fruits, muscadel wine and dainty biscuits to present to the first captains (of the Tartars), so that my way might be made easier, for among them no one is looked upon in a proper way who comes with empty hands. All these things I put in one of the carts, since I had not found the captains of the city, and I was told they would be most acceptable to Sartach if I could carry them to him that far. We set out on our journey about the calends of June (1st June [1253]) with our four covered carts and two others which were lent us by them and in which was carried bedding to sleep on at night. And they gave us also five horses to ride, for us five persons, myself, and my companion Friar Bartholomew of Cremona, and Gosset the bearer of the presents [J (correcting Rockhill): "the bearer of this letter" (Near the end of the narrative we learn that Rubruck was detained in Acre in Palastine and sent the narrative to King Loius via Gosset], and Homo Dei the dragoman [interpreter], and the boy Nicholas whom I had bought at Constantinople by means of your charity. They gave us also two men who drove the carts and looked after the oxen and horses.

We came finally to the end of this province (of Gazaria), which is closed by a ditch (running) from one sea to the other, and outside of it was the camp of these (Mongols); and when we came among them they were such horrible looking creatures that they seemed like lepers. They were stationed there to collect the tax from those who get sail from the salt lakes [J: salt springs] of which I have already spoken. From this point we should have to travel fifteen days, they said without seeing anyone. We drank cosmos with them, and gave them a basket full of biscuits; and they gave the eight of us a goat for the whole long journey, and I know not how many skins of cow's milk. So having changed horses and oxen we set out, and in ten days covered the distance to the next camp; and along whole route we only found water in holes made in hollows with the exception of two small streams. And we were traveling due east from the time we left this province of Gazaria, having the sea to the south and a vast wilderness to the north, which extends in places over thirty days in breadth; and in it is neither forest, nor hill, nor stone, but only the finest pasturage. Here the Comans, who are called Capchat, used to pasture their flocks; the Teutons, however, call them Valans, and the province Valania. It is stated however by Isidorus [=Isidore (d. ca. CE 636): bishop of Seville who's varied works included histories of the Goths, Vandals and Sueves] that Alania extends from the river Tanais to the Palus Maeotis and the Danube; and this country which extends from the Danube to the Tanais (which is the boundary between Asia and Europe), and which it takes two months hard riding, as ride the Tartars, to cross, was all inhabited by the Capchat Comans, as was also that beyond the Tanais [=Don R.] to the Etilia [=Volga R.], between which two rivers are ten good days. To the north of province lies Ruscia, which is everywhere covered with forests, and extends from Poland and Hungary to the Tanais, and it was all ravaged by the Tartars, and is still being ravaged every day. For the Tartars prefer the Saracens to the Ruthenians, who are Christians, and when the latter can give no more gold or silver they drive them off to the wilds, them and their little ones, like flocks of sheep, there to herd their cattle. Beyond Ruscia to the north is Pruscia, which has all been recently conquered by the Teutonic knights; and of a truth they might readily acquire Ruscia, if they would put their hand to it, for should the Tartars hear that the great priest, that is the Pope, was about to make a crusade against them, they would all flee to their deserts.

Then they appointed someone to take care of us, and we went to the monk. And as we were coming out of there to go to our lodgings, the interpreter I have mentioned came to me and said: "Mangu Chan takes compassion on you and allows you to stay here for the space of two months: then the great cold will be over. And he informs you that ten days hence there is a goodly city called Caracarum. If you wish to go there, he will have you given all you may require; if, however, you wish to remain here, you may do so, and you shall have what you need. It will, however, be fatiguing for you to ride with the court." I answered: " May the Lord keep Mangu Chan and give him a happy and long life! We have found this monk here, whom we believe to be a holy man and come here by the will of God. So we would willingly remain here with him, for we are monks, and we would say our prayers with him for the life of the Chan." Then he left us without a word. And we went to a big house, which we found cold and without a supply of fuel, and we were still without food, and it was night. Then he to whom we had been entrusted gave us fuel and a little food. 041b061a72


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