The First Desertion
The First Desertion
This chapter details events following Semën Atarshchikov's desertion of the Russian military. In October 1841, Major Igelstrom reported shocking news to General Zass: Lieutenant Semën Atarshchikov had deserted and fled to the mountains. General Zass and others who knew Atarshchikov only as a loyal and highly valuable officer must have met the news with disbelief. What might have triggered such a precipitous action? Or was it perhaps less precipitous than it seemed? In the report that he submitted to his superiors upon returning to Russia four months later, Atarshchikov ascribed his rash action to tragic family circumstances, namely the sudden death of his two children. However, his account of the circumstances leading to his desertion was not entirely convincing. While characterizing his desertion as an impulsive, spontaneous act, Atarshchikov at the same time apparently knew exactly where to find his old friend Aitek Kanokov, who only recently had deserted from Russian service. According to another account, Atarshchikov fled to the mountains along with two Circassian uzdens, the Abaza prince Seralip Loo, and two Cossacks from the Khoper Regiment. In his version of the story Atarshchikov maintained that he fled only to find solitude and refused to take part in raids across the Russian frontier. But others claimed that within a few days of his defection he led a party of forty horsemen in a raid on the Russian settlements near Kislovodsk.
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