In 1902, the book "The Automobile, Its Economic and Strategic Significance for Russia" was published in St. Petersburg. The book was signed to print on January 16, 1901. It described two experimental electric vehicles in operation. Was it an accidental hit or an ingenious clairvoyance?
The author of the providence opus, by his profession and origin, was in no way suitable for the role of an engineer or a logistics strategist. By the end of the 19th century, Prince Mikhail Aleksandrovich Nakashidze, an officer of the Life Guards of the Grodno Hussar Regiment (in which the cornet Lermontov also served at one time), asked the question: is a car a luxury or a means of transportation? And if this is not an exotic self-propelled toy for rich sportsmen, then how can it be used for the country? And what kind of car, on what traction - a gasoline internal combustion engine or an electric motor?
Hussar and the "iron horse"
After analyzing the results of the first experiments, the prince made several accurate predictions of the use of vehicles in the coming XXI century. Here are just a few of them: 1) construction of strategic highways - as an alternative to railways for the transportation of large-tonnage cargo (now they are called "federal highways"); 2) development and production of models of special vehicles (bulldozers, excavators, tow trucks, garbage and snow removal vehicles, tug cars); 3) the creation of a service for intercity road passenger transportation - this is how he represented intercity buses. Moreover, he foresaw all this back when, in January 1896, an experiment was conducted in England to transport a cargo trailer with a volume of 270 pounds - about 4300 kilograms.
After graduating from the Corps of Pages only, the prince showed an ability for strategic thinking on a national scale. He convinced officials of the Ministry of Railways and its head, Prince Khilkov, as well as officials of the War Ministry, that freight vehicles would be irreplaceable where there were no railways yet. For example, on the flat terrain of Little Russia, in Central Asia, in the Kuban-Don steppes, in Manchuria and in Turkestan.
Oil or Electricity?
I must say that by this time the world had already managed to assess the prospects of the car. So, among automotive design engineers at the very end of the 19th century, a discussion was raging: which engines to develop and install - electric or oil?
In 1900, a car drove in France at a speed of up to 105 km / h. The electric car was developed by Jamais Content, the author of the project was the French engineer Zhenatsky. Some strange surname for a French engineer, isn't it? That's right, electrical engineer Vladimir Zhenatsky took into account the sad experience of the St. Petersburg designer Ippolit Romanov, who built and launched a two-seater electric car and a 20-seater passenger electric bus on the streets of the capital, but his brainchild was blocked by the stupidity and greed of St. Petersburg officials. Therefore, Genatsky later proposed his designs to a more dynamic and practical France. One can only guess how the world would develop if electricians won a dispute with oilmen.
As a career soldier, Prince Nakashidze appreciated both the idea of armored vehicle protection and the idea of its armament. Actually, a similar car had already received a baptism of fire during the Boer War in southern Africa (1899-1902), in the battle near the Tugela River. The British equipped the car with a machine gun, and the result was a "cart" with a gasoline engine. Already in the spring of 1900, the car, as a means of communication and intelligence, took part in military maneuvers of the armies of France, Germany and Italy. Inspired by the successful experience of the Anglo-Boer campaign, the British Department of War announced a competition for the best design of an armored and armed vehicle. Customers were ready to purchase vehicles, as long as they were equipped with machine-gun armament. For these developments, the stingy gentlemen of the Thames allocated 107 million shillings.
And what about the Russian strategists of His Imperial Majesty? In mid-1901, Prince Khilkov took part in a motor rally along the Georgian Military Highway. I was very pleased with it. However, neither the Ministry of War, nor the Ministry of Railways, nor the tsarist government even accepted proposals for the construction of domestic car factories, either state-owned or private, for discussion. Nobody directly objected. But they did nothing.
Is war an engine of progress?
In 1904, the war with Japan began, and the patriotic prince insisted on his transfer from the guard to the Siberian Cossack army. There, the ardent Caucasian Nakashidze commanded a hundred mounted scouts of the 7th Cossack regiment. In battles, he served the rank of posesaul and was awarded a golden award weapon for bravery. Russia lost the war, and this made it easier for the stubborn prince to walk around the bureaucratic offices. True, the Cossack fighting spirit liked the son of an old Georgian family so much that until the end of his life he was listed as a Cossack officer of the Siberian army. Even during the war, he convinced the employees of the Ministry of War to test an armored car armed with a machine gun in a battle in Manchuria. They gave the go-ahead, but while the armored car of the French company Charron reached the front, the war was over. In March 1906, he pissed up and convinced him to test his brainchild - an armored car,created by the French according to his project - on maneuvers near St. Petersburg. I liked the armored vehicle very much, but the members of the commission flatly refused to allocate money for the serial production of the car and to accept it for the army.
In addition to the eternal inertia of Russian bureaucrats, there were objective reasons. Back in 1901, in his book, the Cossack prince wrote that there was not a single car factory in the Russian Empire. The tsarist ministers had to make a choice - either to allocate funds for the construction of such factories in Russia, or to purchase imported samples. Or at least place orders in France. We can say that a brilliant engineer and visionary, a brave officer and a patriot, Mikhail Alexandrovich sincerely did not understand that it was not only the inertness of managers, but also the technical backwardness of industry. There were no machine tools on which it was possible to grind parts, there was not a sufficient number of power plants to provide electricity to such factories. All of this required a trained and motivated workforce - engineers and technicians. Indeed, in order to train such personnel, it was necessary to abolish the class restriction on the admission of rabble children to higher educational institutions. And the sons of the nobility were not eager to serve as engineers in the noisy and dirty workshops of the automobile giants, even if they existed.
The prince accurately and correctly described the prospects for a car for a country like Russia. But he did not understand that under the existing feudal system, both technical and social modernization of the country is impossible.
On August 12 (old style), 1906, the prince asked for an appointment with Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin. Mikhail Alexandrovich believed that Stolypin's personal support (which he had no doubt of receiving) would help to establish the production of armored vehicles in Russia. He took with him a thick folder of papers: calculations, drawings, photographs, explanatory notes … One can only guess how their meeting could end for him and for the domestic car industry. But on August 12, 1906, the militants of the group of Socialist Revolutionaries-maximalists planned to blow up the "infernal machine" at the premier's dacha. The fact that completely uninvolved people and members of the Stolypin family would die did not stop them. They were preparing a social revolution. But they were also enemies of Prince Nakashidze.
The aristocrat-inventor was already in the premier's reception when the detonator went off. Among the 27 dead was Prince Nakashidze. He was not even lucky enough to be injured. Alas, all his papers disappeared in the bustle after the explosion. Only the book of providence remained. We can say that it was the work of the Russian "automobile Nostradamus".