Count chickens in the autumn

Award for the taking of Kiev

It has been reported  that at the time of the invasion of Ukraine, Russia had already issued a medal to reward soldiers participating in the anticipated fall of Kiev. The shiny badge is illustrated here.  Moreover, some troops, presumably elite regiments, involved in the ill-fated expedition, were ordered to pack parade uniforms for anticipated victory celebrations as the Russian army entered the city.

We now know, of course, that thankfully these preparations turned out to have been pointless. I hope that the medals will eventually be recycled for a more worthy purpose.  One might say that Putin was rashly counting his chickens before they hatched, or ignoring the wisdom of the equivalent Russian saying that chickens are counted in the autumn: Цыплат по осени считают. Presumably autumn is the season when the birds are herded into the safety of the henhouse for the winter.

The premature medals and fancy uniforms are, of course, evidence of Putin’s misplaced confidence in claims from his acolytes that absorbing Ukraine would be a push over, and that Kiev would swiftly capitulate.  It is a reminder also of the Russian autocracy’s longstanding tendency to value military show over operational efficiency which was remarked as far back as the 18th century and which possibly reached its peak under Emperor Nicholas 1st (1825-1855).

I was reminded that, following the valiantly defended campaign against rebel Poland in 1830/31, when General Paskevich finally made his hesitant and bloody assault on Warsaw, he ordered that parade uniforms should be worn for the attack.  We read how the citizens of the Polish capital emerged onto the city walls in the early morning of August 25th 1831 (Old Style) and were amazed to see row after row of colourful uniforms, gold braid and sparkling weaponry surrounding the hastily constructed fortifications.

On that occasion the festive accoutrements proved justified. On the following day after fierce fighting the city of Warsaw fell, and the day after that Grand Duke Mikhail rode into the city with the Imperial Guard, suitably attired.

This time round, however, in Kiev, parade uniforms are unlikely to get an airing.

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