Nikola Zhekov

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Nikola Zhekov
BASA-237K-1-343-7-Nikola Zhekov.jpg
Native name Никола Тодоров Жеков
Born (1865-01-06)6 January 1865
Sliven, Ottoman Empire
Died 1 November 1949(1949-11-01) (aged 84)
Füssen, West Germany
Allegiance Bulgaria Bulgaria
Service/branch War flag of Bulgaria.svg Bulgarian Army
Years of service 1885–1918
Rank General
Commands held Chief of Staff of the 2nd Army
Commander in chief of the Bulgarian Army
Awards BulgarianWarTimeMeritRibbon.jpg Bg1osa.gifBg1omm.gifPour le Mérite.png PRU Roter Adlerorden BAR.svg Ord.Leopold.PNGOrd.CoronaFerrea - COM.pngMilitaryMeritAustria.ribbon.gifTUR Harp Madalyasi BAR.svgImtyaz ribbon.JPG

Nikola Todorov Zhekov (Bulgarian: Никола Тодоров Жеков; 1864–1949) was the Minister of War of Bulgaria in 1915 and served as commander-in-chief from 1915 to 1918 during World War I.

Biography[edit]

Nikola Zhekov was born 1865 in Sliven. He was accepted in Sofia Military School and volunteered to serve in a reserve regiment during the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885. In 1886 he took part in the military coup against prince Alexander Batenberg. After the plot failed he was demoted to the rank of cadet and send to serve in the 12th infantry regiment. Soon after he received an amnesty for his offence and graduated from the Military School. In 1887 he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to the 2nd artillery regiment in Shumen. In 1894 he was promoted to captain and sent to Italy where in 1898 he graduated the military academy of Turin. After his return to Bulgaria he served in the 3rd artillery regiment and in the Army's staff. In 1901 he was promoted to major and taught at the Sofia military school, becoming its headmaster in 1912. Between 1910 and 1912 he also served as commander of the 1st infantry regiment.

Balkan Wars[edit]

During the First Balkan War, Colonel Zhekov served as chief of staff of the 2nd Army which was tasked with the initial siege and latter the storming of the important[citation needed] fortress of Edirne.He contracted an illness which prevented him from taking part in the Second Balkan War and after it was assigned commander of the Bulgarian forces in Western Thrace.

In 1913-1914 Zhekov was also part of a Bulgarian diplomatic mission to Istanbul which was involved in negotiating a military convention between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. After that he served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian Army and commander of the 8th "Tundzha" division. In August 1915 he was promoted to major general and appointed Minister of War.

First World War[edit]

After his experience of the Balkan Wars Tsar Ferdinand refused to take command of the Bulgarian Army as Commander-in-Chief and personally favored Nikola Zhekov for the post, which he assumed on 24 September 1915. Zhekov was a proponent for the military intervention of Bulgaria in the war on the side of the Central Powers and led the Bulgarian Army until the end of the war.

Attached to Mackensen's Army Group, the Bulgarian First Army liaised with the Germany and Austria-Hungary in crushing the Serbian army at home while the Bulgarian Second Army, which remained under direct Bulgarian control, seized Macedonia and defeated the Entente relief effort. Under Mackensen's command, the Bulgarian Army also participated in the militarily highly successful Romanian Campaign.

Separately, Zhekov managed in throwing back the Allied offensives in Salonika in the autumn of 1916 and the spring of 1917 at the Battles of Florina and Lake Prespa. Zhekov's forces also participated in the successful attack against the port of Kavalla in August–September 1916. On 6 October 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant general. In the summer of 1918 he became ill and on 8 September was forced to go to Vienna for medical treatment, leaving the command of the army to the deputy commander-in-chief general Georgi Todorov. It was during this critical time when an Entente offensive in Macedonia managed to break the Bulgarian lines at Dobro Pole and lead to the capitulation of Bulgaria.On 4 November 1918 lieutenant general Nikola Zhekov was discharged from the active army and went into the reserve.

Later life[edit]

After the war Zhekov chose to flee into exile in Germany. He returned in 1921 to defend his reputation and was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was granted amnesty after spending three years in jail.

In the years after that Zhekov read lectures in the Military Academy and wrote several books regarding the military science and his memoirs. On 6 May 1936 he was promoted to general of the infantry which was the highest rank in the Bulgarian Army.

During World War II General Zhekov established a friendly relationship with Adolf Hitler and following the defeat of France in 1940 he was invited by the Führer to visit Paris as his guest. After the government changes in September 1944 General Zhekov, fearing political persecutions, decided to immigrate to Germany. On 1 February 1945 he was sentenced to death by the People's Court established by the government of the Fatherland Front. However his whereabouts were unknown to the government and the sentence wasn't carried out.

Zhekov died on 1 November 1949 in the Bavarian town of Füssen. On 7 November 1992 his remains were returned to Bulgaria and were laid to rest in the Military Mausoleum in Sofia.

Awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • First World War.com - Who's Who - Nikola Zhekov at www.firstworldwar.com
  • Енциклопедия „България“, том 2, Издателство на БАН, София, 1981.
  • Недев, С., Командването на българската войска през войните за национално обединение, София, 1993, Военноиздателски комплекс „Св. Георги Победоносец“
  • Вазов, В., Животописни бележки, София, 1992, Военноиздателски комплекс „Св. Георги Победоносец“, ISBN 954-509-002-2 с. 123
Political offices
Preceded by
Ivan Fichev
Minister of War
1915
Succeeded by
Kalin Naydenov