General Mikhail Alekseyev
3 November 1857|
Vyazma, Smolensk Governorate, Russian Empire
|Died||10 September 1918
Ekaterinodar, Russian SSR
|Allegiance|| Russian Empire
|Service/branch||Imperial Russian Army|
|Years of service||1876–1918|
|Battles/wars||Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878)
World War I
Russian Civil War
|Awards|| Order of St. Stanislav
Order of St. George
Order of St. Vladimir
Order of St. Anne
Mikhail Vasiliyevich Alekseyev (Russian: Михаил Васильевич Алексеев) (3 November 1857 – 25 September 1918) was an Imperial Russian Army general during World War I and the Russian Civil War. Between 1915 and 1917 he served as Tsar Nicholas II's Chief of Staff of the Stavka, and after the February Revolution, was its commander-in-chief under the Russian Provisional Government from March to May 1917. He later played a principal role in founding the Volunteer Army in the Russian Civil War and died in 1918 of heart failure while fighting the Bolsheviks in the Volga region.
Alekseyev was born in Vyazma, in the Smolensk Governorate of the Russian Empire (present-day Smolensk Oblast, Russia). His father, Vasili Alekseyev, was an army captain in the 64th Kazan Regiment from a modest background. In 1873 Alekseyev entered as a volunteer in the 2nd Grenadiers Regiment in Rostov. He graduated from the Moscow Infantry School in 1876 and was commissioned an ensign in the same 64th Kazan Regiment. He served as an orderly to General Mikhail Skobelev during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and was wounded in combat near Pleven, Bulgaria. He was promoted to lieutenant in January 1881, and captain in May 1883.
Completing his studies at the Nicholas General Staff Academy in 1890 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was posted as a senior adjutant in the headquarters of the 1st Army Corps in the St. Petersburg Military District. He served in this capacity and as a professor at the Academy's Department of Military History from 1898 to 1904. In March 1904, he was promoted to the rank of major general.
With the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, in October 1904 Alekseyev was appointed Quartermaster General of the Russian 3rd Manchurian Army. During the war he was awarded a gold sword, the Order of St. Stanislav, and the Order of St. Anne.
After the war he became first senior quartermaster of the General Staff’s main directorate, while maintaining his position as professor at the General Staff Academy. In 1908 he was made Chief of Staff of the Kiev military district and promoted to lieutenant general. In 1912 Alekseyev was given command of the 13th Army Corps.
World War I
The beginning of World War I in August 1914 saw Alekseyev appointed Chief of Staff of the Southwestern Front (which held the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Armies), where he planned the Russian offensive into Galicia with the rank of General-of-Infantry. He was subsequently awarded the Order of St. George (4th class). In March 1915 Alekseyev became the overall commander of the Russian Northwestern Front.
When Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich of Russia stepped down as Russian supreme Commander-in-chief in August 1915 to be replaced by Tsar Nicholas II, Alekseyev was appointed as Chief of Staff of the General Headquarters (Stavka) and placed in charge of all military operations. He served in this capacity from August 1915 to March 1917.
In his capacity as Chief of Staff, Alekseyev proved to be a tradionalist, unable to adapt to tactical changes and the techniques of a modern war. He was also incapable of changing a political system that allowed the promotion of incompetent commanders, through nepotism, patronage and the use of court intrigue. The Great Retreat of 1915 was undertaken on his orders. After the failure of the Battle of Lake Naroch in the spring of 1916, he no longer believed in the ability of the Russian Army to mount an offensive, contributing to the apathy and paralysis which characterized the Russian officer corps towards the end of the war.
Russian Civil War
During the February Revolution of 1917, Alexeyev sent a telegram to the Tsar advising him to abdicate the throne. This telegram, combined with one from his uncle Grand Duke Nicholas, pressure from the Stavka, as well as two representatives of the Duma, led to the Tsar's decision to abdicate on the 2 March 1917 in favour of his brother Grand Duke Michael, who ultimately refused the throne.
From March to May 1917, Alekseyev's position remained ambiguous. While he was the Commander-in-chief and later adviser to the Provisional Government, he spoke out against the Soviets and the democratization of the army. On 30 August 1917 Alekseyev became Chief of Staff of the Stavka under Commander-in-Chief Alexander Kerensky. His goal was to prevent the Kornilov movement (see Kornilov Affair) from developing into civil war. That same day, Alekseyev arrived at the General Headquarters, arrested General Lavr Kornilov and his men and sent them to prison in Bykhov (a town in Mogilev oblast in Belarus), from which they would "break away" with the help of General Nikolai Dukhonin. He then resigned his post in protest of Kerensky's policies. After his resignation he was suspected of sinking several ships off the coast of Odessa in retaliation.
After the October Revolution, Alekseyev fled to Novocherkassk, where he received the support of the leader of the Don Cossacks, General Alexey Kaledin. On 15 November 1917 he first formed "Alekseyev's Officer Organization", which would become the core of the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army. He was joined by General Kornilov, who never forgave him for his arrest in 1917, and the bad relations between the generals threatened to destroy the movement. In December 1917, Kornilov took command of the combat forces within the army and Alekseyev took charge of political and financial matters. After the death of Kornilov in April 1918, Alexeyev led the Volunteer Army back to the Don River region. He was appointed head of the Special Council, which would function as a government under Anton Denikin. However, Alekseyev, sick for some time, died of heart failure in Ekaterinodar in September 1918. He was first buried in the crypt of the Cossack host cathedral, but his family moved his remains to Belgrade, Serbia, where they remain to this day.
- Order of St. Anne Grade 4 "for courage" (1878)
- Order of St. Stanislav Grade 3, with swords and bow (1879)
- Order of St. Anne Grade 3, with swords and bow (1879)
- Order of St. Stanislav Grade 2 (1892)
- Order of St. Anne Grade 2 (1896)
- Order of St. Vladimir 4 degrees, with swords and bow (1900)
- Order of St. Vladimir Grade 3 (1901)
- Order of St. Stanislav Grade 1 with Swords (1905)
- Golden Sword of St. George "for courage" (1906)
- Order of St. Anne Grade 1 (1906)
- Order of St. Vladimir Grade 2 (1911)
- Order of St. George Grade 4 (1914)
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