Nicholas II runs tests on new uniforms for the soldiers of his army

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

This series of photographs depict Emperor Nicholas II wearing the uniform of a private soldier in Livadia. The Tsar made it his duty to run tests on new uniforms for the soldiers of his army.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

In 1909, Vladimir Sukhomlinov the Minister of War was at work on an important reform, the determination of the type of clothing and equipment to be worn and carried in future by every Russian infantryman. When considering the modifications proposed by the Minister, the following provides a convincing proof of the extreme conscientiousness and sense of duty which inspired Nicholas II, as head of the army. The Tsar wanted full knowledge of the facts, and decided to test the proposed new equipment personally.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

He told only Alexander Alexandrovich Mossolov (1854-1939), who served as Minister of the Court and the Commander of the Palace of his intention. They had the full equipment, new model, of a soldier in a regiment camping near Livadia brought to the palace. There was no falang, no making to exact measure for the Tsar; he was in the precise position of any recruit who was put into the shirt, pants, and uniform chosen for him, and given his rifle, pouch, and cartridges. The Tsar was careful also to take the regulation supply of bread and water. Thus equipped, he went off alone, covered twenty kilometres out and back on a route chosen at random, and returned to the palace. Forty kilometres — twenty-five miles — is the full length of his forced march; rarely are troops required to do more in a single day.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

The Tsar returned at dusk, after eight or nine hours of marching, rest-time included. A thorough examination showed, beyond any possibility of doubt, that there was not a blister or abrasion of any part on his body. The boots had not hurt his feet. Next day the reform received the Sovereign’s approval.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

The Tsar regarded himself as a soldier — the first professional soldier of the Russian Empire. In this respect he would make no compromise: his duty was to do what every soldier had to do.

Excerpted from At the Court of the Last Tsar by A.A. Mossolov. English edition published in 1935

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2020

Traitors of Heroes? Officers of Nicholas II during the Great Patriotic War 1941-45

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Without the tsarist officers, the victory of the Reds in the Civil War would have been impossible
– Leon Trotsky

Despite the Civil War and the repression of the 1930s, a significant number of former officers of the Russian Imperial Army and the Russian Army of the Provisional Government survived both the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War to serve under the Soviet regime during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

They played an important role as “military specialists” who trained the new generation of the Soviet military, transferring the traditions and spirit of the old Russian Imperial Army to the Red Army. Up to 40% of the entire officer corps of pre-revolutionary Russia joined the Bolsheviks and forge their victory. The head of the Revolutionary Military Council, Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), believed that without the tsarist officers, the victory of the Reds in the Civil War would have been impossible.

Tsarist officers contributed to the victory of the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War, by contributing to the training of the armed forces and commanding the Red Army. Statistically – about 35% of all commanders of the Red Army divisions during the Great Patriotic War were officers of the old Imperial Army, 35% of the commanders at the fronts in 1941-1945, a third of the commanders and 13% of the comcors had become officers before 1917. Their presence in the infantry was especially great.

Many famous Soviet marshals and generals who impressed the world with their victories, were former officers of the Imperial Army. Among those were Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (1896-1974) who was awarded the St. George Cross twice for military merit, and promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer for his bravery in battle. There were also men of higher rank, such as Apollon Yakovlevich Kruse (1892-1967), who served as Lieutenant General of the Red Army corps. The legendary Lieutenant General Dmitry Karbyshev (1880-1945), and Lieutenant General Alexander Bakhtin (1885-1963) had both sworn allegiance to Emperor Nicholas II.

But the most illustrious commanders of the Red Army in the war against Germany, consisted of five marshals of the USSR.

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Alexander Mikhailovich Vasilevsky (1895-1977)

Alexander Mikhailovich Vasilevsky (1895-1977) had a strong Orthodox upbringing, his father was a priest, his mother was the daughter of a priest. He began his education in the local church school, and in 1909, he entered Kostroma seminary.

Vasilevsky began his military career during World War I, earning the rank of captain by 1917. Noted for his energy and personal courage, he took part in the famous Brusilov Offensive in 1916. After the October Revolution of 1917 and the start of the Civil War of 1917–1922 he was conscripted into the Red Army, taking part in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919–1921.

Vasilevsky served as a Russian career-officer in the Red Army, attained the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1943. He served as the Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces (1942-1945) and Deputy Minister of Defense during World War II, and as Minister of Defense from 1949 to 1953. As the Chief of the General Staff from 1942 to 1945, Vasilevsky became involved in planning and coordinating almost all the decisive Soviet offensives in World War II, from the Stalingrad counteroffensive of November 1942 to the assaults on East Prussia (January–April 1945), Königsberg (January–April 1945) and Manchuria (August 1945).

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Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin (1894-1949)

Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin (1894-1949) volunteered for the Imperial Army in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I. He was steadily promoted, and appointed to captain by 1916 under Emperor Nicholas II. He was also decorated for bravery multiple times.

In August 1918 Tolbukhin joined the Red Army, where he served as the chief of staff of the 56th infantry division. After the Russian Civil War ended (1921), Tolbukhin was given a number of staff positions.

Tolbukhin took part in the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa until August 1941, when he was made the chief of staff of the Crimean Front, which he held until March 1942. From May to July 1942, he was the assistant commander of the Stalingrad Military District. After that, he was the commander of the 58th Army until March 1943, and was involved in the Battle of Stalingrad, where Tolbukhin’s superior, Colonel-General Andrei Yeremenko, praised his command organization and military prowess. On September 12, 1944, Tolbukhin was promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union.

Tolbukhin is generally regarded as one of the finest Soviet generals of World War II. Meticulous, careful, and not overly ambitious like some Soviet commanders, Tolbukhin was well respected by fellow commanders and also his men, especially since he had a dedication to keeping casualty rates low. Tolbukhin was the recipient of numerous awards and medals including the highest Soviet medal and rank, the Victory Order and Hero of the Soviet Union, respectively.

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Colonel Boris Mikhailovich Shaposhnikov (1882-1945)

Colonel Boris Mikhailovich Shaposhnikov (1882-1945) joined the army of the Russian Empire in 1901 and graduated from the Nicholas General Staff Academy in 1910, reaching the rank of colonel in the Caucasus Grenadiers division in September 1917 during World War I. Also in 1917, he supported the Russian Revolution, an act unusual for an officer of his rank, and in May 1918 joined the Red Army.

Shaposhnikov was one of the few Red Army commanders with formal military training, and in 1921 he became 1st Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army’s General Staff, where he served until 1925. He was appointed commander of the Leningrad Military District in 1925 and then of the Moscow Military District in 1927. From 1928 to 1931 he served as Chief of the Staff of the Red Army.

In May 1940 he was appointed a Marshal of the Soviet Union. Despite his background as a Tsarist officer, Shaposhnikov won the respect and trust of Stalin. His status as a professional officer—he did not join the Communist Party until 1939—may have helped him avoid Stalin’s suspicions.

Fortunately for the Soviet Union, Shaposhnikov had a fine military mind and high administrative skills. He combined these talents with his position in Stalin’s confidence to rebuild the Red Army leadership after the purges. He obtained the release from the Gulag of 4,000 officers deemed necessary for this operation. In 1939 Stalin accepted Shaposhnikov’s plan for a rapid build-up of the Red Army’s strength. Although the plan was not completed before the German invasion of June 1941, it had advanced sufficiently to save the Soviet Union from complete disaster.

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Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov (1897-1955)

Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov (1897-1955), was mobilized in December 1916, and sent to the Konstantinovskye Artillery School, from which he graduated in 1917. He became an artillery officer with the rank of podporuchik.

When the Russian Revolution broke out and the Russian Imperial Army disintegrated, Govorov returned home, but was conscripted into the White Guard army of Aleksandr Kolchak in October 1918, serving in an artillery battery in the Russian Civil War. Govorov fought in the Spring Offensive of the Russian Army, a general drive westwards by White forces in the east. He deserted in November 1919, fleeing to Tomsk, where he took part in an uprising against White authorities as part of a fighting squad. Govorov joined the Red Army in January 1920, serving in the 51st Rifle Division as an artillery battalion commander. With the division, he fought in the Siege of Perekop in November, during which Soviet forces drove Pyotr Wrangel’s White Army out of Crimea.

In World War II, Govorov rose to command an army in November 1941 during the Battle of Moscow. He commanded the Leningrad Front from April 1942 to the end of the war. He reached the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1944, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and many other awards.

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Ivan Khristoforovich Baghramyan (1897-1982)

Ivan Khristoforovich Baghramyan (1897-1982), joined the Russian Imperial Army as a volunteer on 16 September 1915. He was assigned as a private to the 116th Reserve Battalion and sent to Akhaltsikhe for basic training. With his training complete in December, he joined the 2nd Caucasus Frontier Regiment of the Russian Expeditionary Corps, which was sent to dislodge the Ottomans in Persia. Bagramyan participated in several battles in Asadabad, Hamedan and Kermanshah, the Russian victories here sending Ottoman forces reeling toward Anatolia.

Learning about the exploits of the men in the outfit, the chief of staff of the regiment, General Pavel Melik-Shahnazaryan, advised Bagramyan to return to Tiflis to enroll in the Praporshchik Military Academy. But in order to attend the school, Bagramyan needed to satisfy the academy’s requirement of having completed school at a gymnasium. This did not deter him and, after preparing for the courses in Armavir, he passed his exams and began attending the academy on February 13, 1917. He graduated in June 1917 and was assigned to the 3rd Armenian Infantry Regiment, stationed near Lake Urmia. But with the overthrow of the Russian Provisional Government in the midst of the October Revolution of 1917, his unit was demobilized.

Bagramyan’s experience in military planning as a chief of staff allowed him to distinguish himself as a capable commander in the early stages of the Soviet counter-offensives against Nazi Germany. He was given his first command of a unit in 1942, and in November 1943 received his most prestigious command as the commander of the 1st Baltic Front. As commander of the Baltic Front, he participated in the offensives which pushed German forces out of the Baltic republics.

Bagramyan was a Soviet military commander and Marshal of the Soviet Union of Armenian origin. During World War II, Bagramyan was the second non-Slavic military officer, after Latvian Max Reyter, to become a commander of a Front. He was among several Armenians in the Soviet Army who held the highest proportion of high-ranking officers in the Soviet military during the war.

* * *

It seems ironic that “Nicholas the Bloody” should play a much greater role in the history of 20th century Russia, than the Soviets would ever give him credit for. It is thanks to the excellent training during the reign of Russia’s last emperor, that former soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army should live through the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War to become marshals and generals, who fought heroic battles during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.

It is important to recognize that each of them committed treason by breaking their oath of allegiance to Emperor Nicholas II and the Russian Empire, but should they be condemned? Certainly not. These marshals and generals, demonstrated sincere patriotism and a willingness to sacrifice themselves for the Soviet Union, and saved the country from certain oblivion at the hands of the Nazi war machine. Their acts of bravery saved the lives of millions of Russians, had they not pushed the invaders back to Berlin, we may very well be living in a very different world today.

© Рaul Gilbert. 22 January 2020

Monument to General who remained faithful to Nicholas II established in Russia

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Monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller, Peterhof,

On 5th September, Russia’s first monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller was established in Peterhof, where the Izmailovsky Life Guard Regiment, which had been under Keller’s command from 1906, had been housed before the 1917 Revolution.

Sadly, the barracks have only been partially preserved, and currently house the Military Institute of Railway Troops and Military Communications, where there is also a museum dedicated to the history of Izmailovsky Life Guard Regiment. It is here that the monument to their legendary commander was established.

The sculpture was made by Moscow sculptor Victoria Alexandrovna Tishchenko (born 1986), the completion of the project is thanks to the efforts of the Emperor Alexander III Educational Society.

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Monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller, Peterhof,

General who did not betray Nicholas II

The abdication of Nicholas II, continues to be shrouded in controversy, myths and lies. Historians have led us to believe that the tsar was betrayed by all of his generals in the days leading up to his abdication.

This is incorrect.

Commander of the Guard Cavalry Corps Huseyn Khan Nakhchivanski (1863-1919), a Muslim by religion, turned out to be one of two Tsarist generals, who remained loyal to the Russian Orthodox emperor and refused to swear allegiance to the Provisional Government.

The second general whose loyalty and readiness to defend the tsar was the commander of the Third Cavalry Corps of the Russian Imperial Army, General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller (1857-1918).

Both sent telegrams to the tsar at Mogliev expressing their loyalty to Nicholas II, offering their troops to defend the monarchy. Neither telegram ever reached their sovereign, having been intercepted by supporters of the Provisional Government.

Keller was shot by Petliurists on 21 (O.S. 8) December 1918. His body was buried under a false name in the Intercession Monastery in Kiev. His grave has not been preserved.

I have written a comprehensive article on Nakhchivanski and Keller Loyal to Their Sovereign. Generals Who Did Not Betray Nicholas II, to be published in Sovereign No. 12 – COMING SOON!

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOVEREIGN

© Paul Gilbert. 6 September 2019

Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army in 1909

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Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909

In 1909, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Sukhomlinov (1848-1926) the Minister of War was at work on an important reform, the determination of the type of clothing and equipment to be worn and carried in future by every Russian infantryman. When considering the modifications proposed by the Minister, the following provides a convincing proof of the extreme conscientiousness and sense of duty which inspired Nicholas II, as head of the army. The Tsar wanted full knowledge of the facts, and decided to test the proposed new equipment personally.

089b

Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909

He told only the Alexander Alexandrovich Mossolov (1854-1939), who served as Minister of the Court and the Commander of the Palace of his intention. They had the full equipment, new model, of a soldier in a regiment camping near Livadia brought to the palace. There was no falang, no making to exact measure for the Tsar; he was in the precise position of any recruit who is put into the shirt, pants, and uniform chosen for him, and given his rifle, pouch, and cartridges. The Tsar was careful also to take the regulation supply of bread and water. Thus equipped, he went off alone, covered twenty kilometres out and back on a route chosen at random, and returned to the palace. Forty kilometres — twenty-five miles — is the full length of a forced march; rarely are troops required to do more in a single day.

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Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909

The Tsar returned at dusk, after eight or nine hours of marching, rest-time included. A thorough examination showed, beyond any possibility of challenge, that there was not a blister or abrasion of any sort on his body. The boots had not hurt his feet. Next day the reform received the Sovereign’s approval.

The Tsar regarded himself as a soldier — the first professional soldier in his Empire. In this respect he would make no compromise: his duty was to do what every soldier had to do.

Source: At the Court of the Last Tsar by A.A. Mossolov. English edition published in 1935

© Paul Gilbert. 9 August 2019