Military Review

End of the career of Minister Sukhomlinov. From triumph to tragicomedy

End of the career of Minister Sukhomlinov. From triumph to tragicomedy

Go to Kiev and ask ...

In Kiev, General Sukhomlinov left not a bad memory of himself. First of all, he managed to cope with the turmoil, not paying attention to the fact that the terrorists, almost without hiding, were preparing an attempt on his life. The new commander of the military district first of all established interaction with the police, gendarmerie, not relying too much on the loyal Cossacks.

Under him, not only all attempts to organize a workers' uprising in Kiev were suppressed, but the Jewish pogroms also stopped very soon. Sukhomlinov did not spare either the left or the right, although no particular cruelty was required of him. Messages from Kiev, where Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna remained, reassured the emperor, who was not allowed to relax by both capitals - constantly striking and thirsting for freedom.

Already in October 1905, Sukhomlinov was appointed governor-general of Kiev, Podolsk and Volynsky, that is, the entire South-West Territory. And among his Kiev achievements, one cannot fail to highlight the elimination of the so-called "sapper revolt", in which the old Bolshevik Fyodor Petrov, who was slightly wounded, was noted.

Photo: V. B. Lushpai /

Walking along the capital's Strastnoy Boulevard, only occasionally pay attention to the monument to F. Petrov (see photo) next to the former edition of Ogonyok and the Catherine Hospital, in which the Moscow City Duma now sits. Well, nearby, among the greenery, Rachmaninov and Tvardovsky are sitting, and at the Petrovsky gate, Vysotsky with a guitar behind him stretched out his arms.

General Sukhomlinov, having calmed Kiev, paid more and more attention to personal affairs. Seeking a divorce for Ekaterina Butovich, he struck up close relations with a number of very dubious persons, including a retired gendarmerie lieutenant colonel S.N. Myasoedov, later accused of espionage.

Soon, the general had to move to St. Petersburg to the post of chief of the General Staff, which to some extent helped to calm down passions and less often communicate with all sorts of crooks. And the main thing is to calmly lead the case to the long-awaited divorce, which will happen only in 1909.

Top of career

Sukhomlinov took the post of Minister of War of the Russian Empire in the spring of 1909, when it seemed that the revolution and revolutionaries were over forever. Such an appointment can be considered the pinnacle of his career, although the general got into the ministry through the General Staff, where he even lost in salary compared to the Kiev posts.

The Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich drew attention to this circumstance, as recalled by the famous memoirist General Epanchin:

"How is it that now you receive 51 thousand rubles in support for two positions, and for a new position you will receive only 18 thousand."

The energetic, although, according to all reviews, and very frivolous Sukhomlinov, was considered one of the supporters of the technical rearmament of the army, in which the new minister was clearly at odds with Dragomirov. Someone is even ready to credit Sukhomlinov with the fact that before the world war in the Russian army, automobile units were created, an air force appeared.

In fact, the minister simply did not resist new trends, one might say, he went with the flow. It is very characteristic of the new minister that General N.A. Yepanchin an episode from an earlier time, when Sukhomlinov was still in command of the district:

“… The ceremonial march has begun. When the first regiment passed, General Sukhomlinov, with particular animation, I will say even with concern, turned to me.
- And what's that? What is it, what is it? - he said to me, pointing to the machine-gun team following the regiment ...
- These are machine guns, - at the risk of getting in return that he knows this without me. But his answer was completely different: "Here they are, this is the first time I see them."
If I myself had not listened to these words with my own ears, I would never have believed that this was possible. After all, there is no longer frivolity, but complete carelessness, and this is in the border district ... "


Yes, it was under Sukhomlinov that machine-gun teams were formed in the regiments, and air detachments were formed in the corps, but what does the Minister of War have to do with it, if such transformations were under the jurisdiction of the Council of State Defense, which was chaired by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich.

He commanded the Guard and the St. Petersburg Military District, and in case of war he was supposed to become the Supreme Commander, as it eventually happened. Nikolai Nikolaevich was also a supporter of mobile war and agreed to disband the reserve and serf forces, due to which the field troops were strengthened.

As a result, the minister, not without pride, reported to the emperor that “at the expense of the fortresses it was possible to increase the number of army corps from 31 to 37”. In the case of the fortresses, Sukhomlinov clearly acted not as a military leader, but as a government official who saved state funds.

However, the course of eliminating border fortresses such as Novogeorgievsk or Osovets (in the picture - it still looks very impressive today) turned out to be erroneous, which was confirmed by the experience of the world war. It turned out that, despite all the power of siege artillery and the use of gases, fortresses, even outdated and poorly armed, could well serve as a real support for the front.

Photo: Yuri Uryukov /

And also be bases for the supply of field troops weapons, ammunition and food. And the Russian troops, as rightly noted by General V.A. Apushkin, "were forced to fight on the ruins of the forts of Warsaw, which we ourselves blew up, to defend the abandoned Ivangorod."

In the Council of Ministers of Sukhomlinov, with initial full confidence on the part of Prime Minister P.A. Stolypin, strained relations with the Minister of Finance V.N. Kokovtsov. He sought to reduce military spending, in which he was very successful, and to a certain extent not without the participation of the Minister of War.

Sukhomlinov, becoming adjutant general, regularly presented to the sovereign reports, brilliantly prepared by his deputy general Polivanov, with requests and demands for additional military expenditures. However, the minister asked a lot, but achieved little - Nicholas II was able to slow down a lot.

In addition, having coped with the revolution, the emperor, always preoccupied with family affairs more than state affairs, excessively believed in the power of the autocratic idea. Together with Stolypin and other reactionaries, he embarked on a course for the consistent elimination of all "so-called freedoms." Sukhomlinov regularly received from Nicholas II something like carte blanche.

He himself hardly doubted that he was doing everything he could and what he was capable of, for the sake of victory in the next big war. Not by chance, from his lips, and once - directly from the pen, in the "Stock Exchange", assurances sounded that "We are ready." During the first of the Balkan Wars, Sukhomlinov almost provoked a clash with Austria-Hungary, proceeding from the fact that since the war cannot be avoided anyway, it is better to start it earlier.

General from defeat?

The first of Sukhomlinov's biographers, the aforementioned V. Apushkin, a member of the Investigative Commission of the Provisional Government, called him “a general from defeats,” although the minister was not a commander, and could not be. But at the same time, no one disputes the fact that Sukhomlinov did practically nothing to ensure that Russia avoided many defeats in the world war.

Sukhomlinov's arrival at the military department can be considered his bureaucratic triumph. The general made Nicholas II return to pre-revolutionary practice, when all military departments were under the authority of the minister. Thus, he took responsibility for preparing Russia for war.

The indisputable authority in the study of the world war N.N. Golovin wrote:

“The Council of State Defense is abolished, and at the same time Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich is removed from the general leadership of the organization of the armed forces. Generals Palitsyn and Rediger were removed from their posts. The General Staff is again subordinate to the Minister of War, which becomes General Sukhomlinov. "

Sukhomlinov's predecessors, according to Golovin,

“Had the civil courage to point out the backwardness of our military training and the need for long, hard work, set on a scientific basis; by doing so, they destroyed the legend of our inherent invincibility.
Sukhomlinov was fully convinced that the knowledge he had acquired decades ago, while often already obsolete, remained unshakable truths. General Sukhomlinov's ignorance was combined with amazing frivolity. These two shortcomings allowed him to be surprisingly calm about the most complex issues of organizing military power.
People who did not understand the complexity of modern military affairs had the false impression that Sukhomlinov was quick to understand the matter and was very decisive. Meanwhile, he simply became like a man who, walking near the abyss, does not see it. "

And, in fact, it was the minister, relying on the full confidence of the autocrat, who turned the military department into an outcast, who may not even reckon with other departments. Because of this, private business, which was developing at an unprecedented pace in Russia, was not allowed to take part in defense orders.

Only after V.A. Sukhomlinov, his successor - General A.A. Polivanov (Minister of War for Wartime) managed to put things in such a way that the Russian army just a year later, in the summer of 1916, won brilliant victories. After the Brusilov breakthrough, the Germans had to actually save Austria-Hungary from defeat.

At the same time, Turkey was in complete collapse after the defeat at Erzurum and the threat of a breakthrough by the Russians in the interfluve of the Tigris and Euphrates. The loss of Armenia and almost the entire territory of Kurdistan was viewed in Istanbul as a completely worthy reason for surrender.

Isn't it true that the February Revolution happened at the right time?


With the outbreak of the First World War, when by the spring of 1915 a large shortage of shells and other military equipment was discovered, Sukhomlinov was considered the main culprit for the poor supply of the Russian army. In June 1915, the Adjutant General was dismissed from the post of Minister of War, but Nicholas II retained his place in the State Council of the Empire.

Soon, an investigation of Sukhomlinov's activities at the ministerial post began, and information about Lieutenant Colonel Myasoyedov surfaced almost immediately. He was hastily shot, and in March 1916 he was dismissed from military service and Sukhomlinov, the emperor actually handed over his minister to be torn apart by the State Duma and "society."

They even brought in the wife of the minister E.V. as an accomplice. Butovich (pictured), but in the end all charges against the woman who “only spent the general’s money” were dropped. The aging general himself, even under the tsar, ended up in the Trubetskoy bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress. But he was already judged by the "temporary" ones - in the summer of 1917.

The trial dragged on for more than a month, and the bribery charges clearly faded against the background of words about treason and inaction of the authorities. But Sukhomlinov, who was sent under house arrest from Petropavlovka, was actually convicted only for the army's unpreparedness for war. The verdict, however, was very harsh - indefinite hard labor and deprivation of all rights of the state.

Hard labor was replaced with the same Trubetskoy Bastion and then "Kresty", from where Sukhomlinov was released in May 1918 by the Bolsheviks. Amnesty and old age - the ex-minister turned 70 years old. Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife quickly moved to Finland, which had just gained independence, and from there to Germany.

He wrote a very superficial memoir and a book about Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, whom his supporters in exile “appointed” as the successor to the Russian throne. Before his death on February 2, 1926 in Berlin, Vladimir Alexandrovich managed to work hard in the field of the Reichswehr revival, being a consultant at the German General Staff.

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  1. tihonmarine
    tihonmarine 13 December 2021 18: 47
    Thank you Alexey for the article, it’s interesting to read you.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 13 December 2021 19: 12
    About Sukhomlinov, contemporaries, in principle, responded positively, but they called everything frivolous.
    "Exactly, weak-willed ... I scribbled the general money - and dumped it on the taxi driver!" (C)
  3. CHEREDA73
    CHEREDA73 13 December 2021 19: 24
    "Ignorant and frivolous" is Sukhomlinov's exact definition. A true "hero" of his era, he in some way echoes Rozhdestvensky in the results of his deeds. Of course, Sukhomlinov was more fortunate.
    Two credits. In general, the topic is big. It is very well revealed in Pikul's novel "Unclean Power".
    Respect for the author! hi
    1. Crowe
      Crowe 13 December 2021 19: 54
      Ага. A true "hero" I would also put it in quotes.
      Vladimir Alexandrovich managed to work hard in the field of the revival of the Reichswehr, being a consultant at the German General Staff.
      Well done. A real Russian patriot. Denikin impresses me more in this regard - he refused to register with the German commandant's office as a stateless person (who were Russian emigrants), motivating this by the fact that he was a citizen of the Russian Empire, and no one took this citizenship away from him, and Vlasov was put out with the words "I am a Russian officer and have never worn someone else's uniform. And you dared to come to me in the uniform that the enemies of the Russian people put on you. We have nothing to talk about."
      Two credits.
      Respect for the author!
      Here, I agree with you - it's nice to read the works of authors who don't mind their work and the reader, even if the objects of their articles do not arouse any liking. Thank you, Alexey!
      1. CHEREDA73
        CHEREDA73 13 December 2021 20: 29
        Hello Crowe.
        You understand my idea of ​​the "hero". I think you would understand even if I had not quoted the word. I think other readers are also smart. They will understand. It is clear that this "hero" has a minus sign.
      2. Walking
        Walking 13 December 2021 22: 02
        Denikin after the war advised the Americans against the USSR.
      3. Ryazan87
        Ryazan87 14 December 2021 10: 59
        Well done. A real Russian patriot.

        What is the problem? Sukhomlinov died in 1926, the Nazis at that time had nothing to do with the Reichswehr. And, by the way, the USSR collaborated well with Germany at that time, including on the military side (the "Kama" school was organized just in the 26th).
        And one more thing: if the Germans attracted him as a consultant, it means that he was not so ignorant and useless. Is not it? At least practically none of his contemporaries (even Brusilov, who loved to pour slop over his colleagues) did not consider Sukhomlinov stupid.
        The article, unfortunately, covers Sukhomlinov's reforms very superficially. For example, the development of new regulations or the unification of the organizational structure of the army. Putting into service new artillery systems, including heavy ones.
        And as for the private "business", which was not allowed to turn around and is completely ridiculous. He turned around in PMA, stripping the treasury like sticky.
  4. Crane
    Crane 13 December 2021 19: 47
    not the topic, sorry.
    In April 1943, 5 thousand smoky cats were brought to Leningrad from Yaroslavl, and then another echelon of cats from Siberia. The Soviet writer Leonid Panteleev wrote in the blockade diary: "A kitten in Leningrad costs 500 rubles." For comparison: a kilogram of bread from the hands was bought for 50 rubles, and the watchman earned 120 rubles.

    Source: ©
    1. Andrey Moskvin
      Andrey Moskvin 13 December 2021 20: 03
      I remember that our Tyumen cats were brought in for the Hermitage. wink
  5. Bad Pig (Ham)
    Bad Pig (Ham) 13 December 2021 19: 52
    the fact that he dumped in Germany clearly indicates who he worked for .... just like one labeled "first president" ...
    the Minister of Defense who, on the eve of the world massacre, considered heavy artillery and machine guns to be an absurd whim, even surpassed the absolutely mediocre Kuropatkin ...
    here it is the reason for the death of the Republic of Ingushetia, the complete decomposition of the ruling elite. (as well as the USSR)
    1. tihonmarine
      tihonmarine 13 December 2021 19: 56
      Quote: Bad Pig (Ham)
      here it is the reason for the death of the Republic of Ingushetia, the complete decomposition of the ruling elite.

      The same elite surrendered the tsar, and one of them is General Alekseev.
  6. ee2100
    ee2100 13 December 2021 20: 29
    "General Sukhomlinov, having calmed Kiev, paid more and more attention to personal affairs. Seeking a divorce for Ekaterina Butovich, he struck up close relations with a number of very dubious persons, including a retired gendarmerie lieutenant colonel SN Myasoedov, who was later accused of espionage." (With)
    I wonder what a "close relationship" is? And even with "dubious persons"? Including Lieutenant Colonel Myasoyedov !? Homics?
  7. bandabas
    bandabas 13 December 2021 21: 53
    All is well, but more than a century has passed since these events. Maybe now we need to completely deal with Taburetkin, his predecessors and the last ones? As long as there are materials, witnesses and evidence? And the time of prescription has not passed yet?
  8. stafford41
    stafford41 14 December 2021 15: 56
    Is it strange that the author does not pay attention to the contribution of Sukhomlinov to the development of Russian plans for a war with Germany? The same as General Alekseev, at the suggestion of Sukhomlinov, in 1912 began to edit the Mobilization Schedule No. 19, turning it from a completely defensive plan into an offensive one. This resulted in the development of a new Mobilization Schedule No. 20, formally adopted in September 1914, that is, after the outbreak of the First World War. But the Russian armies began to fight in it practically on it.

    It is also very strange to reproach Sukhomlinov with the dissolution of Russian fortresses in the Kingdom of Poland. After all, this was the plan of the previous Minister of War Rediger and Chief of the General Staff Palitsyn, which resulted in the adoption in 1910 of the Mobilization Schedule No. 19, created by General Danilov. Sukhomlinov just began to shred and change this schedule. And Novogeorgievsk and Osovets were never disbanded, but on the contrary began to grow stronger. Indeed, according to Schedule No. 19, the Russian army was supposed to leave the entire Advanced Theater (Polish Balcony) and concentrate in the Minsk region. Why keeping fortresses in the Kingdom of Poland became senseless, because with the outbreak of the war they found themselves in the deep rear of the German army.