Aleksey Kuropatkin - History of World War I - WW1 - The Great War

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World War 1 Picture - A Japanese print depicting General Kuropatkin at the Battle of Liaoyang

Aleksey Kuropatkin Information

Aleksey Kuropatkin

Place of birth: Pskov, Russian Empire
Place of death: Pskov, Russia
Allegiance: Russian Empire
Service/branch: Russian Imperial Army
Rank: General
Commands held: Russian Imperial Army
Battles/wars: Russo-Japanese War World War I

Alexei Nikolayevich Kuropatkin (Russian: Алексей Николаевич Куропаткин, March 17(29) 1848 - January 16, 1925) was the Russian Imperial Minister of War (1898-1904) who is often held responsible for major Russian drawbacks in the Russian-Japanese War, notably the Battle of Mukden and the Battle of Liaoyang.


Early years

Kuropatkin was born in 1848 in what is now Pskov, in the Russian Empire. His father, a retired army captain, was of the landed gentry. Educated in Cadet Corps and Pavlovsky Military School, Kuropatkin entered the army in 1864. On August 8, 1866 promoted to lieutenant in the 1st Turkestan Infantry Battalion, and he participated in combat in the conquest of Bukhara, the storming of Samarkand and other battles in the Russian conquest of Turkestan. In August 1870, he was promoted to major.

From 1872 to 1874, Kuropatkin studied at the Nicholas General Staff Academy, after which he was dispatched as a military attach to Berlin and Paris, completing his military studies, and with the French troops in Algiers, accompanying French expedition to Sahara. Returning to Russia in late 1875, he was assigned to the Turkestan Military District. He was awarded the Order of St. George (4th class) for his role in the Russian conquest of Kokand.

From 1875-1876, Kuropatkin was employed in diplomatic mission to Yaqub Beg (ruler of Kashgaria) to resolve the issues of Russian border claims in the Fergana Valley. From September 1877 to September 1878, he was Chief of Staff of the 16th Infantry Division. In August 1879, he was commander of the Turkestan Rifle Brigade, which made an 18-day march across 500 miles of desert to join General Mikhail Skobelev’s invasion of Turkmenistan. Kuropatkin led the main assault against the fortress-city of Geok Tepe on January 12, 1881. He was awarded the Order of St. George (3rd class) for his victory in the battle. After the war he wrote a detailed and critical history of the operations which was highly regarded.

On January 29, 1882, Kuropatkin was promoted to major general. He joined the General Staff the following year, and in 1890 was promoted to lieutenant general.

From 1890-1898, Kurokatkin was governor of the Transcaspian Region in Central Asia, based in Askhabad. During his tenure, he was known to have developed trade, agriculture and towns in an area formerly known for endemic banditry and slavery. He established a local judicial and school system, and encouraged the settlement of colonists from the interior provinces of the Russian Empire.

As Minister of War

In 1898, Kuropatkin was recalled to St. Petersburg and appointed War Minister. His first priority was to improving the command structure of the army, as well as living conditions of its officers. His reforms included measures to rejuvenate the army by setting age limits for the line officers and candidates for higher office, and by increasing the period of secondment of officers from the General Staff to combat units. He also attempted to improve on the quality of officers by raising the two-year cadet training program to three years, and by opening seven new cadet schools. He also increased the number of training maneuvers.

However, with respect the lower ranks, Kuropatkin's reforms fell short. While aware of the poor standards of food, clothing and housing, he was unable to secure the necessary funds for improments, so his activities were confined to improving the morale level through increased use of chaplains, abolishment of corporal punishment and improved field kitchens.

Russo-Japanese War

Kuropatkin was involved in the negotiations with the Empire of Japan before the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. He did not support an armed conflict with Japan and opposed the Bezobrazov Circle. His views became firmer after a visit to Japan in June 1903.

Still, on February 7, 1904, on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian land forces in Manchuria. Kuropatkin learned of his new post while playing match games with a young Vladimir Nabokov at the Nabokov home in St. Petersburg, soon departing and arriving in Harbin on February 28. On October 13 that year Kuropatkin was appointed supreme commander of the Russian land and naval forces in the East Asia and held this appointment until early March 1905. He was thus the Russian commander in chief at the Battle of Liaoyang, Battle of Shaho and Battle of Sandepu. In the wake of the Battle of Mukden, Kuropatkin recognized his shortcomings and asked to be relieved of his post. Accordingly he exchanged commands with General Nikolai Linevich and was thus appointed commander of the First Manchurian Army, holding this position until February 1906.

World War 1 Picture - A Japanese print depicting General Kuropatkin at the Battle of Liaoyang

Picture - A Japanese print depicting General Kuropatkin at the Battle of Liaoyang

Kuropatkin was heavily involved in the fiasco of the Russian land forces during the war. Although the rationale of his military approach was wage a war of attrition and to avoid an offensive until the Trans-Siberian Railway brought sufficient troops and materiel, his cautiousness and hesitancy markedly influenced the repeated Russian defeats. Military historians consider his indecisiveness and organizational deficiencies in directing large-scale military operations as a major element in the Russian defeat.

After the end of the Russo-Japanese War, in 1906 Kuropatkin served as a member of the State Council of Imperial Russia. However, in 1907 he retired to his country house, and wrote his own defense, which was published in a number of books in several languages.

At the start of the World War I, Kuropatkin requested to be reinstated and to be sent to the front; however, his requests were blocked by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich. However, once Tsar Nicholas II assumed the post of Supreme Commander, he put Kuropatkin in charge of the Grenadier Corps in October, 1915. At the end of January 1916, he was appointed commander of the 5th Army, and in February 1916, he became Commander of the Northern Front, in succession to General Pavel Plehve, whose health had broken down. In early March, his forces undertook a limited offensive near Riga, but was outflanked and forced to withdraw to the Dvina River. A second and larger offensive later that month only managed to advance a couple of kilometers. Tsar Nicholas II did not accept Kuropatkin’s excuses of lack of artillery support, poor roads and bad weather. Kuropatkin was relieved of command in July 22, 1916, and re-assigned to Turkestan, where he served as Governor-General of the Turkestan Military District as well as ataman of the Semirechye Cossacks. Support of the Russian effort in World War I, especially against the Ottoman Empire was extremely unpopular among the indigenous peoples of Turkestan; however, Kuropatkin was very popular and helping suppress a major rebellion from erupting.

Post Revolution

In the February Revolution of 1917 Kuropatkin was in St. Petersburg, and quickly pledged his allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, cutting the royal insignia off of his uniform. He was confirmed in his post as commander of the Turkestan Military District by Provisional Government War Minister Alexander Guchkov. However, this was disputed by the Bolshevik Tashkent Soviet of Soldiers 'and Workers' Deputies, who placed him under arrest and sent him back to St. Petersburg. He was freed by order of the Provisional Government and he returned to his home province. Following the October Revolution, he became very skilled at playing the violin and taught at an agriculture school that he had founded until his death in 1925.


, Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, with diamonds
Order of St. George, 4th class,
Order of St. George, 3rd class,
Order of the White Eagle
Order of St Vladimir 4th degree
Order of St Vladimir 3rd degree
Order of St Vladimir 2nd degree
Order of St. Stanislaus 3rd degree
Order of St. Stanislaus 2nd degree
Order of St. Stanislaus 1st degree.
Order of St. Anne 3rd degree
Order of St. Anne 2nd degree
Order of St. Anne 1st degree
Legion of Honor, Chevalier, (France)
Order of the Star of Romania, (Romania)

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopxdia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Alfred Knox. General Kuropatkin. The Slavonic Review, Vol. 4, No. 10 (Jun., 1925), pp. 164-168
Kowner, Rotem (2006). "Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War". Scarecrow. 620pp. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5
Kashgaria, Eastern Or Chinese Turkistan: Historical and Geographical Sketch of the Country, Its Military Strength, Industries, and Trade. By Aleksei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin. Translated by Walter Edward Gowan. Published by Thacker, Spink and Co., 1882
Kessinger Publishing. 2004. ISBN 1-4179-1928-0.
McCutchen Press. 2008. ISBN 1-4086-7524-2.
The Russian Army and the Japanese War: Being Historical and Critical Comments on the Military Policy and Power of Russia and on the Campaign in the Far East. By Aleksei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin. Translated by Alexander Bertram Lindsay. E.P. Dutton, 1909. Volume I Volume II

Connaughton, R.M (1988). The War of the Rising Sun and the Tumbling Bear-A Military History of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-5, London, ISBN 0-415-00906-5.
Jukes, Geoffry. The Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905. Osprey Essential Histories. (2002). ISBN 978-1-84176-446-7.
Warner, Denis & Peggy. The Tide at Sunrise, A History of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905. (1975). ISBN 0-7146-5256-3.

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