Who's Who - Vladimir Sukhomlinov

Vladimir Sukhomlinov General Vladimir Sukhomlinov (1848-1926) served as Russian Minister of War from 1909 until spring 1915.

Born on 16 August 1848 Sukhomlinov's military career took him to the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 in the role of cavalry commander.  From 1886-97 he served as head of the cavalry school in St. Petersburg.

Promoted General in 1898 Sukhomlinov, a close advisor to the Tsar, was appointed Minister of War in 1909.  To his credit he attempted against the odds to reform the Russian army's outdated methods of waging war, in particular the army's over-reliance upon cavalry in offensive operations and the use of fortresses in defence.

Despite successfully persuading the Duma to pass a large increase in military spending he quickly found himself in confrontation with the army's conservative vested interests, in the form of both cavalry and artillery officers.  Grand Duke Nikolai was among his influential opponents in the debate concerning war tactics.

Unfortunately Sukhomlinov's personal character did not lend itself to winning him friends in debate.  Deemed to be thoroughly corrupt in his exercise of power, and notorious for his debauchery, he had no shortage of enemies willing to secure his downfall when the opportunity arose.  Such an opportunity presented itself in due course in 1915.

In the midst of the July Crisis Sukhomlinov assured Tsar Nicholas II of the combat readiness of the Russian army, in the face of all known facts.  He further recommended that the full weight of the army be thrown simultaneously against both Germany and Austria-Hungary.  He remained convinced that the war would be a short one.

Careful however to avoid being appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army - for he was painfully aware that once the armies were out in the field Russia's appalling system of communications would ensure that no further part in their conduct could reasonably be expected from the high command, Stavka - Grand Duke Nikolai instead held the role (unsuccessfully).

With war underway Sukhomlinov came under increasing fire as news of critical shortages of supplies and shells fed back from the Eastern Front.  Nevertheless continuing to insist that the army was well supplied Sukhomlinov found himself politically isolated in the summer of 1915.

Discredited by military defeats on the Eastern Front and dogged by continuing stories of material shortages, the Tsar was eventually prevailed upon to dismiss Sukhomlinov in June 1915, replacing him with the rather more competent Polivanov.

Sukhomlinov's unpopularity survived his dismissal from political office however.  When one of his agents in the army, Colonel Miasoedov, was arrested and charged with treason (albeit on questionable grounds), Sukhomlinov himself became implicated.

In April 1916 he was placed under house arrest but freed in October at the Tsar's insistence.  Finding himself re-arrested once again by the Provisional Government in September 1917 he was eventually released to exile in Finland (and then Germany) in May 1918.

Having published his memoirs in 1924 Sukhomlinov died in Berlin on 2 February 1926 at the age of 77.

"Lance corporal bacon" was the name used by Anzac soldiers to describe very fatty bacon with a sliver of lean meat running through it.

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