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Chernyshev, Alexander Ivanovich


(17861857), minister of war for Nicholas I, 18261852.

Alexander Ivanovich Chernyshev was born on January 10, 1786, entered the Russian army at the age of fifteen, and advanced rapidly through the ranks, participating in all of Russia's campaigns against Napoleon. During the Tilsit Period (18071812) Alexander I sent Chernyshev to Napoleon to serve as a channel of communications. Napoleon took a liking to Chernyshev and undertook to lecture him in the finer points of war, information that Chernyshev duly brought back to Alexander before the outbreak of hostilities. In November 1812, Chernyshev became an adjutant-general, and commanded various Cossack detachments in the campaigns of 1812 to 1815. In 1819, Chernyshev became a member of the committee Alexander established to reform the organization and legal structures of the Don Cossack host.

Nicholas I promoted Chernyshev to the rank of general-of-cavalry and appointed him minister of war in 1826. From that position, Chernyshev played the leading role in devising and implementing a major reform of the Russian military administration between 1831 and 1836. This reform abolished the position of chief of the main staff and unified control over the entire military administration in the person of the war minister. Chernyshev also presided over the first successful codification of Russian military law, completed in 1838 with the assistance of Mikhail Mikhailovich Speransky. In 1841, Chernyshev was created a prince.

The bases of the enormous mobilization that supported Russia's efforts in the Crimean War, as well as the support of those troops, were largely established by Chernyshev's reforms. The fundamental military structure developed by those reforms, furthermore, especially the predominance of the War Ministry as opposed to a General Staff, remained the basic organization of the Russian Imperial Army down to the collapse of the empire, and continues to serve as the basic structure of the Russian Federation's armed forces. Chernyshev died on June 20, 1857.

See also: alexander i; cossacks; military reforms; nicholas i


Kagan, Frederick W. (1999). The Military Reforms of Nicholas I: The Origins of the Modern Russian Army. New York: St. Martin's.

Menning, Bruce. (1988). "A.I. Chernyshev: A Russian Lycurgus." Canadian Slavonic Papers 30(2):192219.

Frederick W. Kagan

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