Obruchev, Nikolai Nikolayevich

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(18301904), imperial Russian general staff officer, military statistician, planner and chief of the Main Staff.

General-Adjutant Nikolai Obruchev was born in Warsaw, the son of an officer of modest means. He completed the First Cadet Corps in 1848 and the Nicholas Military Academy in 1854. Subsequently, as professor at the Academy, he was a founder of Russian military statistics. In 1858 he became the first editor of the military professional monthly Voyenny sbornik (Military Collection ), but was soon removed for the printing of articles critical of Russian logistics in the Crimean War. In 1863, under War Minister Dmitry Milyutin's tutelage, he became the secretary of the Military Academic Committee within the Main Staff. From this position he supported creation of an independent general staff and actively advanced Milyutin's military reforms. Obruchev played a major role in planning for the Russo-Turkish War of 18771878. His subsequent plans for the military preparation of Russian Poland in the event of war against the Dual Alliance were influential until 1914.

Although Obruchev's scheme for a lightning war against Turkey was never realized, he was posted to the Caucasus theater in July 1877, where he successfully planned the rout of the Turkish army. Several months later in the Balkan theater, he devised a plan for winter operations across the Balkan divide that led to Turkish capitulation in early 1878. After Alexander II's assassination in 1881, Obruchev became War Minister Peter Semenovich Vannovsky's chief of the Main Staff. In this capacity Obruchev oversaw the rearmament of the Russian Army, the fortification of the western military frontier, and preparations for a possible amphibious operation against the Bosporus. He assumed an especially important role in working out the Franco-Russian Military Convention of 1892. Despite Nicholas II's inclinations, he opposed Russian military intervention in the Far East during the Sino-Japanese War of 18941895. Obruchev retired from active service in 1897 and died in his wife's native France in June 1904. An outstanding planner and an adroit soldier-diplomat, Obruchev left his stamp during the last quarter of the nineteenth century on virtually every important facet of Russian preparation for future war.

See also: military, imperial era; milyutin, dmitry alexeyevich; russo-turkish wars


Kennan, George F. (1984). The Fateful Alliance. New York: Pantheon.

Rich, David Alan. (1998). The Tsar's Colonels: Professionalism, Strategy, and Subversion in Late Imperial Russia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Oleg R. Airapetov