Svechin, Alexander Andreyevich

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(18781938), military theorist and intellectual.

Alexander Svechin was one of the key intellectual leaders of the Red Army during the golden age of Soviet military theory (19181937). Svechin, an artilleryman, was a crucial figure in establishing a new and revolutionary understanding of modern war. Drawing on military thinkers of the nineteenth and late eighteenth century and his own intense study of the imperial Russian military experience, Svechin reformulated the meaning of the term strategy. Classically, strategy meant the art of conducting military campaigns. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, war became thoroughly mechanized and industrializedand total. Svechin was one the earliest theorists to recognize that the material and creative challenges of total war would revolutionize the very concept of strategy.

Svechin published his views in print under the title Strategy. The work was published in two editions in 1926 and 1927. Here he defined strategy as "the art of combining preparations for war and the grouping of operations for achieving the goal for the armed forces set by the war." Through much of his professional career Svechin carried on a lengthy debate with another important Soviet theorist, Mikhail N. Tukhachevsky. Svechin's work in Strategy and elsewhere informed his view that modern war would be characterized by attrition (izmor ). Tukhachevsky argued a contrary view, that with the help of technology, states could still fight swift decisive wars of annihilation (sokrushenie ). In the end, history decided the argument in Svechin's favor.

A prolific writer, Svechin was also a brilliant teacher who educated a generation of Soviet military leaders who helped win World War II. He was executed as an enemy of the state on July 29, 1938.

See also: military art; military doctrine; military, soviet and post-soviet; tukhachevsky, mikhail nikolayevich


Naveh, Shimon. (1997). In Pursuit of Military Excellence. London: Frank Cass.

Schneider, James J. (1994). The Structure of Strategic Revolution: Total War and the Roots of the Soviet Warfare State. Novato, CA: Presidio.

Svechin, A. A. (1992). Strategy, ed. Kent D. Lee; introductory essays by Andrei A. Kokoshin, et. al. Minneapolis, MN: East View Publications.

James J. Schneider