Tukhachevsky, Mikhail Nikolayevich

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(18931937), prominent Soviet military figure; strategist, commander, weapons procurer.

Mikhail Tukhachevsky is one of the most important and controversial figures in the history of the Soviet armed forces. Born into aristocracy, he attended prestigious imperial military schools and academies before joining the communist cause and becoming a fervent Bolshevik. He served in World War I and was taken prisoner by the Germans. He escaped, and later commanded Red Army troops in the civil war. Tukhachevsky held numerous important posts within the Red Army, including chief of the Red Army Staff, Chief of Armaments, and Commander of the Leningrad Military District. In 1935 he was awarded the highest military honor of Marshal of the Soviet Union.

Tukhachevsky was an innovative and shrewd military strategist who theorized combat scenarios for future wars, created new means of employing forces, and worked tirelessly for the implementation of his ideas into the rearmament and reform of the armed forces. He incessantly called for more resources to be devoted to rearmament, in spite of numerous competing demands on limited resources from other state sectors.

Tukhachevsky wrote many articles about military tactics and strategy, the most important of which was Future War (1928). This 700-page treatise surveyed the combat potential of all countries neighboring the USSR, offering a range of combat scenarios in the event of war. Together with his military colleagues, Tukhachevsky developed the tactical force employment concept of deep battle. This maneuver involved the use of tanks and aircraft to penetrate deep into the enemy's defense and destroy his forces. The deep battle concept was incorporated into Soviet 1936 Field Regulations and was utilized in the Red Army's combat operations against the German Army in the second half of World War II. The deep battle concept also found expression in NATO military doctrine in the 1980s. Tukhachevsky's contributions arguably rendered him the most prescient and talented strategist in the Red Army in the 1920s and 1930s.

While commander of troops in the Leningrad Military District, Tukhachevsky worked closely with designers and theorists to develop a variety of new weapons and methods for employing them. In addition, he mastered the technical details of complex weapons systems, from aircraft engines to dirigibles and rocket propulsion systems. Tukhachevsky also oversaw aspects of the secret military collaboration with German aircraft and chemical weapons experts, urging the Germans to share more of their knowledge and experience than they were sometimes willing. When tensions developed in Manchuria in 1931, presenting the threat of war to the Soviet Union from East and West, defense production became a higher priority, and many of Tukhachevsky's projects came to fruition.

Tukhachevsky's relationship with Josef Stalin, who ordered his execution in 1937 during the Great Terror, is controversial and unresolved. The origins of the tension between Stalin and Tukhachevsky have been traced to several events, documents, and rumors. Possible factors include: conflicts between Stalin and Tukhachevsky over the command of the Battle for Warsaw in 1920; Tukhachevsky's criticism of the role of the cavalry army in the civil war for which Stalin served as chief political commissar; Tukhachevsky's warnings of the German military threat to the USSR; and documents falsified by Germans or Czechoslovak agents alleging Tukhachevsky's intent to overthrow the Soviet leadership together with Nazi forces.

See also: military, soviet and post-soviet; purges, the great


Alexandrov, Victor. (1963). The Tukhachevsky Affair. London: MacDonald.

Samuelson, Lennart. (1999). Plans for Stalin's War Machine: Tukhachevskii and Military-Economic Planning. New York: St. Martin's.

Stoecker, Sally. (1998). Forging Stalin's Army: Marshal Tukhachevsky and the Politics of Military Innovation. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Sally W. Stoecker

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Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky

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