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During the Russian Civil War, several former Tsarist officers joined the Red Army, either voluntarily or through coercion. This list includes senior officers of the Imperial Army who joined the Bolsheviks as commanders or military specialists, mustangs commissioned as officers before 1917, and former Tsarist NCOs promoted under the new Communist regime, such as Budyonny and Zhukov.



Standing, left to right: P. P. Lebedev, N. N. Petin, S. M. Budyonny, B. M. Shaposhnikov. Seated: S. S. Kamenev, S. I. Gusev, A. I. Yegorov and K. E. Voroshilov in 1921.

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the ruling communist Bolsheviks, in the fashion of most traditional Marxists, hoped to disband the standing Imperial Russian Army of the deposed Tsardom and replace it with a militia system. The outbreak of civil war led them to opt for a regular military in 1918 and they created the Red Army to oppose the anti-revolutionary White movement.[1] The pre-existing army had a 250,000-strong officer corps. Of these, 75,000 were inducted into the Red Army, most of them being drafted and many not supportive of the Bolsheviks' political agenda. However, a large number joined out of a desire to maintain Russian territorial integrity (they believed that only the Bolsheviks could govern effectively) and to curb foreign influence in the country (the White leadership had promised foreign governments special privileges under their rule in exchange for support).[2] As such, the overwhelming majority of the officers in the Red Army had formerly served in the Imperial military, much to the chagrin of Bolshevik leaders who were anxious to assert their authority over the armed forces. They were forced to rely on the ex-Tsarist officers, dubbed "military specialists", due to a deficit of trained commanders among the revolutionaries. Throughout the war the Red Army's command staff, the Stavka, was dominated by Tsarist officers.[1] In spite of his colleagues' wariness, Vladimir Lenin praised them for their contributions to the Bolshevik war effort:[2]

"You have heard about the series of the brilliant victories won by the Red Army. There are tens of thousands of old colonels and other officers in its ranks. If we had not taken them into service and them work for us, we could not have created the Army...only with their help was the Red Army able to win the victories that it did."

Immediately following the conflict the former Tsarists made up the majority of the General Staff Academy's faculty and constituted over 90 percent of all instructional and administrative staff at military schools. The Stavka was organised in a manner very similar to its Tsarist antecedent and much of the military curriculum was copied from the Imperial General Staff Academy.[1]

The Bolsheviks reformed the Red Army in the mid-1920s. In an attempt to reduce the reliance on the mistrusted ex-Tsarists they reduced the officer corps and educated new cadets.[1] Leon Trotsky's removal from the Commissariat of Defence was in part driven by his perceived over reliance on Tsarist officers. His replacement, Mikhail Frunze, further decreased their number in army. By 1930, ex-Tsarists made up only about 10 percent of the officer corps.[3]


  • Vasili Altfater - Rear Admiral in the Imperial Navy, joined the Bolsheviks from the beginning of the October Revolution, became first Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy.
  • Aleksei Brusilov - Led Russian cavalry during Russo-Japanese War, and launched the successful Brusilov Offensive of 1916. Joined the Red Army in 1920[4] and died in 1926.
    • Brusilov's son, a cavalry lieutenant, joined the Red Army in 1917, but was killed by White Army counterrevolutionaries early in Russia's civil war.
  • Mikhail Dmitrievich Bonch-Bruevich - Promoted to Major General in Imperial Russian army August 1917. Lieutenant general in the Red Army 1944-45.
  • Nikolai Fedorovich Drozdov - Major General in Tsarist army 1910-18. Red Army commander 1918-53, promoted to Colonel-General of artillery 1944.[5]
  • Aleksei Gutor - Lieutenant-general (1914) of noble origin, he was distinguished in the Brusilov offensive in 1916. Shortly before the Bolshevik Revolution he was commander of the Southwestern Front. He voluntarily placed himself at the disposal of the Red Army in 1918. A military specialist during the Civil War, he became a Professor of Strategy and Tactics at the Military Academy of the Red Army afterwards.
  • Fyodor Kostyayev - Major-General, chief of staff of 1st Siberian Army Corps in 1917, after the revolution chief of staff of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Soviet Republic, teacher of tactics in the Frunze Military Academy until his death.
  • Pyotr Kitkin - Admiral in Tsarist Navy 1916-18. Oversaw research on mine clearing for Soviet Navy during Great Patriotic War.[6]
  • Pavel Pavlovich Lebedev - Major General since 1915. Refused to join White Army, and was appointed chief of staff by Lenin.
  • Dmitry Nikolayevich Nadyozhny - Russo-Japanese War veteran, promoted to Major general in 1915. Served in the Red Army during Russian Civil War and as an instructor in the early years of the Great Patriotic War.[7]
  • Alexander Nemits - Promoted to Rear Admiral three months before the Revolution. Head of naval academy during World War II.
  • Dmitri Parsky - The first Tsarist general to join the Bolsheviks, commanded Northern Front during Russian Civil War.
  • Nikolay Potapov - Major General during World War I, one of the first generals to join the Bolsheviks, became the first Chief of Staff in the Red Army in 1918.
  • Nikolay Rattel - Major General during World War I, veteran of the Russo-Japanese War, Chief of Staff of the Red Army 1919-1921. Executed on Stalin's orders in 1939.
  • Alexander Samoylo - Major General of General Staff in Tsarist Army 1916-17. Lieutenant general of aviation in Red Army 1940-45.[8]
  • Yakov Slashchov - Major-General in the Tsarist Army and lieutenant-general in Wrangel's White Army, fled to Constantinople in 1920 but returned to Soviet Russia in 1921 to join the Red Army. Taught tactics in the Frunze Military Academy and was assassinated in 1929 by the brother of one of his Civil War victims.
  • Nikolai Stogov - Lieutenant-General during World War I, replaced Potapov as Chief of Staff of the Red Army in 1918. The next year he deserted to Wrangel's White forces, in 1920 he fled to Yugoslavia and died in France.
  • Alexander Andreyevich Svechin - Major-General in Tsarist army from 1916, Chief of Staff of the 5th Russian Army in World War I, veteran of the Russo-Japanese War. Joined the Red Army in March 1918, became leader of General Staff of the RSFSR, wrote important documents on Soviet military strategy. Executed on Stalin's orders in 1938.
  • Andrei Zayonchkovsky Oversaw defence of Dobruja in 1917. Joined Red Army in 1918 and later worked as a teacher at the military academy.[9]

Senior officers[]

  • Semyon Aralov - Grenadier in the Russo-Japanese war, staff officer in the Third Army in World War I, and major in the Military Intelligence until 1917. After joining the revolution he became the first head of the Intelligence Directorate of the Red Army. He fought in the Great Patriotic War, was discharged in the age of 66 in 1946 and died in 1969.
  • Voldemar Aussem - A nobleman by birth, of German descent, he was a colonel in the Tsarist Army when he joined the revolution. He was chief of staff of the 2th Ukrainian (Red) Army in 1919-20, a member of the Revolutionary Military Council, and an ambassador to Vienna in 1924. He died in 1936.
  • Josef Bashko - Colonel in Tsarist Air Force and Sikorsky Ilya Muromets bomber pilot during World War I. Joined Red Army in 1918, dismissed in 1921, and later became a general in Latvian Air Force.[10]
  • Yevgeny Berens - Captain in Tsarist navy. Served on Soviet naval general staff 1917-28.
  • Lev Galler - Executive officer on Russian battleship Slava 1916-17, later a Soviet admiral during Russian Civil War and Great Patriotic War. Died in prison in 1950.[11]
  • Vladimir Gittis - Commander of the 148th infantry regiment in World War I, became a komkor after joining the Red Army and fought in the Russian Civil War and Polish-Soviet War.
  • Vasily Glagolev (commander) - Tsarist colonel 1916-17, Red Army general during Russian Civil War. Executed during the purges of the Stalin era.
  • Sergey Sergeyevich Kamenev - Regimental commander in the Tsarist army in World War I. Member of the Revolutionary Military Council Commander in Chief of the Red Army from July 1919 to 1924, head of the Red Army's Air Defence Department from 1934 to his death, Hero of the Soviet Union.
  • Dmitry Karbyshev - Lieutenant-colonel in the Tsarist army, joined the Red Guards in 1917 and oversaw construction of fortifications in the USSR. A Red Army general in the Great Patriotic War, he fought in the Battle of Bialystok-Minsk and was captured by the Germans. He led many resistance movements inside Nazi concentration camps, and on the night of 17 February 1945, together with other 500 prisoners, he was doused with cold water and left to expire in the frost. Posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union.
  • Nikolai Kashirin - Regimental commander in World War I, receiving the Order of Saint Vladimir and the Order of Saint Anna. In the Red Army he reached the rank of komandarm and headed the North Caucasus Military District from 1931 to 1937, when he was arrested and executed.
  • Aleksey Krylov - Maritime engineer, professor and head of shipbuilding with Tsarist navy before 1917. Awarded a Stalin prize in 1941 for his research on hydrodynamics.
  • August Kork - Lieutenant Colonel in Tsarist army, later Commander of the 6th Army[12]
  • Ivan Loiko - Flying ace and colonel in the Tsarist Air Force, fought for the White Army during Russian Civil War. Joined Red Army in 1924, later imprisoned during the Stalin era for espionage.
  • Mikhail Artemyevich Muravyov - Lieutenant-Colonel during World War I, joined the Left SRs in 1917 and the Bolsheviks in 1918. He led the Red Army into Kiev, then joined the anti-Bolshevik Left SR Uprising and was shot by the Bolsheviks.
  • Eduard Pantserzhanskiy - Naval officer in the Baltic Fleet in World War I, promoted to Vice admiral after joining the Revolution, Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy 1921-24.
  • Alexander Sedyakin - Regimental commander in World War I who joined the Red Army in 1918. He crushed the East Karelian uprising in 1922 and rose to the rank of Komkor (corps commander). Killed in 1938 during Stalin's purges.
  • Boris Shaposhnikov - Colonel of grenadier regiment during World War I. Chief of staff and later Marshal of the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War.
  • Jukums Vācietis - Latvian colonel of the Tsarist army, commander of the Red Latvian Riflemen in 1917, first Commander in Chief of the Red Army (until July 1919). Executed in 1937 during Stalin's purges.
  • Alexander Yegorov[12] - Lieutenant colonel during World War I before joining Bolsheviks in 1917. Executed on Stalin's orders in 1939.

Junior officers[]

  • Ivan Bagramyan - Promoted to Praporschik before October Revolution. Red Army general during the Battle of Kursk, and military expert for the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War.[13]
  • Aksel Berg - Junior navigating officer on Russian battleship Tsarevich and later submarine commander during Russian Civil War. Introduced radar and cybernetics to the USSR.[14]
  • Hayk Bzhishkyan - Also known as General Gai. Promoted from company commander to senior lieutenant by Nikolai Yudenich in World War I. Joined the Red Army in 1918 and commanded the 24th Rifle Division in the Battle of Warsaw.
  • Kasyan Chaykovsky - Company commander in World War I, joined the Red Army and commanded many rifle divisions and later mechanized corps. He was tortured to death by the NKVD in 1938.
  • Aleksandr Cherepanov (general) - Platoon commander 1915-17. Later participated in Russian Civil War, Polish-Soviet War, Sino-Japanese War, and Great Patriotic War.
  • Robert Eideman - Latvian praporshchik (1915–17), Soviet komkor from 1935, writer and poet. He was executed during Stalin's purges.
  • Mikhail Gromov (military) - Farman bomber pilot in Tsarist Air Force during World War I, and colonel general in Red Air Force during Great Patriotic War.
  • Ivan Isakov - Midshipman in Tsarist Navy during World War I. Admiral in Soviet Navy during Great Patriotic War.[15]
  • Grigory Kotovsky - He was a young gangster in Bessarabia in the 1900s, fought in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I, where he was promoted to Praporshchik in 1917 and awarded the St. George Cross for bravery. He joined the revolution and commanded many armies in the Civil War, defeating White general Nikolai Yudenich. He was assassinated in 1925 by a Jewish gangster and former associate of Mishka Yaponchik.
  • Nikolai Krylenko - Sub-lieutenant (praporshchik) in the Tsarist Army. After the October Revolution, he was made the last Commander-in-Chief of that army, responsible for its disarmament and armistice negotiations with the Germans. He later became Minister of Justice in the USSR.
  • Vasily Kuznetsov - Commissioned as a lieutenant in 1916, and commanded Red Army troops during Russian Civil War. Lieutenant general during Great Patriotic War.[16]
  • Alexander Nikonov - Lieutenant in the 55th Infantry division in World War I, joined the Red Army and became division commander and head of the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff.
  • Vladimir Mitrofanovich Orlov - Navigating officer in the battleship Bogatyr in World War I, joined the revolution and reached the rank of Admiral and Commander-In-Chief of the Soviet Navy from 1931 to 1937, when he was killed in Stalin's purges.
  • Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko - Podporushchik (second lieutenant) during the Russo-Japanese War and a Bolshevik even before the Revolution. Took part in the October 1917 seizure-of-power in Petrograd, commanded many armies in the Civil War, crushed the Tambov Rebellion in 1921 and ended his career as a Soviet diplomat.
  • Maksim Purkayev - Praporschik in Tsarist Army 1915-18. Chief of Staff on southwestern front 1941-43.
  • Fyodor Raskolnikov - Midshipman in Tsarist Navy 1914-17, participated in Kronstadt Mutiny and the battle of Enzeli as commander of the Caspian Flotilla. Escaped to France during the purges, and was murdered by NKVD agents in 1939.[17]
  • Prokofy Romanenko - Sergeant in Tsarist Army, promoted to Praporschik in 1917. Red Army general during Russian Civil War, Spanish Civil War and Great Patriotic War.
  • Andrei Sazontov - Poruchik (lieutenant) in Tsarist Army, corps commander in the Red Army, executed in Stalin's Great Purge of 1938.
  • Alexander Sedyakin - Commissioned officer 1915, joined soldiers' committee after the Revolution. Fought against the forces of Kolchak and Wrangel during the Russian Civil War. Executed during Stalin's Great Purge of 1938.
  • Petr Efimovich Shchetinkin - Much-decorated staff captain in the 59th Siberian Regiment in World War I, famous Red partisan leader in Siberia, commanded the 35th Rifle Division and defeated the forces of Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg in Mongolia in 1921.
  • Nikolay Shchors - Junior lieutenant (podporuchik) in the 84th Division (South-Western Front) in World War I, joined the Red Army in 1918 and had become a general in the age of 24, when he was killed near Zhytomyr in 1919.
  • Vladimir Strzhizhevsky - Tsarist lieutenant and fighter pilot, forced to join Soviet Air Force in 1917. Deserted to the Whites in 1918, and in 1920 joined Yugoslav Air Force.
  • Pyotr Sobennikov - Cornet in Tsarist cavalry since 1916. Red Army general during Great Patriotic War.
  • Mavriky Slepnyov - Staff captain 1915-17. Colonel in Soviet Air Force, awarded Hero of the Soviet Union for rescuing crew of SS Chelyuskin in 1934.
  • Vladimir Triandafillov - Captain in Tsarist Army from 1915-17. Joined Red Army during Russian Civil War, killed in a plane crash in 1931.
  • Fyodor Truhin - Praporschik during World War I, and Red Army commander 1918-41. Executed for treason in 1946 for defecting to the Nazis.
  • Mikhail Tukhachevsky - Second lieutenant 1914-17. Commanded Fifth Army during Russian Civil War, executed during Stalin's purge of 1937.[18]
  • Semyon Uritsky - Praporshchik in the Tsarist Army, headed the Odessa Red Guards in 1918, fought in the Civil War and took part in suppressing the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921. From 1935 to 1937 he was head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Red Army. He was killed in Stalin's purges.
  • Aleksandr Vasilevsky - Tsarist army captain during World War I. Joined Red Army in 1917 and became a Marshal of the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War.
  • Mikhail Viktorov - Navigating officer of the battleship Tsesarevich in World War I. In the Civil War he joined the Bolsheviks and commanded the cruiser Oleg and subsequently the battleships Andrei Pervozvanny and Gangut. Promoted to Admiral in 1925, he commanded the Baltic Fleet and in 1932 was the founding commander of the Soviet Pacific Fleet. Became Commander-In-Chief of the Soviet Navy in 1937, but was executed the same year in Stalin's purges.

Non commissioned officers[]

  • Ivan Bogdanov - NCO in Tsarist army and Red Army commander during Russian Civil War and Great Patriotic War. Killed in action in 1942.
  • Semyon Budyonny - NCO in the Tsarist army, decorated multiple times during World War I, commander of the 1st Cavalry Army of the RFSFR in the Civil War, Marshal of the Soviet Union from 1935 to his death in 1973.
  • Vasily Chapaev - NCO in the Tsarist army and three times decorated with the Order of St. George in World War I, joined the Bolsheviks in 1917 to become one of the first "Red Commanders". Noted for his bravery, he was killed-in-action in the Ural River in 1919 and has been since immortalized as a hero in both the Soviet Union and Russian Federation.
  • Pavel Dybenko - Promoted to naval NCO in the Baltic Fleet in 1912. He took part in the October Revolution in Petrograd, fought in the Civil War and reached the rank of Army General and military district commander in the Red Army. Executed in Stalin's purges in 1938.
  • Vasily Gordov - Junior sergeant in 1915-17. He commanded the Stalingrad Front in 1942 during the early stages of the Battle of Stalingrad. Took part in the Battle of Berlin and the Prague Offensive in 1945.
  • Lev Mekhlis - Bombardier in the 2nd Grenadier Artillery Regiment (1911), Feuerwerker (Senior Artillery NCO) in 1917, joined the Red Army in 1918, Colonel-General from 1939, member of the Stavka in the Great Patriotic War, responsible for five to seven fronts.
  • Romuald Muklevich - Petty officer in the Baltic Fleet from 1912, took part in the Storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917, rose to become an Admiral and the Commander-In-Chief of the Soviet Navy 1926-31, commissar for shipbuilding industry 1934-36, deputy minister for the defence industries 1936-37. Killed in Stalin's purges in 1938.
  • Andrey Yeryomenko - In 1914 he took part in the capture of Przemysl and was promoted to NCO. Joined the Bolsheviks in the Civil War, he was a proponent of mechanized warfare and earned the nickname "Russian Guderian". In 1941-45 he commanded many fronts, including the Stalingrad Front during the main phase of the Battle of Stalingrad.
  • Georgy Zhukov - NCO in the Tsarist army in World War, Order of St. George, Marshal of the Soviet Union from 1941 and Defence Minister during and after the Great Patriotic War.
  • Andrei Zhdanov - NCO in the 139th Infantry Regiment (1916-1917), member of the Central Committee of the CPSU and Stalin's inner circle in the 1930s, Colonel-General of the Red Army and head of the defence of Leningrad in the Great Patriotic War.
  • Dmitry Zhloba - Studied as a military engineer and became a Tsarist NCO in 1917. Joined the Bolsheviks in Moscow and took part in the storming of the Kremlin. In 1918 he led the famous "Steel Division" of 15,000 men to a legendary 800-kilometer march in sixteen days from Nevinnomysskaya to Tsaritsyn, falling on the rear of Pyotr Krasnov's besieging White Army to relieve the Bolshevik garrison during the Battle of Tsaritsyn.[19]



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