Mikhail Tukhachevsky joined the ‘Semyonovsky Guard’ regiment after passing out of military school. He was soon deployed in WWI as part of the Russian army. Within six months, he proved to be an asset to the army when he won six war decorations.
In February 1915, the German army captured him and imprisoned him at the secure and dangerous fortress of Ingolstadt in Bavaria. He tried to escape from prison four times, but was successful only on the fifth attempt.
In 1917, at the time of the ‘Bolshevik Revolt’ or ‘October Revolution’, he came back to Russia and joined the Bolsheviks’ Red Army as an officer.
From 1917-18, he rose through the ranks of Red Army as captain and then, commander during the Russian Civil War. In 1919, he was instrumental in the victory of Bolsheviks in Siberia.
In 1920, he secured another victory for the Red Army in Crimea. He also participated in the ‘Polish-Soviet War’, in which the Red Army failed to achieve its objective of capturing Warsaw.
The failure in Polish-Soviet War resulted in conflict between Stalin and Tukhachevsky. Both blamed each other for the failure.
Despite this massive defeat, Mikhail Tukhachevsky still held much respect and command in the ‘Red Army’ and was dispatched to handle an uprising against the Bolsheviks in Kronstadt.
From 1921-22, he suppressed major uprisings in Voronezh and Tambov regions through severely violent methods like public execution, concentration camps and mass shootings. He also became the chief of the ‘Red Army Military Academy’ during this time.
By 1924, he had reached the position of Deputy People’s Commissar for Defence. In 1925, he was appointed as the ‘Soviet Chief of Staff’.
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In 1926, butting heads with Stalin once again, he openly criticized the army’s outdated communication methods. He was also appointed as the First Deputy Commissar that year.
In 1928, he wrote ‘Future of War’, which was a 700-page book on detailed combat strategies and tactics
By 1930, just a year after Stalin had become the party leader, Tukhachevsky was being accused of trying to overthrow the government.
By 1931, he had penned several books on military reforms, and became in-charge of military modernization. He organized the troops, equipped the army with the latest weapons, set up aviation, artillery, paratroop, tank and other training academies, and supported military rocket studies.
In 1935, he became a ‘Marshal of the Soviet Union’. By 1936, he was also appointed as the military commander of the Volga Military District. But his rising fame invited the envy of many high-ranking officers, including Stalin.
On May 22, 1937, on Stalin’s instructions, he was arrested without any warrant or court orders. He was accused of plotting against the party and forced to confess under torture. In June, he and eight others were charged of plotting with "foreign" elements during his European visit to overthrow the Communist government
His execution led to the beginning of the infamous Stalinist purges.
Awards & Achievements
After serving in WWI, Mikhail Tukhachevsky received several imperial awards like ‘Order of St. Anne’, ‘Order of St. Stanislaus’ and ‘Order of St. Vladimir’.
In 1919, he was honoured with ‘Order of the Red Banner’.
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In 1933, he was awarded the ‘Order of Lenin’.
In 1935, he was one of the first five military commanders in the history of the country to be made ‘Marshal of the Soviet Union’.
In 1963, a postal stamp was issued in his honour.
Family & Personal Life
Mikhail Tukhachevsky was married to Nina Tukhachevskaya. They had a daughter.
He loved playing the violin, admired Beethoven’s music and often played with Dmitri Shostakovich, a famous Russian musician.
On 12 June 1937, he was executed on charges of treason. His family, including his wife and brothers, were also executed immediately after his death.
His sisters and daughter were sent to labour camps called ‘Gulag’.
In 1956, the Soviet politician, Nikita Khrushchev put forth a case of his innocence. In 1957, Mikhail Tukhachevsky was cleared of all charges and posthumously became a celebrated war hero in the country.