June 01, 1997

Rise and Fall of a Military Leader

The story of commander Mikhail Nikolaevich Tukhachevsky has all the makings of a Shakespearean tragedy — heroism, fatal trust, and treachery. Like the other prominent Soviet military commanders of his time, Yakir, Blukher, and Uborevich, he was a child of the October Revolution. It raised him to the heights of glory... and in the end it caused his downfall. Tukhachevsky lived for only 44 years. But those years were crammed full of enough glory, turmoil, victories, and defeats for several lifetimes.

Tukhachevsky was born in 1893 into a noble family. He graduated from the Alexandrovsky Military-Training College in 1914, when the world was already in the clutches of war. In 1915, having fought for less than a year, he was taken prisoner. He tried to escape five times and, in the fall of 1917, finally succeeded. By this time, however, Russia had already disintegrated into Whites and Reds, in preparation for the October Revolution and the Russian Civil War.

Like much of the Russian intelligentsia, Tukhachevsky welcomed the Revolution as deliverance from a decadent autocracy and a social, political, and moral crisis. But unlike many of his contemporaries, he remained faithful to the ideals of the Revolution to the end.

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