Mikhail Frunze

Mikhail Frunze
Mikhail Frunze
Михаи́л Фру́нзе​
People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs of the Soviet Union
In office
15 January 1925 – 31 October 1925
Premier Alexey Rykov
Preceded by Leon Trotsky
Succeeded by Kliment Voroshilov
Personal details
Born 2 February 1885(1885-02-02)
Bishkek, Turkestan
Died 31 October 1925(1925-10-31) (aged 40)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks)

Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze (Russian: Михаи́л Васи́льевич Фру́нзе; Romanian: Mihail Frunză; also known by the pseudonyms Арсе́ний Три́фоныч–Arseniy Trifonych, Серге́й Петро́в–Sergei Petrov, А. Шу́йский–A. Shuiskiy, М. Ми́рский–M. Mirskiy; 2 February [O.S. 21 January] 1885–31 October 1925) was a Bolshevik leader during and just prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917.


Life and Political Activity

Frunze was born in Bishkek, then a small Imperial Russian garrison town in the Kyrgyz part of Turkestan, to a Moldovan[1][2] medical practitioner (originally from the Kherson Governorate) and his Russian[3] wife. He began his studies at Verniy (present name Almaty), and in 1904 he attended the Saint Petersburg Polytechnical University.[4][5]

The monument to Mikhail Frunze beside the Russian Army Cultural Center, in Moscow, Russia

At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party Labour Party in London (1903), during the ideological split between Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov, the two main party leaders, over party tactics (Martov argued for a large party of activists, whilst Lenin wanted a small group of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe group of sympathisers), Frunze sided with Lenin's majority, the so called Bolsheviks (opposed to Martov's minority, the Mensheviks).

Two years after the Second Congress, Frunze was an important leader in the 1905 Revolution, at the head of striking textile workers in Shuya and Ivanovo. Following the disastrous end of the movement, Frunze was arrested in 1907 and sentenced to death, spending several months on death row awaiting his execution.[6] but he was later reprieved and his sentence was commuted to life at hard labour. After ten years in Siberian prisons, Frunze escaped to Chita, where he became editor of the Bolshevik weekly newspaper called Vostochnoe Obozrenie.

During the February Revolution, Frunze was head of the Minsk civilian militia before being elected president of the Byelorussian Soviet. He later went to Moscow, and led an armed force of workers to aid in the struggle for control of the city.

After the October takeover, in 1918, Frunze became Military Commissar for the Voznesensk Province. During the early days of the Russian Civil War, he was appointed as head of the Southern Army Group. After Frunze defeated Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak and the White Army in Omsk, Leon Trotsky (the head of the Red Army) gave total command of the Eastern Front to him. Frunze went on to rid his native Turkestan of Basmachi insurgents and White troops. He captured Khiva in February and Bukhara in September.

In November 1920, Frunze retook the Crimea and managed to push White general Pyotr Wrangel and his troops out of Russia. He also led, as commander of the southern front, the destruction of Nestor Makhno's anarchist movement in Ukraine and the nationalist movement of Symon Petliura.

In 1921, he was elected to the Central Committee of the Russian Bolshevik Party, on June 2, 1924 became candidate member of the Politburo and in January, 1925, became the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council. Frunze's support of Grigory Zinoviev brought him into conflict with Joseph Stalin, one of Zinoviev's chief opponents, with whom they had previously been on amiable terms, owing to the respect that Stalin studiously displayed at that period towards his fellow "old guard" revolutionary and former prisoner.[7]


Frunze had been noted among communist leaders as possessing a very creative and almost unorthodox view on matters of implementation and policy. He gained the respect and admiration of his comrades thanks to his fearless and successful pursuit of complicated military objectives and his endurance during the period when the communist party was outlawed. He had been considered as a potential successor to Lenin, due to his strength in both theoretical and practical matters of advancing the Communist party agenda, and his seeming lack of personal ambition separate from the party.[8]

Frunze was suffering from a chronic ulceration, and although it had been suggested to him many times that he undergo surgery, he tended to favor more conservative treatment approaches. After an especially severe episode in 1925, Frunze was hospitalized. Stalin and Anastas Mikoyan both came to visit him, and impressed on him the need for an operation.

Not long before his death, Frunze wrote to his wife: "At present I am feeling absolutely healthy, and it seems ridiculous to even think of, and even more-so to undergo an operation. Nevertheless, both party representatives are requiring it." [9]

Frunze died of chloroform poisoning during his surgery on 31 October 1925; the operation was considered very simple and routine even by the medical standards of the time. It has therefore been speculated that Stalin, or some other potential rivals, arranged his death, but there is no hard evidence to support this.[10] However, Frunze had been administered a chloroform dose that many times exceeded the dose normally applied to induce narcosis.

Frunze was buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. All four doctors who had operated on him (Martynov, Grekov, Rozanov and Get'e) died one by one in 1934[citation needed].


1960 Frunze postage stamp.

In 1926, the city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, was renamed Frunze in his honour. It reverted back to its former name in 1991; nevertheless, Frunze himself is still commemorated in the city: a street and a museum in the centre of the city are named after him. The museum contains the cottage in which he grew up, fully intact inside a larger modern structure. The Village of Frunze (2 minutes from the airport on the way into the capital) also bears his name[citation needed].

The Frunze Military Academy, one of the most respected in the former Soviet Union, was also named in his honour.[11]

The Soviet 2nd Rifle Division was also in the past known as 2nd Belarusian Red Banner Rifle Division in the name of M.V. Frunze.

A Moscow Metro station was named Frunzenskaya in his honour, and a stone carving of his likeness stands at one end of the station. Shuya is home to a memorial museum dedicated to Frunze. Streets in many Russian cities are named after him.

Also, after his death, the first name for boys Frunzik (roughly "Little Frunze") became quite popular in Caucasia and Soviet Turkestan, the most famous name-bearer probably being Frunzik Mkrtchyan. [12]

The Russian battleship Poltava was renamed Frunze in his honour in January 1926.

Literary Depictions

Boris Pilnyak's story "The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon" was based on Frunze's death. His death also forms the central element of the first two chapters of Vasily Aksyonov's novel Generations of Winter.


  • "All that we do, every action, should correspond to the highest ideals of the Revolution."
  • "The Red Army was created by the workers and peasants and is led by the will of the working class. That will is being carried out by the united Communist Party."
Preceded by
Leon Trotsky
People's Commissar for Army and Navy Affairs
Succeeded by
Kliment Voroshilov


  1. ^ Robert Service, Lenin: a political life, Macmillan, 1985, vol.2-3, p.194 [1]
  2. ^ Russian Information Bureau, Russian review, Volume 3: Mikhail Frunze came of peasant stock. His mother belonged to a Russian peasant family in Voronezh Province and his father to a peasant family of Rumanian origin that had settled in Odessa Province.
  3. ^ Martin McCauley, Who's Who in Russia Since 1900, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 0415138973, p. 87-88
  4. ^ Martin McCauley, Who's Who in Russia Since 1900, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 0415138973, p. 87-88
  5. ^ (Russian)M.V. Frunze, Autobiography, 1921 from М.В. Фрунзе: Военная и политическая деятельность, М.: Воениздат, 1984, hosted at Militera project
  6. ^ Триумф и Трагедия - И. В. Сталин: политический портрет. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) Дмитрий Волкогонов (Dimitriy Volkogonov). Book 1, Part 1, PP. 127. Новости Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  7. ^ Триумф и Трагедия - И. В. Сталин: политический портрет. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) Дмитрий Волкогонов Dimitriy Volkogonov. Book 1, Part 1, PP. 127. Новости Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  8. ^ Триумф и Трагедия - И. В. Сталин: политический портрет. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) Дмитрий Волкогонов Dimitriy Volkogonov. Book 1, Part 1, PP. 127. Новости Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  9. ^ Триумф и Трагедия - И. В. Сталин: политический портрет. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) Дмитрий Волкогонов Dimitriy Volkogonov. Book 1, Part 1, PP. 128. Новости Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  10. ^ V. Topolyansky. Blow from the past. (Russian: В. Торолянский. Сквозняк из прошлого.) Novaya Gazeta/InaPress. Moscow. 2006. ISBN 5-87135-183-2.
  11. ^ See http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Военная_академия_им._Фрунзе and http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Общевойсковая_академия_Вооружённых_Сил_Российской_Федерации
  12. ^ http://kino.ukr.net/persons/543/

Further reading

  • Gareev, M.A. (1987). M.V. Frunze, Military Theorist. Washington, D.C.: Pergamon-Brassey's. ISBN 0080351832. 
  • Jacobs, Walter Darnell (1969). Frunze: The Soviet Clausewitz, 1885–1925. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 

External links

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