Mikhail Tukhachevsky in the Russian Civil War
Much has been written about Mikhail Nikolaevich Tukhachevsky. His development of the “Deep Battle” military theory in the late 1920s and 1930s, the attendant mechanisation of the Red Army and his role in the development of the Soviet military/industrial complex have been well-researched. The “Tukhachevsky Affair”, the discussion surrounding his execution in the military purge of 1937, continues to attract interest. However, a detailed analysis of his early life and Civil War command career has never been completed. This gap is filled by this thesis. Tukhachevsky’s early life is explored to provide background, but also to provide a biographical account and to illustrate who he was when he joined the Red Army and Bolshevik Party in 1918. The thesis demonstrates that he was not a communist at this stage. However, his command experiences during the Civil War, combining military tactics of continuous manoeuvre warfare with constant frontline mobilisations, political agitation and repression, allowed him to develop a theory of class warfare and saw his conversion to a belief in the efficacy of Marxist principles when applied to military methods. Tukhachevsky’s success in the Civil War is compared to his failure in the Polish-Soviet War and the basis for the latter is that his continuation of class warfare methods were unsuitable for the conflict in Poland. The success of Tukhachevsky’s class warfare methods is explained by their relevance to the situation and social fabric of Russia at the time. The retention of these principles to form the basis of the operational side of “Deep Battle” is argued, as is Tukhachevsky’s openness to innovation in weaponry and tactics gleaned during his Civil War command. Tukhachevsky’s role in the early Red Army formulation is detailed, as is his development of the concept of “unified command” involving the creation of Red Commanders. The Communist Party leadership’s use of Tukhachevsky as a “troubleshooter” to deal with prioritised areas during the Civil War, leading to his service on every major Front at crucial stages is highlighted, as are the connections he made on the Civil War battlefields, friendly and hostile. It is shown that during his Civil War commands he met with those with whom he would later work and that their collaboration and experimentation began almost immediately.