Mikhail Frunze

Mikhail Frunze

Mikhail Frunze, the son of a peasant, was born in Turkestan in 1885. After studying at his local school he continued his education at the Gymnasium at Verny and the Polytechnical Institute in St. Petersburg.

As a student Frunze joined the Social Democratic Party where he supported the Bolshevik faction. In November, 1904, he was arrested during a political demonstration and expelled from St. Petersburg.

At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov, two of the party's main leaders. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with alarge fringe of non-party sympathisers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Martov won the vote 28-23 but Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks.

Frunze joined the Bolsheviks. So also did Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, and Alexander Bogdanov. Whereas George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Leon Trotsky, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan supported Julius Martov.

After the meeting in London Frunze went to Inanovo-Voznesensk where he was one of the leaders of the 1905 Textile Workers Strike. Later that year he was arrested during the Moscow Uprising. Sentenced death, he was reprieved and it was changed to ten years hard labour. He served his sentence in Vladimir, Nikolaev and Alexandrov in Siberia.

In 1915 Frunze managed to escape from Siberia and reached Chita where he edited the Bolshevik weekly, Vostochnoe Obozrenie. During the February Revolution Frunze led the Bolsheviks in Minsk and became chief of the city's civilian militia before being elected President of the Byelorussian Soviet.

Frunze went to Moscow during the October Revolution and led a 2,000 strong force of workers and soldiers in the Bolshevik struggle for the city.

In 1918 Frunze became Military Commissar for the Voznesensk Province. During the early days of the Civil War, Frunze was appointed as head of the Southern Army Group. After defeating Alexander Kolchak and the White Army in Omsk, Leon Trotsky gave him command of the whole of the Eastern Front. Frunze went on to clear Turkestan of anti-Bolshevik forces.

In November, 1920, Frunze led troops that captured the Crimea and managed to force General Peter Wrangel and his troops from Russia. He also crushed the rebellion led by Nestor Makhno in the Ukraine.

In 1921 Frunze was elected to the Central Committee and in January, 1925, became the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council. As a close supporter of Gregory Zinoviev, this brought him into conflict with Joseph Stalin. Mikhail Frunze died during an operation for stomach ulcers on 31st October, 1925. Some historians have argued that Stalin was involved in arranging Frunze's death.

Primary Sources

(1) Leon Trotsky described Mikhail Frunze's achievements during the Russian Civil War.

Frunze was a man of serious disposition; as a result of his prison years, he had more authority in the Party than the fresh young Sklyansky. Moreover, during the war Frunze demonstrated undeniable qualities as a war captain.

(2) The Granat Encyclopaedia of the Russian Revolution was published by the Soviet government in 1924. The encyclopaedia included a collection of autobiographies and biographies of over two hundred people involved in the Russian Revolution.

After the Yaroslav rebellion, Frunze was appointed Commissar for the Yaroslav Military District. From there he was transferred to the Urals Front and under his command the Southern Army Group of the Eastern Front inflicted a decisive defeat on Kolchak's troops. Following this, he was put in charge of the whole Eastern Front and directed the operations to sweep the Whites out of Turkestan.

During the revolution in Bukhara in August which overthrew the Emir's forces out of the Bukharan Republic with detachments of the Red Army. In September 1920 he ordered an offensive against Wrangel on the Southern Front. After the seizure of the Crimea and the elimination of Wrangel's forces, he became commander of all troops in the Crimea and the Ukraine, and the representative of the Revolutionary Military Council there. Under his leadership the Petlyura and Makhno rebellions were crushed.

(3) Jean-Jacques Marie, Makers of the Russian Revolution: Mikhail Vasilievich Frunze (1974)

At the tenth Congress in 1921, Frunze was elected to the Central Committee. It was no doubt then that he allied himself with Zinoviev imposed him in Skylyansky's place, and then in Trotsky's in January 1925, as Commissar for War. The collapse of the Troika made Frunze's presence in this position extremely awkward for Stalin.

Frunze had formerly suffered from stomach ulcers. The Central Committee doctors, on orders from Stalin, insisted that he should be operated on; Frunze's doctors were opposed to it, for they were certain that his heart would not stand up to the chloroform. The Central Committee doctors had their way, and Frunze died on the operating table on 31st October 1925.