Eduard Totleben

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Totleben, Eduard Ivanovich


Born May 8 (20), 1818, in Mitava (now Jelgava, Latvian SSR); died June 19 (July 1), 1884, in Bad Soden, near Frankfurt am Main. Buried in Sevastopol’. Russian military figure. Engineer general (1869), adjutant general (1855). Count (1879).

Totleben graduated from the Main Engineering School in 1836. In 1848 and 1849 he fought in the Caucasian War of 1817–64. He became an engineer in the guards in 1851. During the Crimean War, Totleben was instrumental in organizing the defense of Sevastopol’ (1854–55). Improving on the theories of A. Z. Teliakovskii, he adapted fortifications to the terrain, siting them so as to preclude outflanking; arranged batteries to fire at a single target; made use of lodgments to prepare firing positions; and made extensive use of buried land mines.

In 1859, Totleben became director of the Engineering Department and from 1863 to 1867 served as assistant inspector general responsible for engineering problems. As the de facto head of the Engineering Department, he developed a system of border fortifications. In 1873, Totleben was a member of the Special Conference on Reorganizing the Army and in 1874 directed the reorganization of the engineer troops. Totleben introduced instruction in sapping operations for infantry, cavalry, and artillery personnel.

During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, Totleben was appointed assistant commander of the Western Detachment on Sept. 22, 1877. On November 3 he became commander of the detachment that surrounded Pleven and directed the siege that ended on November 28 with the surrender of the Turkish garrison (seePLEVEN). Totleben next commanded the Rushchukskii Detachment and from April 1878 to January 1879 led the army in the field until the signing of the peace treaty at the Congress of Berlin and the withdrawal of Russian troops. In 1879 he became a member of the Council of State as well as governor-general of Odessa and commander of the troops of the Odessa Military District. In 1880, Totleben became governor-general of Vil’na, Kovno, and Grodno and commander of the troops of the Vil’na Military District.

Although Totleben was a staunch supporter of autocracy, F. Engels held his military engineering in high esteem (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 11, pp. 216, 217, 479, 619; vol. 17, p. 226). Totleben was an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences, several military academies, and St. Petersburg University. He directed the publication of Opisanie oborony g. Sevastopolia (A Description of the Defense of Sevastopol’, vols. 1–2, 1863–72), and several special reports and directives. In 1909 a monument executed by A. A. Bil’derling was erected in Sevastopol’ to honor Totleben; it was restored after the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 under the direction of L. M. Pisarevskii.


Shil’der, N. GrafE. I. Totleben, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1885–86.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.