Frunze, Mikhail Vasilevich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Frunze, Mikhail Vasil’evich


(party pseudonyms, Arse-nii and Trifonych). Born Jan. 21 (Feb. 2), 1885, in Pishpek (now the city of Frunze, Kirghiz SSR); died Oct. 31, 1925, in Moscow. Soviet party, state, and military figure; military theoretician. Member of the Communist Party from 1904.

Frunze’s father was a Moldavian military feldsher; his mother was Russian. In 1904, Frunze graduated from the Gymnasium in the city of Vernyi (now Alma-Ata). He studied at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute, where he joined the Bolshevik Party and became a professional revolutionary; he was arrested and exiled from St. Petersburg.

At the beginning of 1905, Frunze was sent by the Moscow Committee of the RSDLP to Ivanovo-Voznesensk and Shuia to carry out underground work. In May 1905 he was a leader of the Ivanovo-Voznesensk strike and of the first soviet of workers’ deputies. He served as a delegate to the Fourth Congress of the RSDLP in 1906. In 1907, Frunze was arrested in Shuia. He was twice condemned to death, in 1909 and 1910; the sentence was initially commuted to 10 years of forced labor and then to permanent exile. In 1914 he lived in exile in the village of Manzurka, Irkutsk Province. At the beginning of 1915 he was exiled to a settlement in Verkhoiansk District, but in August he fled to Irkutsk and then to Chita, where he worked in the Chita Resettlement Administration under the name of Vasilenko.

In 1916, Frunze was sent by the party to do revolutionary work in the regular army. Under the name of Mikhailov he served on the committee of the All-Russian Zemstvo Union on the Western Front and headed the Bolshevik underground organization in Minsk, which had departments in the Third and Tenth armies. After the February Revolution of 1917, Frunze was appointed head of the people’s militia of Minsk and served on the soldiers’ committee of the Western Front and the executive committee of the Minsk soviet; he was also chairman of the soviet of peasants’ deputies of Minsk and Vil’na provinces. In the struggle against the Kornilovshchina, Frunze was chief of staff of the revolutionary troops of the Minsk Sector. In September 1917 he was sent to the city of Shuia, where he was elected chairman of the soviet and of the district party committee.

During the October Revolution of 1917, Frunze arrived in Moscow on October 30 (November 12) with an armed detachment of workers from Ivanovo-Voznesensk and Shuia and fought in battles against the counterrevolution. In 1918 he was simultaneously chairman of the party’s Ivanovo-Voznesensk provincial committee, provincial executive committee, and provincial council of the national economy; in addition, he served as military commissar of Ivanovo-Voznesensk Province. In August 1918 he became military commissar of the Yaroslavl Military District. On Dec. 26, 1918, Frunze was appointed commander of the Fourth Army of the Eastern Front. On Mar. 5, 1919, he assumed command of the Southern Group (the Fourth and Turkestan armies), to which, on April 10, were added the First and Fifth armies. During the counteroffensive of the Eastern Front of 1919 he carried out a number of successful operations against the White Guard troops of Admiral A. V. Kolchak.

On July 19, 1919, Frunze was given command of the troops of the Eastern Front, which liberated the Northern and Central Urals. From Aug. 15, 1919, through Sept. 10, 1920, he commanded the Turkestan Front; he carried out the Aktiubinsk Operation of 1919, which ended in the complete defeat of the White Guard troops in the Southern Urals, thus establishing communications with Turkestan. Frunze then routed the counterrevolutionary forces in Middle Asia and overthrew the feudal regimes in Khiva and Bukhara. He took command of the Southern Front on Sept. 27, 1920, and defeated the White Guard troops of General P. N. Wrangel in Northern Tavrida and the Crimea.

From December 1920 through March 1924, Frunze was the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic’s commissioner in the Ukraine and commander in chief of the Ukraine and Crimea. At the same time he was a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the Ukraine and deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Economic Council; in February 1922 he assumed the additional post of deputy chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR. From November 1921 to January 1922 he headed the Ukrainian diplomatic delegation to Turkey, which concluded a treaty of friendship between the Ukrainian SSR and Turkey.

On Mar. 14, 1924, Frunze was appointed deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR and people’s commissar for military and naval affairs. In April 1924 he assumed the additional posts of chief of staff of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army and head of the Military Academy. On Jan. 26, 1925, Frunze became chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR and people’s commissar for military and naval affairs; beginning in February 1925 he also served as a member of the Council of Labor and Defense. He directed the drafting and promulgation of the military reform of 1924–25. Frunze was a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee from January 1918, a member of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) from 1921, and a candidate member of the Politburo of the Central Committee from 1924.

Frunze was awarded two Orders of the Red Banner and the Honorary Revolutionary Weapon. He is buried in Red Square.

As a military commander, Frunze was noted for his ability to determine the correct direction and moment for the chief thrust and to concentrate superior forces and matériel in the direction of the chief thrust through the weakening of secondary sectors. In his military operations, which were distinguished by their originality, Frunze pursued the decisive objectives that would ensure the enemy’s total defeat. Frunze’s thorough command of Marxist-Leninist theory and the extensive experience he gained during the Civil War of 1918–20 are reflected in his theoretical works.

Frunze’s principal contribution to Soviet military theory lay in his comprehensive application of Marxist-Leninist principles to the problems of preparing for and conducting war in the defense of socialism. He wrote several fundamental works on military theory that drew on the experience of World War I and the Civil War and on developments in military technology. Examples are The Reorganization of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (1921, with S. I. Gusev), Uniform Military Doctrine and the Red Army (1921), The Military and Political Education of the Red Army (1922, published 1929), The Front and the Rear in the War of the Future (1924, published 1925), Lenin and the Red Army (1925), and Building Up Our Military and the Tasks of the Military and Scientific Society (1925). These works made an important contribution to methodology and aided in solving the practical problems of strengthening the armed forces and bolstering the defense of the Soviet state.

Frunze defined future war in defense of the socialist fatherland as a revolutionary war, a class war, and an all-encompassing and decisive struggle; this definition was an important contribution to Soviet military science. Proceeding from Lenin’s position that wars in the present period are waged by peoples, Frunze stressed that war draws into its orbit and dominates all aspects of social life; it affects all state and public interests without exception. He pointed out that the building up of the Soviet military must be based on a clear understanding of the nature of future war and on a correct assessment of Soviet resources and of the manpower and matériel of potential enemies. He insisted that the Red Army should be maintained in a state of high combat readiness and that it should be trained for active and determined military operations.

Frunze considered the basic type of military operation to be offensive, but he also emphasized the importance of defense, which must be essentially active and must make possible a shift to the offensive. Frunze noted the dramatically increased role of the rear in modern warfare and the crucial importance of preparing the country’s rear as the basis for the defensive might of the Soviet state. Since the war of the future will be, to a considerable degree, a war of machines, Frunze considered one of the principal tasks to be the supplying of the army and navy with equipment, as well as the strengthening of the artillery, armored forces, air force, and navy.

Frunze nevertheless emphasized that the decisive role in war is played by man, without whom equipment is meaningless; hence, the instruction and political education of Soviet soldiers in the spirit of proletarian ideology and the tradition of the socialist fatherland assume a particular importance. Frunze noted that, under the guidance of the Communist’Party, political work in the army and navy always was and will continue to be the basis of the Soviet military buildup. Frunze’s theoretical views were very influential in the formation of a unified Soviet military doctrine and in the development of Soviet military science and the Soviet art of war; they are reflected in orders, directives, and other official documents and regulations. Frunze made fundamental contributions to the theory of operational art. Frunze’s theories were fully confirmed during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45.


Sobr. soch., vols. 1–3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926–29.
Izbr. proizv., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1957.
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1965.


Bubnov, A. S. M. V. Frunze, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Belitskii, S. M. M. V. Frunze. Moscow, 1930.
Golubev, A. V. M. V. Frunze o kharaktere budushchei voiny. Moscow, 1931.
M. V. Frunze: Zhizn’ i deiatel’ nost’, Moscow, 1962.
M. V. Frunze: Vospominaniia druzei isoratnikov. Moscow, 1965.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.