General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander in Chief

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander in Chief


the organ of the supreme field command of troops and the residence of the supreme commander in chief of the Russian armed forces in the theater of operations during World War I.

At the beginning of the war, the General Headquarters was located in Baranovichi, and on Aug. 8 (21), 1915, it was transferred to Mogilev. Its staff originally consisted of five directorates—those headed by the quartermaster general, in charge of operational matters; the chief staff officer, in charge of matters concerning the strength and staffing of the armed forces, the supply of the principal types of matériel, and the assignments of command personnel; the chief of military communications; the chief of naval command; and the commandant of the General Headquarters, in charge of all personnel in the General Headquarters area and of communications installations. At the beginning of the war, the General Headquarters was staffed by nine generals, 36 officers, 12 military officials, and 125 enlisted men. In the course of the war, the staff was expanded significantly, and by Nov. 1 (14), 1917, it included 15 directorates, three administrative offices, and two committees—more than 2,000 generals, officers, officials, and enlisted men in all. Because of the inherent deficiencies in the tsarist army, the General Headquarters could not secure firm control of the fronts and fleets at sea or coordinate operations.

After the February Revolution of 1917, the General Headquarters became one of the centers of the all-Russian counterrevolution that organized the kornilovshchina (Kornilov’s revolt). After the victory of the Great October Revolution of 1917, the General Headquarters in the person of the chief of staff and, later, the Supreme Commander in Chief General N. N. Dukhonin and in the person of Commissar of the Provisional Government V. B. Stankevich had summoned the army to stand against Soviet power as early as October 26 (November 8). During the week of November 4–11 (17–24), representatives of the Constitutional Democrats, Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and other counterrevolutionary parties attempted to establish an “all-Russian government” attached to the General Headquarters and led by V. M. Chernov, a Socialist Revolutionary, to oppose Soviet power. On November 7 (20), Dukhonin, with the support of Entente representatives, began open sabotage of the Soviet government’s decisions, and on November 9 (22) he was relieved of duty by the Council of People’s Commissars and replaced by N. V. Krylenko. On November 19 (December 2), General L. G. Korni-lov and his supporters were released from prison in Bykhov by order of Dukhonin and fled to the Don.

On November 20 (December 3), the General Headquarters was occupied by revolutionary troops headed by Krylenko, who assumed the post of supreme commander in chief. General M. D. Bonch-Bruevich became the General Headquarters chief of staff. The General Headquarters was placed in the service of Soviet power and charged with concluding a peace with Germany and its allies and demobilizing the old army. Organs of the revolutionary power were established under the General Headquarters, including the Military Revolutionary Committee, later renamed the Central Committee of the Field Forces and Fleet, and the Revolutionary Field Staff. As a result of an offensive by Austrian and German troops, the General Headquarters was relocated to Orel on February 26.

Following the conclusion of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the General Headquarters was disbanded on March 16. With the cessation of military activity and the demobilization of the old army, it was no longer the organ of supreme field command, and it could not be used to direct operations under conditions present at the beginning of the Civil War. New organs of supreme command were established in the Red Army.


Lemke, M. K. 250 dnei v tsarskoi Stavke. Petrograd, 1920.
Bonch-Bruevich, M. D. Vsia vlast’ Sovetam. Moscow, 1964.
Krylenko, N. V. “Smert’ staroi armii.” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, 1964, nos. 11–12.
Kavtaradze, A. G. “Oktiabr’ i likvidatsiia kontrrevoliutsionnoi Stavki.” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, 1968, no. 4.
Polikarpov, V. D. “Revoliutsionnye organy pri Stavke Verkhovnogo glavnokomanduiushchego (noiabr’ 1917-mart 1918).” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 86. Moscow, 1970.
Polikarpov, V. D. “Raboty N. V. Krylenko po istorii revoliutsii v armii.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 94. Moscow, 1974.


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