Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze (1885 – 1925)

Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze was a Bolshevik leader during and just prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. 

Frunze was born in Bishkek, then a small Imperial Russian garrison town in the Kyrgyz part of Turkestan, the son of a Romanian peasant (originally from Bessarabia).

At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party Labour Party in London (1903), during the ideological split between Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov, the two main party leaders, over party tactics (Martov argued for a large party of activists, whilst Lenin wanted a small group of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe group of sympathisers), Frunze sided with the dissident minority of the Bolsheviks (opposed to Martov’s Mensheviks).

Two years after the Second Congress, Frunze was an important leader in the 1905 Revolution, at the head of striking textile workers in Shuya and Ivanovo. Following the disastrous end of the movement, Frunze was arrested and sentenced to death, but he was later reprieved and his sentence was commuted to life at hard labour. After ten years in Siberian prisons, Frunze escaped to Chita, where he became editor of the Bolshevik weekly newspaper called Vostochnoe Obozrenie.

During the February Revolution, Frunze was head of the Minsk civilian militia before being elected president of the Byelorussian Soviet. He later went to Moscow, and led an armed force of workers to aid in the struggle for control of the city.

After the October takeover, in 1918, Frunze became Military Commissar for the Voznesensk Province. During the early days of the Russian Civil War, he was appointed as head of the Southern Army Group. After defeating Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak and the White Army in Omsk, Leon Trotsky (the head of the Red Army) gave total command of the Eastern Front to him. Frunze went on to rid his native Turkestan of White troops.

In November 1920, Frunze retook the Crimea and managed to push White general Pyotr and his troops out of Russia. He was also instrumental in the destruction of Nestor Makhno’s anarchist movement in Ukraine after Makhno refused to merge with the Red Army.
In 1921, he was elected to the Central Committee of the Russian Bolshevik Party, and, in January, 1925, became the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council. A strong supporter of Grigory Zinoviev, Frunze came into conflict with Josef Stalin, one of Zinoviev’s chief opponents.

He supposedly died of a chloroform overdose during a stomach operation on 31 October 1925; it is believed by some that Stalin arranged his death. He was buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.