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Twice a General: Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze

Alexander is a writer from Russia who enjoys researching folklore, myth, and history.

Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze

Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze

Who Was Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze?

The remarkable fate of Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze (Russian: Аполлон Яковлевич Крузе) stands out in the biographies of the senior command personnel of the Red and Soviet armies. He was the only military leader who became the general, first in the White Army, fighting against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War, then received the same rank in the Red Army, and, at the same time, was not subjected to repression subsequently.

Early Life

Apollon Kruze was born on December 15, 1892, in St. Petersburg. According to the personnel file, his father's original surname was Kruss. But in all subsequent documents, the surname Kruze is indicated. The reason and date for the change of surname are unknown.

Soviet registration documents define his nationality as Belarusian or Estonian-Belarusian, and his origin is from peasants or citizens. But pre-revolutionary files show that he was the son of an official in the St. Petersburg province, Yakov Ivanovich Kruze (Russian: Яков Иванович Крузе), who served in the Police Department. The father of the future general died in 1898.

His mother, Tatiana Timofeevna Shilova (Russian: Татьяна Тимофеевна Шилова), lived up to Soviet times, worked as a seamstress, and did housework. Also, Apollon had two brothers: Vasily (Russian: Василий), born in 1886, and Konstantin (Russian: Константин), born in 1894.

In 1910, the future General graduated from the eight classes of The St. Petersburg Gymnasium of the Imperial Philanthropic Society (Russian: Санкт-Петербургская гимназия Императорского Человеколюбивого общества). Then he entered the Vladimir Military School (Russian: Владимирское военное училище), from which he graduated in 1912 and was promoted to Podporuchik (equal to the second lieutenant) and joined the 91st Infantry Regiment of Dvina (Russian: 91-й пехотный Двинский полк) as a company commander. In addition, Apollon graduated from the Major Military School of Gymnastics and Fencing (Russian: Главная гимнастическо-фехтовальная офицерская школа) in 1913.

Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze during World War I

Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze during World War I

World War I

On July 28, 1914, the First World War began, and Apollon went to the front. Both of his brothers also went to war. Konstantin was killed in action on February 14, 1915, and Vasily died of wounds on July 6, 1916. Apollon was twice wounded (in 1914 and 1916) and shell-shocked in 1915. From August 1915, he served as the head of the intelligence team.

In October 1916 Kruze entered the accelerated courses of Imperial Nicholas Military Academy (Russian: Императорская Николаевская военная академия). That was an elite higher military educational institution of the Russian Empire, which trained personnel of the General Staff for the Russian army. During the First World War, the Academy suspended classes for a long time, but from the end of 1916, for the needs of the front, resumed training of personnel of the General Staff under a shortened program. From 1916 to 1918, there were three queues of accelerated courses with two classes in each: the preparatory course and the senior class.

Apollon Kruze entered the preparatory course of the 1st queue. After successful completion in January 1917 (his average graduation score was 10.36 out of 12 possible), he served in junior positions on the General Staff. Specifically, Kruze was a senior staff adjutant of the 19th Siberian Infantry Division (Russian: 19-я Сибирская стрелковая дивизия). Then, he was acting chief of staff of the 23rd Infantry Division (Russian: 23-я пехотная дивизия).

During World War I, Kruze rose from Podporuchik to Podpolkovnik (equal to the lieutenant colonel). He was awarded the Orders of St. Anna, 4th Class with the inscription For Bravery (1915), St. Anna, 3rd Class with swords and bow (1915), St. Stanislaus, 3rd Class, with swords and bow (1915), St. Stanislaus, 2nd Class with swords (1915), St. Anna, 2nd Class with swords (1916), St. Vladimir, 4th Class with swords and bow (1917).

The Russian Revolution

It is worth noting that shortly after Kruze graduated from the accelerated courses at the Academy, the February Revolution took place in Russia. As a result, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and governance passed to the Provisional Government, which would prove deeply unpopular, and therefore shared dual power with the Petrograd Soviet (St. Petersburg was called Petrograd from 1914 to 1924).

Besides everything else, the Revolution had a significant impact on the former Russian Imperial Army (renamed the Revolutionary Army of Free Russia) condition. The problems in the armed forces began long before the Revolution, which only exacerbated them. The army was the most influenced by the Petrograd Soviet Order No. 1, which was supposed to equalize the rights of soldiers and civilians but, in practice, led the troops to almost complete disorganization, decay, and a decrease in their combat effectiveness.

Then the October Revolution took place, and the Bolsheviks came to power. They declared the only authority in the army not to commanders but to the corresponding soldiers' committees, councils, and congresses, introducing the principle of the election of commanders and abolishing all military ranks and all insignia in the army. After that, the old army ceased to exist, and already on January 15 (January 28, New Style), 1918, a joint decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars proclaimed the founding of the Red Army.

As a result of the revolutionary events, many Russian officers got into a troublesome situation. Tens of thousands of former officers resigned or deserted because they were dismissed from their posts and not re-elected by soldiers. Others, unable to withstand the misfortunes that befell them, committed suicide. In addition, a wave of spontaneous violence against officers arose. Many were beaten or killed by anarchist mobs of soldiers and seamen.

However, a particular stratum of Russian officers suffered the least from the revolutionary events. These were the General Staff officers—graduates of the Nikolaev Military Academy who served in the positions of the General Staff. From the very beginning, the Bolsheviks understood the importance of General Staff officers as specialists with higher military education and tried to win them over to their side.

So, according to the decree of the Council of People's Commissars of December 16, 1917, On the elective beginning and the organization of power in the army, chiefs of staff and officers holding staff positions were not subject to elections by soldiers. General Staff officers, in most cases, retained their posts and salaries. In addition, the number of General Staff officers arrested and killed during the excesses of late 1917 to early 1918 was insignificant compared to the rest of the Russian officers.

This state of affairs instilled in the officers of the Russian General Staff some confidence in the future and led them to a loyal attitude towards the change of government. In addition, there was confidence in the society of that time that the Bolsheviks would not stay in power for a long time. Therefore, many officers of the General Staff ended up in the service of the Bolsheviks.

Apollon Kruze was one such officer and remained in the army after the October Revolution. On May 10, 1918, he entered the senior class of the 3rd queue of the General Staff Academy. The Academy was evacuated from Petrograd to Yekaterinburg in the spring of 1918. The main reason for the evacuation was the threat of its capture by the Germans. Also, the cause could be the lack of food in Petrograd.

At the Academy, Kruze became the deputy head of the course. And on June 22, at a general meeting of senior class students of all queues, he, along with two other students, was elected representatives to the Academy's Conference—its governing body. However, the faculty and a significant part of the students had adhered to anti-Bolshevik views. But they remained neutral to avoid suspicion and repression from the Bolsheviks. In July 1918, Yekaterinburg was under the threat of capture by the Whites. The Bolsheviks decided to evacuate the Academy to Kazan then.

However, many teachers and students were reluctant to evacuate, desiring to side with the Whites instead. Students of the Academy formed an underground group headed by a former Podpolkovnik of Polish origin, Kazimir Yurievich Rumsha (Russian: Казимир Юрьевич Румша). Apollon Kruze was a participant in this group. The group, consisting mainly of senior class students, was closely associated with the city Military Organization. Members of the organization acted under the guise of official positions in the Soviet military institutions.

On July 21, Rumsha's detachment left Yekaterinburg, in a westerly direction, towards the Chusovaya River. They planned to join the Whites, who were approaching the city. The student of the Academy, K.V. Semchevsky (Russian: К.В. Семчевский), was a participant in those events. He recalled that those who left with Rumsha received from headquarters authentic prescriptions in various staffs at the front for disguise. Thus, they had a legal reason not to evacuate with the Academy from Yekaterinburg. Kruze, for instance, on July 19, was assigned to the headquarters of the North Ural-Siberian Front. On July 24, Rumsha's detachment connected with the Whites in the area of the Seversky plant, then participated in the capture of Yekaterinburg, after which the group was disbanded.

Announcement of the Yekaterinburg commandant about the occupation by the Czechoslovakians on July 25, 1918. Podpolkovnik Kruze is indicated as assistant commandant.

Announcement of the Yekaterinburg commandant about the occupation by the Czechoslovakians on July 25, 1918. Podpolkovnik Kruze is indicated as assistant commandant.

For some time, Kruze took the post of assistant commandant of Yekaterinburg as an active participant in the anti-Bolshevik uprising. Then, in early August 1918, he went to the headquarters of the Czechoslovak troops as chief of staff of the Yekaterinburg region detachment.

By then, the larger half of the Academy had evacuated to Kazan. But Kazan was also soon captured by the Whites on August 7. Thus, both parts of the Academy ended up in the anti-Bolshevik camp. But the Kazan part was captured by the People's Army, and the Yekaterinburg part—by the Siberian army. These armies differed in their political orientation and were subordinate to different governments, the relationship between which was not easy. Nevertheless, soon both parts of the Academy had reunited in Yekaterinburg.

Soon the head of the War Ministry of the Provisional Government of Siberia decided to send the Academy to Tomsk. There the Academy was able to start training personnel of the General Staff for anti-Bolshevik formations.

In the White Army

Kruze graduated from the Academy already in the service of the Whites. It is worth noting that on November 18, 1918, a coup took place in Omsk. As a result, The Provisional All-Russian Government (PA-RG), informally known as The Directory, which had previously been the highest authority in the territories liberated from the Bolsheviks, ceased its activities. Then members of the Council of Ministers by secret ballot elected vice-admiral Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak (Russian: Александр Васильевич Колчак), who at the same time was promoted to the rank of admiral, to the post of Supreme Ruler of Russia. He carried out a radical reorganization of the military and united various anti-Bolshevik forces in the northeast of Russia under his command.

So Apollon Kruze ended up in the army of Admiral Kolchak, serving as chief of staff for various military units. On December 3, 1918, he was promoted to Polkovnik (equal to the colonel). Also, for his service, Kruze was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir, 3rd class, on May 21, 1919, and the French Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) on August 28, 1919. Then, on September 21, 1919, at the age of 26, Kruze was promoted to major general, becoming one of the youngest generals in Kolchak's army. Apollon Kruze took part in hostilities in the Urals and the Volga region; at the Tobol and Ishim rivers.

After the heavy defeats of Kolchak's army in the Omsk and Novonikolaevsk operations in November-December 1919, a retreat began, which later received the name The Great Siberian Ice March (Russian: Великий Сибирский Ледяной поход). This retreat was the last operation for Kruze in the White Army. The Reds captured him near Krasnoyarsk in January 1920.

The First World War, which turned into two revolutions and the Civil War on the territory of the former Russian Empire, entailed irreparable human losses, the outflow of some of the officers' personnel abroad, injuries, and illnesses, which led to a shortage of command personnel in the Red and White armies. Therefore, the Bolsheviks tried to use even captured officers as military specialists. The officers of the General Staff, as specialists with higher military education, were of particular value. In the case of Kruze, an additional factor in his favor could be that he went over to the side of the Whites as part of the General Staff Academy. This transition took place in a very confusing situation at the front. So the defectors, depending on the political situation, could say with equal success that they joined another camp voluntarily or were captured.

In the Red Army

So Apollon Kruze ended up in the Red Army as a military specialist. However, the most curious thing is that information about services for the Whites disappeared from his official documents. Two Soviet registration cards indicated that he did not serve in the White armies, and one even described his career path in 1918-1920 in detail, only not in the troops of A.V. Kolchak, where Kruze was actually at that time, but in the Red Army. Other documents from his service in the Red Army, including his personnel file, did not mention his tenure in high positions in the White Army either. In addition, one of the cards indicated that during the Civil War, Kruze was shell-shocked and subjected to torture, but to what kind of torture and where was not specified.

The circumstances and time of this falsification are unknown. Perhaps, someone assisted Kruze with this matter. It is possible that, in great measure, due to such a substitution of information, the former Kolchak's general subsequently managed to achieve great success in the Red Army and avoid reprisals. However, Kruze's case was no exception. Many other veterans of the anti-Bolshevik struggle also preferred to hush up their White Guard past in their records.

After his capture near Krasnoyarsk, Kruze was registered at the headquarters of the 5th Army. Then, on February 25, 1920, it was ordered to send him to the disposal of the Chief of Staff of the West Siberian Military District and then to the Chief of the All-Russian General Staff (Russian: Всероссийский главный штаб, Всероглавштаб). After that, Kruze's principal activity was military teaching. First, he worked in Poltava, then in Petrograd (renamed Leningrad in 1924).

In 1931 Apollon Kruze graduated from the advanced training courses for the higher command personnel in Moscow, and in 1932, from the armored advanced training courses for the command personnel in Leningrad. It is interesting that Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze even published works of military science in the 1920s.

In 1935, a government decree introduced personal military ranks for the command staff of the army. After that, Kruze became Polkovnik. From April 1936, he commanded the 187th Infantry Regiment of the 72nd Infantry Division of the Leningrad Military District. In addition, in 1939, Kruze joined the CPSU(b).

Polkovnik Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze. Photo presumably from 1935–1939.

Polkovnik Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze. Photo presumably from 1935–1939.

World War II

On June 22, 1941, at 4 a.m., without a declaration of war, after artillery and air preparation, the main forces of the Wehrmacht and the troops of the German allies (about 190 divisions) suddenly launched a powerful offensive along the entire western border of the USSR from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. The Great Patriotic War began.

Kruze, at that time, worked as a tactics teacher of general tactics in the M.V. Frunze Military Academy (Russian: Военная академия имени М. В. Фрунзе). Since July 1941, he was at the disposal of the Inspectorate of the Red Army infantry. Then in January 1942, Kruze became the responsible representative of the Main Directorate of Formation and Manning of the Red Army on the North-Western, Southern, and South-Western Fronts. For exemplary performance of tasks, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1943.

Hero of the Soviet Union, General Nikolai Ivanovich Biryukov (Russian: Николай Иванович Бирюков), who formed the 214th Rifle Division, later recalled, "The good genius of the division was the representative of the Main Directorate of Formation and Manning of the Red Army, Polkovnik A.Ya. Kruze. More later, at the front, when Kruze was in command of the corps, he humorously recalled our studies at a gallop, said that a lot of that later came in handy for him."

In 1942 Kruze was wounded near Staraya Russa. From February 1943, he served as chief of staff at the Stalingrad Group of Forces. Since July 1943, Apollon Yakovlevich commanded the 93rd Infantry Division, which liberated Mirgorod. For successes in battles, the 93rd Infantry Division received the title of Mirgorodskaya. And its commander Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze, in September 1943, was awarded one more Order of the Red Banner. In October 1943, Kruze was promoted to major general, now in the Red Army.

In spring 1944, Kruze's division fought heavy battles at the Sherpensky bridgehead on the Dniester. Then, in August 1944, Kruze became deputy commander of the 10th Guards Rifle Corps and participated in the liberation of Belgrade. From November 1944, he took part in the Budapest, Bratislava, and Prague battles as a commander of the 24th Guards Rifle Corps. During the Bratislava-Brnovo operation, Kruze's corps crossed the Danube and, in addition, made a deep roundabout maneuver in the Slovak Ore Mountains and, together with other formations, liberated Bratislava, for which he received the honorary name Bratislavskiy. General Kruze became an honorary citizen of Bratislava and received a corresponding medal.

During the war, Kruze was awarded the Order of Lenin (for long and impeccable service in the Red Army, 1945), three Orders of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov, 2nd class (1944), Order of Kutuzov, 2nd class (1945), Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, 2nd class (1944), Order of the Patriotic War, 1st class (1943), various medals.

The Post-War Years

After the war, Kruze remained in his position as corps commander. In 1949 he was promoted to Lieutenant General of the Soviet Army. Also, in May 1949, he became the responsible representative of the Main Directorate for the military district's formation. From September 1950, Kruze was the deputy head of the Budyonny Military Academy of the Signal Corps (Russian: Военная академия связи имени С. М. Будённого) on operational and tactical training. In February 1954, the general became the head of the military department of the Lesgaft Leningrad State Institute of Physical Education (Russian: Институт физической культуры имени П. Ф. Лесгафта).

In November 1957, Kruze was transferred to the disposal of the Personnel Directorate of the Ground Forces, and in February 1958, he retired. Nine years later, on May 6, 1967, he died in Leningrad. The general of the two armies was buried at the Bogoslovskoye cemetery, and the USSR Ministry of Defense erected a monument to him. But the bronze bas-relief of the memorial was stolen in the Wild Nineties.

Apollon Yakovlevich Kruze has lived a relatively long and happy life. He was married and had a son and a daughter. We can only guess how the former Kolchak's general managed to avoid reprisals during the era of the Great Terror of 1937-1938. Probably, mainly due to the successful falsification of service data. However, the NKVD was arresting both former officers of the White Army and old revolutionaries at that time. So, Kruze probably had such personal and professional qualities that aroused the respect of colleagues and the confidence of his superiors.

Sources and References

  • Kruze Apollon Yakovlevich. (November 12, 2021). (In Russian).
  • Kruze Apollon Yakovlevich. (In Russian).
  • Ganin A.V. (2021). Kolchak's General with the Order of Lenin: Reconstruction of the biography of A.Ya. Kruze. Grazhdanskaya vojna na vostoke Rossii: vzglyad skvoz' dokumental'noe nasledie: materialy IV mezhdunarodnoj nauchno-prakticheskoj konferencii [Civil war in the east of Russia: a look through the documentary heritage: materials of the IV international scientific and practical conference]. Omsk: OmSTU, pp. 50-57, (In Russian).
  • Ganin A.V. (2009). Korpus oficerov General'nogo shtaba v gody Grazhdanskoj vojny v Rossii 1917–1922 gg.: Spravochnye materialy [Corps of officers of the General Staff during the Civil War in Russia 1917-1922: Reference materials]. Moscow: Russkij put'. (In Russian).
  • Vozhakin M.G. (Chief Editor). (2006). Velikaya Otechestvennaya. Komkory. Voennyj biograficheskij slovar'. [Great Patriotic War: Komkory. Military Biographical Dictionary]. Vol. 1. Moscow, Zhukovsky: Kuchkovo pole. (In Russian).
  • Ganin A.V. (2014). Perekhod voyennoy akademii na storonu antibol’shevistskikh sil v Yekaterinburge i Kazani (iyul’–avgust 1918 g.) [Joining of Military Academy to Anti-Bolshevist's forces in Ekaterinburg and Kazan (July-August 1918)]. Izvestiya Laboratorii drevnikh tekhnologiy. (In Russian).
  • Kaminsky V.V. (2012). Some particulars of the «voyage» of the Nicolas Academy of the General Staff from Ekaterinburg to Kazan’ (July 23–24, 1918) (part I). Noveyshaya istoriya Rossii [Modern History of Russia], (1), pp. 116–131, (In Russian).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.