During the Great Purge, a lot of military men were removed (executed, imprisoned, exiled, expelled from the party). I have heard in countless documentaries that those on the list were "perceived as politically unreliable".

So I would like to know, how many of them served as officers in Tsarist times? (Which would make them former Imperials.) That should be an objective criteria investigatable.

I did a brief investigation into the 3 Marshalls who were purged: Tukhachevsky, Blyukher, and Yegorov.

Tukhachevsky indeed served in the Imperial Russian Army, went to two military schools, and made the rank of Second Lieutenant. I don't know if that's an officer or maybe NCO.

Blyukher also served the Imperials and made it to the rank of Corporal. I'm not sure if this is considered an officer, but I would think it's at least an NCO.

Yegorov was also an "army officer", according to Wikipedia, in the Imperial Russian Army until 1905.

So the Marshals, which I believe were the highest ranks in the Red Army at that time, are 3 for 3. Hopefully someone knows of a study into this so some percentage can be had for the whole batch.

  • 4
    Just a minor remark - it's a bit misleading to refer to the Army of Russian Empire as "White Army" (the latter is a term solely for the Civil War times after 1917). Thus serving in Tsarist Army does not make you a "Former White". Mar 1, 2018 at 12:48
  • @seven-phases-max Okay, I edited it to "Imperial".
    – DrZ214
    Mar 1, 2018 at 21:50
  • Peter the Great's "Table of Ranks" may help. Mar 3, 2018 at 1:19
  • OMG... Firstly, the "great cleansing of the Red Army" is 40,000 people who left the Red Army. Among the 40,000, most were dismissed (retired). And only a few were arrested. Service in the tsarist army is not a criterion for arrest. Karbyshev is a pond. Shaposhnikov is a staff captain.
    – Konstantin
    Mar 3, 2018 at 7:19
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    Before the answers start to pile up it would be worth mentioning that counting just in the repressed list does not make any sense w/o counting the non-repressed list (and there you get "virtually everybody" at least as NCOs too). Mar 3, 2018 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


Russian Wiki features a list of the repressed highest officers (some of them were prosecuted not in purges but during the war). Unfortunately, the English version does not exist.

While there is a Wiki page for each officer mentioned, the corresponding English pages are rather sketchy. Also unfortunate.

Anyhow, I skimmed their personal information, and it is safe to assume that virtually everybody in that list born before 1897 served in the Imperial Army in a certain capacity during WWI or before, mostly as junior officers or sergeants. There are a few exceptions, most notably Iona Yakir, who was drafted but served as a turner at a military installation.

It is worth mentioning that many non repressed commanders, such as Shaposhnikov also served at quite high ranks in the Imperial Army.

  • Shaposhnikov is a staff captain. Karbyshev is a lieutenant. Konev is a junior non-commissioned officer. Budyonny is a senior non-commissioned officer. All of them are officers of the Russian tsarist army.
    – Konstantin
    Mar 3, 2018 at 7:35
  • @Konstantin I have an impression that Shaposhikov was a Colonel.@Konstantin I have an impression that Shaposhikov was a Colonel. Michail Bonch-Bruevich was a General.
    – user58697
    Mar 3, 2018 at 7:46
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    Shaposhnikov became Colonel in September 1917. Though I wonder if such details are worths to be stressed/commented at all (this does not change anything). Mar 3, 2018 at 7:55

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