General Brusilov wrote in his memoirs that a few years before the war he was serving in a high military position in Russian-controlled Poland and that he was appalled by the fact that all Russian high officers of government there, civil and military (except for him) were ethnic Germans.

I would like to know if this was indicative of an actual pattern or was just a random fluke magnified in retrospect and coloured by subsequent war against Germany and a general Russian-nationalist outlook on part of Brusilov.

EDIT: Here is the relevant passage:

Не могу не отметить странного впечатления, которое производила на меня тогда вся варшавская высшая администрация. Везде стояли во главе немцы: генерал-губернатор Скалон, женатый на баронессе Корф, губернатор — ее родственник барон Корф, помощник генерал-губернатора Эссен, начальник жандармов Утгоф, управляющий конторой государственного банка барон [52] Тизенгаузен, начальник дворцового управления Тиздель, обер-полицмейстер Мейер, президент города Миллер, прокурор палаты Гессе, управляющий контрольной палатой фон Минцлов, вице-губернатор Грессер, прокурор суда Лейвин, штаб-офицеры при губернаторе Эгельстром и Фехтнер, начальник Привислинской железной дороги Гескет и т. д. Букет на подбор! Я был назначен по уходе Гершельмана и был каким-то резким диссонансом: «Брусилов». Зато после меня получил это место барон Рауш фон Траубенберг. Любовь Скалона к немецким фамилиям была поразительна.

Начальником штаба был, однако, русский генерал Николай Алексеевич Клюев, очень умный, знающий, но желавший сделать свою личную карьеру, которую ставил выше интересов России. Потом, в военное время, оказалось, что Клюев не обладал воинским мужеством. Но в то время этого, конечно, я знать не мог.

Google translation:

I can not fail to mention the strange impression that the whole Warsaw higher administration made on me. Everywhere the Germans had led: Governor General Skalon married to Baroness Korff, the governor - her relative Baron Korf, Assistant Governor General Essen, head of the gendarmerie Utgof, office manager of the State Bank Baron Tiesenhausen, head of Palace Administration Tizdel, Chief Police Officer Meyer, Town President Miller, Chief Prosecutor Hesse, manager of Chamber of Control Mintslov, the vice-governor Gresser, the prosecutor of the court Leyvin, staff officers fir the Governor Egelstrom and Fehtner, head of Privislinskoy railway Gesket etc....
A genuine bouquet! I was assigned after Gershelman left and was a sharp dissonance: "Brusilov." But after I left, in my place came Baron Rausch Von Traubenberg. Skalon's love of the German name was striking.

The Chief of staff, however, was the Russian General Nikolai Klyuev, very intelligent, knowledgeable, but who wanted to make his personal career, which he put above the interests of Russia. Then, in time of war, it was found that did not possess any military courage. But at the time, of course, I could not know that.

UPDT: I am interested in the pre-WWI period.

UPDT: Bounty ending soon... hurry up :)

  • 5
    The Deportation and Destruction of the German Minority in the USSR - It mentions mass deportations of ethnic Germans from Poland, starting in 1915, two years after Brusilov left Warsaw for Kiev.
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 0:35
  • @YannisRizos: But I am asking about upper-class, Russified, people who were surely not included in the deportations. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 0:47
  • @FelixGoldberg once you lost favour, your prior high status would not matter and you're treated like the lowest peasant, if not worse.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 13:25
  • @jwenting: Sure, but I think we are losing sight of the question. I am specifically interested in the pre-war situation, maybe I'll make it clearer with an edit. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 13:40
  • 1
    I've though about this for a while but cannot remember any relevant traces in biographies that I've read. Of course there were a lot of ethnic Germans in East Prussia at the time, in territory that now belongs to Poland: but this was not "Russian-controlled Poland" (as per your question) nor would these "Junkers" have been likely to serve Russia. If I were to research this further, I would perhaps start from the Ledóchowski family (Polish and Austrian nobility with partially Russian roots) outwards.
    – Drux
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


According to Polish and Russian Wikipedia, between 1909 and 1912 gen. Brusilov was a commander of the 14th Army Corp, which was quartered in Lublin. Later in 1912-1913 he became a vice-commander of Warsaw Military District, under Georgi Skalon. Skalon himself was a commander between 1905 and 1914. This way when Brusilov joined him, Skalon already had 7 years to chose the people he wants to cooperate with. Especially that in 1905 Skalon introduced martial law in order to deal with Revolution, which also took place in Kingdom of Poland (read about it here).

Note also that Skalon was not even of German origins. His family came to Estonia (where he was born in Tallinn) as huquenots from Sweden. But they weren't even Swedish - according to one of Polish language historical boards, his ancestor George Scalon came to Sweden from France in 1685, after the Edict of Nantes was withdrawn by Louis XIV.

Now we need to look into an additional source material. What I've found is that Brusilov was not the only one, who noted such coincidence. Roman Dmowski, one of the most important Polish politics of those times, wrote in 1925 in his book "Polityka polska i odbudowanie państwa":

Historyczny rok 1914 zastał w Warszawie najwyższe urzędy obsadzone w sposób następujący: generał-gubernator, z władzą cywilną i wojskową von Skalon [z rodziny hugenotów osiadłych w Szwecji, potem w Estonii, luteranin, mówiący w rodzinie po niemiecku]; jego pomocnicy: do spraw administracyjnych -Essen, do spraw policyjnych Uthof, do spraw wojskowych Rausch von Traubenberg; gubernator warszawski baron von Korff; jego pomocnik Gresser; prokurator Izby sądowej - Herschelmann, jego pomocnik Hesse; dyrektor filii Banku Państwa - baron von Teisenhausen; szef policji - Meyer, szef zarządu miejskiego [mianowany przez rząd prezydent miasta] - Muller. Tylko kurator okręgu naukowego nosił rosyjskie nazwisko.

Google provides the following translation:

Historic 1914 found the highest offices in Warsaw planted as follows: Governor-General, the civil and military authority from Skalon [Huguenot family settled in Sweden, then in Estonia, Lutheran, telling the family in German], his helpers: for the administrative-Essen, for the police Uthof to military affairs Traubenberg von Rausch, the governor of the Warsaw Baron von Korff, his assistant Gresser, the prosecutor Chamber of court - Herschelmann, his assistant Hesse, director of the branch of the State Bank - Baron von Teisenhausen, the chief of police - Meyer head of the municipal administration [government-appointed mayor] - Muller. Only the district superintendent wore a Russian scientific name.

We find here some of the same surnames, while with more details who was responsible for what. What's very important is that both Brusilov and Dmowski were nationalists, who were strongly against Germans. Unfortunately I don't know if it's possible that Dmowski read Brusilov's memoir and was inspired by him to write it.

From the words of Dmowski we can clearly see that many of persons mentioned by Brusilov were nominated by each other, as they surely wanted to cooperate with "their own" people. F.e. Essen, Uthof and Trauebenberg are mentioned as assistants of Skalon, Hesse was nominated by Herschelmann and Gresser by baron von Korff's, whose cousin was Skalon's wife etc.

I also see there the surname of president of Warsaw, Aleksander Miller, who's also referred as Müller by Wikipedia, but who was born in Sankt-Petersburg. The list of town's presidents shows that usually presidents were Polish. There were two presidents of half-French or half-German origins, but it was 60 years later. There's also one Russian.

Also governors of Warsaw Military District before Skalon weren't of German origin.

Military administration outside of Warsaw

With military administration, mentioned in the original question, it's a bit different. Here are some military high officers with which Brusilov could cooperate, except for Skalon's administration.

What about other high officers in the same rank as Brusilov? The commander of the neighboring 15th Army Corp was an Orthodox born in Tallin.

I would also take into account the leaders of units under Brusilov's command, as those officers with which he had the contact most often:

Taking that into account, I find no reason to mention here military men among civilians.

  • Thanks for the nice analysis. Especially interesting is the Dmowski angle. However, his list does sound too similar in composition and tone to Brusilov's list. Imho, for a Polish nationalist he seems to overly interested in the ethnicityof his oppressors: whether German or "authentic" Russian I'd have expected him to detest both in equal measure, as (in his eyes) vile Czarist stooges. Or is he known to have had a special grudge against the Germans? Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 11:20
  • 1
    How I understand it, both Brusilov and Dmowski point that such situation at the beginning of the war could weaken Russian situation in Congress Poland, and Dmowski points at it because he wouldn't like that to repeat in Second Polish Republic, in the times he writes that. Dmowski was a controversial politic - on one hand he was the leader of national movement, supporting Mussolini and against the Pilsudski's vision of multinational, multi-faith Poland, on the other one, he believed that Poland can become strong through the cooperation with Russians. Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 14:18
  • 1
    Quoting Wikipedia (as there's no point to quote more valuable Polish sources): "Prior to 1914, Dmowski was prepared to settle for Polish autonomy within the Russian Empire, as he believed that an independent Poland would swiftly become dominated by Germany, as the Germans (in his view) had a better developed state and stronger social organisations. In light of what he regarded as German superiority, Dmowski felt that a strong Russia was in Poland's best interest, and would afford it a better opportunity to ultimately reunite all Polish territories under one rule." Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 14:52
  • And the continuation: "In Dmowski's view the Russian policy of Russification would not succeed in subjugating the Poles, while the Germans would be far more successful with their Germanisation policies." Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 14:52

Up to the time of Catherine the Great of Russia, most high officers in the Russian army were German (or French), because of the greater educational levels of the Western Europeans.

This effect started to decline in the 18th century, but persisted through the 19th century, and into the early 20th. It was more pronounced in Poland, which was nearer the German (or Austrian) border, than in Russia proper.

  • 4
    I think you got it wrong. It actually was Peter the Great who starte to employ German officers in large numbers (there were some "German" mercenaries before in Russia but they were not dominant). And I'd like to see a source for the supposition that Poland's geography was the reason for the supposed prevalence of German officials there. Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 1:36
  • -1. It as Peter the Great from whom the prevalence of Germans started. Also this does not belong to the French who were not employed in the same number as Germans.
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 13:10
  • @Anixx: Actually, the reference should have been to Catherine the Great, not Peter. The influx of French started under Elizabeth, Catherine's predecessor. I believe Brusilov's observation, and consider the cause to be self-evident.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 18:32
  • There was never as much French as the Germans. Catherine the Great was herself German and under her the number of Germans increased. This number did not decline until the revolution.
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 18:42
  • @Anixx: I put French (in parentheses) AFTER German, almost as an afterthought. I never said that they were employed in the same numbers as the Germans.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 18:44

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