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Aleksei Ermolaevich Evert

general , military

Alexei Evert was a Russian Imperial General in World War I, notable for his lack of initiative as commander of the Russian Western Army Group in the Brusilov Offensive.


Aleksei Evert was bom on February 20, 1857, into a Russian family of German, or perhaps Swedish, background.


He graduated from the Aleksandrovsky Military College in 1876, in time to serve in the Russo-Turkish War.


In 1882 the young officer completed his studies at the General Staff Academy, often a way station for field grade officers heading to the top of the military ladder. The Russo-Japanese War brought Evert a series of senior staff positions with the armies in Manchuria. Following the Far Eastern conflict, he commanded a corps; then, in 1912, Evert was assigned to command the Irkutsk Military District in eastern Siberia.

In August 1914, Evert was recalled from his distant post to take over the Fourth Army, badly chopped up near Lublin in the first days of the Galician campaign. He remained with the Fourth through the fall campaign in central and southwestern Poland. At the start of the dismal spring campaign of 1915, Evert's forces stood dangerously exposed on the western extremity of the central front beyond Radom. After the Germans broke through at Gorlice to make western Poland impossible to hold, Evert led his forces in a fighting retreat that stretched over three months and 300 miles to Baranovichi and the Pripet Marshes.

In September 1915, Tsar Nicholas II took over command of the field armies with General Alekseev as his chief of staff. Neither brilliantly successful nor hopelessly compromised by his conduct in the field, Evert surfaced as a candidate for higher command. He was perhaps considered for the post Alekseev obtained Stone suggests that Evert's poor health and German name disqualified him and in the end received charge of the vast western front. The old northwest front had been split into a northern front and a western front. Evert's area of responsibility now extended from Lake Narocz southward beyond Pinsk; and it included the lion's share of Russia's field artillery as well as the majority of the nation's infantry divisions.

Evert was put to a severe test of his limited abilities in 1916. From February forward, as the Germans blasted away at Verdun, French pleas for help rained down on Petrograd and Supreme Military Headquarters at Mogilev. A reluctant Evert received marching orders. He was pushed to launch a futile attack at Lake Narocz in March. The habitual failure of Russian artillery to coordinate its fire with advancing infantry was never more evident. Evert's taste for the offensive, never strong, evaporated then. In April Alekseev again passed along urgent calls from the western allies for a Russian summer offensive. In May the cries grew louder: the Austrian Strafexpedition in the Trentino pushed the Italians to plead for help. Evert dragged his feet throughout. His fireeating neighbor Brusilov on the southwestern front, on the other hand, was eager to rush to the rescue.

As Brusilov advanced with unprecedented success for a Russian general assaulting Austrian defensive lines, Evert dawdled through the early summer. Ignoring his neighbor's imaginative tactical innovations, the timid commander of the western front built up his stockpiles of guns and ammunition with agonizing care, then crawled forward in bloody and ineffectual jabs at Baranovichi (July 2) and Kovel (July 27). Such a dim performance would have led to quick retirement in many an army, even in World War I. But Evert survived somehow possibly due to Alekseev's memory that he had served as the western front commander's subordinate in the war against Japan.

In March 1917, Evert played his last turn on the national stage. Alekseev canvassed the various front commanders on their views: how should the army respond to the swelling revolution? Should it seek to support the tsar at all costs? Like his fellow senior leaders, Evert responded by refusing to back the tsar in this supreme crisis. Mayzel's analysis of the General Staff elite goes further; he suggests that Evert, an ultraconservative even by the measure of the senior officer corps, was willing to launch a military coup to oust the tsar and to open the way to more effective national leadership.

Evert did not survive the monarchy for long. He was dismissed from his post in the spring of 1917 and passed into obscurity. He apparently died sometime in 1918 in a location that has never been precisely identified