"I was led down from the nursery into my father’s study to say how-do-you-do to a friend of the family, General Kuropatkin"
Aleksey Kuropatkin
Public DomainAleksey Kuropatkin

Alexei Nikolayevich Kuropatkin (1848-1925) was the Russian Imperial Minister of War from 1898 to 1904. His reputation was forged in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, but suffered severe damage as a result of indecisiveness and disorganisation in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5. He is still best remembered as the cause of Russia's humiliating defeat.

Kuropatkin learned of his appointment as commander-in-chief of the Russian land forces in Manchuria while showing Nabokov a trick with matchsticks at the Nabokov house in St Petersburg in February 1904. ("That day, he had been ordered to assume supreme command of the Russian army in the Far East").

Following an unfruitful stint commanding Russia's Northern Front in World War I, Kuropatkin was made Governor General of the Turkestan Military district. He ended his days an accomplished violinist in his home province of Pskov.

His writings, which include The Russian Army and the Japanese War and Kashgaria, Eastern or Chinese Turkistan: Historical and Geographical Sketch of the Country, Its Military Strength, Industries, and Trade are still valued as perceptive insights into tsarist military thinking.