Alexander Kolchak was one of the White leaders during the civil war that followed the November 1917 Revolution. Kolchak was an admiral in Russia’s navy and had been a follower of Alexander Kerensky and his Provisional Government that governed before the Bolshevik takeover.
Kolchak was born in 1874 in the city of St. Petersburg. He joined the Russian Imperial Fleet and saw service during the Russo-Japanese War in Port Arthur – a port that was to fall to the Japanese. The war showed that the Russian Navy was in need of major reform (as the lead up to the Battle of Tsushima Bay showed) and Kolchak took part in the process that led up to the introduction of reforms. In 1911, he was promoted to the Naval General Staff and at the start of World War One he was the captain of the flagship of the Baltic Sea Fleet.
In August 1916, Kolchak became the youngest vice-admiral in the Russian Navy – a reward for his success in defending the coastal region of Russia around the Baltic. He then became the commander of the Black Sea Fleet. In this position, Kolchak gained superiority over the Turkish Navy by mining large areas of the Sea of Marmora and by bombarding the coastal defences established by the Turks in the region.
In July 1917, a Sailor’s Soviet removed Kolchak from his position in the Russian Navy.
Kolchak became a supporter of Kerensky’s Provisional Government. Kerensky sent Kolchak as Russia’s naval attaché to America to study the US Navy. When he returned to Russia, the November Revolution had taken place and Kerensky had been ousted from power. This left Kolchak in a form of limbo. He offered his services to the Royal Navy, which they accepted. Working in Siberia, Kolchak was appointed Minister of War and Navy for the anti-Bolshevik government that had set up an autonomous government in Omsk. Ironically, one of the main groups in this government was the Socialist Revolutionaries – a group that a military figure such as Kolchak must have detested. Those military figures in this government forcibly removed the Socialist Revolutionaries and took full control of the White government in Omsk. Kolchak was appointed Supreme Ruler.
Initially he was successful at a military level, taking the city of Perm and advancing to the Volga. From here, Kolchak could have launched an attack on Moscow itself, combining his attack with one by the British. Yet he did not. For some reason Kolchak hesitated, and by doing so he gave the Red Army time to reorganise itself. Such leadership provoked a negative response from those who were supposedly loyal to Kolchak. In particular, he managed to anger the Czechoslovak Legion who controlled the Trans-Siberian Railway.
On January 4th, 1920, Kolchak handed control of his army to General Anton Denikin. Kolchak tried to get protection from the Allies but the Czech Legion handed him over to the Bolsheviks. After interrogation, Kolchak was shot and his body dumped in the Angara River on February 2nd, 1920.