Sergei Konstantinovich Gershelman - Biography


In 1872, Sergei Gershelman graduated from the Corps of Pages, an elite school for the children of Russian nobility, and joined the Imperial Russian Guard as a warrant officer. In 1877, already as a Stabs-Captain, he entered Emperor Nicholas' Military Academy, but soon left to take part in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), where he participated in a number of battles and was decorated with several medals, including the Order of St Vladimir IV Grade. After the war, he came back to the academy, and graduated from it in 1881, with an appointment to the General Staff. After serving in positions of increasing responsibility, including commanding the 93rd Irkutsk Infantry Regiment, he reached the rank of Major General in 1898, with an appointment as the 2nd Army Corps, based in Grodno, near the western border of the empire. There he had a chance to meet Pyotr Stolypin, who served in Grodno as an Acting Governor in 1902-1903.

From Grodno, General Gershelman was transferred to Omsk, where served as the Chief of Staff of the Western Siberian Military District. When the Russo-Japanese War started in 1904, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and sent to front as the commander of the 9th infantry Division. He commanded this division during the entire war, earning the nickname of the "Iron General" and the reputation of one of the best Russian generals.

As Russia's defeat by Japan led to the First Russian Revolution, Gershelman was appointed, on January 15, 1906, the commander of the troops of Moscow Military District. After Moscow's Governor General Fyodor Dubasov was wounded by a revolutionist's bomb in April of the same year, Gershelman was appointed as his replacement, taking up this position on July 5, 1906. He energetically fought against the revolution, and supported the Black Hundreds.

During Gershlman's term as Governor General of Moscow, the area under his jurisdiction was expanded, to include not only the city proper but also the adjacent section of Moskovsky Uyezd.

Gershelman's gubernatorial service earned him effusive praise from the local conservative newspaper, Moskovskiye Vedomosti, which was to write late in his obituary (18 November 1910):

During the difficult times of the post-revolutionary chaos, was appointed... to this position of responsibility, and with his indefatigable efforts and unfailing vigilance and energy he maintained strict order in the most difficult circumstances. Clearly and sincerely expressing his allegiance to the Russian-ness (русские начала), Governor General invigorated the hearts of the Moscovites confused by the appeasement measured toward the revolution, and encouraged the same kind of allegiance to the Russian-ness among the population, which had always professed allegiance to the Orthodoxy, the Throne, and the Fatherland, but had been confused by the triumph of the anit-Russian forces.

Meanwhile the more urbane Sergei Witte described Gershelman as a "brave general, but without any political culture", and a "spiritual ally of the Union of the Russian People".

The revolutionary opponents of the government referred to the Governor General as a "hangman", and tried to assassinate him. On November 21, 1907, a bomb was thrown toward his horse-sled by a Socialist-Revolutionary. Gershelman's horses were killed, but due to the cold weather, the force of the explosive was reduced, and the general himself merely lost the badge from his uniform hat. The would-be assassin, 30-year old Alexandra Sevastyanova, a paramedic by profession, was severely injured in the explosion, apprehended, and promptly hanged.

On March 17, 1909, Gershelman was appointed the commanding general of the Vilna Military District, near the Empire's western border. He continued as Moscow's Acting Governor General until April 15, and then moved to Vilna. On December 6, 1909, another attempt was made to assassinate Gershelman. A Jewish anarchist named Moishe Tokar shot at Gershelman as he drove his carriage through the street. Gershelman was uninjured and Tokar was captured and sentenced to death. The next year Gershelman was promoted to the rank of General of Infantry; soon after, on November 17, 1910, he died of an illness.

The general was buried in his family's vault in Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Saint Petersburg.

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