Alexander von Kaulbars

Alexander Wilhelm Andreas Freiherr[2] von Kaulbars (Russian: Александр Васильевич Каульбарс, tr. Aleksandr Vasil'evich Kaul'bars; 23 May [O.S. 11] 1844 – 25 January 1925) was a Russian military leader who served in the Imperial Russian Army during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A noted explorer of Central Asia, he was also regarded as one of the original organisers of the Russian Air Force.

Alexander von Kaulbars
General Alexander von Kaulbars
Born23 May [O.S. 11] 1844
Mödders Manor, Mödders, Wierland County, Governorate of Estonia, Russian Empire
DiedJanuary 25, 1925(1925-01-25) (aged 80)
Paris, France
Allegiance Russian Empire
Service/branchRussian coa 1825.png Imperial Russian Army
Years of service1861–1916
Rank1904ic-p10r.png General of the Cavalry
Commands held2nd Sofia Infantry Regiment
1st brigade, 14th Cavalry Division
War Minister of Bulgaria (1882-1883)
1st Cavalry Division
15th Cavalry Division
2nd Cavalry Corps
2nd Siberian Army Corps
Odessa Military District (1904)
3rd Manchurian Army
2nd Manchurian Army
Battles/warsJanuary Uprising
Russo-Turkish War
Boxer Rebellion
Russo-Japanese War
World War I
Russian Civil War
Coat of arms of the barons of the Kaulbars family [et] of 1751, in the Baltic Coat of arms book [et] by Carl Arvid von Klingspor [de] in 1882.[1]


Mõdriku Mansion in present-day Estonia, where Alexander von Kaulbars was born.
Alexander von Kaulbars during the Boxer Rebellion.

Kaulbars was born in Mödders in the Governorate of Estonia to Baron Hermann Wilhelm von Kaulbars and Alexandrine Emilie von der Oest genannt Driesen [ru] and had an older brother, Nikolai Reinhold Friedrich. Alexander and Nikolai grew up in St. Petersburg and was of Lutheran faith. He came from the Baltic German noble Kaulbars family [et] of Pomeranian origin. The family was of Swedish nobility. Both his father and his brother rose to the rank of general in the Imperial Russian Army. He was educated at the Nikolaev Cavalry School. His first experience in combat was in 1861, while serving with the Egersky Guards Regiment in the suppression of the Polish Uprising.[3] After graduating from the Nicholas General Staff Academy, Kaulbars was commissioned as a lieutenant, and was assigned to serve on the staff of the Turkestan Military District. He was promoted to senior aide in 1870, to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1871, and to colonel in 1872. Soon after his arrival in Russian Turkestan, he explored the country beyond the Issyk-Kul into the Tien Shan mountains. His report was published as "Materials on the Geography of the Tien Shan", and was awarded the gold medal by the Imperial Russian Geographical Society [3] In 1870, he explored the Russian-Chinese border, surveying the summit of Khan Tengri and looking for mountain passes into Kashgar, which he visited in 1872 for negotiations on a commercial treaty with its ruler, Yaqub Beg.

In 1873, Kaulbars participated in the Russian conquest of the Khanate of Khiva under General Konstantin Kaufman. During this expedition, he explored the delta and riverbed of the Amu Darya river, and located a navigable route to the Aral Sea. He also explored the dry riverbed of the Syr Darya, and the connections between both rivers, the Caspian Sea and Aral Sea, and the now dry Uzboy River. His research on these topics resulted in technical papers which were awarded a second gold medal by the Imperial Russian Geographical Society.

In 1874, Kaulbars was made Chief of Staff of the 8th Cavalry Division, a position which he held until his return to the General Staff in 1875. He participated in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), and was promoted to major general in 1879, and given command of the 1st Brigade of the 14th Cavalry Division. From 1878-1879, he was a member of the committee for the demarcation of the borders of the new Kingdom of Serbia.[3]

In 1882, Kaulbars became the Minister of War for the Principality of Bulgaria, then a client state of the Empire of Russia. This state, semi-autonomous since the Russian victory sanctioned by the Treaty of San Stefano, was fighting for independence from the Ottoman Empire. He also concurrently commanded the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division. The following year, he became commander of the 15th Cavalry Division.[3]

Kaulbars was promoted to lieutenant general in 1891. In 1894, he was assigned command of the 2nd Cavalry Corps. This assignment was followed by command of the 2nd Siberian Army Corps in 1900, during which time he participated in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion and Russian occupation of Manchuria. He was further promoted to General of Cavalry in 1901 and made Assistant Commander of the Odessa Military District.[3]

In October 1904, during the Russo-Japanese War, he became commander of the Russian 3rd Manchurian Army. Following the Battle of Sandepu, he was transferred to command the Russian 2nd Manchurian Army in February 1905. However, during the Battle of Mukden, his forces were outfought and outflanked by the Imperial Japanese Army and disintegrated in disarray. Kaulbars was wounded in a fall off his horse during the retreat.[3] After the end of the war, he returned to command the Odessa Military District until December 23, 1909. During this period, he was noted for his strong support of the monarchy during the 1905 Russian Revolution. In December 1909, he returned to St. Petersburg as a member of the Military Council.

With the start of World War I, he was assigned as a commander of the Northwestern Front, and from October 1914 was placed in charge of all Russian military aviation activities. However, at the end of 1915, he was dismissed from military service. In 1916 he was appointed military governor of Odessa.

After the October Revolution, he moved to South Russia, where he joined an anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army on October 15, 1918, despite his advanced age (then 74). He entered the reserves in 1919. With the collapse of the Armed Forces of South Russia, he was evacuated to Constantinople, and subsequently lived in exile in Bulgaria and France. He worked as an employee of a telegraph company in Paris until his death in 1925. His grave is at the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery.


See alsoEdit


  • Connaughton, Richard Michael. (1988). The War of the Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: A Military History of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-5. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-00906-5 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-415-07143-7 (paper) -- reprinted by Cassell Military, London, 2004. ISBN 978-0-304-36657-6 (paper)
  • Dupuy, Trevor N. (1992). Encyclopedia of Military Biography. I B Tauris & Co Ltd. ISBN 1-85043-569-3.
  • Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5.


  1. ^ Carl Arvid von Klingspor (1882). Baltisches Wappenbuch. Stockholm. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-543-98710-5. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  2. ^ Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron). In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kowner, Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 180.