Mikhail Chernyayev

Mikhail Chernyayev

Mikhail Grigorievich Chernyayev (Russian: Михайл Григорьевич Черняев) (24 October 1828 – 16 August 1898) was a Russian general, who, together with Konstantin Kaufman and Mikhail Skobelev, led the Russian conquest of Central Asia under Alexander II.

A member of a noble family, he was educated at the Nicholas Staff College, entered the army in 1847, and distinguished himself in the Crimean War and in the Caucasus. After serving as divisional Chief of Staff in Poland, he went to Orenburg in 1858 as assistant to the commander of the line of the Syr-Darya, and the following year commanded an expedition to support the Kazakh tribes on the borders of the Aral Sea against the Khanate of Khiva. He did duty on the staff of the Army of the Caucasus for a time, and returned to Orenburg as Chief of Staff.

In 1864, having reached the rank of Major-General, Chernyayev made his famous march with 1000 men across the steppes of Turkestan to Chimkent (Shymkent) in the Khanate of Kokand, to meet another Russian column from Semipalatinsk (Semey), in Siberia, in conjunction with which he successfully stormed Chimkent, and then unsuccessfully attacked Tashkent, 130 km farther south. Wintering at Chimkent, he captured Tashkent the following year. This was contrary to his instructions, and although he was received in St. Petersburg with enthusiasm, and presented with a sword of honor by the emperor, he was not again employed in the military service, and retired from it in July 1874.

He bought, and edited with great success, the Russkiy Mir in Slavonic interests, devoting himself to the Pan-Slavism. In the summer of 1876 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Serbian army, but on entering Turkey was driven back by Osman Pasha, who followed him into Serbia, defeating him at Zaječar and Javor in July and the campaign in Serbia proved disastrous. He rashly proclaimed Milan Obrenović IV King Milan I of Serbia in September, and in October Aleksinac and Deligrad were in the hands of the Turks, and the road open to Belgrade. An armistice was concluded, and Chernyayev resigned his command.

In 1877 he visited Austria in connection with his propaganda, but was expelled, and lived for a time in France. In 1879 he organized a Bulgarian rising, but was arrested at Adrianople (Edirne) and sent back to Russia. He succeeded Kaufmann as Governor of Turkestan in 1882, but his bellicose plans for the Great Game with the British Empire forced his retirement two years later, when he was appointed a member of the council of war at St. Petersburg. In 1886 his opposition to the Central Asian Military railway caused him to lose his seat in the council. Chernyayev died in 1898 at his country seat in the governorate of Mogilev (Mahilyow).

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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