Commander Mikhail Skobelev May Become the Honorary Member of the RGS. Posthumously

Commander Mikhail Skobelev
Commander Mikhail Skobelev

The members of the RGS branch in Ryazan appealed to the RGS leadership with the request to assign the title of the Honorary Member to famous military leader, general of infantry Mikhail Dmitrievich Skobelev. If the leadership of the Society will meet the request, this will be the first time in the history of the RGS when the title is assigned posthumously.


Commander Mikhail Skobelev. Painting by Niklay Dmitriev-Orenburgsky
Commander Mikhail Skobelev. Painting by Niklay Dmitriev-Orenburgsky

A collective statement on his election as an Honorary Member of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society was filed at a meeting of the Society Council on April 5, 1882 . The traveler, Honorary Member of the Russian Geographical Society Nikolai Przhevalsky, and associate member (the Trustee of the Society) Alexander Bashmakov spoke for Skobelev.

The statement indicated "the great services rendered to Fatherland by M.D. Skobelev as the conqueror of Ferghana and Akhal-Teke, his loud fame in the world as a faithful exponent of Russian feelings and a fighter for Russian interests. The Council decided, with full sympathy and gratitude, this instruction: to adopt this statement to the consideration in a meeting preceding the General Assembly, so that the election itself could be made at the Annual Meeting in January 1883... "


Ходатайство действительных членов ИРГО об избрании Михаила Скобелева Почётным членом ИРГО. Из Научного архива РГО
Ходатайство действительных членов ИРГО об избрании Михаила Скобелева Почётным членом ИРГО. Из Научного архива РГО

The election of Skobelev to the Honorary Members of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society did not take place due to the sudden death of the general on June 24, 1882. And now, 137 years later, the residents of Ryazan found archival materials from the meeting of the Society’s Council and decided to correct historical injustice.

Mikhail Dmitrievich Skobolev (1843 - 1882)

General Mikhail Dmitrievich Skobelev became legendary during his lifetime: a participant in military operations in Central Asia and the Caucasus, a hero of the Russo-Turkish War, a hero of the Siege of Plevna and Sheinovo, a hero who deserved the enthusiastic love of the Bulgarian people that has not faded to this day. He, like Suvorov, did not know defeat in his life. He entered the history naming “White General”. The name is always associated with him, because in battles he participated in a white uniform and rode a white horse.
Mikhail Skobelev was born in St. Petersburg on September 29, 1843. The future general showed a desire for knowledge since childhood, spoke French well, easily mastered the art of music. He dreamed of studying mathematics, he even entered the Faculty of Mathematics of St. Petersburg University. However, he studied there during short time and went to serve in the army.

Fate seemed to predetermine a military career for Mikhail. His grandfather Ivan Nikitich served as commandant of the Peter and Paul Fortress. His father Dmitry Ivanovich Skobelev was a lieutenant general. And his mother Olga Nikolaevna was the daughter of a retired lieutenant Poltavtsev. The boy was raised in the spirit of patriotism, focusing on labor and civic duty.

In 1861, Skobelev was enrolled as a cadet in the Chevalier Guards. Skobelev had his baptism of fire three years later. He participated in the suppression of the Polish insurgency being seconded to Warsaw as orderly. Skobelev received the Order of St. Anna for the courage shown in the struggle.

In 1868, Skobelev was raised to an officer and he was sent to serve in the Turkestan Military District after graduating from the Nikolaev Academy. He took part in the campaign of Russian troops to the ancient city of Khiva five years later. Skobelev went to meet the enemy at the head of the group of ten horsemen. The battle was victorious for him. The officer received seven wounds with pikes and swords, but he miraculously survived. He received the Order of St. George IV degree for his courage.

Skobelev led an expedition to southern Kyrgyzstan in 1875-1876. Its purpose was to suppress the rebellion of feudal lords from the Kokand Khanate. As a result of the campaign, the Fergana Tian Shan was recognized as Russian territory. After the expedition, Skobelev received the rank of major general, the governorship and command of troops in the Ferghana region established in the territory of the subordinate Kokand Khanate.

The successes of the Khiva campaign allowed Skobelev to advance in service quickly. Firstly, he was raised to colonel, then he became an aide-de-camp. But real glory came to him during his participation in the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. Bulgaria was liberated for a long time under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire thanks to Skobelev’s personal courage. In Bulgaria, the Russian “White General” is still spoken with respect. There is Mikhail Skobelev Street in every major city, and five Bulgarian villages are named after him. Together with the troops of the Gabrovsky detachment, Skobelev participated in the capture of the Shipkinsky Pass, and then, for long tome, he with the men of his Caucasian Cossack brigade covered the withdrawal of Russian troops after the Siege of Plevna. Skobelev was promoted to lieutenant general for the leadership talent shown during the capture of Lovcha.

In 1881, Skobelev acted as commander of the expedition against the Tekians, one of the largest tribes of the Turkmen people. The general called on the local peoples to resolve the conflict peacefully after taking the fortress Geok-Tepe, that was occupied by the enemies before.

Mikhail Skobelev died in the Moscow Hotel "England" under mysterious circumstances on July 7, 1882. According to one of the versions, an outstanding general was killed by German conspirators. Mikhail Skobelev was buried in his family estate in Ryazan province.

The current Regulation on the Awards of the All-Russian Public Organization "Russian Geographical Society" does not contain restrictions on conferring the title of the Honorary Member of the Russian Geographical Society after the candidate’s death.