General Kutepov: A Collection of Essays (II)
A few words about the cadet A. Kutepov,
by Nikolai Nikolaevich Golovin
In the summer of 1903, I was invited by the newly-appointed Commander of the Vladimirskii Military School, Colonel V. N. Voronov, to conduct a course in tactics in one of the classes. Prior to this appointment, V. N. Voronov had been Chief of Staff of the 37th infantry division, where I began my service on the General Staff. During our time serving together, he told me repeatedly, that an officer of the general staff could only consider himself prepared after he had spent several years as an instructor of tactics at a military school. Only through teaching do we conclusively learn ourselves, he loved to say. Having reminded me of this, Vladimir Mikhailovich remarked to me that he was looking for new instructors, for the military school that had been entrusted to him was embarking upon a completely new period of its existence. A radical reform had just taken place in our War Department: all the former "Junker Schools" had been turned into "Military Schools." This meant that instead of the previously shortened instructional program, there would be introduced a program of the same import as in the old military schools. Highly valuing the opinion of my first superior on the General Staff, I agreed, and he in turn told me that he would give me his "best" class.
The agitation which accompanied my first steps in military instruction has always etched in my mind the impressions made by my first encounter with this class. I realized that Colonel Voronov, in promising me his "best" class, had not told me this in order to encourage me to take up the frighteningly difficult path of being an instructor. The class given to me was indeed "the best." Within a year, the war with Japan flared up, and from the class of 40 cadets, 30 went to war; 12 of them bravely gave up their lives as heroes.
With the eagerness of a neophyte and encouraged by the enthusiasm of my pupils, I put my whole soul into the new task of military instruction. In order to attain wide-ranging theoretical consistency, the instructor of tactics was also required to teach military history, which involved spending a great deal of time conversing with my cadets. There and then I could not fail but notice "the best" of these "best."
This was A. Kutepov.
His sergeant's insignia showed me that he was "the best" in all regards. Extremely self-possessed, he always provided an example of discipline. Plain in speech with his peers, he was able to present himself in such a way that when he gave out orders as sergeant of his regiment these same peers of his would carry them out accurately and without question. Already, from his very first steps in the role of a "military commander," it was impossible not to have a presentiment of him as a true military leader with strength of will. These qualities contributed to the great moral influence which he had upon the class. It is highly probable that the latter in many respects was owing to his sergeant's stripes, by which he became "the best" in the school.
A. Kutepov's influence was not only felt in the so-called "inner order" of the school. A. Kutepov also infected his peers with his thirst for knowledge. I would have many students after 1903, but I can safely say, that I seldom met any with such a thirst for military knowledge as A. Kutepov.
This desire to learn on the part of "Kutepov's class" was clearly displayed in the assignments given in the course of the lectures as well as in the questions made regarding practical application. I answered them as best I could and cited books which could shine a light on their questions. A. Kutepov always occupied first place when it came to thoughtfulness involved in a query. He soon became my favourite pupil, as engaging with him was a sheer pleasure.
When it came time for the first drill examinations, A. Kutepov showed such knowledge and such understanding of the previous part of the course, that the head of the school, who was present at the examinations, considered it his duty to thank him especially in front of the entire class.
In regard practical applications as well, A. Kutepov was always in first place. In this sort of undertaking, he stood out for the clarity of his decisions and the clearness of his orders.
In the midst of the school year, an occurrence took place which would provide a fitting description of his moral character.
I had arrived for one of the drill exercises. A. Kutepov was registered among the list of respondent cadets. Before I had started calling the cadets to the boards, A. Kutepov approached me. He requested that I allow him to postpone his examination until the next examination day. According to the accepted practice in the school, such refusals to stand were only allowed in the case of illness. But when I questioned him regarding the cause of his refusal, A. Kutepov, somewhat confusedly yet looking me straight in the eye, quietly told me that the night before he was unexpectedly presented with the opportunity of going to the theater, and this hindered his preparations. I was amazed by his honesty. How many students in his place would have allowed themselves the "saving" lie of a sudden headache? And so, in response to A. Kutepov's application, I told him, that although I should formally give him a zero grade, I valued his honesty and would call on him during the next examination. The next time, A. Kutepov passed the "postponed" examination brilliantly.
When I met with Kutepov again among the emigres, he told me himself that the incident involving his refusal had made a great impression upon him. He strongly hesitated between telling the truth or a "saving lie." The school regulations were strict and he risked much in receiving a zero grade. However, after a long internal struggle, he nevertheless decided to tell the "truth." Approaching my desk, he was convinced that I would regard things formally and he would receive his "zero."
Such moral honesty remained with A. Kutepov for the remainder of his life. And was it not this very quality which drew towards him the hearts of his subordinates, comrades and superiors?
N. N. Golovin