- from 'the War Budget' Vol. IX, No. 2 August 24th 1916
- 'Brusiloff: as his Sister Knows Him'
A Russian General
two coverpages from the French press
Brussiloff! Who is he? What kind of man is he? Everyone knows what he did. He came hack this spring with the Russian army and marched sure-footed and unfaltering through the Austrian hosts.
Brusiloff's sister-in-law is Mrs. Charles Johnston, wife of a well-known New York author. She is a life-long intimate friend of the General. Asked how she explained his achievements, she quoted a Russian saga: "For thirty-three years Ilia of Mourom sat beside the stove. Then he arose and said: 'My strength flows throughout my limbs like a living life. Now let me get up and see what is in the outside world!'"
Alexei Brusiloff is now fifty-nine years of age. For fifteen years he has been a General, yet never before had he been in the fight. Across his chest shines a "Milky Way of Medals" - the words are Mrs. Johnston's own-but not one is for service in the field. In silent study this man has been gathering force.
A characteristic anecdote is told of Brusiloff in connection with the revolution that followed the Russo-Japanese war. The authorities feared an attack on the person of the Tsar himself, and Brusiloff was put in charge of the troops detailed to guard the Emperor.
He stationed himself outside the palace gates, his soldiers massed around him. The mob hurled imprecations and threats, but Brusiloff merely stood and waited. Finally the crowd, lacking fuel to feed its fury, became quieter, and Brusiloff spoke:
"Now," he said, "just look at yourselves and see how foolish and futile your threats are!" Disconcerted, they fell back, and the day was saved.
The same somewhat cynical reserve often marks his relation to his men. He believes in implicit and exact obedience. He holds that every man should recognise his master. Should a soldier fail in salutation on the street, no excuse can palliate the fault. But he will not reprove. He will punish.
He has many times been accused of cruelty. Those who know him realise that he is kind. He is not the first man whose sense of duty has forced him to wear a mask.
Born in Kutais, beyond the Caucasus Mountains., he spent his boyhood among people renowned for their daring. When he was graduated from the military school he returned to his country, a Lieutenant in the Tverskoy Polk, a regiment of reckless daredevils. A hard rider, a deep thinker, Brusiloff soon made his mark. It was his horsemanship that brought him finally to the capital as right-hand man in the cavalry school organised by the late Grand Duke Nicholas under Gen. Soukhomlinoff.
In Petrograd Alexei Brusiloff lived the life of the young bloods. Young, talented, courageous and good-looking, he was a pet in military and court circles. When Mrs. Johnston and her sister, now his second wife, came to the city to join their soldier brother, it was Brusiloff and his wife who introduced them to society.
Daughters of Mme. Jelikovsky, the Russian writer, the girls' associations brought them into a literary rather than a smart circle. But, when one of the big military balk was arranged during the winter, they were among those invited as a matter of courtesy.
Gen. Brusiloff is intensely religious. When Mrs. Johnston visited the Brusiloff's at Lublin four years ago, there was never a Sunday evening on which she and the General did not go to church. In this particular city the Cathedral was built outside the gates, in the heart of the Jewish section. When she and her brother-in-law went to the services, his distinguished military appearance attracted much attention on the streets. The children in their quaint Jewish costumes would gather around him.
"Man of the world, wit, ready in repartee, generous of spirit, stern in the face of fire, kindly to the young and the talented, if Gen. Brusiloff were not so good a Russian, we should say that he represents a type that is very French."
Thus does a Parisian paper sum up the character of one of the greatest allies.
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