Czarist officer, Red Army commander in chief, military theoretician. Born in Kiev, son of a military engineer, Kamenev graduated from the Aleksandrovskii Military Academy (1900), joining the 165th Lutskii Regiment; he graduated from the General Staff Academy in 1907.
In World War I, Kamenev was a semi-adjutant in the Operational Department, First Army, 30th Poltavskii Infantry Regiment; a commander of a rifle corps; and a chief of staff. He emerged a colonel.
After the October Revolution, he sided with the Bolsheviks, was elected chief of staff, XV Rifle Corps, then Third Army, before demobilization.
During the Russian Civil War, Kamenev was a Red Army volunteer; a military head of the Nevel’skii District, western screens (April 1918); and Smolensk District military commander (August).
From September 1918 to July 1919, he was eastern front commander and oversaw the counteroffensive against Kolchak (April-July), taking the north and central Urals. But he was stripped of command in July by Trotsky after strategic disagreements with Vacietis, who wished the eastern front to dig in, allowing troop transfers southward to face Denikin. Eastern front commanders’ complaints persuaded Lenin to reinstate Kamenev.
Sponsored by Stalin, Kamenev replaced Vacietis (Trotsky’s candidate) as Red Army commander in chief (July 1919-April 1924).He oversaw the Red Army campaigns that defeated Kolchak (July-December 1919), Denikin (August 1919-April 1920), and Wrangel (April-November 1920), but was partially to blame for the defeat in Soviet-Polish War (April-October 1920).He failed to coordinate or control the western (Tukhachevskii) and southwestern (Egorov) fronts’ advances into Poland, allowing the Polish counteroffensive at Warsaw (August 1920). He then oversaw the clearing of anti-Soviet forces in Ukraine, Belorussia (Makhno, Bulak- Balakhovich), and Turkestan (Basmachi).
Kamenev supported Frunze’s military doctrinal ideas and became the principal tactics lecturer at the Red Army Military Academy; inspector, Red Army (April 1924); chief of staff (March 1925); head, Main Administration (November 1925), CEC member.
As deputy peoples commissar, Naval, Military Affairs, deputy chairman RVS USSR (May 1927), Kamenev finally joined the Communist Party in 1930. He was appointed head of administration, Red Army antiair defense, then a member of the Military Soviet Under-Defense Commissariat (June 1934). He also found time to lead Arctic exploration efforts. Kamenev wrote military works assessing civil war operations, changing conditions, and modern warfare developments.
Kamenev died, supposedly of heart failure, in Moscow when Stalin’s purges of the military had gathered strength. He was branded a conspirator in the Tukhachevskii Plot (1937) but was later rehabilitated in the post-Stalin era.
(Note: S. S. Kamenev should not be confused with L. Kamenev, the party leader executed by Stalin in the same year that S. S. Kamenev supposedly died of a heart attack.)
References and further reading: Bubnov, A., S. S. Kamenev, R. Eidemanis, and M. N. Tukhachevsky. Grazhdanskaia voina, 1918-1921 (Civil War, 1918-1921). Moscow: Izdat. Voennye vestnik, 1928, 1930, 1972, 1974, and 1978. Bystrov, V. E. Sovetskie polkovodtsy i voenachal’niki. Sbornik (Soviet Leaders and Military Chiefs Collection).Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1988. Kamenev, S. S., L. M. Spirin, and P. P. Chernushkov. Zapiski o grazhdanskoi voine i voennom stroitel’stve. Izbrannye stat’i. (Notes about the Civil War and Military Construction. Selected Essays). Moscow: Voenizdat, 1963. Kameneva, N. S., Put’ polkovodtsa: vospominaniia ob ottse. (The Path of a Leader: Recollections about My Father). Kiev: Politizdat Ukrainy, 1982.