Alexei Nikolayevich Kuropatkin (Russian: Алексей Николаевич Куропаткин, 1848-1925) was the Russian Imperial Minister of War (1898-1904) who is often held responsible for major Russian drawbacks in the Russian-Japanese War, notably the Battle of Mukden and the Battle of Liaoyang.
Kuropatkin entered the army in 1864. From 1872 to 1874 he studied at the Nicholas Staff College, after which he spent a short time with the French troops in Algiers. In 1875 he was employed in diplomatic work in Kashgaria and in 1876 he took part in military operations in Turkistan, Kokand and Samerkand. In the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878 he earned a great reputation as chief of staff to General Mikhail Skobelev. After the war he wrote a detailed and critical history of the operations which was highly regarded. He then served again on the south-eastern borders in command of the Turkestan Rifle Brigade.
In 1898 Kuropatkin was appointed War Minister and was involved in the negotiations with Japan before the Russo-Japanese War. He did not support an armed conflict with Japan and opposed the Bezobrazov Circle. His views became firmer after a visit to Japan in June 1903.
Still, on 7 February 1904, on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian land forces in Manchuria and arrived in Harbin on 28 February later. On 13 October that year Kuropatkin was appointed supreme commander of the Russian forces in the East Asia and held this appointment until early March 1905. In the wake of the battle of Mukden Kuropatkin recognized his shortcomings and asked to be relieved of his post. Accordingly he exchanged commands with General Nikolai Linievich and was thus appointed commander of the First Manchurian Army, holding this position until February 1906. Kuropatkin was heavily involved in the fiasco of the Russian land forces during the war. Although the rationale of his military approach was to avoid an offensive until the Trans-Siberian Railway brought sufficient troops and materiel, his cautiousness and hesitancy markedly influenced the repeated Russian defeats. Military historians consider his indecisiveness and organizational deficiencies in directing large-scale military operations as a major element in the Russian defeat. In turn, he wrote his own defense, which was published in a number of books in several languages.
During the World War I, Kuropatkin was put in charge of the Grenadier Corps in October, 1915. In February 1916, he became Commander of the Northern Front. He was relieved of command in July, 1916, and assigned to Turkestan, where he served as Governor-General of the Turkestan Military District, helping suppress a major rebellion of the indigenous peoples. He retired from the military in 1917. Following the February Revolution of 1917 he was placed under arrest but was soon freed by decree of the Russian Provisional Government. He then resided in his home province. He taught at an agriculture school he had founded until his death in 1925.