Nikola Zhekov
Nikola Todorov Zhekov was the Minister of War of Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 in 1915 and served as Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 from 1915 to 1918 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...



Nikola Zhekov was born 1865 in Sliven
Sliven is the eighth-largest city in Bulgaria and the administrative and industrial centre of Sliven Province and municipality. It is a relatively large town with 89,848 inhabitants, as of February 2011....

. He was accepted in Sofia Military School and volunteered to serve in a reserve regiment during the Serbo-Bulgarian War
Serbo-Bulgarian War
The Serbo-Bulgarian War was a war between Serbia and Bulgaria that erupted on 14 November 1885 and lasted until 28 November the same year. Final peace was signed on 19 February 1886 in Bucharest...

 of 1885. In 1886 he took part in the military coup against prince Alexander Batenberg. After the plot failed he was demoted to the rank of cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

 and send to serve in the 12th infantry regiment. Soon after he received an amnesty for his offence and graduated from the Military School. In 1887 he was promoted to Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 and assigned to the 2nd artillery regiment in Shumen
Shumen is the tenth-largest city in Bulgaria and capital of Shumen Province. In the period 1950–1965 it was called Kolarovgrad, after the name of the communist leader Vasil Kolarov...

In 1894 he was promoted to captain and sent to Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 where in 1898 he graduated the military academy of Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

. After his return to Bulgaria he served in the 3rd artillery regiment and in the Army's staff. In 1901 he was promoted to major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 and taught at the Sofia military school, becoming its headmaster in 1912. Between 1910 and 1912 he also served as commander of the 1st infantry regiment.

Balkan Wars

During the First Balkan War
First Balkan War
The First Balkan War, which lasted from October 1912 to May 1913, pitted the Balkan League against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success...

Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

, Zhekov served as chief of staff of the 2nd Army
Second Army (Bulgaria)
The Bulgarian Second Army was a Bulgarian field army during the Balkan Wars, World War I, and World War II.-History:After 1907, during times of peace, the territory of Bulgaria was divided in three army inspectorates , each one comprising three divisional district. During war they formed three...

 which was tasked with the initial siege and latter the storming of the important fortress of Edirne
Battle of Adrianople (1913)
The Battle or Siege of Adrianople or Siege of Edirne was fought during the First Balkan War, beginning in mid-November 1912 and ending on 26 March 1913 with the capture of Edirne by the Bulgarian 2nd Army....

.He contracted an illness which prevented him from taking part in the Second Balkan War
Second Balkan War
The Second Balkan War was a conflict which broke out when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its share of the spoils of the First Balkan War, attacked its former allies, Serbia and Greece, on 29 June 1913. Bulgaria had a prewar agreement about the division of region of Macedonia...

 and after it was assigned commander of the Bulgarian forces in Western Thrace
Western Thrace
Western Thrace or simply Thrace is a geographic and historical region of Greece, located between the Nestos and Evros rivers in the northeast of the country. Together with the regions of Macedonia and Epirus, it is often referred to informally as northern Greece...


In 1913-1914 Zhekov was also part of a Bulgarian diplomatic mission to Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 which was involved in negotiating a military convention between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. After that he served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian Army and commander of the 8th "Tundzha" division. In August 1915 he was promoted to major general
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 and appointed Minister of War.

First World War

After his experience of the Balkan Wars Tsar Ferdinand refused to take command of the Bulgarian Army as Commander-in-Chief and personally favored Nikola Zhekov for the post, which he assumed on 24 September 1915. Zhekov was a proponent for the military intervention of Bulgaria in the war on the side of the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 and led the Bulgarian Army until the end of the war.

Attached to Mackensen's
August von Mackensen
Anton Ludwig August von Mackensen , born August Mackensen, was a German soldier and field marshal. He commanded with success during the First World War and became one of the German Empire's most prominent military leaders. After the Armistice, Mackensen was interned for a year...

 Army Group, the Bulgarian First Army liaised with the Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 and Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 in crushing the Serbian army at home while the Bulgarian Second Army, which remained under direct Bulgarian control, seized Macedonia and defeated the Entente relief effort. Under Mackensen's command, the Bulgarian Army also participated in the militarily highly successful Romanian Campaign
Romanian Campaign (World War I)
The Romanian Campaign was part of the Balkan theatre of World War I, with Romania and Russia allied against the armies of the Central Powers. Fighting took place from August 1916 to December 1917, across most of present-day Romania, including Transylvania, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian...


Separately, Zhekov managed in throwing back the Allied
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 offensives in Salonika in the autumn of 1916 and the spring of 1917 at the Battles of Florina
Florina is a town and municipality in mountainous northwestern Macedonia, Greece. Its motto is, 'Where Greece begins'. It is also the Metropolitan seat for the region. It lies in the central part of Florina peripheral unit, of which it is the capital. Florina belongs to the periphery of West...

 and Lake Prespa
Lake Prespa
Prespa is the name of two freshwater lakes in southeast Europe, shared by Greece, Albania, and Macedonia. Of the total surface area, belongs to Macedonia, to Greece and to Albania...

. Zhekov's forces also participated in the successful attack against the port of Kavalla in August–September 1916. On 6 October 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant general
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

In the summer of 1918 he became ill and on 8 September was forced to go to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 for medical treatment, leaving the command of the army to the deputy commander-in-chief general Georgi Todorov
Georgi Todorov (general)
Georgi Stoyanov Todorov was a Bulgarian General who fought in the Russo-Turkish War , Serbo-Bulgarian War , Balkan Wars and First World War .-Biography:At the age of 19 he volunteered in the Bulgarian Corps during the Russo-Turkish...

. It was during this critical time when an Entente offensive in Macedonia managed to break the Bulgarian lines at Dobro Pole
Battle of Dobro Pole
The Battle of Dobro Pole was a World War I battle, fought on 15 September 1918. The battle resulted in a decisive Entente victory, with a defeated Bulgaria left to sign an armistice, which removed it from World War I....

 and lead to the capitulation of Bulgaria.On 4 November 1918 lieutenant general
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Nikola Zhekov was discharged from the active army and went into the reserve.

Later life

After the war Zhekov chose to flee into exile in Germany. He returned in 1921 to defend his reputation and was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was granted amnesty after spending three years in jail.

In the years after that Zhekov read lectures in the Military Academy and wrote several books regarding the military science and his memoirs. On 6 May 1936 he was promoted to general of the infantry which was the highest rank in the Bulgarian Army.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 General Zhekov established a friendly relationship with Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

  and following the defeat of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 in 1940 he was invited by the Führer
Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...

  to visit Paris as his guest. After the government changes in September 1944 General Zhekov, fearing political persecutions, decided to immigrate in Germany. On 1 February 1945 he was sentenced to death by the People's Court established by the government of the Fatherland Front
Fatherland Front (Bulgaria)
The Fatherland Front was originally a Bulgarian political resistance movement during World War II. The Zveno movement, the communist Bulgarian Workers Party, a wing of the Agrarian Union and the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party, were all part of the FF...

. However his whereabouts were unknown to the government and the sentence wasn't carried out.

Zhekov died on 1 November 1949 in the Bavarian town of Füssen
Füssen is a town in Bavaria, Germany, in the district of Ostallgäu situated from the Austrian border. It is located on the banks of the Lech river. The River Lech flows into the Forggensee...

. On 7 November 1992 his remains were returned to Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 and were laid to rest in the Military Mausoleum in Sofia
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and the 12th largest city in the European Union with a population of 1.27 million people. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha and approximately at the centre of the Balkan Peninsula.Prehistoric settlements were excavated...



  • Order of Bravery
    Order of Bravery
    The Order of Bravery is a Bulgarian order during the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the Republic of Bulgaria. It is the most esteemed Bulgarian order and the second highest in the Kingdom of Bulgaria and forth highest in the Republic of Bulgaria...

    , II grade and III grade,2 class
  • Order of St Alexander
    Order of St Alexander
    The Order of St Alexander was the second highest Bulgarian order during the Kingdom of Bulgaria. It was established by Knyaz Alexander I and named after his patron saint .-History:...

    , I grade with swords and Great Cross of the Order without swords
  • Order of Military Merit
    Order of Military Merit (Bulgaria)
    The Order of Military Merit is a Bulgarian order during the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the Republic of Bulgaria. In is the third highest order in the Republic of Bulgaria along with the Order of Civil Merit and the Order of the Madara Rider.-History:...

    , IV and V grade
  • German Pour le Mérite
    Pour le Mérite
    The Pour le Mérite, known informally as the Blue Max , was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German soldiers until the end of World War I....

  • German Iron Cross
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

    , I and II class
  • German Order of the Red Eagle
    Order of the Red Eagle
    The Order of the Red Eagle was an order of chivalry of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was awarded to both military personnel and civilians, to recognize valor in combat, excellence in military leadership, long and faithful service to the kingdom, or other achievements...

    , Grand Cross and 2nd Class
  • German Ducal Saxe-Ernestine House Order,
  • German Order of the Württemberg Crown
    Order of the Crown (Württemberg)
    The Order of the Württemberg Crown was an order of chivalry in Württemberg.-History:First established in 1702 as the St.-Hubertus-Jagdorden , in 1807 it was renamed the "Ritterorden vom Goldenen Adler" by Frederick I, and on 23 September 1818 renewed and restructured by William I as the "Order of...

  • Austro-Hungarian Order of the Iron Crown
    Order of the Iron Crown (Austria)
    The Austrian Imperial Order of the Iron Crown , was restablished in 1815 by Emperor Franz I. The Order of the Iron Crown had previously been an order of the Napoleanic Kingdom of Italy.-History:...

    , II class
  • Austro-Hungarian Order of Leopold
    Order of Leopold (Austria)
    The Imperial Austrian Order of Leopold was founded by Franz I of Austria on 8 January 1808. The order's statutes stipulated only three grades: Grand Cross, Commander and Knight. During the war, in common with the other Austro-Hungarian decorations Crossed Swords were instituted to reward bravery in...

    , I class
  • Austro-Hungarian Military Merit Cross, I class with War Decoration
  • Ottoman Osminieh Order
    Osminieh Order
    The Order of Osmanieh, Order of Osmanie, Order of Osmania was a military decoration of the Ottoman Empire, created in January 1862 by Sultan Abdulaziz. With the obsolescence of the Nichan Iftikhar , this became the second highest order in the Empire, ranking below the High Order of Honour...

    , I class
  • Ottoman War Medal ("Iron Crescent")
    Gallipoli Star (Ottoman Empire)
    The Ottoman War Medal , better known as the Gallipoli Star, or the Iron Crescent was a military decoration of the Ottoman Empire which was instituted by the Sultan Mehmed Reshad V on 1 March 1915 for gallantry in battle...

  • Ottoman Imtiaz Medal in gold and in silver,
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