Dmitriy Ustinov

Dmitriy Ustinov
Dmitriy Ustinov
Дмитрий Устинов
Minister of Defence of the Soviet Union
In office
30 July 1976 – 20 December 1984
Premier Alexei Kosygin
Nikolai Tikhonov
Preceded by Andrei Grechko
Succeeded by Sergei Sokolov
First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
In office
13 March 1963 – 26 March 1965
Premier Nikita Khrushchev
Alexei Kosygin
Preceded by Alexei Kosygin
Succeeded by Kirill Mazurov
Personal details
Born 17 October 1908(1908-10-17)
Samara, Russian Empire
Died 20 December 1984(1984-12-20) (aged 76)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Profession Mechanical Engineer
Military service
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Soviet Armed Forces
Years of service 1941–1984
Rank Marshal

Dmitriy Feodorovich Ustinov (Russian: Дми́трий Фёдорович Усти́нов; 30 October 1908 – 20 December 1984) was Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union from 1976 until his death.


Early life

Dimitry Feodorovich Ustinov was born in a working-class family in Samara. During the civil war, when hunger became intolerable, his sick father went to Samarkand, leaving Dimitry as head of the family. Shortly after that, in 1922, his father died. In 1923, he and his mother, Yevrosinya Martinovna, moved to the city of Makarev (near Ivanovo-Voznesensk) where he worked as a fitter in a paper mill. Shortly after that, in 1925, his mother died.

Ustinov joined the communist party in 1927. In 1929, he started training at the Faculty of Mechanics in the Polytechnic Institute of Ivanovo-Voznesensk. Afterward, Ustinov was transferred to the Moscow Bauman Higher Technical School. Then, on March 1932, he entered the Institute of Military Mechanical Engineering in Leningrad from where he graduated in 1934. Afterward, he worked as a construction engineer at the Leningrad artillery Marine Research Institute. In 1937, he was transferred to the "Bolshevik" Arms Factory as an engineer. He later became the director of the Factory.

War service

When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin appointed Ustinov, who was then 33 years old, to the post of People's Commissar of Armaments. From this position, he supervised the massive evacuation of the defense industry from the besieged city of Leningrad to east of the Ural Mountains. Over 80 military industries were evacuated that together employed over six hundred thousand workers, technicians, and engineers. Stalin later rewarded Ustinov, whom he called "the Red-head", with the Soviet Union's highest civilian honour, Hero of Socialist Labor. After the war was over, Ustinov played a crucial role in requisitioning the German missile programme, developed during World War II, as an impetus to the Soviet missile and space programmes.

Post war

In 1952, Ustinov became a member of the Central Committee. In March 1953, after Stalin died, the Ministry of Armaments was combined with the Ministry of Aviation Industry to become the Ministry of Defense Industry, with Ustinov assigned as head of this new ministry. In 1957, he was appointed as a Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union. Ustinov was awarded the Hero of the Socialist Labor honour for a second time in 1961, Nikita Khrushchev rewarding him for his work in ensuring that the first man to orbit the earth was a Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin. Khrushchev valued Ustinov's managerial skills enough to appoint him First Deputy Premier and placed him in control of the civilian economy in 1963.

In October 1964, Khrushchev was ousted. While Dmitry Ustinov served as chairman of the Supreme Council of the National Economy, he was detailed to fly down to the Black Sea and bring Khrushchev back to Moscow. Ustinov arrived at the Black Sea on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 13, as Khrushchev was talking with French Atomic Science Minister Gaston Palewski. Ustinov demanded that Khrushchev return immediately to Moscow for a special meeting of the Presidium. At sunset, Khrushchev and Ustinov landed at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, where a ZiL limousine waited to take them to the Kremlin.

Brezhnev years

After the ousting of Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev took power and Ustinov returned to the defense industry. In 1965, Brezhnev made Ustinov a candidate member of the Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee with oversight of the military, the defense industry, and certain security organs. He was also placed in charge of developing the Soviet Union's strategic bomber force and intercontinental ballistic missile system. Ustinov was known in the defense industry as Uncle Mitya. He was also Chelomei's stolid personal adversary. He issued a directive, on February 1970, that ordered the Chelomei design bureau to combine its Almaz space station with Sergey Korolyov's design bureau, (then headed by Vasili Mishin). This order was designed as an impetus towards the development of the Salyut space station.

Ustinov gained power in the bureaucracy as he rose in the defense industry. When veteran Defense Minister Marshal Rodion Malinovsky died in 1967, there was widespread speculation that the post would pass to Ustinov. Instead, the Kremlin chose another military man, Marshal of the Soviet Union Andrei Grechko.

Minister of Defense

In 1984 in East Berlin, with Erich Honecker.

In 1976, after Andrei Grechko died on April 26th, Ustinov became the Defense Minister and was promoted to General of the Army on April 29th. On 30 July he was promoted to the highest military rank in the Soviet Union, Marshal of the Soviet Union, although he had no prior military career. In 1979, he confidently asserted that "The armed forces of the U.S.S.R. are on a high level that ensures the accomplishment of any tasks set by the party and the people". In that year, he and other members of the Politburo initiated the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The growing influence of the Soviet military gave Ustinov the role of Kremlin kingmaker, for his support was decisive in allowing Yuri Andropov to succeed Brezhnev. Ustinov was also influential in the Chernenko regime, compensating for the latter's serious health problems and inexperience in military affairs.

Ustinov and KAL 007

In 1992, Russian president Boris Yeltsin disclosed five top-secret memos dating from late 1983, memos that had been written within weeks of the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007. These memos were published in Izvestia number 228 on 16 October 1992. According to these memos, the Soviet Union had been able to recover the "Black Box" from KAL 007 and decipher its tapes. Thereafter, Ustinov, along with Viktor Chebrikov, head of the KGB, recommended to premier Yuri Andropov that their possession of the Black Box not be made public since its tapes could not support the Soviet contention that KAL 007 was on a U.S. espionage mission.

"In connection with all mentioned above it seems highly preferable not to transfer the flight recorders to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) or any third party willing to decipher their contents. The fact that the recorders are in possession of the USSR shall be kept secret. As far as we are aware neither the US nor Japan has any information on the flight recorders. We have made necessary efforts in order to prevent any disclosure of the information in future." (Memo 5.)

Death and legacy

On 7 November 1984, Ustinov was not present as expected in presiding over the annual Red Square Military Parade on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution; Deputy Defense Minister Marshal Sokolov stood in for Ustinov in inspecting the troops, and delivering the commemoration speech during the parade instead. Ustinov had contracted pneumonia in late October. Emergency surgery had to be performed to correct an aneurysm in the aortic valve. His liver and kidneys later deteriorated. Eventually, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died. He was honoured with a state funeral, and his ashes were interred in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis on 24 December.

Upon his death, the city of Izhevsk was renamed after him. However, under Mikhail Gorbachev, cities that had been renamed for recent Soviet leaders were reverted back to their former names. The Baltic State Technical Military-Mechanical University in Saint Petersburg changed its name to the Ustinov Baltic State Technical Military-Mechanical University. [1] A warship, the Russian cruiser Marshal Ustinov, is named after him.

Ustinov had a son named Nikolai (1931–1992).

Honours and awards

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia.
Soviet Union
Mongolian People's Republic
  • Hero of the Mongolian People's Republic (6 August 1981)
  • Order of Sukhbaatar, three times (1975, 1978, 1981)
  • Order of the Red Banner (1983)
  • 6 other medals
  • Order of Ho Chi Minh (1983)
  • Order of Georgi Dimitrov, twice (1976, 1983)
  • 7 other medals
  • Order "For Services to the Air Force"
  • Order of the Flag of the Hungarian Republic with rubies, twice (1978, 1983)
  • medal
East Germany
  • Order of Playa Giron (1983)
  • 2 other medals

Preceded by
Andrei Grechko
Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Sergei Sokolov

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