Marshal of the Soviet Union

Marshal of the Soviet Union
The first five marshals of the Soviet Union from left to right: Tukhachevsky, Budyonny, Voroshilov, Blyukher and Yegorov.

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Marshal Sovietskogo Soyuza [Маршал Советского Союза]) was the de facto highest military rank of the Soviet Union. (The highest rank de jure, Generalissimus of the Soviet Union, was created for Joseph Stalin and held by him alone).

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991. Forty-one people held the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. The equivalent naval rank was Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union.


History of the rank

Shoulder mark of Marshal of the Soviet Union since 1943

The military rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was established by a decree of the Soviet Cabinet, the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom), on September 22, 1935. On November 20, the rank was conferred on five people: People's Commissar of Defence and veteran Bolshevik Kliment Voroshilov, Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army Alexander Ilyich Yegorov, and three senior commanders, Vasily Blyukher, Semyon Budyonny, and Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Of these, Blyukher, Tukhachevsky and Yegorov were executed during Stalin's Great Purge of 1937–38. On May 7, 1940, three new Marshals were appointed: the new People's Commissar of Defence, Semyon Timoshenko, Boris Shaposhnikov, and Grigory Kulik.

During World War II, Timoshenko and Budyonny were dismissed, and Kulik was demoted for incompetence, and the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was given to a number of military commanders who earned it on merit. These included Georgy Zhukov, Ivan Konev and Konstantin Rokossovsky to name a few. In 1943, Stalin himself was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union, and in 1945, he was joined by his intelligence and police chief Lavrenti Beria. These non-military Marshals were joined in 1947 by politician Nikolai Bulganin.

Two Marshals were executed in postwar purges: Kulik in 1950 and Beria in 1953, following Stalin's death. Thereafter the rank was awarded only to professional soldiers, with the exception of Leonid Brezhnev, who made himself a Marshal in 1976, and Ustinov, who was prominent in the arms industry and was appointed Defence Minister in July 1976. The last Marshal of the Soviet Union was Dmitry Yazov, appointed in 1990, who was imprisoned after the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Marshal Sergei Akhromeev committed suicide in 1991 on the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Marshals fell into three generational groups.

  • Those who had gained their reputations during the Russian Civil War. These included both those who were purged in 1937–38 (Blyukher, Tukhachevsky and Yegorov), and those who held high commands in the early years of World War II (Budyonny, Kulik, Shaposhnikov, Timoshenko and Voroshilov). All of the latter except Shaposhnikov and Timoshenko proved incompetent[citation needed] and were removed from commanding positions.
  • Those who made their reputations in World War II and assumed high commands in the latter part of the war. These included Zhukov, Vasilievsky, Konev, Rokossovsky, Malinovsky, Tolbukhin and Govorov.
  • Those who assumed high command in the Cold War era. All of these were officers in World War II, but their higher commands were held in the Warsaw Pact or as Soviet Defence Ministers. These included Grechko, Yakubovsky, Kulikov, Ogarkov, Akhromeev, and Yazov.

All Marshals in the third category had been officers in World War II, except Brezhnev, who had been a military commissar, and Ustinov, who had been an arms factory manager. Even Yazov, who was 20 when the war ended, had been a platoon commander.

The rank was abolished with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. It was succeeded in the new Russia by the rank of Marshal of the Russian Federation, which has been held by only one person, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, who was Russian Defence Minister from 1997 to 2001.

List of Marshals of the Soviet Union

Photo showing the Commanders of the 10 Fronts in the spring of 1945. In the front row, Marshal of the Soviet Union I.S. Konev, A.M. Vasilevsky, G.K. Zhukov, K.K. Rokossovsky and K.A. Meretskov; back row: Marshal of the Soviet Union F.I. Tolbukhin, R.Y. Malinovsky, L.A. Govorov, Army general A.I. Yeryomenko and I.Kh. Bagramian.

Note: All Marshals of the Soviet Union, with the exception of Non-Military Marshals had at least started their military careers in the Army. The Service Arms listed are the services they served in during their respective tenures as Marshals of the Soviet Union.

Name Lifespan Appointed Service Arm or Background
Voroshilov, KlimentKliment Voroshilov 1881–1969 01935-11 November 1935 Army/Political
Tukhachevsky, MikhailMikhail Tukhachevsky 1893–1937 01935-11 November 1935 Army
Yegorov, AlexanderAlexander Yegorov 18831025–1939 01935-11 November 1935 Army
Budyonny, SemyonSemyon Budyonny 18830425–1973 01935-11 November 1935 Army
Blücher, VasilyVasily Blücher 18901201–1938 01935-11 November 1935 Army
Timoshenko, SemyonSemyon Timoshenko 18951218–1970 01940-05 May 1940 Army
Kulik, GrigoryGrigory Kulik 18901109–1950 01940-05 May 1940 Army
Shaposhnikov, BorisBoris Shaposhnikov 1882–1945 01940-05 May 1940 Army
Zhukov, SergeiGeorgy Zhukov 18961201–1974 01943-01 January 1943 Army
Vasilevsky, AleksandrAleksandr Vasilevsky 18950930–1977 01943-02 February 1943 Army
Stalin, JosephJoseph Stalin 1879–1953 01943-03 March 1943 Political
Konev, IvanIvan Konev 18971228–1973 01944-02 February 1944 Army
Govorov, LeonidLeonid Govorov 18970222–1955 01944-06-18 June 18, 1944 June 1944 Army
Rokossovsky, KonstantinKonstantin Rokossovsky [1] 18961220–1968 01944-06-29 June 29, 1944 June 1944 Army
Malinovsky, RodionRodion Malinovsky 18981123–1967 01944-09-10 September 10, 1944 September 1944 Army
Tolbukhin, FyodorFyodor Tolbukhin 1894–1949 01944-09-12 September 12, 1944 September 1944 Army
Meretskov, KirillKirill Meretskov 18970607–1968 01944-10 October 1944 Army
Beria, LavrentiyLavrentiy Beria 1899–1953 01945-07 July 1945 NKVD/MGB
Sokolovsky, VasilyVasily Sokolovsky 18970721–1968 01946-07 July 1946 Army
Bulganin, NikolaiNikolai Bulganin 18950530–1975 01947-11 November 1947 Political
Bagramyan, IvanHovhannes Bagramyan [2] 18971202–1982 01955-03 March 1955 Army
Biryuzov, SergeySergey Biryuzov 19040821–1964 01955-03 March 1955 Army/Air Defence/Strategic Rocket Forces
Grechko, AndreiAndrei Grechko 19030117–1976 01955-03 March 1955 Army
Yeremenko, AndreiAndrei Yeremenko 1892–1970 01955-03 March 1955 Army
Moskalenko, KirillKirill Moskalenko 1902–1985 01955-03 March 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Chuikov, VasilyVasily Chuikov 19000212–1982 01955-03 March 1955 Army
Zakharov, MatveiMatvei Zakharov 18980817–1972 01959-05 May 1959 Army
Golikov, FilippFilipp Golikov 19000629–1980 01961-05 May 1961 Army
Krylov, Nikolay IvanovichNikolay Krylov 19030429–1972 01962-05 May 1962 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Yakubovsky, IvanIvan Yakubovsky 1912–1976 01967-04 April 1967 Army
Batitsky, PavelPavel Batitsky 1910–1984 01968-04 April 1968 Air Defence
Koshevoy, PyotrPyotr Koshevoy 19041221–1976 01968-04 April 1968 Army
Brezhnev, LeonidLeonid Brezhnev 1906–1982 01976-05 May 1976 Political
Ustinov, DmitriyDmitriy Ustinov 1908–1984 01976-07 July 1976 Defence Industry
Kulikov, ViktorViktor Kulikov 1921born 1921 01977-01 January 1977 Army
Ogarkov, NikolaiNikolai Ogarkov 19171030–1994 01977-01 January 1977 Army
Sokolov, SergeiSergei Sokolov 1911born 1911 01978-02 February 1978 Army
Akhromeyev, SergeiSergei Akhromeyev 19230505–1991 01983-03 March 1983 Army
Kurkotkin, SemyonSemyon Kurkotkin 19170213–1990 01983-03 March 1983 Army
Petrov, Vasily IvanovichVasily Petrov 19170115 born 1917 01983-03 March 1983 Army
Yazov, DmitryDmitry Yazov 19231108born 1923 01990-04 April 1990 Army
  1. ^ As Konstanty Rokossowski he was also a Marshal of Poland from 1949
  2. ^ also known as Hovhannes Baghramian

See also

External links

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