Marshal of the Soviet Union

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For the Marshals of Troop Arms, see Chief Marshal.
The first five marshals of the Soviet Union from left to right: Tukhachevsky, Budyonny, Voroshilov, Blyukher and Yegorov.

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Маршал Советского Союза Russian pronunciation: [ˈmarʂəɫ sɐˈvʲet͡skəvə sɐˈjʉzə]) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union (while the supreme rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union was proposed for Joseph Stalin after the Second World War, it was never officially approved).

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 until 1955 Admiral of the Fleet and from 1955 Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union.

Both ranks were comparable to NATO rank codes OF10, and to the five-star rank in anglophone armed forces.

History of the rank[edit]

Rank insignias of Marshal of the Soviet Union

gorget patches 1935-40
shoulder mark 1953-1955
shoulder mark 1974-1993

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, Voroshilov 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 out-of-step with modern warfare 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, Yazov and Gelovani.

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[edit]

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

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 Nov 1935 Army/Political
Tukhachevsky, MikhailMikhail Tukhachevsky 1893–1937 Nov 1935 Army
Yegorov, AlexanderAlexander Yegorov 18831025–1939 Nov 1935 Army
Budyonny, SemyonSemyon Budyonny 18830425–1973 Nov 1935 Army
Blyukher, VasilyVasily Blyukher 18901201–1938 Nov 1935 Army
Timoshenko, SemyonSemyon Timoshenko 18951218–1970 May 1940 Army
Kulik, GrigoryGrigory Kulik 18901109–1950 May 1940 Army
Shaposhnikov, BorisBoris Shaposhnikov 1882–1945 May 1940 Army
Zhukov, SergeiGeorgy Zhukov 18961201–1974 Jan 1943 Army
Vasilevsky, AleksandrAleksandr Vasilevsky 18950930–1977 Feb 1943 Army
Stalin, JosephJoseph Stalin 1878–1953 Mar 1943 Political
Konev, IvanIvan Konev 18971228–1973 Feb 1944 Army
Govorov, LeonidLeonid Govorov 18970222–1955 Jun 1944 Army
Rokossovsky, KonstantinKonstantin Rokossovsky [1] 18961220–1968 Jun 1944 Army
Malinovsky, RodionRodion Malinovsky 18981123–1967 Sep 1944 Army
Tolbukhin, FyodorFyodor Tolbukhin 1894–1949 Sep 1944 Army
Meretskov, KirillKirill Meretskov 18970607–1968 Oct 1944 Army
Beria, LavrentiyLavrentiy Beria 1899–1953 Jul 1945 NKVD/MGB
Sokolovsky, VasilyVasily Sokolovsky 18970721–1968 Jul 1946 Army
Bulganin, NikolaiNikolai Bulganin 18950530–1975 Nov 1947 Political
Bagramyan, IvanHovhannes Bagramyan [2] 18971202–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Biryuzov, SergeySergey Biryuzov 19040821–1964 Mar 1955 Army/Air Defence/Strategic Rocket Forces
Grechko, AndreiAndrei Grechko 19030117–1976 Mar 1955 Army
Yeremenko, AndreiAndrei Yeremenko 1892–1970 Mar 1955 Army
Moskalenko, KirillKirill Moskalenko 1902–1985 Mar 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Chuikov, VasilyVasily Chuikov 19000212–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Zakharov, MatveiMatvei Zakharov 18980817–1972 May 1959 Army
Golikov, FilippFilipp Golikov 19000629–1980 May 1961 Army
Krylov, Nikolay IvanovichNikolay Krylov 19030429–1972 May 1962 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Yakubovsky, IvanIvan Yakubovsky 1912–1976 Apr 1967 Army
Batitsky, PavelPavel Batitsky 1910–1984 Apr 1968 Air Defence
Koshevoy, PyotrPyotr Koshevoy 19041221–1976 Apr 1968 Army
Brezhnev, LeonidLeonid Brezhnev 1906–1982 May 1976 Political
Ustinov, DmitriyDmitriy Ustinov 1908–1984 Jul 1976 Defence Industry
Kulikov, ViktorViktor Kulikov 19211921–2013 Jan 1977 Army
Ogarkov, NikolaiNikolai Ogarkov 19171030–1994 Jan 1977 Army
Sokolov, SergeiSergei Sokolov 1911 1911–2012 Feb 1978 Army
Akhromeyev, SergeiSergei Akhromeyev 19230505–1991 Mar 1983 Army
Kurkotkin, SemyonSemyon Kurkotkin 19170213–1990 Mar 1983 Army
Petrov, Vasily IvanovichVasily Petrov 19170115 1917–2014 Mar 1983 Army
Yazov, DmitryDmitry Yazov 19231108born 1924 Apr 1990 Army
  1. ^ As Konstanty Rokossowski he was also a Marshal of Poland from 1949
  2. ^ also known as Hovhannes Baghramian

See also[edit]

External links[edit]