Boris Shaposhnikov

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Boris Shaposhnikov
Boris Shaposhnikov 02.jpg
Marshal of the Soviet Union
Boris Shaposhnikov.
Birth name Boris Mikhailovitch Shaposhnikov
Born (1882-10-02)October 2, 1882
Zlatoust, Ufa Governorate
Russian Empire
Died March 26, 1945(1945-03-26) (aged 62)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Buried Kremlin Wall Necropolis
Allegiance  Russian Empire (1901–1917)
 Soviet Union (1917–1945)
Years of service 1901–1945
Rank Colonel (Imperial Army)
Marshal of the Soviet Union (Red Army)
Commands held Leningrad Military District
Moscow Military District
Chief of the General Staff
Volga Military District
Battles/wars World War I
Russian Civil War
World War II
Other work Mozg Armii (The Brain of the Army), 1929

Boris Mikhailovitch Shaposhnikov (Russian: Бори́с Миха́йлович Ша́пошников) (October 2 [O.S. September 20] 1882 – March 26, 1945) was a Soviet military commander, Chief of the Staff of the Red Army, and Marshal of the Soviet Union.


Shaposhnikov was born at Zlatoust, near Chelyabinsk in the Urals. He was of Orenburg Cossack origin.[1] He joined the army of the Russian Empire in 1901 and graduated from the Nicholas General Staff Academy in 1910, reaching the rank of colonel in the Caucasus Grenadiers division in September 1917 during World War I.[2] Also in 1917, unusual for an officer of his rank, he supported the Russian Revolution, and in May 1918 joined the Red Army.[2]

Shaposhnikov was one of the few Red Army commanders with formal military training, and in 1921 he joined the Army's General Staff as 1st Deputy Chief of Staff, where he served until 1925, when he was appointed commander of the Leningrad Military District and then Moscow Military District in 1927. From 1928 to 1931 he was Chief of Staff of the Red Army, replacing Mikhail Tukhachevsky, with whom he had a strained relationship,[3] then commanded the Volga Military District from 1931 to 1932.[2] In 1932 he was appointed commandant of the Red Army's Frunze Military Academy, then in 1935 returned to the command of the Leningrad region. In 1937 he was appointed Chief of the General Staff, in succession to Alexander Ilyich Yegorov, a victim of the Case of Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization secret trial, Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of the Red Army. In May 1940 he was appointed a Marshal of the Soviet Union.[4]

Despite his background as a Tsarist officer, Shaposhnikov won the respect and trust of Stalin. His status as a professional officer—he did not join the Communist Party until 1939[5]—may have helped him avoid Stalin's suspicions. The price he paid for his survival during the purges was collaboration in the destruction of Tukhachevsky and many other colleagues. Stalin's admiration was shown by the fact that he always kept a copy of Shaposhnikov's most important work, Mozg Armii (Мозг армии, "The Brain of the Army") (1929), on his desk.[6] He is also one of the few men whom Stalin addressed by his Christian name and patronymic.[5][7] Mozg Armii has remained on the curriculum of the General Staff Academy since its publication in 1929.[8]

Fortunately for the Soviet Union, Shaposhnikov had a fine military mind and high administrative skills.[6] He combined these talents with his position in Stalin's confidence to rebuild the Red Army leadership after the purges. He obtained the release from the Gulag of 4,000 officers deemed necessary for this operation. In 1939 Stalin accepted Shaposhnikov's plan for a rapid buildup of the Red Army's strength. Although the plan was not completed before the German invasion of June 1941, it was sufficiently advanced to save the Soviet Union from complete disaster.[9]

Shaposhnikov planned the invasion of Finland in 1940, but was much less optimistic about its duration than Stalin and the campaign's commander Kliment Voroshilov.[10] The Winter War did not become the success the Soviet side had hoped, and Shaposhnikov resigned as Chief of the General Staff in August 1940, due to ill health and disagreements with Stalin about the conduct of that campaign.[4][5] At the time of the German invasion, he was reinstated as Chief of the General Staff[5] to succeed Georgy Zhukov,[4] and also became Deputy People's Commissar for Defence, the post he held until his career was cut short by ill health in 1943. He resigned again as Chief of the General Staff due to ill health on 10 May 1942.[5] He held the position of commandant of the Voroshilov Military Academy until his death in 1945. Shaposhnikov had groomed his successor, Aleksandr Vasilevsky, and remained an influential and respected advisor to Stalin until his death.[4][5]

Honours and awards[edit]

 Russian Empire
 Soviet Union

See also[edit]




  • Aldis, Anne C.; McDermott, Roger N., eds. (2004). Russian Military Reform, 1992-2002. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-1357-5468-6.
  • Glantz, David M.; House, Jonathan (2009). To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1630-5.
  • Kulkov, E. N.; Rzheshevskii, Oleg Aleksandrovich; Shukman, Harold (2014). Stalin and the Soviet-Finnish War, 1939-1940. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-1352-8294-3.
  • Radzinsky, Edvard (2011). Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-3077-5468-4.
  • Ringer, Ronald E. (2006). Excel HSC Modern History. Pascal Press. ISBN 978-1-7412-5246-0.
  • Samuelson, Lennart; Shlykov, Vitaly (2009). Plans For Stalin's War Machine: Tukhachevskii and Military-Economic Planning, 1925-1941. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-3122-2527-8.
  • Smele, Jonathan D. (2015). Historical Dictionary of the Russian Civil Wars, 1916-1926: Volume 2 of Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-5281-3.
  • Wells, Anne Sharp (2013). Historical Dictionary of World War II: The War against Germany and Italy: Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-7944-7.
  • "The Journal of Historical Review: 1996-1997, Volume 16". The Journal of Historical Review. The University of Wisconsin - Madison: Institute for Historical Review. 1996. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Chief of the Staff of the Red Army
May 1928 – April 1931
Succeeded by
Vladimir Triandafillov
Preceded by
Alexander Yegorov
Chief of the Staff of the Red Army
10 May 1937 – August 1940
Succeeded by
Kirill Meretskov
Preceded by
Georgy Zhukov
Chief of the Staff of the Red Army
29 July 1941 – 11 May 1942
Succeeded by
Aleksandr Vasilevsky