Dmitry Pavlov (general)

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Dmitry Grigorevich Pavlov
Дмитрий Григорьевич Павлов.jpg
Native name
Дми́трий Григо́рьевич Па́влов
Born4 November [O.S. 23 October] 1897
Village of Vonyukh (now Pavlovo), Kologrivsky District, Kostroma Governorate, Russian Empire
Died22 July 1941(1941-07-22) (aged 43)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Allegiance Russian Empire (1916-1917)
 Soviet Russia (1917-1922)
 Soviet Union (1922-1941)
Years of service1916–41
RankGeneral of the Army
Commands held
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union

Dmitry Grigoryevich Pavlov (Russian: Дми́трий Григо́рьевич Па́влов; 4 November [O.S. 23 October] 1897 – 22 July 1941) was a Soviet general who commanded the key Soviet Western Front during the initial stage of the German invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) in June 1941. After his forces were heavily defeated within the first few days of the campaign, he was relieved of his command, arrested, charged with military incompetence and executed.[1] He was exonerated or, in Soviet parlance, rehabilitated in 1956.[1]

Military career[edit]

Pavlov was a veteran of the First World War, as well as the Russian Civil War, serving in the Red Army since 1919. He graduated from the Frunze Military Academy in 1928. He then commanded various mechanised and cavalry units. As one of the Soviet military advisers, in 1936–37 he took part in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side (using the nom de guerre Pablo[2]) and commanded a brigade of Soviet tanks, for which he was made a Hero of the Soviet Union. In contrast to many other officers who took part in that war, he was not purged after his return to the Soviet Union,[3] and was made the Head of the Directorate of Tank and Armoured Car Troops of the Red Army which gave him considerable influence on its development. In particular he insisted that tanks be shifted to infantry support roles,[4] which in hindsight turned out to be incorrect. He participated in the Winter War, as well as the border clashes with Japan.

In 1940, Pavlov became the commander of the Western (Belorussian) Special Military District, which became the Soviet Western Front bearing the brunt of German attack during Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. On 22 February 1941, he was one of the first Soviet generals to receive the new rank of General of the Army, inferior only to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union.


In the fall of 1940, Georgy Zhukov started preparing the plans for the military exercise concerning the defence of the Western border of the Soviet Union, which at this time was pushed further to the west due to the annexation of eastern Poland.[5] In his memoirs, Zhukov reports that in this exercise he commanded the Western or Blue forces—the supposed invasion troops—and his opponent was Colonel General Dmitry Pavlov, the commander of the Eastern or Red forces –the supposed Soviet troops. Zhukov describes the exercise as being similar to actual events during the German invasion. At the time, the Eastern, Popov forces had a numerical advantage, but they have lost military exercise.

During first days of Operation Barbarossa his command, Soviet Western Front suffered a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Białystok-Minsk, during the first days of the invasion, Pavlov was relieved of his command on 1 July 1941, arrested and accused of criminal incompetence and treason. He was the only arrested commander of any Soviet front during Operation Barbarossa.

He and his chief of staff Klimovskikh were first accused of:

Pavlov and his deputies were accused of "failure to perform their duties" rather than treason. On July 22, 1941, the same day the sentence was handed down, Pavlov's property was confiscated, and he was deprived of military rank, shot, and buried in a landfill near Moscow by the NKVD.

Death penalties were also passed down for other commanders of the Western Front, including the Chief of Staff, Major General B. E. Klimovskikh; the chief of the communications corps, Major General AT Grigoriev; the Chief of Artillery, Lieutenant General of Artillery A. Klich; and Air Force Deputy Chief of the Western Front (who, after the suicide of Major General Aviation I. I. Kopets, was, nominally at least, Chief of the Air Force of the Western Front), Major General Aviation A. I. Tayursky. Also, the commander of the 14th Mechanized Corps, Major General Stepan Oborin, was arrested on July 8 and shot. The commander of the 4th Army, Major General A. A. Korobkov, was dismissed on July 8, arrested the next day and shot on July 22. On the other hand, Pavlov's deputy commander, Lt. Gen. Ivan Boldin, at the head of a small group, became a popular hero at the time after spending 45 days fighting for survival behind enemy lines, and finally, on August 10, leading a total of 1,650 officers and men through to Soviet lines near Smolensk. STAVKA Order No. 270 praised the feat of Boldin's "division".[6]

Pavlov and other commanders of Western Front were rehabilitated as lacking evidence in 1956.


  1. ^ a b Michael Parrish, The Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939-1953, Praeger/Greenwood, 1996.
  2. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Spanish Civil War. p. 123. ISBN 0-911745-11-4
  3. ^ Constantine Pleshakov, Stalin's Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of World War II on the Eastern Front, Houghton Mifflin Books, 2005. Relevant page available from Google Book Search: Stalin's Folly: The Tragic First Ten ... - Google Book Search at
  4. ^ Joseph Page and Tim Bean, Russian Tanks of World War II, Zenith Imprint, 2002, Relevant page available via Google Book Search: [1], Russian Tanks of World War II ... - Google Book Search at
  5. ^ "Folio 37977. inventory 5, file 564, sheets 32–34". Central State Archive of the Red Army. TsGAKA.
  6. ^ David Glantz, "Ivan Vasilievich Boldin", in Stalin's Generals, (Harold Shukman, Ed.), Phoenix Press, 2001, p 49


  • Bortakovsky, Timur (2012). Расстрелянные Герои Советского Союза. Moscow: Veche. ISBN 9785953361903. OCLC 784099768.

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