Marshal of the Soviet Union

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Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Marshal Sovétskogo Soyuza)
Rank insignia of маршал Советского Союза.svg
Uniform shoulder strap (1955–1990)
Marshal-Star big1.jpg
Country Soviet Union
Service branch Soviet Army
RankGeneral officer
NATO rankOF-10
Formation22 September 1935
AbolishedDecember 1991
Next higher rankNone
Next lower rankChief marshal of the branch
Equivalent ranksAdmiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union
Rank insignias of Marshal of the Soviet Union
Gorget patch
Gorget patch
Sleeve chevron
Shoulder board

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Маршал Советского Союза; Russian pronunciation: [ˈmarʂəɫ sɐˈvʲɛtskəvə sɐˈjuzə]) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union.

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991, and forty-one people held this rank. 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 OF-10.

While the supreme rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union, which would have been senior to Marshal of the Soviet Union, was proposed for Joseph Stalin after the Second World War, it was never officially approved.

History of the rank[edit]

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

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 22 September 1935. On 20 November, 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 7 May 1940, three new Marshals were appointed: the new People's Commissar of Defence, Semyon Timoshenko, Boris Shaposhnikov, and Grigory Kulik.

During World War II, 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 Dmitry 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 during 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, Govorov, Meretskov and Sokolovsky.
  • 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 commissar and Ustinov, who had been People's Commissar for Armaments. 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.

Sequence of ranks
lower rank:
General of the army
(Генерал армии)
Red Army Badge.svg
Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Маршал Советского Союза)
Higher rank:
Chief marshal of the branch
(Главный ма́ршал ро́да во́йск)

List of Marshals of the Soviet Union[edit]

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 Photo Lifespan Promoted Service Arm or Background
Voroshilov, KlimentKliment Voroshilov Kliment Voroshilov.jpg 1881–1969 Nov 1935 Political
Tukhachevsky, MikhailMikhail Tukhachevsky Mikhail Tukhachevsky.jpg 1893–1937 Nov 1935 Army
Yegorov, AlexanderAlexander Yegorov Александр Егоров.jpg 18831025–1939 Nov 1935 Army
Budyonny, SemyonSemyon Budyonny Будённый 1943.jpg 18830425–1973 Nov 1935 Army
Blyukher, VasilyVasily Blyukher Vasily Blyukher 1936.jpg 18901201–1938 Nov 1935 Army
Timoshenko, SemyonSemyon Timoshenko Маршал Советского Союза Герой Советского Союза Семён Константинович Тимошенко.jpg 18951218–1970 May 1940 Army
Kulik, GrigoryGrigory Kulik Grigory Kulik.jpg 18901109–1950 May 1940 Army
Shaposhnikov, BorisBoris Shaposhnikov Boris Shaposhnikov 02.jpg 1882–1945 May 1940 Army
Zhukov, SergeiGeorgy Zhukov Zhukov LIFE.jpg 18961201–1974 Jan 1943 Army
Vasilevsky, AleksandrAleksandr Vasilevsky Aleksandr Vasilevsky 4.jpg 18950930–1977 Feb 1943 Army
Stalin, JosephJoseph Stalin[1] Stalin the communist.jpg 1878–1953 Mar 1943 Political
Konev, IvanIvan Konev Ivan Stepanovich Konev.jpg 18971228–1973 Feb 1944 Army
Govorov, LeonidLeonid Govorov Leonid Govorov 1.jpg 18970222–1955 Jun 1944 Army
Rokossovsky, KonstantinKonstantin Rokossovsky[2] Konstanty Rokossowski, 1945.jpg 18961220–1968 Jun 1944 Army
Malinovsky, RodionRodion Malinovsky Rodion Malinovsky 1.jpg 18981123–1967 Sep 1944 Army
Tolbukhin, FyodorFyodor Tolbukhin Маршал Советского Союза Ф.И. Толбухин.jpg 1894–1949 Sep 1944 Army
Meretskov, KirillKirill Meretskov Кирилл Афанасьевич Мерецков с сыном Владимиром (cropped).jpg 18970607–1968 Oct 1944 Army
Beria, LavrentiyLavrentiy Beria Lavrentiy Beria (close-up).jpg 1899–1953 Jul 1945 NKVD/MGB
Sokolovsky, VasilyVasily Sokolovsky Vasily Sokolovsky.jpg 18970721–1968 Jul 1946 Army
Bulganin, NikolaiNikolai Bulganin Bundesarchiv Bild 183-29921-0001, Bulganin, Nikolai Alexandrowitsch.jpg 18950530–1975 Nov 1947 Political
Bagramyan, IvanIvan Bagramyan[3] Баграмян Иван Христофорович.jpg 18971202–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Biryuzov, SergeySergey Biryuzov Sergey Biryuzov.jpg 19040821–1964 Mar 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Grechko, AndreiAndrei Grechko Andrei Grechko 3.jpg 19030117–1976 Mar 1955 Army
Yeremenko, AndreiAndrei Yeremenko Маршал Советского Союза Герой Советского Союза Андрей Иванович Ерёменко (cropped).jpg 1892–1970 Mar 1955 Army
Moskalenko, KirillKirill Moskalenko Kirill Moskalenko 01.jpg 1902–1985 Mar 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Chuikov, VasilyVasily Chuikov Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov.jpg 19000212–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Zakharov, MatveiMatvei Zakharov Matvei Zakharov 1.jpg 18980817–1972 May 1959 Army
Golikov, FilippFilipp Golikov Маршал Советского Союза Филипп Иванович Голиков.jpg 19000629–1980 May 1961 Army
Krylov, Nikolay IvanovichNikolay Krylov Nikolay Ivanovich Krylov 1.jpg 19030429–1972 May 1962 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Yakubovsky, IvanIvan Yakubovsky Генерал-майор И.И. Якубовский на улице Москвы.jpeg 1912–1976 Apr 1967 Army
Batitsky, PavelPavel Batitsky Pavel Batitsky.jpg 1910–1984 Apr 1968 Air Defence
Koshevoy, PyotrPyotr Koshevoy Pyotr Koshevoy wearing marshal's uniform.jpg 19041221–1976 Apr 1968 Army
Brezhnev, LeonidLeonid Brezhnev Leonid Brezhnev Portrait (1).jpg 1906–1982 May 1976 Political
Ustinov, DmitriyDmitriy Ustinov Dmitri Ustinov.jpg (cropped).jpg 1908–1984 Jul 1976 Defence Industry
Kulikov, ViktorViktor Kulikov Куликов Виктор Георгиевич.jpg 19211921–2013 Jan 1977 Army
Ogarkov, NikolaiNikolai Ogarkov Nikolai Ogarkov 1 (enlarged).jpg 19171030–1994 Jan 1977 Army
Sokolov, SergeiSergey Sokolov Sergey Leonidovich Sokolov.jpg 1911 1911–2012 Feb 1978 Army
Akhromeyev, SergeiSergey Akhromeyev Sergey Akhromeyev (cropped).jpg 19230505–1991 Mar 1983 Army
Kurkotkin, SemyonSemyon Kurkotkin Semyon Kurkotkin 2.jpg 19170213–1990 Mar 1983 Army
Petrov, Vasily IvanovichVasily Petrov Marshal Vasily Ivanovich Petrov.jpg 19170115 1917–2014 Mar 1983 Army
Yazov, DmitryDmitry Yazov Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazov 1.jpg 192311081924–2020 Apr 1990 Army

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joseph Stalin was Generalissimus of the Soviet Union from 1945
  2. ^ Konstantin Rokossovsky was also a Marshal of Poland from 1949
  3. ^ also known as Hovhannes Baghramian

External links[edit]