Mikhail Petrovich Minin (Russian: Михаил Петрович Минин) (July 29, 1922 – January 10, 2008) was a Russian Soviet soldier who was the first to enter the Reichstag building on April 30, 1945 during the Battle of Berlin, and the first soldier to mount the flag on the Reichstag building at 10:40 pm.
The iconic picture showing a Georgian soldier, Meliton Kantaria, fixing a pole with the hammer-and-sickle flag blowing in the wind was posed on the Reichstag roof two days later, on May 2, 1945. The night that the Reichstag was taken by Minin's platoon there was no photographer available.
Mikhail Minin was born in 1922 in the village of Vanino, in western Russia's Pskov Oblast. In June 1941 he volunteered to join the army to fight against Nazi Germany. He took part in battles to liberate Leningrad from blockade and made his way across the fronts from Leningrad to Berlin.
The Battle of Berlin
Joseph Stalin had urged his troops to mount the flag on the Reichstag building no later than May 1, 1945. Minin's superiors had told the soldiers that any piece of red cloth fixed to the building would symbolize that the battle was won.
Minin recalled in a recent interview in a German documentary, the "War of the Century", that by the time the building needed to be stormed, morale among the victorious Soviet soldiers was low. They knew the building could only be taken on foot and it was still heavily defended. So his commanders decided to launch a night attack and Minin was put in charge of the platoon.
“Nobody really wanted to die that night because the war was already won,” he declared. “Even a promise by our officers that those who captured the building would get the highest decoration of Hero of the Soviet Union called forth few volunteers. Except for my little company.” The four men G. Zagitov, A. Lisimenko, A. Bobrov and M. Minin made their way towards the Reichstag they were met by heavy fire.
Minin later reported
|“||Running in front was Giya Zagitov, who had a flashlight with him. That flashlight helped us to pass through the damaged stairs. All the corridors linked to the stairs were cleared by grenades and long submachinegun bursts.
Right before reaching the attic I tore a one and half meter pipe off the wall to serve as a flagpole. After reaching the spacious attic, we faced the problem of getting to the roof. Again G. Zagitov found a solution - with his flashlight he noticed in the darkness a heavy winch and two chains going to the top. We climbed the chains and then through a tiny window got out to the roof somewhere on the western side of the building. There near a barely noticeable column Zagitov and I began setting up our Red Banner. Suddenly an explosion lighted up the roof and Lisimenko found our old reference-point - a sculpture of a bronze horse and a large woman in a crown. It was immediately decided to set the banner on the sculpture.
The guys raised me onto the horse’s back which shook from the explosions, and then I fixed the banner right in the crown of the bronze giantess.
We checked the time. It was 22:40 local time.
Minin was recognized for his feat, but was not rewarded as one would expect: even though the brigade's commanders requested that all soldiers in Minin's platoon be awarded the Hero of Soviet Union decoration, they only received a lower-ranking decoration, the Order of the Red Banner. As there were no photos taken when the flag was put on the roof on 10 p.m., other photos were taken afterwards to recreate the event for the camera.
The details were documented in part 19/19 of a German documentary from 2004 called The War of the Century. The documentary includes Minin revisiting the Reichstag and meeting a German soldier who was hiding inside.
Following the end of World War II, Minin continued his army service. In 1959 he graduated from the V. V. Kuibyshev Military Engineering Academy (Russian: Военно-инженерная академия) in Moscow and joined Strategic Rocket Forces. He retired from the military in 1969 as a lieutenant colonel.
Mikhail Minin moved to Pskov in 1977 and decided to stay in the city afterwards. Minin had to wait five decades for a greater recognition, finally granted to him with an official honour by President Boris Yeltsin on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Mikhail Minin died on January 10, 2008 and was buried in his native city of Pskov on January 12, 2008.