Nikolai Ogarkov

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Hero of the Soviet Union

Nikolai Vasilyevich Ogarkov
Nikolai Ogarkov 1 (enlarged).jpg
Native name
Николай Васильевич Огарков
Nickname(s)"Formidable soldier"
«грозный солдат»
Born(1917-10-30)30 October 1917
Molokovo, near Tver, Russian Republic
Died23 January 1994(1994-01-23) (aged 76)
Moscow, Russia
Allegiance Soviet Union
Years of service1937–1994
RankMarshal of the Soviet Union (1977-1991)
Commands heldSoviet General Staff
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union
Order of Lenin
Order of the Red Banner
Order of Suvorov
Order of the Patriotic War
Order of the Red Star

Nikolai Vasilyevich Ogarkov (Russian: Николай Васильевич Огарков; 30 October 1917 in the village of Molokovo, Tver Governorate – 23 January 1994, Moscow) was a prominent Soviet military personality. He was promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1977. Between 1977 and 1984, he was Chief of the General Staff of the USSR. He became widely known in the West when he became the Soviet military's spokesman following the shootdown of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Moneron Island in September 1983. He was dismissed as Chief of the General Staff on 6 September 1984.[1]

The revolution in military affairs[edit]

Ogarkov was a strong advocate of reconstructing the huge, unwieldy Soviet military machine into a smaller, more compact strike force based around advanced technology. In a candid exchange with an American journalist in 1982, he had admitted that "Soviet technology is a generation or two behind America. In your country, even small children play with computers. We do not even have them in every office of the Defense Ministry. And for reasons you well know, we cannot easily make computers available in our society. Economic reforms are sorely needed, but they will most likely also entail political reforms." This openness was in sharp contrast with the anti-American rhetoric he displayed during the aftermath of the KAL-007 shootdown. Aside from Ogarkov's belief that fundamental changes needed to be made to the Soviet socioeconomic status quo, he also ran afoul of army officers who believed in a more traditional World War II style of warfare. In a 1984 article in the army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, Ogarkov outlined his vision for modernizing the Soviet military.

Ogarkov's ousting[edit]

Ogarkov was fired by the Politburo on 6 September 1984 in both his capacity of Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister of Defense, and was replaced by Sergey Akhromeyev.[1]

The political analyst Ilya Zemtsov has argued that Ogarkov's removal was the result of Grigory Romanov's failed ambitions to succeed Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary. According to Zemtsov, Romanov had been trying to force a crisis of succession where his control of the armed forces, via his good relations to Ogarkov, would have tipped a split within the Politburo to his favor. Furthermore, the Politburo was worried about Ogarkov's rapid ascension: Ogarkov had already weakened the power of the Main Political Administration, the organisation tasked with keeping the military under party control, and he had gained access to the Defense Council, though not as a voting member.[2] Romanov, who was preparing for a diplomatic mission, could not protect Ogarkov from being dismissed from his positions for "unpartylike tendencies".[3]

Raymond L. Garthoff has written that although "the reasons for Ogarkov's abrupt removal are not known, there is little question that they concerned matters of defense allocation". Contrary to Zemtsov, Garthoff argued that "There is no indication that Ogarkov was involved in factional political infighting".[1]

Ogarkov was soon after made commander of a newly created Western theater of war command.[4]



In 2003, a regional museum was opened in Molokovo. The museum is named after Ogarkov and presents expositions about his life.[5]

Nikolai Ogarkov in popular culture[edit]

  • In establishing one of the animating ideas for his novel, Breakpoint, Richard Clarke includes a discussion of technological advantage in revolution in military affairs using the precedent of the end of the Cold War. He characterizes Ogarkov as the first Soviet military leader who "realized that the gap [in technology] had gotten so wide that they could not catch up. So they gave up ...".[6]


  1. ^ a b c Garthoff, Raymond L. (1994). The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. p. 186–187. ISBN 0-8157-3060-8.
  2. ^ Zemcov, Ilja (1988). Chernenko: The Last Bolshevik: The Soviet Union on the Eve of Perestroika. Transaction Publishers. pp. [ 262, 261. ISBN 0887382606.
  3. ^ Mitchell, Judson (1990). Getting to the Top in the USSR: Cyclical Patterns in the Leadership Succession Process. Hoover Institution Press. p. 124. ISBN 0817989226.
  4. ^ Garthoff, Raymond L. (1994). The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. p. 188. ISBN 0-8157-3060-8.
  5. ^ Культура (in Russian). Администрация Молоковского района. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  6. ^ Clarke, Richard A. (2007). Breakpoint. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-399-15378-5.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Viktor Kulikov
Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union
7 January 1977 – September 1984
Succeeded by
Sergey Akhromeyev