Marshal of the Soviet Union

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Marshal of the Soviet Union
Маршал Советского Союза
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 rank codeOF-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
1935–40
Gorget patch
1940–43
Sleeve chevron
1940–43
Shoulder board
1943–55

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Маршал Советского Союза, pronounced [ˈmarʂəl sɐˈvʲetskəvə 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. 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. Only Budyonny and Voroshilov would survive the Great Purge.

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 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 Ustinov, who had been People's Commissar for Armaments. Even Yazov, who was 20 when the war ended, had been a platoon commander. Brezhnev was not a professional soldier, but was still commissioned as a political commissar in the war.

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.

After the death of Marshal Yazov in 2020 there were no living Marshals of the Soviet Union.

Sequence of ranks
lower rank:
Army General
(Генерал армии)
Red Army Badge.svg
Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Маршал Советского Союза)
Higher rank:
Generalissimus of the Soviet Union
(highest)
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 branches listed are the services they served in during their respective tenures as Marshals of the Soviet Union.

Name Portrait Lifespan Promoted Service branch/Background
Kliment Voroshilov Kliment Voroshilov.jpg 1881–1969 November 1935 Political
Mikhail Tukhachevsky Mikhail Tukhachevsky.jpg 1893–1937 November 1935 Army
Alexander Yegorov Александр Егоров.jpg 1883–1939 November 1935 Army
Semyon Budyonny Будённый 1943.jpg 1883–1973 November 1935 Army
Vasily Blyukher Vasily Konstantinovich Blyukher.jpg 1890–1938 November 1935 Army
Semyon Timoshenko Маршал Советского Союза Герой Советского Союза Семён Константинович Тимошенко.jpg 1895–1970 May 1940 Army
Grigory Kulik Grigory Kulik.jpg 1890–1950 May 1940 Army
Boris Shaposhnikov Boris Shaposhnikov 02.jpg 1882–1945 May 1940 Army
Georgy Zhukov Zhukov LIFE.jpg 1896–1974 January 1943 Army
Aleksandr Vasilevsky Aleksandr Vasilevsky 4.jpg 1895–1977 February 1943 Army
Joseph Stalin[a] Cropped Stalin 1943.jpg 1878–1953 March 1943 Political
Ivan Konev Ivan Stepanovich Konev.jpg 1897–1973 February 1944 Army
Leonid Govorov Leonid Govorov 1.jpg 1897–1955 18 June 1944 Army
Konstantin Rokossovsky[b] Konstanty Rokossowski, 1945.jpg 1896–1968 29 June 1944 Army
Rodion Malinovsky Rodion Malinovsky 1.jpg 1898–1967 10 September 1944 Army
Fyodor Tolbukhin Маршал Советского Союза Ф.И. Толбухин.jpg 1894–1949 12 September 1944 Army
Kirill Meretskov Кирилл Афанасьевич Мерецков с сыном Владимиром (cropped).jpg 1897–1968 October 1944 Army
Lavrentiy Beria Lavrenty Beria.jpg 1899–1953 July 1945 NKVD/MGB
Vasily Sokolovsky Vasily Sokolovsky.jpg 1897–1968 July 1946 Army
Nikolai Bulganin Bundesarchiv Bild 183-29921-0001, Bulganin, Nikolai Alexandrowitsch.jpg 1895–1975 November 1947 Political
Ivan Bagramyan[c] Баграмян Иван Христофорович.jpg 1897–1982 March 1955 Army
Sergey Biryuzov Sergey Biryuzov.jpg 1904–1964 March 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Andrei Grechko Andrei Grechko 3.jpg 1903–1976 March 1955 Army
Andrei Yeremenko Маршал Советского Союза Герой Советского Союза Андрей Иванович Ерёменко (cropped).jpg 1892–1970 March 1955 Army
Kirill Moskalenko Kirill Moskalenko 01.jpg 1902–1985 March 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Vasily Chuikov Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov.jpg 1900–1982 March 1955 Army
Matvei Zakharov Matvei Zakharov 1.jpg 1898–1972 May 1959 Army
Filipp Golikov Маршал Советского Союза Филипп Иванович Голиков.jpg 1900–1980 May 1961 Army
Nikolay Krylov Nikolay Ivanovich Krylov 1.jpg 1903–1972 May 1962 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Ivan Yakubovsky Генерал-майор И.И. Якубовский на улице Москвы.jpeg 1912–1976 April 1967 Army
Pavel Batitsky 1910–1984 April 1968 Air Defence
Pyotr Koshevoy 1904–1976 April 1968 Army
Leonid Brezhnev Staatshoofden, portretten, Bestanddeelnr 925-6564.jpg 1906–1982 May 1976 Political
Dmitriy Ustinov Dmitry Ustinov (colorized, full).jpg 1908–1984 July 1976 Defence Industry
Viktor Kulikov Куликов Виктор Георгиевич.jpg 1921–2013 January 1977 Army
Nikolai Ogarkov Nikolai Ogarkov 1 (enlarged).jpg 1917–1994 January 1977 Army
Sergey Sokolov Sergey Leonidovich Sokolov.jpg 1911–2012 February 1978 Army
Sergey Akhromeyev Sergey Akhromeyev (cropped).jpg 1923–1991 March 1983 Army
Semyon Kurkotkin Semyon Kurkotkin 2.jpg 1917–1990 March 1983 Army
Vasily Petrov Marshal Vasily Ivanovich Petrov.jpg 1917–2014 March 1983 Army
Dmitry Yazov Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazov 1.jpg 1924–2020 April 1990 Army

See also[edit]

Notes[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.

References[edit]

External links[edit]