Marshal of the Soviet Union

Marshal of the Soviet Union
(1955 - 1994)
Marshal's Star - big shoulder board
Rank insignia Soviet Armed Forces
Introduction 1935
Rank group General officer
Navy Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union
The first five marshals of the Soviet Union from left to right: Tukhachevsky, Budyonny, Voroshilov, Blyukher and Yegorov.

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Маршал Советского Союза Russian pronunciation: [ˈmarʂəl sɐˈvʲɛtskəvə sɐˈjuzə]) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union (while the supreme rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union was proposed for Joseph Stalin after the Second World War, it was never officially approved).

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991. Forty-one people held the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. 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 OF10, and to the five-star rank in anglophone armed forces.

History of the rank

Rank insignias of Marshal of the Soviet Union
gorget patch
shoulder mark

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 September 22, 1935. On November 20, 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 May 7, 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 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 on the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Marshals fell into three generational groups.

All Marshals in the third category had been officers in World War II, except Brezhnev, who had been a military commissar, and Ustinov, who had been an arms factory manager. 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)

Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Маршал Советского Союза)
higher rank:
Generalissimus of the Soviet Union
(Генералиссимус Советского Союза)
Chief marshal of the branch
(Главный ма́ршал ро́да во́йск)

List of Marshals of the Soviet Union

Marshals G.K. Zhukov (center) and K.K. Rokossovsky (right) in 1945

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 Lifespan Promoted Service Arm or Background
Kliment Voroshilov 1881–1969 Nov 1935 Army/Political
Mikhail Tukhachevsky 1893–1937 Nov 1935 Army
Alexander Yegorov 1883–1939 Nov 1935 Army
Semyon Budyonny 1883–1973 Nov 1935 Army
Vasily Blyukher 1890–1938 Nov 1935 Army
Semyon Timoshenko 1895–1970 May 1940 Army
Grigory Kulik 1890–1950 May 1940 Army
Boris Shaposhnikov 1882–1945 May 1940 Army
Georgy Zhukov 1896–1974 Jan 1943 Army
Aleksandr Vasilevsky 1895–1977 Feb 1943 Army
Joseph Stalin[1] 1878–1953 Mar 1943 Political
Ivan Konev 1897–1973 Feb 1944 Army
Leonid Govorov 1897–1955 Jun 1944 Army
Konstantin Rokossovsky[2] 1896–1968 Jun 1944 Army
Rodion Malinovsky 1898–1967 Sep 1944 Army
Fyodor Tolbukhin 1894–1949 Sep 1944 Army
Kirill Meretskov 1897–1968 Oct 1944 Army
Lavrentiy Beria 1899–1953 Jul 1945 NKVD/MGB
Vasily Sokolovsky 1897–1968 Jul 1946 Army
Nikolai Bulganin 1895–1975 Nov 1947 Political
Ivan Bagramyan[3] 1897–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Sergey Biryuzov 1904–1964 Mar 1955 Army/Air Defence/Strategic Rocket Forces
Andrei Grechko 1903–1976 Mar 1955 Army
Andrei Yeremenko 1892–1970 Mar 1955 Army
Kirill Moskalenko 1902–1985 Mar 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Vasily Chuikov 1900–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Matvei Zakharov 1898–1972 May 1959 Army
Filipp Golikov 1900–1980 May 1961 Army
Nikolay Krylov 1903–1972 May 1962 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Ivan Yakubovsky 1912–1976 Apr 1967 Army
Pavel Batitsky 1910–1984 Apr 1968 Air Defence
Pyotr Koshevoy 1904–1976 Apr 1968 Army
Leonid Brezhnev 1906–1982 May 1976 Political
Dmitriy Ustinov 1908–1984 Jul 1976 Defence Industry
Viktor Kulikov 1921–2013 Jan 1977 Army
Nikolai Ogarkov 1917–1994 Jan 1977 Army
Sergei Sokolov 1911–2012 Feb 1978 Army
Sergei Akhromeyev 1923–1991 Mar 1983 Army
Semyon Kurkotkin 1917–1990 Mar 1983 Army
Vasily Petrov 1917–2014 Mar 1983 Army
Dmitry Yazov born 1924 Apr 1990 Army
  1. Joseph Stalin was Generalissimus of the Soviet Union from 1945
  2. Konstanty Rokossowski was also a Marshal of Poland from 1949
  3. also known as Hovhannes Baghramian

See also

External links

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