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Marshal of the Soviet Union
|Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Marshal Sovétskogo Soyuza)
Uniform shoulder strap (1955–1990)
|Service branch||Soviet Army|
|Next higher rank||None|
|Next lower rank||Chief marshal of the branch|
|Equivalent ranks||Admiral of the fleet 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, and to the five-star rank in anglophone armed forces.
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
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 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.
List of Marshals of the Soviet Union
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|
|Kliment Voroshilov||1881–1969||Nov 1935||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||1878–1953||Mar 1943||Political|
|Ivan Konev||1897–1973||Feb 1944||Army|
|Leonid Govorov||1897–1955||Jun 1944||Army|
|Konstantin Rokossovsky||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||1897–1982||Mar 1955||Army|
|Sergey Biryuzov||1904–1964||Mar 1955||Army/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|
- Generalissimus of the Soviet Union
- Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union
- Marshal of the Russian Federation
- History of Russian military ranks
- Military ranks of the Soviet Union
- Marshal of the branch
- Chief marshal of the branch
- Field Marshal of Imperial Russia
- Ranks and insignia of the Red Army and Navy 1935–1940, and 1940–1943
- Ranks and rank insignia of the Soviet Armed Forces 1943–1955, and 1955–1991
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