Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, March 4, 2019

Who Was Boris Shaposhnikov?

Boris Mikhailovitch Shaposhnikov  (1882–1945) served with distinction in the tsar's army, the Red Forces in the Russian Civil War, and as Josef Stalin's Army Chief of Staff in the opening days of World War II. Born in Zlatoust, in Central Asia, he joined the Russian Army in 1901 and graduated from the Imperial Nicholas Military Academy in 1910 in St. Petersburg (later Petrograd, Leningrad, and then back to St. Petersburg), Russia. 

During World War I he served in staff positions, becoming a regiment commander in October 1917; in December of the same year he was elected commander of the Caucasian Grenadier Division, with the rank of colonel. Demobilized from the Russian Army the following March, Shaposhnikov volunteered for the Red Army in May 1918, subsequently holding various staff positions on the Supreme Military Council and in the People’s Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs of the Ukraine. He became the most trusted of the former tsarist officer who served with the Reds and was appointed chief of the Intelligence Section of the Field Staff of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic in August 1919 and chief of the Field Staffs Operations Directorate in October 1919.

Photos from Top: 1917, Tsarist Officer; 1939 with Stalin as Chief of Staff; 1982 Commemorative Stamp for Centenary of His Birth.

Between 1921 and 1925, he served with the Army General Staff. In 1925, he was named the commanding officer of the Leningrad Military District. Between 1928 and 1932, he was the commanding officer of the Moscow Military District and then the Privolzhsk (Volga) Military District. His book, Mozg Armii (The Brain of the Army), was published in 1929; it was a required reading for a generation of Soviet army officers. In 1930, he finally joined the Communist Party. In 1932, he was appointed commandant of the Frunze Military Academy in Moscow, Russia. Between 1935 and 1937, he was once again the commander of the Leningrad Military District. 

In 1937, he was named Chief of the General Staff. In 1940, he was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union. Shaposhnikov first involvement in WWII came in the form of planning the invasion of Finland, the mediocre result of each resulted in his resignation from his position as the Chief of the General Staff in August 1940 with the excuse of poor health. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, he was reappointed as the Chief of the General Staff and held that position until Nov 1942. For several months in 1943 he was the Deputy People's Commissar for Defense, resigning due to declining health. Until his death in 1945, he was the commandant of the Voroshilov Military Academy of the USSR Army General Staff in Moscow. A marshal of the Soviet Union, he was buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow.

Source:  World War II Database


  1. A remarkable career, starting with the largely ignored Russian war with the Ottomans.
    Also impressive that he survived being killed by Stalin, especially given his involvement with catastrophes (the Finnish war, the first stages of the Nazi invasion).

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