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Aleksandr Vasilevsky

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Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky
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Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky

Aleksandr Mikhailovich Vasilevsky (also spelled Vasilievsky, Vasilyevsky, Vasilievskii etc, Russian: Александр Михайлович Василевский) (September 30 1895 - December 5 1977), Marshal of the Soviet Union, was the Soviet commander in the operations against Japan in 1945, and later Defence Minister.

Vasilevsky was born into a prosperous peasant family near Kostroma, east of Moscow. He studied at the Superior Technical School in St. Petersburg before entering the Aleksander's Military Law Academy (Александровская военно-юридическая академия) in 1915. He served in the army of the Russian Empire as a junior staff captain in World War I. He joined the Red Army in 1918 and took part in the Russian Civil War, but his main talents were administrative, and in the 1920s he held a series of staff positions, followed by brigade and divisional commands. During this time he formed friendships with Joseph Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov which greatly advanced his career.

In 1931 Vasilievsky graduated to command of the (Volga Region) Military District (Приволжский военный округ). His friendship with Stalin and his administrative talents seem to have been the factors which kept him safe during Stalin's Great Purge, which swept through the Red Army in 1937-38. In October 1937 he was appointed a member of the General Staff, and in November 1941, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he succeeded Boris Shaposhnikov as Chief of the General Staff.

In this position Vasilievsky's great organisational skills were shown at their best. In late 1942 he was was the General Staff representative and overall supervisor of the Stalingrad Front, and the main planner of the operations there, which led to Germany's greatest defeat on the Eastern Front. The historian David Glantz identifies Vasilievsky as the real architect of victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, arguing that Georgy Zhukov's role has been overstated. Stalin seems to have shared this view, since Vasilievsky was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union in February 1943.

Missing image
Ac.vasilievski2.jpg
Vasilevsky in Port Arthur, China, 1945

In 1943 and 1944 Vasilievsky continued to play leading organisational roles in the Soviet war effort, particularly in relation to the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. At the beginning of 1945 he was given command of the Northwestern Front as they advanced through Poland and into East Prussia. After the German surrender in May 1945, he was transferred to the Far East Front. When the Soviet Union declared war on Japan in August, he led the advance into China and Korea, Operation August Storm, defeating the Japanese Kwantung Army.

In 1948 Vasilievsky returned to Moscow to become Deputy Minister for Defence, and in March 1949 he was appointed Minister for Defence. During this period he presided over the reorganisation of the Soviet armed forces from their wartime role to that of maintaining permanent forces in Central Europe and confronting the United States in the Cold War era. In 1952 he was appointed a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Following Stalin's death in March 1953, however, he was replaced as Defence Minister by Nikolai Bulganin. Possibly his long association with Stalin was held against him: in any case he hold no further senior posts until his death in 1977.de:Alexander Michailowitsch Wassilewski ru:Василевский, Александр Михайлович

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