Boris Shaposhnikov

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Marshal of the Soviet Union Boris Shaposhnikov (with Joseph Stalin, 1935)
Marshal of the Soviet Union Boris Shaposhnikov (with Joseph Stalin, 1935)

Boris Mikhailovitch Shaposhnikov (Russian: Борис Михайлович Шапошников) (October 2 1882 - March 26 1945), Soviet military commander, was born at Zlatoust, near Chelyabinsk in the Urals. He joined the army of the Russian Empire in 1901 and graduated from the Nikolaevsk General Staff Academy in 1910, reaching the rank of colonel in the Caucasus Grenadiers division during World War I. In 1917, unusually for an officer of his rank, he sided with the Russian Revolution and in 1918 joined the Red Army.

Shaposhnikov was one of the few Red Army commanders with formal military training, and in 1921 he joined the Army's General Staff, where he served until 1925, when he was appointed commander of the Leningrad military region. From 1928 to 1932 he commanded the Moscow military region, then the Privolzhsk military region. In 1932 he was appointed commandant of the Red Army's Frunze Military Academy, then in 1935 returned to the command of the Leningrad region. In 1937 he was appointed Chief of the General Staff, in succession to Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a victim of Stalin's Great Purge of the Red Army. In 1940 he was appointed a Marshal of the Soviet Union.

Despite his background as a Tsarist officer, Shaposhnikov won the respect and trust of Stalin. Ironically his status as a professional officer—he did not join the Communist Party until 1930—may have helped him avoid Stalin's suspicions. The price he paid for his survival during the purges was collaboration in the destruction of Tukhachevsky and many other colleagues. Stalin's admiration was shown by the fact that he always kept a copy of Shaposhnikov's most important work, Mozg Armii ("The Brain of the Army") (1929), on his desk.

Fortunately for the Soviet Union, Shapsohnikov had a fine military mind and high administrative skills. He combined these talents with his position in Stalin's confidence to rebuild the Red Army leadership after the purges. Mozg Armii was for decades required reading for every Soviet officer. In 1939 Stalin accepted Shaposhnikov's plan for a rapid build up of the Red Army's strength. Although the plan was not completed before the German invasion of June 1941, it was sufficiently advanced to save the Soviet Union from complete disaster.

Shaposhnikov resigned as Chief of the General Staff in August 1940, officially due to ill-health but possibly as a result of a dispute with Stalin. At the time of the German invasion, he was reinstated as Chief of the General Staff and also became Deputy People's Commissar for Defence, posts he held until his career was cut short by ill-health in 1943. He held the position of commandant of the Voroshilov Military Academy until his death in Michailowitsch Schaposchnikow ru:Шапошников, Борис Михайлович


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