Leonid Govorov

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Marshal of the Soviet Union Leonid Govorov (on a postal stamp)

Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov (Russian Леонид Александрович Говоров) (February 22, 1897 - March 19, 1955), Soviet military commander, was born in the village of Butyrki in central Russia (now in Kirov Oblast). His father was a sailor. He attended a technical high school in Yelabuge and enrolled in the ship-building department of Petrograd Polytechnic Institute. In December 1916, however, he transferred to the Konstantinovskye Artillery School and in 1917 became an artillery officer.

When the Russian Revolution broke out and the Russian Army disintegrated Govorov returned home, but was later conscripted into the White Guard army of Aleksandr Kolchak. He soon deserted and joined the Red Army, but this episode was later held against him. In the Russian Civil War he served under Vasily Blyukher in the Crimea against the forces of Graf Pyotr Vrangel and was twice wounded, winning the Order of the Red Banner.

During the 1920s and '30s Govorov held a series of artillery commands, and also completed courses at the Frunze Military Academy. In 1936 Govorov founded the military academy of Red Army General Staff, and was also head of artillery in the Kiev Military District. In 1938 he was appointed as instructor in tactics at the Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy.

This was the period of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. Govorov, as a former member of the Kolchak army and a former subordinate of Blyukher, who was executed in 1938, was lucky to survive. At one point he was dismissed from his position and threatened with arrest, but the intervention of Marshal Kliment Voroshilov and Soviet head of state Mikhail Kalinin saved him.

In 1939 the Soviet-Finnish War broke out, and Govorov was appointed chief of artillery of the 7th Army. In this post he commanded the massive artillery assault that allowed the Soviet breakthrough along the Mannerheim Line in 1940. For this was awarded the Order of the Red Star and the rank of division commander. He was then appointed Deputy Inspector-General of Artillery of the Red Army.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Govorov was appointed Director of Artillery on the Western Front, in eastern Poland and Byelorussia. In this command Govorov came to the attention of General Georgi Zhukov, who became his patron. He played a leading role in the defensive battles around Moscow in December 1941 and in the Soviet counter-offensives during the winter of 1941-42. As a result he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General of Artillery.

In April 1942 Govorov was appointed Soviet commander in Leningrad, a city which had been surrounded by the German and Finnish armies since November 1941 and which had endured a terrible famine during the winter of 1941-42 (see Siege of Leningrad). Here Govorov's background as an artilleryman and master of positional warfare was most valuable, since the city was under constant shelling, and one of Govorov's tasks was to lauch an artillery counter-offensive against the German guns. In January 1943 he commanded the Leningrad forces in the combined attack called Operation Spark, which captured Schlisselberg and broke the German blockade of Leningrad. In June 1944, during the liberation of the Northern Leningrad region and subsequent invasion of Finland he was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet forces advanced south and west from Leningrad in 1944, Govorov commanded the Red Army artillery during the liberation of Novgorod, the reoccupation of Estonia and Latvia, and the advance into Poland.

In the postwar years Govorov was commander of the Leningrad Military District, and then Chief Inspector of Ground Forces. In 1948 he was appointed Commander of National Air Defense Forces, and in 1952 he also became Deputy Minister of Defense. In these posts he oversaw the modernisation of the Soviet air defense system for the age of the jet airplane and the atomic bomb. But Govorov was by this time suffering from chronic heart disease, and died in March 1955.fi:Leonid Govorov

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