Budenny, Semeon Mikhailovich

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(18831973), marshal of the Soviet Union.

Born near Rostov-on-Don to non-Cossack parents, Budenny served in Cossack regiments during the Russo-Japanese War and in World War I (receiving four St. George's Crosses for bravery as a noncommissioned officer). Having joined the Bolsheviks in 1918 and being an accomplished horseman, he organized cavalry detachments around Tsaritsyn during the civil war before creating and commanding the legendary First Cavalry Army in actions against the Whites and the Poles. From 1924 to 1937 he served as Inspector of Cavalry, reaching the exalted rank of marshal in 1935. He actively helped purge the Red Army in 1937, as commander of Moscow military district, but the Nazi invasion revealed him to be completely out of his depth in modern, mechanized warfare. As commander-in-chief of the South-West Direction of the Red Army in Ukraine and Bessarabia, Budenny was largely responsible for the disastrous loss of Kiev in August 1941. Probably only his closeness to Josef Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov (a legacy of his civil war service at Tsaritsyn/Stalingrad) saved him from execution. Instead, he was removed from frontline posts in September 1941, becoming commander of cavalry in 1943 and deputy minister of agriculture, in charge of horse breeding. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1952. Virtually uneducated but with enormous charisma (and even more enormous moustaches), Budenny became a folklore figure, a decorative accoutrement to the grey men of the postwar Soviet leadership, and a museum piece. Present at all parades and state occasions, bedecked with medals and orders, he was a living relic of the heroic days of the Civil War. Several thousand streets, settlements, and collective farms were named in his honor, as was a breed of Russian horses. He lived out his last years quietly in Moscow, pursuing equestrian interests.

See also: civil war of 19171922; cossacks; world war ii


Budyonny, Smeyon. (1972). The Path of Valour. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Vitoshnov, Sergei. (1998). Semen Budennyi. Minsk: Kuzma.

Jonathan D. Smele