Sokolovsky, Vasily Danilovich

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(18971968), marshal of the Soviet Union (1946), military commander, and theoretician.

Native of the Hrodna region, from a peasant family, Vasily Sokolovky entered the Red Army in February 1918 and studied in a short course for commanders. During the Civil War, he served with cavalry units. He later was transferred to central Asia and was attached to the Turkestan Military District and commanded units in Samarkand and Fergana, which were engaged in fighting against the Basmashi guerrillas. In 1921 he graduated from the military academy. Between 1922 and 1930, he served as chief of staff of a division and corps, and from 1930 to 1935 as commander of a division and chief of staff of the Volga, Ural, and Moscow Military Districts. He joined the Communist Party in 1931. Sokolovsky was fortunate not to come under suspicion during the Great Terror. In May 1940 he received the rank of lieutenant general. In February 1941 he was appointed as deputy chief of staff of the Red Army. In the beginning of the war, after Stalin ordered the arrest and execution of the leadership of the shattered West Front, Sokolovsky was appointed chief of staff of this front (July 1941January 1942 and May 1942February 1943). Along with these appointments, he was also the chief of staff of the Western Theater (JulyOctober 1941 and May 1942). After the Battle of Moscow, the West Front, under Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev, failed in repeated attempts to break through the enemy lines, suffering massive losses for little gain, except for preventing the German units from being deployed elsewhere. Sokolovsky was involved in all these battles, and in February 1943, he was appointed commander of the West Front. His tenure in this position was marked by a lack of success even in sectors where the Red Army enjoyed a 10-1 superiority over the enemy. Sokolovsky was removed from command in April 1944 and replaced by Ivan Chernyakhovsky, and it was under his leadership that the West Front, now renamed the Third Belorussian Front, managed to roll over the enemy lines. During the great summer offensive of 1944, Sokolovsky returned to staff positions. He was attached to the First Ukrainian Front in April 1945 and took part in the Berlin Operation. Despite a rather undistinguished record during the war, Sokolovsky's star rose in the postwar years. In 1945 he was Deputy Commander of the Soviet forces in Germany, and after Zhukov's departure in 1946, the commander. In 1945 he also received the title of hero of the Soviet Union, a rarity for a staff officer. In 1946 Sokolovsky was elected to the Supreme Soviet. From 1946 to 1949 he was a member of the Allied Control Commission. In March 1946 he was the first deputy minister of the armed forces (from February 1950, war minister). In June 1952, he headed the General Staff and continued to hold the position after Stalin's death until April 1960. He was also the first deputy war minister (from 1953, minister of defense). In 1952 he was elected to the Central Committee, but was demoted to candidate member in 1961. He was removed from active command in June 1960 and was attached to the Red Army inspectorate. He is buried at the Kremlin Wall. Sokolovsky's fame rests mainly on his views on military strategy, published first in 1963, which have been studied in depth by Western strategists as the "Bible" of Soviet military doctrine.

See also: military art; military doctrine; military, soviet and post-soviet; world war ii


Sokolovskii, V. D. (1963). Soviet Military Strategy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Michael Parrish