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Stavka was the headquarters of the Supreme Commander of the Russian armed forces (SVG, 19141918), or of the Supreme High Command of the Soviet armed forces during World War II.

During World War I, the Imperial Russian version of Stavka constituted both the highest instance of the tsarist field command and the location (successively at Baranovichi, Mogilev, and Orel) of the Supreme Commander. A succession of incumbents, including Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, Tsar Nicholas II, and Generals Mikhail Alexeyev, Alexei Brusilov, and Lavr Kornilov, wielded broad powers over wartime fronts and adjacent areas. The scale, scope, and impact of modern wartime operations demonstrated the need for such a command instance to direct, organize, and coordinate strategic actions and support among lesser headquarters, functional areas, and supporting rear. However, for reasons ranging from failed leadership to inadequate infrastructure and poor communications, the organizational reality never completely fulfilled conceptual promise. Between 1914 and March 1918, when Vladimir Lenin abolished a toothless version of Stavka upon conclusion of the Brest-Litovsk agreement, the headquarters grew from five directorates and a chancery to fifteen directorates, three chanceries, and two committees. In 1917, before occupation by the Bolsheviks in December, Stavka also served as an important center of counterrevolutionary activity.

During World War II, a Soviet version of Stavka again constituted the highest instance of military-strategic direction, but with a mixed military-civilian composition. Known successively as the High Command, Supreme Command, and Supreme High Command, Stavka functioned under Josef Stalin's immediate direction and in coordination with the Politburo and the State Defense Committee (GKO ). Stavka's role was to evaluate military-strategic situations, to adopt strategic and operational decisions, and to organize, coordinate, and support actions among field, naval, and partisan commands. The General Staff functioned as Stavka's planning and executive agent, while all-powerful Stavka representatives, including Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilevsky, frequently served as intermediaries between Moscow headquarters and major field command instances.

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


Jones, David R. (1989). "Imperial Russia's Forces at War." In Military Effectiveness, Vol.1: The First World War, eds. Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray. Boston: Unwin Hyman.

Shtemenko, S. M. (1973). The Soviet General Staff at War. 2 vols. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Bruce W. Menning

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