Yazov, Dmitry Timofeyevich

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(b. 1923), minister of defense and marshal of the Soviet Union.

A veteran of the Great Patriotic War, Dmitry Yazov joined the army as an enlisted man before he was commissioned in 1942 and served as a combat infantry officer. In the postwar decade Yazov rose through the officer ranks and attended the Frunze Military Academy from 1956 to 1958. He spent the next decade in service with Soviet Group of Forces in Germany, in the Leningrad Military District, and in Cuba during the missile crisis. From 1968 to 1970 he attended the Voroshilov Military Academy of the General Staff. Yazov went on to command the Thirty-fourth Army Corps and Fourth Army. From 1976 to 1979 he headed the Main Directorate for Cadres in the Ministry of Defense. There followed a series of senior positions: deputy commander of the Far Eastern Military District, commander of the Central Group of Force, and commander of the Central Asian Military District. In 1987, in the aftermath of the Rust Affair, Yazov was appointed minister of defense to replace Marshal Sokolov. Yazov oversaw the Ministry during the final days of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, the negotiation of key arms control agreements, and a period of mounting criticism of the military under glasnost and perestroika. During his tenure Soviet forces were used to intervene in domestic hot spots in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Baltic Republics. In 1991 Yazov joined an eight-man junta, the State Committee of the Emergency Situation, composed of senior party, military, and security service personnel, who gambled on a putsch to remove Gorbachev and prevent the dismemberment of the Union. Between August 19 and 21, Yazov was responsible for the movement of forces to ensure an orderly transfer of power. He failed and the coup collapsed. Yazov was arrested for his part in the coup and sent to jail, but in February 1994 he received a parliamentary amnesty. In 1998 Yazov was appointed as an advisor to the Directorate of International Cooperation in the Ministry of Defense.

See also: afghanistan, relations with; arms control; august 1991 putsch


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Jacob W. Kipp