Boris Shaposhnikov

Boris Mikhaylovich Shaposhnikov (Russian: Бори́с Миха́йлович Ша́пошников) (October 2 [O.S. September 20] 1882 – March 26, 1945) was a Soviet military commander, Chief of the Staff of the Red Army, and Marshal of the Soviet Union.

Boris Shaposhnikov
Boris Shaposhnikov 02.jpg
Boris Mikhailovitch Shaposhnikov
Native name
Russian: Бори́с Ша́пошников
Birth nameBoris Mikhailovitch Shaposhnikov
Born(1882-10-02)October 2, 1882
Zlatoust, Ufa Governorate
Russian Empire
DiedMarch 26, 1945(1945-03-26) (aged 62)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Allegiance Russian Empire (1901–1917)
 Soviet Russia (1917–1922)
 Soviet Union (1922–1945)
Years of service1901–1945
RankColonel (Imperial Army)
Marshal of the Soviet Union (Red Army)
Commands heldLeningrad Military District
Moscow Military District
Chief of the General Staff
Volga Military District
Battles/warsWorld War I
Russian Civil War
World War II
Other workMozg Armii (The Brain of the Army), 1929


Shaposhnikov (top right) with other prominent Soviet military commanders, including three future Marshals of the Soviet Union, 1921

Shaposhnikov, born at Zlatoust, near Chelyabinsk in the Urals, had Orenburg Cossack origins.[1] He joined the army of the Russian Empire in 1901 and graduated from the Nicholas General Staff Academy in 1910, reaching the rank of colonel in the Caucasus Grenadiers division in September 1917 during World War I.[2] Also in 1917, unusually for an officer of his rank, he supported the Russian Revolution,[which?] and in May 1918 joined the Red Army.[2]

Shaposhnikov was one of the few Red Army commanders with formal military training, and in 1921 he became 1st Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army's General Staff, where he served until 1925. He was appointed commander of the Leningrad Military District in 1925 and then of the Moscow Military District in 1927. From 1928 to 1931 he served as Chief of the Staff of the Red Army, replacing Mikhail Tukhachevsky, with whom he had a strained relationship.[3] He was then demoted to command of the Volga Military District from April 1931 to 1932 as a result of slanderous accusations of belonging to a clandestine organization by an arrested staff officer.[2] In 1932 he was appointed commandant of the Red Army's Frunze Military Academy, then in 1935 returned to the command of the Leningrad region. In 1937 he was appointed Chief of the General Staff, in succession to Alexander Ilyich Yegorov, a victim of a Case of Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization secret trial during Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of the Red Army. In May 1940 he was appointed a Marshal of the Soviet Union.[4]

Despite his background as a Tsarist officer, Shaposhnikov won the respect and trust of Stalin. Due to his status as a professional officer, he did not join the Communist Party until 1939.[5] This may have helped him avoid Stalin's suspicions. The price he paid for his survival during the purges was collaboration in the destruction of Tukhachevsky and many other colleagues. Stalin showed his admiration for the officer by always keeping a copy of Shaposhnikov's most important work, Mozg Armii (Мозг армии, "The Brain of the Army") (1929), on his desk.[6] Shaposhnikov was one of the few men whom Stalin addressed by his Christian name and patronymic.[5][7] Mozg Armii has remained on the curriculum of the General Staff Academy since its publication in 1929.[8]

Fortunately for the Soviet Union, Shaposhnikov had a fine military mind and high administrative skills.[9] He combined these talents with his position in Stalin's confidence to rebuild the Red Army leadership after the purges. He obtained the release from the Gulag of 4,000 officers deemed necessary for this operation.[citation needed] In 1939 Stalin accepted Shaposhnikov's plan for a rapid buildup of the Red Army's strength. Although the plan was not completed before the German invasion of June 1941, it had advanced sufficiently to save the Soviet Union from complete disaster.[10]

Shaposhnikov with Stalin, Ribbentrop, and Molotov at the signing of German–Soviet Frontier Treaty

Shaposhnikov planned the 1939 invasion of Finland, but was much less optimistic about its duration than Stalin and the campaign's commander Kliment Voroshilov.[11] This Winter War (1939-1940) did not deliver the immediate success the Soviet side had hoped for, and Shaposhnikov resigned as Chief of the General Staff in August 1940, due to ill health and to disagreements with Stalin about the conduct of that campaign.[4][5] Following the German invasion, he was reinstated (29 July 1941) as Chief of the General Staff[5] to succeed Georgy Zhukov,[4] and also became Deputy People's Commissar for Defence, the post he held until his career was cut short by ill-health in 1943. He resigned again as Chief of the General Staff due to ill-health on 10 May 1942.[5] He held the position of commandant of the Voroshilov Military Academy until his death in 1945. Shaposhnikov had groomed his successor as Chief of Staff, Aleksandr Vasilevsky, and remained an influential and respected advisor to Stalin until his death.[4][5]

Honours and awardsEdit

  Russian Empire
  Soviet Union

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ A. Shishov. 100 Great Cossacks
  2. ^ a b c Smele 2015, p. 1012.
  3. ^ Samuelson & Shlykov 2000, p. 98.
  4. ^ a b c d Wells 2013, p. 287.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Glantz & House 2009, p. 38.
  6. ^ The Journal of Historical Review: 1996-1997, Volume 16 1996, p. 28.
  7. ^ Radzinsky 2011, p. 472.
  8. ^ Aldis & McDermott 2000.
  9. ^ The Journal of Historical Review 1996-1997, Volume 16 1996, p. 28.
  10. ^ Ringer 2006, p. 143.
  11. ^ Kulkov, Rzheshevskii & Shukman 2014, p. xxv.


  • Aldis, Anne C.; McDermott, Roger N., eds. (2004). Russian Military Reform, 1992-2002. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-1357-5468-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Glantz, David M.; House, Jonathan (2009). To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1630-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Kulkov, E. N.; Rzheshevskii, Oleg Aleksandrovich; Shukman, Harold (2014). Stalin and the Soviet-Finnish War, 1939-1940. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-1352-8294-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Radzinsky, Edvard (2011). Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-3077-5468-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Ringer, Ronald E. (2006). Excel HSC Modern History. Pascal Press. ISBN 978-1-7412-5246-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Samuelson, Lennart; Shlykov, Vitaly (2009). Plans For Stalin's War Machine: Tukhachevskii and Military-Economic Planning, 1925-1941. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-3122-2527-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Smele, Jonathan D. (2015). Historical Dictionary of the Russian Civil Wars, 1916-1926: Volume 2 of Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-5281-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wells, Anne Sharp (2013). Historical Dictionary of World War II: The War against Germany and Italy: Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-7944-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • "The Journal of Historical Review: 1996-1997, Volume 16". The Journal of Historical Review. The University of Wisconsin - Madison: Institute for Historical Review. 1996.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Chief of the Staff of the Red Army
May 1928 – April 1931
Succeeded by
Vladimir Triandafillov
Preceded by
Alexander Yegorov
Chief of the Staff of the Red Army
10 May 1937 – August 1940
Succeeded by
Kirill Meretskov
Preceded by
Georgy Zhukov
Chief of the Staff of the Red Army
29 July 1941 – 11 May 1942
Succeeded by
Aleksandr Vasilevsky