Dmitry Yazov

Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazov (Russian: Дми́трий Тимофе́евич Я́зов; 8 November 1924 – 25 February 2020) was the last Marshal of the Soviet Union, appointed to that rank on 28 April 1990, and was the only Marshal born in Siberia. A veteran of the Great Patriotic War, Yazov served as Minister of Defence from 1987 until he was arrested for his part in the 1991 August Coup, four months before the fall of the Soviet Union.[2]

Dmitry Yazov
Дми́трий Я́зов
Marshal Dmitry Yazov.jpg
Marshal Yazov in 2013
Minister of Defence
In office
30 May 1987 – 28 August 1991
PremierNikolai Ryzhkov
Valentin Pavlov
Preceded bySergei Sokolov
Succeeded byYevgeny Shaposhnikov[1]
Personal details
Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazov

(1924-11-08)8 November 1924
Yazovo, Omsk Oblast, RSFSR, Soviet Union
Died25 February 2020(2020-02-25) (aged 95)
Moscow, Russia
Resting placeFederal Military Memorial Cemetery,
Moscow Oblast
Other political
Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1941–1991)
Military service
Allegiance Soviet Union
Branch/serviceSoviet Army
Russian Ground Forces
Years of service1941–1991
RankMarshal of the Soviet Union
Battles/warsWorld War II
Soviet–Afghan War


Early lifeEdit

He was born in the village of Yazovo, Krestinsky volost, Kalachinsky district, Omsk province. He was the son of Timofey Yakovlevich Yazov (died in 1933) and Maria Fedoseevna Yazova, who were both peasants. The family had four children.[2]

World War IIEdit

Yazov in 1941.

Yazov joined the Red Army voluntarily in November 1941, a seventeen-year-old young man, not having time to finish high school. When he joined the army, he said he was a year older than he was, saying that he was born in 1923.[3] He was enrolled in training at the Moscow Higher Military Command School (Evacuated due to the Battle of Moscow to Novosibirsk from November 2, 1941 to January 28, 1942) and graduated from it in June 1942.[4][5] He received a school graduation certificate only in 1953, already being a major.[2]

Minister of Defense Dmitry Yazov during a visit to the United States in 1989

From August 1942 he fought on the Volkhov and Leningrad fronts as commander of a rifle platoon and commander of a rifle company, platoon commander of front-line courses of junior lieutenants of the 483rd Rifle Regiment of the 177th Rifle Division of the Leningrad Front. He participated in the battles of the Siege of Leningrad, in the offensive operations of Soviet troops in the Baltic states, in the blockade of the Courland Pocket. In 1944 he joined the CPSU.[2]

Post–war military careerEdit

In 1971–1973, he commanded the 32nd Army Corps in the Crimean region of the Odessa Military District. In 1979–1980, Yazov was commander of the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia. He was commanding the Far East Military District in the northern summer of 1986, when, according to Time magazine, he made a favourable impression on General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to later promotions. He was appointed Soviet Defence Minister on 30 May 1987, after Marshal Sergei Sokolov was sacked as a result of the Mathias Rust incident two days earlier. From June 1987 to July 1990, Yazov was a candidate member of the Politburo.[6] He was a key part of Black January. Yazov was responsible for deployment of Russian OMON commando units to Latvia and Lithuania in early 1991. During the August Coup of 1991, Yazov was a member of the State Emergency Committee, for which he was removed from his post by Gorbachev. During the Yeltsin period, Yazov was prosecuted and acquitted in 1994.[citation needed]

Yazov spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina. According to the magazine Vlast' No. 41(85) of 14 October 1991 "...from the prison contacted the President with a recorded video message, where repented and called himself "an old fool"". Yazov denied ever doing so. He did accept the amnesty offered by Yeltsin, stating that he was not guilty. He was dismissed from the military service by Presidential Order and awarded a ceremonial weapon. He was awarded an order of Honor by the President of Russian Federation. Yazov later worked as a military adviser at the General Staff Academy.[7]

Despite his selection by Gorbachev for the Defence Minister's position, William Odom, in his book The Collapse of the Soviet Military, repeats Alexander Yakovlev's description of Yazov as a "mediocre officer", "fit to command a division but nothing higher".[8] Odom suggests Gorbachev was only looking for "careerists who would follow orders, any orders".

In March 2019, Yazov was tried in absentia and convicted of war crimes by a Lithuanian court for his role in the military crackdown in Lithuania in January 1991, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Russia denounced the trial as politically motivated and refused to extradite Yazov.[9]


Yazov died in Moscow on 25 February 2020 following what the Defence Ministry of Russia called "a serious and prolonged illness".[10] He is buried at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery outside Moscow.

In popular cultureEdit

Yazov appears in Tom Clancy's Cold War espionage thriller The Cardinal of the Kremlin in his capacity as Defence Minister and the superior of the titular spy Colonel Filitov.[2][11][12]

Awards and honorsEdit

President Vladimir Putin shaking hands with Yazov on his 90th birthday, 8 November 2014

Soviet UnionEdit

Russian FederationEdit


  • Order of Red Banner (Afghanistan)
  • Order of "Friendship of Peoples" (Afghanistan)
  • Medal "For the strengthening of friendship in Arms" (Bulgaria)
  • Order of Che Guevara (Cuba)
  • Order of Red Banner (Czechoslovakia)
  • Scharnhorst Order (East Germany)
  • Medal "20 years of independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
  • Medal "30 years of Victory over Japan" (Mongolia)
  • Medal "40 years of Khalkhin Gol Victory" (Mongolia)
  • Medal "50 Years of the Mongolian People's Revolution" (Mongolia)
  • Order of Civil Merit, 1st class (Syria)



  1. ^ О членах Кабинета Министров СССР
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Последний Маршал: биография Дмитрия Язова
  3. ^ Последний маршал СССР Язов оценил реформы Горбачева, Сердюкова и Шойгу.// МК, 8-14 ноября 2013 г.
  4. ^ "Выпуск 1942'го года". Фото кремлёвцев по выпускам. МосВОКУ им. Верховного Совета РСФСР. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  5. ^ "Краткая история училища". МосВОКУ им. Верховного Совета РСФСР. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  6. ^ "Dmitry Yazov". Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  7. ^ Ветераны Вооруженных Сил России, принимавшие участие во встрече с Президентом
  8. ^ Odom, 1998, p. 111
  9. ^ "Lithuania convicts Russians of war crimes under Soviet rule". BBC News. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Last marshal of the Soviet Union Dmitry Yazov dies".
  11. ^ Умер маршал Советского Союза Дмитрий Язов
  12. ^ Будем помнить вас, товарищ маршал
  13. ^ "За заслуги перед Отечеством". НТВ. 2009-11-02. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  14. ^ "Министр обороны России вручил Маршалу Советского Союза Дмитрию Язову орден «За заслуги перед Отечеством» III степени". 2020-02-04.
  15. ^ "Путин наградил участника ГКЧП Дмитрия Язова орденом Почета". 2004-11-17. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24. Retrieved 2013-08-19.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Sergei Sokolov
Minister of Defence of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Yevgeny Shaposhnikov