Vasily Danilovich Sokolovsky
|Born||July 21, 1897|
Kozliki, Russian Empire
|Died||May 10, 1968 (aged 70)|
Moscow, Soviet Union
|Years of service||1918–1960|
|Rank||Marshal of the Soviet Union|
|Commands held||43rd Rifle Division|
Chief of the General Staff
|Battles/wars||Russian Civil War|
World War II
|Awards||Hero of the Soviet Union|
Order of Lenin (8)
Order of the Red Banner (2)
Order of the October Revolution
Order of Suvorov, 1st Class (3)
Order of Kutuzov, 1st Class (3)
Sokolovsky was born into a peasant family in Kozliki, a small town in the province of Grodno (now in Białystok County in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire). He worked as a teacher in a rural school, where he took part in a number of protests and demonstrations against the Tsar.
He began his formal military schooling in 1919, but was frequently called up by the Red Army and forced to leave his schoolwork. He graduated in 1921 and was made the chief of staff of a division stationed in Turkmenistan. He was wounded during a battle near Samarkand and subsequently decorated for bravery. After the Russian Civil War he held a number of staff positions, eventually becoming the chief of staff for the Moscow Military District and then the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, the position he held at the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa.
In December 1941, when German forces were a mere 20 kilometers from Moscow, Sokolovsky was made the chief of staff of the Western Front, where he was able to help co-ordinate the Soviet winter counter-attacks that forced the Germans away from Moscow. He remained in this position until February 1943, when he became the commander of Western Front.
He led this front through the Kursk battles and until April 1944, when the Western Front was broken into two parts and Sokolovsky was made chief of staff of 1st Ukrainian Front. He remained in this position until the end of the war. As the chief of staff of 1st Ukrainian, Sokolovsky helped plan and execute the Berlin operation, among others. After the World War II, Sokolovsky was the deputy commander in chief of Soviet forces in East Germany until July 3, 1946.
On that day Sokolovsky was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union, and also made commander in chief of Soviet forces in East Germany and head of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany. His walking out of a meeting of the Allied Control Council on 20 March 1948 as the Soviet representative on that body effectively immobilized it from that date. In 1949 he was made the Deputy Minister of Defense, a position he held until 1952, when he was made the Chief of the General Staff. In 1960, Sokolovsky was made the Inspector-General of the Ministry of Defense. He retained this position until his death on May 10, 1968.
Sokolovsky became widely known in the West with the publication in 1962 of Military Strategy, a book that contained rare detail on Soviet thinking about war, particularly nuclear war.
Sokolovsky was a key member of the Soviet war command during World War II and known as an excellent planner and exceptional military leader. He was particularly well trusted by Marshal Georgy Zhukov. The urn containing Sokolovsky’s ashes is buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
Sokolovsky was a prominent figure in William T. Vollmann's 2005 National Book Award winning novel, Europe Central.
Honours and awards
- Soviet Union
- Foreign awards
|Order of the Red Banner (Mongolia)|
|Patriotic Order of Merit in gold, twice (East Germany)|
|Golden Order of the Partisan Star (Yugoslavia)|
|Commander's Cross of the Virtuti Militari (Poland)|
|Cross of Grunwald, 3rd class (Poland)|
|Medal "For Warsaw 1939-1945" (Poland)|
|Medal "For Oder, Neisse and the Baltic" (Poland)|
|Order of the White Lion, 1st class (Czechoslovakia)|
|Medal "In Commemoration of the Battle of Dukla Pass" (Czechoslovakia)|
|Medal of the Order of the Slovak National Uprising (Czechoslovakia)|
|Commander, Legion of Merit (USA)|
|Grand Officer of Legion of Honour (France)|
|Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division) (UK)|
|Order of the Republic (Tuvan People's Republic, 31 March 1942)|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vasily Sokolovsky.|
- Newspaper clippings about Vasily Sokolovsky in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)
| Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union
June 1952 – April 1960