Alexei Innokentjewitsch Antonov

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Alexei Innokentjewitsch Antonov

Alexei Innokentjewitsch Antonow ( Russian Алексей Иннокентьевич Антонов , scientific transliteration Aleksej Innokent'evič Antonov ; born September 9, 1896 in Grodno ; † June 16, 1962 in Moscow ) was a Soviet general. He was head of the operations department of the General Staff during the Second World War and de facto chief of the Soviet General Staff during the absence of Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasilevsky . After the war, he was Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Treaty Armed Forces and Army General .

Youth and the interwar period

Both Antonov's father and grandfather were artillery officers . In Siberia his father met Tereza Ksawertewna, the daughter of an exiled Polish insurgent, and married her. Alexei was born in Grodno , the second of three children of this compound . The educated parents raised the children to be ambitious, disciplined and to love the country. Alexei Antonov soon mastered Russian fluently in Polish and also began to learn German, English and French, which would prove to be very valuable in the course of his later military studies. In addition, his father aroused his interest in the military, visiting battlefields and the summer camps of his unit with him, which gave rise to the desire to become an officer himself. These ambitions suffered a setback with his father's early death in 1908 and his mother's death (1915).

Alexei Antonow now had to support the remaining family financially and therefore had to become a factory worker. On the side, however, he managed to start studying physics and mathematics in Saint Petersburg . The beginning of the First World War forced him to interrupt his studies. Antonov was drafted into the army and initially sent on a non-commissioned officer course. In the spring of 1917 his regiment was assigned to the 8th Army on the Southwest Front, led by General Brusilov . Antonov took part in the Brusilov offensive , which after initial successes ended in defeat, where he himself was wounded.

After the October Revolution , he joined the newly formed Red Army in 1918 , in which he experienced his first deployment in the civil war in 1919 as deputy chief of staff of the 3rd Brigade on the southern front. After further fighting, he was promoted and eventually served as chief of staff of the 45th Rifle Brigade of the 15th Rifle Division. His superiors praised his reputation with superiors and subordinates as well as his expertise and zeal for work. In 1928 he joined the Communist Party and was sent to the military academy "MW Frunze" . After graduating from the Academy in 1931, he became Chief of Staff of the 46th Rifle Division. A year later he returned to the academy, where he completed a staff course lasting several months with distinction and his suitability as chief of staff of a larger association and also for the general staff was recognized.

In August 1935 he was appointed chief of the Kharkov Military District Operations Department and played a key role in planning and conducting the Red Army's largest military exercise before 1941, the 1935 Kiev Military District maneuver . 65,000 men, 1,000 tanks and 600 aircraft with a front width of 250 km took part in this exercise. Rated a success by Kliment Voroshilov and Iona Jakir , the maneuver formed the springboard for Antonov to the first course at the General Staff Academy , which he completed in 1936 as the best course next to Matwei Sakharov and Leonid Goworow . His course assessment highlighted his keen intellect, zeal and energy. However, his friendship with Alexander Wassilewski , who later became Chief of Staff of the Red Army, who also attended this course, became decisive . This course was originally intended to last 18 months, but has been shortened for the better students to fill the gaps in the Red Army headquarters caused by the Stalinist purges . Antonov was appointed Chief of Staff of the Moscow Military District, but shortly afterwards appointed to the Frunze Academy, where he worked as a tactics teacher and the creation of service regulations and teaching aids were among his tasks.

Time of the Great Patriotic War

In January 1941 Antonov was finally able to break away from his teaching activities and became deputy chief of staff of the Kiev military district. As head of the Department for Organization and Mobilization, he worked closely with Colonel Hovhannes Baghramjan , later Marshal of the Soviet Union. After the German attack in June 1941, Antonov was initially Chief of Staff of the Southern Front , where, after several setbacks, he succeeded in a counterattack to liberate Rostov in November 1941 ( Battle of Rostov ), which brought Antonov promotion to Lieutenant General. In May 1942 he took part in the Battle of Kharkov . After serving as Chief of Staff of the North Caucasus Front from July 1942 and the Black Sea group formed from it, he became Chief of Staff of the Transcaucasus Front in November .

At the beginning of December 1942 there was a meeting with Vasilevsky, who had been appointed chief of staff, which was of particular importance for his career. Impressed by the quality of his presentation of the situation, he offered him the post of Chief of Operations in the General Staff. Antonov accepted this offer. On April 4, 1943, to Colonel General transported and delivered in May, the task of the management of ongoing operations to his deputy Sergei Shtemenko to devote himself exclusively now planning future operations.

His first major planning was the successful Soviet counterattack after the failure of the German citadel company . As an award for this he received the promotion to army general .

In 1944 he planned Operation Bagration , which led to the collapse of Army Group Center . The beginning was to be coordinated with the Allied invasion of Normandy ( Operation Overlord ), which was done through the Allied military mission in Moscow.

At the Yalta and Potsdam conferences , Antonov appeared as the spokesman for the military leadership of the Soviet Union. When Vasilevsky had to take over the 3rd Belarusian Front in East Prussia in mid-February 1945 because his predecessor Army General Ivan Chernyakhovsky had fallen on February 18, Antonov took over the position of Chief of Staff. He performed this function even after Germany surrendered, as Wassilewski had been entrusted with the command of Operation August Storm in the Far East.

The post-war career

The next difficult planning project that Antonov was entrusted with was the demobilization of over 5 million men and their reintegration into a Soviet economy which was largely in ruins.

In September 1946, the State Defense Committee and the headquarters of the Supreme Commander's Command (Stawka) were dissolved and replaced by the Supreme Military Council, of which Antonov was deputy chairman. When Vasilevsky returned to his position as chief of staff, Antonov was entrusted with the management of the organization and mobilization department.

When the first phase of demobilization was completed in 1948, Antonov was assigned as a deputy and in 1949 as the commander of the Transcaucasus military district for the supposed purpose of gaining commando experience. In fact, like many other Soviet generals, he was kept small so that he could not intervene in the power struggle for Stalin's succession. After the death of Stalin and the seizure of power by Nikita Khrushchev , he returned to the General Staff in 1954 as Vasilevsky's deputy. But this was only the preliminary stage for taking over the function of Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Treaty armed forces, which took place a little later. Antonov held this position until his death. It was not an easy task, since political as well as military aspects often came to the fore. Antonov, who had already had a serious heart condition since 1945, did not spare himself this task either, although he required ongoing medical attention. In 1955 he lost his wife Mariya Dimitriewna, in 1956 he married Olga Wassiljewna Lepeschinskaja . Antonov died of a heart attack in his office seven years later.

Assessment by employees

Colonel Shtemenko, a member of the Operations Department of the General Staff, gave Antonov an excellent report. When Wassilewski took over Marshal Shaposhnikov's position as Chief of the General Staff in June 1942 after his illness , the management of the operations department changed in quick succession, as the successors, unlike Antonov, mostly did not meet Vasilewski's high standards. According to Schtemenko, it was "no exaggeration to describe AIAntonov as an extraordinary personality." Schtemenko particularly emphasized his extensive knowledge, the quick grasp of the essentials, the quick but thorough development of proposed solutions and the brevity, conciseness and persuasive power of his lectures . He always spent several hours preparing for the daily situation report at Stalin and clarified disputed details by consulting the front staff. Schtemenko emphasizes that, despite the high demands he made, he never reacted in a short-tempered, insulting or insulting manner to mistakes.

Awards, honors

Despite his high function and his achievements, Antonov did not become Marshal of the Soviet Union, he is, however, the only Soviet Army General to be awarded the Order of Victory , other bearers are only Stalin, ten Soviet marshals and five high-ranking foreign troop leaders.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Seweryn Bialer Stalin and his generals (New York 1969) 355-360


  • Army General Antonov: “Rules for the Protection of Military Secrets in the Red Army Press (During the War)” (February 11, 1944, online )


  • Harold Shukman (Ed.): Stalin's Generals (New York 1993)
  • Gaglow, II: Army General AI Antonov (Moscow 1987) - Russian
  • Schukow, Georgi K .: Memories and Thoughts Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1969.
  • General of the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 . 1st edition, Military Publishing House of the GDR 1978, 1st half volume, pp. 7–44
  • Alexej I. Antonow , in: Internationales Biographisches Archiv 48/1962 from November 19, 1962, in the Munzinger archive ( beginning of article freely available)

Web links

Commons : Aleksei Antonov  - collection of images, videos and audio files