Shaposhnikov, Boris Mikhaylovich, born 02-10-1882, in Zlatoust, Ufa GovernorateRussian Empire at Zlatoust, near Chelyabinsk in the Urals, had Orenburg Cossack origins. 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. Also in 1917, unusually for an officer of his rank, he supported the Russian Revolution, and in May 1918 joined the Red Army.
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. Shaposhnikov (top right) with other prominent Soviet military commanders, including three future Marshals of the Soviet Union, 1921. 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. Mikhail Tukhachevsky,died 12-06-1937, age 44, in Moscow, Russia.
Shaposhnikov was then demoted to commanded 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. 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. The Soviet authorities accuses Alexander Ilyich Yegorov of treason and had him shot on 23-02-1939, age 55, in Moscow, during the military purges of 1937–1938, but rehabilitated his reputation in the late 1950s.,
Despite his background as a Tsarist officer, Shaposhnikov won the respect and trust of Josef Stalin. His status as a professional officer—he did not join the Communist Party until 1939—may have helped him avoid Stalin’s suspicions. The price he paid for his survival during the purges was collaboration in the destruction of Mikhail Tukhachevsky and of many other colleagues. Stalin showed his admiration for the officer by always keeping a copy of Shaposhnikov’s most important work, “The Brain of the Army”) (1929) , on his desk. Shaposhnikov was one of the few men whom Stalin addressed by his Christian name and patronymic. Mozg Armii has remained on the curriculum of the General Staff Academy since its publication in 1929.
Fortunately for the Soviet Union, Shaposhnikov had a fine military mind and high administrative skills. 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. 1939 Stalin accepted Shaposhnikov’s plan for a rapid buildup of the Red Army’s strength. On the 23-08-1939 the two totalitarian powers, the German Reich (more commonly known as The Third Reich or Nazi Germany), with Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (more colloquially called the Soviet Union) with Vyacheslav Molotov , signed a Non-aggression pact which shocked the world. 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. Shaposhnikov planned the 1939 invasion of Finland, but was much less optimistic about its duration than Stalin and the campaign’s commander Kliment Voroshilov . 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.
Death and burial ground of Shaposhnikov, Boris Mikhaylovich.
Following the German invasion, he was reinstated (29-07-1941) as Chief of the General Staff to succeed Georgy Zhukov, 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 10-05-1942. He held the position of commandant of the Voroshilov Military Academy until his death on 26-03-1945 aged 62, in Moscow, Shaposhnikov had groomed his successor as Chief of Staff, Aleksandr Vasilevsky, and remained an influential and respected advisor to Stalin until his death. Shaposhnikov, Boris Mikhaylovich ashes are buried in the Moscow Kremlin Wall. My Czech friend Radek Hroch visited Moscow on his bike and sent me the Kremlin Wall grave photo’s, with gratitude.