Boris Shaposhnikov

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shaposhnikov, Boris Mikhailovich


Born Sept. 20 (Oct. 2), 1882, in the city of Zlatoust, in what is now Cheliabinsk Oblast; died Mar. 26,1945, in Moscow. Soviet military figure and theorist. Marshal of the Soviet Union (May 7, 1940). Professor (1935). Member of the CPSU from 1930.

The son of a white-collar worker, Shaposhnikov joined the army in 1901. He graduated from the Moscow Military School in 1903 and the Academy of the General Staff in 1910. During World War I he served in staff positions, becoming a regiment commander in October 1917; in December of the same year he was elected commander of the Caucasian Grenadier Division, with the rank of colonel.

Shaposhnikov volunteered for the Red Army in May 1918 and held various staff positions on the Supreme Military Council and in the People’s Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs of the Ukraine. He was appointed chief of the Intelligence Section of the Field Staff of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic in August 1919 and chief of the Field Staffs Operations Directorate in October 1919.

After the Civil War, Shaposhnikov served from 1921 to 1925 as first assistant to the chief of the Staff of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. He was commander of the Leningrad and Moscow military districts between 1925 and 1928, chief of the Staff of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army from 1928 to 1931, and commander of the Volga Military District in 1931 and 1932. Shaposhnikov served as head and military commissar of the M. V. Frunze Military Academy from 1932 to 1935 and commander of the Leningrad Military District from 1935 to 1937. Between 1937 and 1940 he was both chief of the General Staff and deputy people’s commissar of defense. From August 1940 through July 1941 he was deputy people’s commissar of defense.

During the Great Patrotic War of 1941–45, Shaposhnikov served as chief of the General Staff from July 1941 to May 1942, deputy people’s commissar of defense from May 1942 through June 1943, and head of the K. E. Voroshilov Higher Military Academy from 1943 to 1945.

Shaposhnikov worked extensively and successfully to strengthen and improve the Red Army, particularly its strategic and operational leadership apparatus. He summarized his combat experiences of the Civil War of 1918–20 in Cavalry, which he published in 1923, and in On the Vistula, which he published in the following year. At the same time, he did a great deal of work on the commission charged with formulating military regulations, which he imbued with the basic principles of Soviet military doctrine. In a fundamental work, The Brain of the Army (vols. 1–3, 1927–29), Shaposhnikov drew on the experience of World War I to outline the nature of future warfare. He characterized the leadership requirements of modern warfare and presented a clear picture of the role, functions, and structure of the General Staff as the organ of the Supreme Command for the direction of the armed forces.

Shaposhnikov’s command of Marxist-Leninist methods of research, his broad erudition in the field of military history, his extensive practical experience in staff work and troop command, and his excellent memory made him one of the outstanding military theorists of his time.

Shaposhnikov was a member of the Central Executive Committee elected by the Seventh Congress of Soviets and a deputy to the first convocation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. He became a candidate member of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) in 1939. He was awarded three Orders of Lenin, two Orders of the Red Banner, the Order of Suvorov First Class, and two Orders of the Red Star. The Vystrel Higher Infantry and Tactical School has been named in honor of Shaposhnikov, who is buried in Red Square at the Kremlin Wall.


Vospominaniia: Voenno-nauchnye trudy. Moscow, 1974.


Zakharov, M. V. Uchenyi i voin. Moscow, 1974.
Vasilevskii, A. M. “Marshal B. M. Shaposhnikov.” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, 1972, no. 9.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.