Supreme Commander in Chief

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Supreme Commander in Chief


the highest-ranking officer in the armed forces of a government (or a coalition of governments), usually during wartime but sometimes under peacetime conditions as well. The supreme commander in chief is invested with extraordinary powers with regard to all citizens and civilian institutions on the territory of the country involved and in the theater of military operations. The rank of supreme commander in chief was first created in July 1914 in Russia. It was held during World War I from 1914 to 1917 by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, from July 20 (Aug. 2), 1914, to Aug. 23 (Sept. 5), 1915, and from Mar. 2 (15) to Mar. 11 (24), 1917; Nicholas II, from Aug. 23 (Sept. 5), 1915, to Mar. 2 (15), 1917; General M. V. Alekseev, from Mar. 11 (24) to May 22 (June 4), 1917; General A. A. Brusilov, from May 22 (June 4) to July 19 (Aug. 1), 1917; General L. G. Kornilov, from July 19 (Aug. 1) to Aug. 27 (Sept. 9), 1917; Prime Minister A. F. Kerensky, from Aug. 30 (Sept. 12) to Nov. 3 (16), 1917; and General N. N. Dukhonin, from Nov. 3 (16) to Nov. 9 (22), 1917. After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution the Sovnarkom (Council of People’s Commissars) appointed N. V. Krylenko to the position of supreme commander in chief on Nov. 9 (22), 1917, where he remained until Mar. 5, 1918.

In Western Europe the rank of supreme commander in chief over the allied armies in France was held by the French marshal F. Fochfrom Apr. 14, 1918, to Nov. 11, 1918. During the Great Patriotic War in the USSR (beginning on Aug. 8, 1941) and in the postwar period the supreme commander in chief was Marshal of the Soviet Union (and after June 27, 1945, Generalissimo) J. V. Stalin.

During World War II (1939-45) the rank of supreme commander in chief was held in Germany by A. Hitler (Feb. 4, 1938, through Apr. 30, 1945) and by Grand Admiral K. Doenitz (Apr. 30 to May 9, 1945). On the side of the anti-Hitler coalition, the supreme commander in chief of the allied expeditionary forces in northwest Europe was the American general D. Eisenhower (December 1943 to July 1945), and the supreme commander in chief in the Mediterranean theater was the British field marshal H. Wilson (December 1943 to July 1945).

According to the constitutions of the various countries, the supreme commander in chief in both war and peace may be (in the case of the USA and France) the president, the chancellor (in the Federal Republic of Germany), the emperor (in Japan), the king or queen (in Great Britain), and so on. With the creation of the North Atlantic bloc (NATO) in 1950 the rank of supreme commander in chief of the united armed forces of NATO in Europe was created. It has been held exclusively by American generals: D. Eisenhower (1950-52), M. Ridgeway (1952-53), A. Gruenther (1953-56), L. Norstad (1956-63), and L. Lemnitzer (since 1963).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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