Rodion Malinovsky

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Rodion Malinovsky
Родио́н Малино́вский
Rodion Malinovsky 1 cropped (b).jpg
Malinovsky in 1958
Minister of Defence
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
In office
26 October 1957 – 31 March 1967
PremierNikolai Bulganin
Nikita Khrushchev
Alexei Kosygin
Preceded byGeorgy Zhukov
Succeeded byAndrei Grechko
Personal details
Born(1898-11-23)23 November 1898
Odessa, Russian Empire
Died31 March 1967(1967-03-31) (aged 68)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Resting placeKremlin Wall Necropolis
Political partyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union (1926–1967)
Spouse(s)Larisa (1925-1946), Raisa (1946–1997)
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union (2)
Military service
  •  Russian Empire (1914-1917)
  •  Soviet Russia (1919-1922)
  •  Soviet Union
Years of service1914–1967
RankMarshal of the Soviet Union (1944–1967)
CommandsSouthern Front
66th Army
2nd Guards Army
Southwestern Front
3rd Ukrainian Front
2nd Ukrainian Front
Transbaikal Military District
Far Eastern Military District
Battles/warsWorld War I
Russian Civil War
Spanish Civil War
World War II

Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky (Russian: Родио́н Я́ковлевич Малино́вский, Ukrainian: Родіо́н Я́кович Малино́вський ; 23 November [O.S. 11 November] 1898 – 31 March 1967) was a Soviet military commander in World War II, Marshal of the Soviet Union, and Minister of Defence of the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and 1960s. He contributed to the major defeat of Nazi Germany at the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Budapest. During the post-war era, he made a pivotal contribution to the strengthening of the Soviet Union as a military superpower.

Early life[edit]

Before and during World War I[edit]

Born in Odessa, after the death of his father (who was of disputed origin), Malinovsky's mother left the city for the rural areas of Southern Russia, and remarried. Her husband, a poverty-stricken peasant, refused to adopt her son and expelled him when Malinovsky was only 13 years old. The homeless boy survived by working as a farmhand, and eventually received shelter from his aunt's family in Odessa, where he worked as an errand boy in a general store. After the start of World War I in July 1914, Malinovsky, who was only 15 years old at the time (too young for military service), hid on the military train heading for the German front, but was discovered. He nevertheless convinced the commanding officers to enlist him as a volunteer, and served in a machine-gun detachment in the frontline trenches. In October 1915, as a reward for repelling a German attack, he received his first military award, the Cross of St. George of the 4th class, and was promoted to the rank of corporal. Soon afterwards, he was badly wounded and spent several months in the hospital.

Malinovsky during WWI

After his recovery, he was sent to France in 1916 as a member of the Western Front Russian Expeditionary Corps. Malinovsky fought in a hotly contested sector of the front near Fort Brion and was promoted to sergeant. He suffered a serious wound in his left arm, and received a decoration from the French government. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the French government disbanded some Russian units, but others were transferred to a newly created unit called the Russian Legion, which was attached to the Moroccan Division. Malinovsky fought against the Germans until the end of the war. During this time, he was awarded the French Croix de guerre and promoted to senior NCO.


He returned to Odessa in 1919, where he joined the Red Army in the Civil War against the White Army and fought with distinction in Siberia. He remained in the army after the end of the conflict, studying in the training school for the junior commanders, and rose to commander of a rifle battalion. In 1926, he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, membership of which was a prerequisite for promotion in the military.[citation needed]

In 1927, Malinovsky was sent to study at the elite Frunze Military Academy. He graduated in 1930, and during the next seven years he rose to the Chief of Staff of the 3rd Cavalry Corps, where his commander was Semyon Timoshenko (a protégé of Joseph Stalin).

After the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Malinovsky volunteered to fight for the Republicans against the right-wing nationalists of General Francisco Franco and their Italian and German allies. He participated in planning and directing several main operations. In 1938, he returned to Moscow, being awarded the top Soviet decorations, the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner, in recognition of his service in Spain; he was appointed a senior lecturer at the Frunze Military Academy.

In the spring of 1941, Timoshenko, who then served the People's Commissar for Defence, was alarmed by the massive German military buildup on the Soviet borders, as the Wehrmacht was secretly preparing for Operation Barbarossa. In order to strengthen the Red Army field command, he dispatched some of the top officers from the military academies to the field units. Malinovsky was promoted to Major General, and took command over the freshly raised 48th Rifle Corps, 9th Army in the Odessa Military District. A week prior to the start of the war, Malinovsky deployed his corps close to the Romanian border.

World War II commander[edit]

Early assignments[edit]

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, with the Red Army suffering enormous defeats and losing hundreds of thousands of troops in German encirclements, Malinovsky emerged a competent general. His corps of three partly formed rifle divisions faced German Blitzkrieg along the line of the Prut River. While, as a rule, Red Army generals would lead their forces from behind the frontline, Malinovsky went to the crucial sectors of the battles to be with his soldiers and encourage them. Unable to stop the Wehrmacht, Malinovsky had to retreat along the Black Sea shore, while frustrating enemy attempts to encircle his troops. The Germans succeeded in cornering his corps in Mykolaiv, but Malinovsky breached their ring and retreated to Dnipropetrovsk.

In August, he was promoted to Chief of Staff of the badly battered 6th Army, and soon replaced its commander. He halted the German advance in his section of the front and was promoted to Lieutenant General. After the retreat of the Red Army to the Donbass, Malinovsky commanded a joint operation of the 6th and 12th armies, managing to drive the Wehrmacht out of the region. In December 1941, Malinovsky received command of the Southern Front, consisting of three weak field armies and two division-sized cavalry corps. They were short of manpower and equipment, but Malinovsky managed to push deep into the defenses of the Germans, who, after 6 months of fighting, were suffering from fatigue and shortages as well.

Battle of Kharkov[edit]

On 12 May 1942, Malinovsky and the Southwestern Front, under the overall command of Timoshenko, launched a joint attack in the Second Battle of Kharkov pushing the Germans back 100 kilometres (62 mi). Timoshenko overestimated the Red Army's offensive capabilities and suffered a heavy defeat. Although Stalin, in spite of opposition by his top military advisers, supported the ill-fated Kharkov attack, he became suspicious that Malinovsky had intentionally failed his troops (he feared that Malinovsky had established and kept connections with foreign interests during his World War I stay in France). In July 1942, the Southern Front was taken out of combat, its units and staff were transferred to the North Caucasian Front as a Don Operational Group under the command of Malinovsky (who also became Front's deputy commander). Stalin ordered Malinovsky to stop the intrusion of the German Army Group A towards Rostov-on-Don and the vital oilfields of Caucasus; the Germans had a sizeable technical superiority over Malinovsky, and cut through his weak defenses. As a consequence, Stavka disbanded the Don Operational Group in September.

Stalingrad and Ukrainian Front[edit]

The Red Army was hard-pressed by Germans in the Battle of Stalingrad, and Stalin entrusted Malinovsky with the command of the hastily formed 66th Army to hold positions north-east of Stalingrad. At the same time Stalin ordered Nikita Khrushchev, who served as his top political officer in Stalingrad, to "keep an eye" on Malinovsky.[citation needed]

The 66th Army had no combat experience, but this was the first time in the war Malinovsky had commanded a unit that was near full strength in both troops and equipment. In September and October 1942, he went on the offensive. His territorial gains were marginal, but he denied the Germans an opportunity to encircle Stalingrad from the north, and, slowed down, they decided to push into the city. Later that month, Stavka dispatched Malinovsky to the Voronezh Front as its deputy commander; in December 1942, he was sent back to Stalingrad. There the Red Army achieved its greatest success to that point in the war: on 22 November the Red Army fronts encircled the German Sixth Army. The German Army Group Don, commanded by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, gathered its Panzer troops in the town of Kotelnikovo 150 kilometres (93 mi) west of Stalingrad and launched a desperate counterattack to save the Sixth Army.

Malinovsky led the powerful Soviet Second Guards Army against Hoth. In vicious fighting he forced the Germans to retreat, breached deeply echeloned and well-prepared German defenses, and destroyed the Kotelnikovo army grouping. It was the first World War II large-scale clash of armor to be lost by Germany. Malinovsky's victory sealed the fate of 250,000 German and other Axis Powers soldiers trapped in the Stalingrad pocket. Stalin promoted Malinovsky to colonel general, and awarded him with the highest Soviet decoration for outstanding generalship — the Order of Suvorov of the 1st degree.

In February 1943, Malinovsky resumed his command of Southern Front, and in less than two weeks he expelled Manstein from Rostov-on-Don, opening the road to Ukraine to the Red Army. In March 1943, Stalin elevated him to rank of Army General and gave him command of Southwestern Front, tasked to drive German troops away from the industrially rich Donbass. Through a sudden attack in mid-October, Malinovsky managed to surprise a large German force in the region's key city of Zaporizhia and captured it. The campaign split German forces in the South and isolated German forces in Crimea from the rest of the German Eastern Front.

On 20 October, the Southwestern Front was renamed 3rd Ukrainian Front. From December 1943 to April 1944, Malinovsky smashed the German Army Group South, and liberated much of the southern Ukraine, including Kherson, Mykolaiv and his home city of Odessa. By that time, according to Khrushchev's opinion, Stalin grew much more confident of Malinovsky's loyalty.

Romania and Hungary[edit]

Malinovsky leading a contingent from the 2nd Ukrainian Front at the Moscow Victory Parade of 1945.

In May 1944, Malinovsky was transferred to the 2nd Ukrainian Front. He expelled the Germans from the remaining Soviet territory and participated in an unsuccessful invasion of the Balkans (the first Jassy–Kishinev Offensive) together with Marshal Ivan Konev and Army General Fyodor Tolbukhin (who received Malinovsky's former command over the smaller 3rd Ukrainian Front). However, during the second Jassy–Kishinev Offensive in late August and early September 1944, Malinovsky unleashed a highly successful Soviet version of the Blitzkrieg. Together with Tolbukhin, he destroyed or captured some 215,000 German,[1] and 200,000 Romanian troops,[2] forcing Romania to overthrow pro-German Conducător Ion Antonescu, and switch from the Axis to the Allies camp (see Romania during World War II). A triumphant Stalin recalled Malinovsky to Moscow, and on 10 September 1944 made him Marshal of the Soviet Union. Malinovsky was also nominal head of the Allied Commission in Romania (represented by Vladislav Petrovich Vinogradov).[3]

He continued his offensive drive, crossed the Southern Carpathians into Transylvania (entering Hungarian-ruled Northern Transylvania), and on 20 October 1944, captured Debrecen, defended by a large Axis force. His troops were tired after several months of combat and needed to be replenished and resupplied, but Stalin ordered Malinovsky to take the Hungarian capital Budapest, in order to open the road to Vienna and take Vienna before the Western Allies. With the help of Tolbukhin and the Romanian First and Fourth armies, Malinovsky carried out Stalin's order, and faced Adolf Hitler's determination to defend Budapest at any cost. The Germans and their Hungarian Arrow Cross Party allies tried to turn Budapest into a "German Stalingrad"; Hitler engaged the bulk of his Panzer troops (among them six Waffen SS divisions and five army Panzer divisions; one-fourth of the Wehrmacht's armor[citation needed]), weakening German forces fighting the Red Army in Poland and Prussia, as well as those engaging the Western Allies on the Rhine. Malinovsky's strategic and operational skills enabled him to overcome his troops' weakness and to conquer Budapest on 13 February 1945, following an exceptionally harsh battle. He captured 70,000 prisoners. Continuing his drive westward, Malinovsky routed Germans in Slovakia, liberated Bratislava, on 4 April 1945 captured Vienna, and finally, on 26 April 1945 freed Brno, second largest city in Czechoslovakia.

These new victories established the Soviet's supremacy over the Danubian heartland of Europe. In return, Stalin rewarded him with the highest Soviet military decoration of the period, the Order of Victory. Malinovsky ended his campaign in Europe with the liberation of Brno in the Czech lands, observing a jubilant meeting of his and American advance forces.

Japanese Front[edit]

After the German surrender in May 1945, Malinovsky was transferred to the Russian Far East, where he was placed in command of the Transbaikal Front. In August 1945, he led his forces during the last Soviet offensive of the war under the overall command of Aleksandr Vasilevsky. Vasilevsky's forces invaded Manchuria, which was under the occupation of the 700,000 strong Japanese Kwantung Army (see Soviet invasion of Manchuria) and crushed the Japanese in ten days. Malinovsky was awarded the Soviet Union's greatest honor, the order of a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Post-war career[edit]

Far East[edit]

During the next decade Malinovsky was involved in key decisions involving Soviet strategic interests in the Far Eastern region. Initially the commander of Transbaikal-Amur Military District (1945–1947), with the start of the Cold War he was appointed the Supreme Commander of Far Eastern Forces in charge of three military districts (1947–1953). He trained and supplied North Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army prior to and during the Korean War (1950–1953).

As an expression of Malinovsky's belonging to the Soviet Party-state elite, Stalin made him a Member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union (1946), and a candidate (non-voting) member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1952). After the end of the Korean War, Moscow disbanded Far Eastern Supreme Command. Malinovsky continued to control the major Soviet force in the region as the commander of the Far Eastern Military District.

With Khrushchev[edit]

Malinovsky as Minister of Defence wearing traditional Mongolian clothing during an official visit to Mongolia, 1961

After Stalin's death in 1953, Khrushchev became the Soviet leader and, during the De-Stalinization process and the consolidation of his power in the Kremlin, he promoted Malinovsky to Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Ground Forces and First Deputy to Minister of Defense Marshal Georgy Zhukov (1956). To confirm Malinovsky's high status in the Soviet Party-state hierarchy, he was selected a full member of the Communist Party Central Committee. In October 1957, Khrushchev, who had grown apprehensive of Zhukov's political ambitions, ousted him and entrusted his post as minister to Malinovsky, who served in this position until his death.

Although a personal friend of Khrushchev, Malinovsky maintained his independent position regarding military affairs. Khrushchev and several members of the Soviet military establishment were convinced that future wars would be won by nuclear missile attack. They advocated main investment to the development of the missiles and a drastic reduction of conventional forces. Malinovsky supported the adaptation of strategic nuclear missiles, but saw them as a useful deterrent of war, rather than as a main weapon within it. He developed the concept of a broad based military and vigorously argued that while the nature of war had changed, the decisive factor would still be a standing army proficient in modern military technology and capable of conquering and controlling the enemy's territory. Soviet military policy during these years was a compromise between the views of Malinovsky and of Khrushchev.

Final years[edit]

Malinovsky takes the salute during the 1965 Moscow Victory Day Parade, 9 May 1965.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe, alienated Malinovsky. Following the crisis, he publicly demanded in army publications for the military to be given a greater say in formulating Soviet strategic policy. The army's discontent with Khrushchev encouraged a coup within the Party, which resulted in the removal of Khrushchev from power in October 1964. The new Party leadership accepted Malinovsky's demand for an autonomous and professional military establishment, as well as his concept of balanced development of the armed forces. In a meeting in Romania in the next month, between USSR and Chinese delegations, Malinovsky worsened Sino-Soviet relations, already deeply frayed in the Sino-Soviet split. Historian Daniel Leese noted that improvement of the relations "that had seemed possible after Khrushchev's fall evaporated" as they became more elusive after an allegedly drunken Malinovsky approached Chinese Marshal He Long, member of the Chinese delegation to Moscow, and asked when China would finally eliminate Mao Zedong in the manner in which the CPSU eliminated Krushchev, "we‘ve already got rid of Khrushchev, you should get rid of Mao Zedong." Outraged, He Long reported the incident to Chou Enlai, who in turn, reported the incident to Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev. China refused to accept the Soviet Union's apology.[4][5][6]

Malinovsky died on 31 March 1967 after an illness. Official medical report mentions metastatic pancreatic cancer. He was honoured with a state funeral and cremated. His urn was placed in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. The government gave his name to the leading Soviet Military Academy of Tank Troops in Moscow and to the 10th Guards Uralsko-Lvovskaya Tank Division. Malinovsky continued to be regarded as one of the most important military leaders in the history of Russia even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


Russian Empire
RUS Georgievsky Krest 3st BAR.svg Cross of St. George, 3rd class
RUS Georgievsky Krest 4st BAR.svg Cross of St. George, 4th class
Awards of the USSR
Hero of the Soviet Union medal.pngHero of the Soviet Union medal.png Hero of the Soviet Union, twice (8 September 1945, 22 November 1958)
OrderVictoryRibbon.svg Order of Victory (No. 8, 26 April 1945)
Order of Lenin ribbon bar.png Order of Lenin, five times (17 July 1937, 6 November 1941, 21 February 1945, 8 September 1945, 22 November 1958)
Order of Red Banner ribbon bar.png Order of the Red Banner, three times (22 October 1937, 3 November 1944, 15 November 1950)
Order suvorov1 rib.png Order of Suvorov, 1st class, twice (January 28, 1943 March 19, 1944)
Order kutuzov1 rib.png Order of Kutuzov, 1st class (17 September 1943)
Defstalingrad.png Medal "For the Defence of Stalingrad"
Defcaucasus rib.png Medal "For the Defence of the Caucasus"
Defodessa.png Medal "For the Defence of Odessa"
Capturebudapest rib.png Medal "For the Capture of Budapest"
CaptureOfViennaRibbon.png Medal "For the Capture of Vienna"
Victoryjapan rib.png Medal "For the Victory over Japan"
Order of Glory Ribbon Bar.png Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
20 years of victory rib.png Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
20 years saf rib.png Jubilee Medal "XX Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army"
30 years saf rib.png Jubilee Medal "30 Years of the Soviet Army and Navy"
40 years saf rib.png Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
Foreign Awards
Medaille voor de 25e Verjaardag van de Volksrevolutie Mongolië 1946.jpg Medal "25 Years of the Mongolian People's Revolution" (Mongolia, 1946)
OrdenSuheBator.png Order of Sukhbaatar (Mongolia, 1961)
OrdenZnam.png Order of the Red Banner (Mongolia, 1945)
Medal for victory over japan rib.PNG Medal "For Victory over Japan" (Mongolia, 1946)
Order of the National Hero BAR.png Order of the People's Hero (Yugoslavia, 27 May 1964)
Order of the partisan star with golden wreath Rib.png Golden Order of the Partisan Star (Yugoslavia, 1956)
Order of the White Lion.svg Order of the White Lion, 1st class (Czechoslovakia, 1945)
TCH CS Vojensky Rad Bileho Lva 1st (1945) BAR.svg Military Order of the White Lion, 1st class (Czechoslovakia, 1945)
Czechoslovak War Cross 1939-1945 Ribbon.png Czechoslovak War Cross (Czechoslovakia, 1945)
CS Dukielski Medal Pamiatkowy.jpg Medal "In Commemoration of the Battle of Dukla Pass (Czechoslovakia, 1959)
Order of the Slovak National Uprising 3 kl.png Medal "25 Years of the Slovak National Uprising" (Czechoslovakia, 1965)
US Legion of Merit Chief Commander ribbon.png Chief Commander, Legion of Merit (USA, 1946)
Legion Honneur GO ribbon.svg Grand Officer of the Legion d'Honneur (France, 1945)
Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon.svg Croix de guerre (France, 1916)
Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 ribbon.svg Croix de guerre (France, 1945)
Order of the Defense of the Fatherland ribbon Romania.png Order of the Defense of the Fatherland, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Classes (Romania, all in 1950)
Medal For the Liberation From the Fascist Yoke ribbon.png Medal "For the Liberation From the Fascist Yoke" (Romania, 1950)
HUN Order of Merit of the Hungarian Rep (military) 1class BAR.svg Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, 1st class (Hungarian Republic, 1947)
HUN Order of Merit of the Hungarian People's Republic BAR.png Order of the Hungarian Merit, twice (1950 and 1965)
HUN Order of the Hungarian freedom.png Order of the Hungarian Freedom (1946)
Bintang Republik Indonesia Adipradana Ribbon1.gif Star of the Republic of Indonesia, 2nd Class (Indonesia, 1963)
Bintang Yudha Dharma Nararya.jpg The Grand Meritorious Military Order, 1st Class (Indonesia, 1962)
20thAnniversaryRibbon.jpg Medal "20 Years of the Bulgarian People's Army" (1964)
Order of Resplendent Banner with Special Grand Cordon ribbon.png Order of the Resplendent Banner, 1st class (China, 1946)
Sino Soviet Friendship Ribbon.svg Medal of Sino-Soviet Friendship (China, 1956)
MAR Order of the Military - Special Class BAR.png Order of Military Merit, 1st Class (Morocco, 1965)
PRK Order of the National Flag - 1st Class BAR.png Order of the National Flag, 1st class (North Korea, 1948)[citation needed]
Ribbon Medal For The Liberation Of Korea.png Medal for the Liberation of Korea (1948)
Commemorative Order "40th Anniversary Of Fatherland Liberation War Victory" (North Korea, 1985, posthumous)
GDR Brotherhood in Arms Medal - Gold BAR.png Medal "Brotherhood in Arms", 1st class (East Germany, 1966)
Cross of Independence (Mexico, 1964)


  1. ^ Böhme, K. W. (1966). Die deutschen Kriegsgefangenen in sowjetischer Hand. Eine Bilanz (in German). München. p. 112. OCLC 246020642.
  2. ^ "Ein schwarzer Tag für die Deutschen". Siebenbürgische Zeitung (in German). 22 August 2004.
  3. ^ Cioroianu, Adrian (2005). Pe umerii lui Marx. O introducere în istoria comunismului românesc (in Romanian). Bucharest: Editura Curtea Veche. p. 59. ISBN 973-669-175-6.
  4. ^ Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution: The Coming Cataclysm, 1961 – 1965. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p.365.
  5. ^ Daniel Leese, 'Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China's Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2011) p.84.
  6. ^ Jan Ludvik, 'Nuclear Asymmetry and Deterrence: Theory, Policy and History' (Routledge, 2017) p.63.


  • Erikson, John (1993). "Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky". In Shukman, Harold (ed.). Stalin's Generals. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1487-3.
  • Glantz, David M. (2003). The Soviet Strategic Offensive in Manchuria, 1945. 'August Storm'. London: Frank Cass. ISBN 0-7146-5279-2.
  • Shteinberg, Mark (2005). Evrei v voinakh tysiachiletii. Moscow, Jerusalem. pp. 316–318.
  • Thach, Joseph E., Jr. "Malinovskii, Rodion Yakovlevich". The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History. Vol. 21.
  • Werth, Alexander (1999). Russia At War, 1941–1945. New York: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-0722-4.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Defence of Soviet Union
Succeeded by