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Nikolai Vasilyevich Ogarkov

Marshal of the Soviet Union (received the title in 1977). He was Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR from 1977 to 1984. Nikolai Vasilievich Ogarkov believed that one should bet on high-precision non-nuclear weapons and modern combat management systems. Ogarkov boldly developed his ideas on the organization of combat command and control of Soviet troops and their logistic support bodies. He believed that all soldiers, from the soldier to the marshals and generals, should learn not only on the map, but also mainly in the campaign, in the terrain and in an atmosphere close to the difficult, dangerous, combat. Nikolai Vasilievich noted that not only the senior commander is obliged to teach the younger, but also the older chief should be able to take into account in the combat situation the opinion of his subordinates.

In the north-east of the Tver region there is an ancient Russian village of Molokovo, nowadays the center of the same-named region of the Upper Volga Region. Here on October 17, 1917 (in the old style) was born Nikolai Ogarkov. In September 1937 he graduated from the three-year Energetic Worker Department, then about one and a half years he studied at the Moscow Engineering and Construction Institute. November 19, 1938. N.V. Ogarkov became a student of the V.V.Kuibyshev Military Engineering Academy of the Red Army. In early 1941, he graduated from this academy in the rank of military engineer and was sent to the troops of the Western Special Military District. In the spring of 1941, he served as a junior military technician of the rifle regiment.

The beginning of the Great Patriotic War found him building a fortified district near the river Lomza in the post of regimental engineer of the 1st Infantry Regiment of the 17th Infantry Division of the Western Front.

From September 1941 to February 1942 he served as a senior engineer for fortification in the engineering department of the Karelian Front, then regimental engineer in the 289th Infantry Division and brigade engineer for the 61st Marine Rifle Brigade. Since December 1942 - Assistant Chief of Staff of the engineering troops of the 32nd Army, since August 1943 - Assistant Chief of the Operational Division of the Staff of the Engineer Troops of the Karelian Front. Since May 1944 - divisional engineer of the 122nd Infantry Division in Karelian, since November - on the 2nd Ukrainian, then on the 3rd Ukrainian fronts.

After the war from October 1945 to January 1946, he was the assistant and senior assistant chief of staff of the army's engineering troops in the Carpathian Military District, from February 1947 - deputy chief of the engineering department of the Primorsky Military District. From September 1948 until December 1, 1957, almost 10 years of his life, he served at the headquarters of Soviet troops in the Far East. In September 1948 he was appointed the senior officer of the department, and from January 1949 he was appointed chief of the department of the headquarters of the commander-in-chief of the troops of the Far East. From May 1953 he was appointed head of the operational department, and from November 1955 he was chief of the operational department, deputy chief of staff of the Far Eastern Military District.

In 1957, Ogarkov was awarded the rank of Major-General, he was sent to study at the Military Academy of the General Staff. After graduating from the Academy, he was appointed commander of the 20th Guards Motorized Rifle Division in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. In December 1961 he was appointed chief of staff of the Belarusian Military District. An example of a clear work on planning operations, strictly on schedule, with a certain volume, a sequence of actions was the preparation and conduct, under Ogarkov's leadership of the front-line exercises of all the troops of the Byelorussian Military District on real terrain in September 1963. Headquarters and field administration of the district, headed by Nikolai Vasilievich, 3 armies, 10 formations of tank, motorized rifle and missile troops, one air army, combat and logistic support units participated in this front-line exercise. For the first time in the post-war practice of combat training of the Soviet troops, all of their regular fire weapons were massively used, mass rocket launches, combat firings and bombing from the air in the offensive zone were conducted. Simultaneously, they introduced a new Ogarkov system for combat command and control of troops. In 1965-1968 - commander of the troops of the Volga Military District.

From March 1974 to January 1977 Ogarkov was Deputy Minister of Defense of the USSR, Chairman of the State Technical Commission of the USSR. The years of service of Nikolai Vasilyevich in the General Staff and the highest military leadership of the Soviet Union took place at a time when the United States and its allies suffered a series of heavy defeats from Soviet weapons (in Vietnam, Africa, etc.). For about three years Nikolai Ogarkov was deputy minister of defense of the USSR, and from January 8, 1977 he became the chief of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces, the first deputy minister of defense of the Soviet Union. Soon, on January 14, 1977, Nikolai Vasilyevich was awarded the rank of marshal of the Soviet Union.

Under Ogarkov's leadership, the General Staff created the Center for Operational and Strategic Studies and prepared a five-volume work entitled "Fundamentals of Preparation and Operation." This development has made a special contribution to the theory and practice of operations of all types - strategic, fronts, army, front, air, sea, air, special, etc. The theory of control of the Strategic Missile Forces, Strategic Nuclear Forces and ABM has been developed. It was after reading these Soviet works that American experts formulated by the beginning of the 1990s new principles of their military policy implemented during two wars in Iraq and an air campaign against Serbia.

Paying attention to strategic nuclear forces, strategic missile forces and the problem of anti-missile defense, Marshal Ogarkov did not forget the combat experience of the Great Patriotic War. On its basis, in the late 1970s, it began to form the airborne assault brigades and separate reconnaissance and sabotage units (battalions) of special purpose within the Soviet troops. Army aviation was reinforced with shock and multipurpose helicopters.

On January 8, 1977, General of the Army N.V.Ogarkov was appointed Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR - First Deputy Minister of Defense of the USSR. On January 14, 1977 he was awarded the title of Marshal of the Soviet Union.

The the operational-strategic exercise, codenamed "West-81", was held in September 1981. In its scope, attraction of troops and naval forces, as well as in the method of conducting it, it was the only one in the history of the Armed Forces and comparable in scale to only the large operations of the Great Patriotic War. This teaching was unique also because all new samples of weapons of the Ground Forces, aviation and navy were applied with maximum strain. It was for the first time that an automated control system and some types of precision weapons were tested.

Ogarkov and his associates believed that the political leadership of the USSR committed two major and irreparable mistakes of a strategic scale in 1979-1980, then influenced the fate of the Soviet Union: first they introduced troops to Afghanistan.

In December 1979, L.I. Brezhnev, M.A. Suslov, A.A. Gromyko and Yu.V. Andropov were forced by marshal of the Soviet Union D.F.Ustinov and the Ministry of Defense of the USSR decided to deploy troops to Afghanistan. In vain, Ogarkov proved the danger of drawing their limited contingent into a protracted civil war in Afghanistan in the difficult conditions of deserts and mountainous terrain. Representatives of the Soviet General Staff and the highest military leadership of the USSR, Marshal Ogarkov, army generals Akhromeev and Varennikov even addressed an unusual collective report on this issue to the Minister of Defense Marshal Ustinov.

In the summer of 1984, the political leadership of the USSR allowed Ogarkov and the General Staff to create in the country the main command of the forces of the Western, Southern and South-Western directions, which Nikolai Vasilyevich had long been seeking. But on September 5, 1984, the commander-in-chief of the Soviet troops of the Western direction unexpectedly appointed Marshal Ogarkov himself. At the same time, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev became the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR.

The sudden movement of the two top Soviet military leaders was a complete surprise for them. These movements were the result of intrigues in the political elite of the USSR in the period 1984-985. The "Ogarkov Doctrine", be it adopted as a guide to immediate action, would really greatly change the Soviet army. The reform of the army would draw the reform of the defense industry and so on, up to agriculture, roads and mail. However, the concept was not accepted at all. In 1983, the formation of army corps, consisting of fully staffed and ready for immediate action brigades, was started. Parts of combat, logistic and technical support remained in the amount necessary only to ensure the actions of these brigades. On the basis of the Main Command of the Ground Forces, the Main Directorate of Reserves was to appear. The concept of "mobile forces", ready for transfer without armament to any direction where the weapons were pre-stored, had been developed and tested. It was necessary only to ensure the actions of these brigades.

Some high-ranking Soviet military leaders at the time apparently doubted whether the political leadership was up to the task of ordering a preventive preemptive strike. Marshal Ogarkov, chief of the General Staff in the early 1980s, seemed to question whether the aged and ill Soviet leadership would be willing or able to meet its strategic decision-making responsibilities in times of crisis. He surfaced this issue publicly on three occasions: during the waning months of Brezhnev's rule; during Andropov's short tenure; and following Chernenko's accession. Through these conspicuous articles, Ogarkov may have been arguing in a veiled way for some predelegation of nuclear release authority to the general staff.

In 1983, N. V. Ogarkov spoke on television with a report about the downed South Korean airplane KAL-007. After international pressure forced the Soviets into acknowledging the seriousness of the Korean Air Lines incident, Marshal Ogarkov gained worldwide recognition by conducting an unprecedented no-holds-barred press conference to communicate the Soviet position. Analysts disagree on the reason for the press conference, some maintaining that it was merely to present the Soviet case to the world, while others, believing the decision to shoot down the Korean plane to have been Ogarkov's alone, suggesting that he was using the opportunity to extricate himself from an onerous situation. Whatever the reason, all acknowledged his skill in handling the foreign press and agreed that, by any measure, the press conference was a success. Other Soviet accounts of the flight were similar to the one given by Ogarkov. A deliberate muddling, by Ogarkov at his press conference, of the actual times combined with reporting an incorrect course would help confound analysts trying to discover the Soviet Air Defense forces' true reaction to the overflight. Ogarkov is the most likely person at national level to have made the decision to shoot down the plane.

Ogarkov stated that the decision was made by a regional commander and that "Soviet Air Defense Forces operated in full contact with the Government's authorities." As the Chief of the General Staff, making such a decision it could be read as political, a challenge to the authority of the Politburo. Historically, the Politburo had taken a dim view of military challenges to its authority. Ogarkov probably did not make the decision. If he was involved, he probably simply concurred - with the actions of subordinate commanders and did not interfere directly.

The one major personnel change that Chernenko made was the firing of the chief of the General Staff, Nikolay Ogarkov. On 7 September 1984, Krasnaya Zvezda announced that Ogarkov had been relieved of his duties as Chief of the General Staff and had been transferred to "other work". About a month later, Politburo Member Georgij Romanov, on a visit to Helsinki, confirmed that his "other work" was a position as Commander in Chief of the Western Theater of War. Had Ogarkov seriously challenged civilian authority by ordering the downing of KAL-007, punishment would probably have been much harsher. As it was, the move was an orderly transfer of position from him to his trusted lieutenant, Marshal Akhromeev. There was no other shake-up involved.

Sovietologists speculated on the reasons for Ogarkov's demotion, some even questioning whether it was, in fact, a demotion. Those who believe it was a step down from his previous position point to various possible causes for his removal, including his role in the KAL-007 reaction. Other analysts believed this "diversification" may have been the result of Ogarkov's considerable activity in arms control; and a few believed it was due to a statement he had made earlier that a nuclear was could be won.

The former Under Secretary General of the United Nations who defected to the United States in 1978, Arkady Shevchenko, believed Ogarkov was dismissed due to his "insistence on military appropriations which the Politburo considered excessive." Military expenditures could have been the basis for a disagreement Ogarkov was thought to have had with Defense Minister Ustinov over the readiness of Soviet Armed Forces.

Some experts countered that Ogarkov's move may have been a type of promotion (vice demotion) or, at least, a lateral switch to allow him to continue his work on military doctrine. Yossef Bodansky felt that "there is a large-scale disinformation campaign launched by the Soviets to present Ogarkov's reassignment as 'a politically oriented demotion." In fact, Bodansky continues, Ogarkov was "promoted in line with further pursuit of the course he formulated," i.e. his contribution to Soviet Military Science and the Art of War.

In all likelihood the motive was to remove a strong military personality from the center of power during a potential crisis of command. By September 1984 General Secretary Chernenko was regularly embarrassing the more progressive Soviet bureaucrats who didn't think a national leader should have to be jump-started every morning.

Ogarkov's disagreement with Defense Minister Ustinov, which had become more evident after Chernenko took power, might have resulted in an earlier dismissal had the Korean Air Lines incident not happened. In putting Ogarkov out front in September 1983 to justify the shooting down of the KAL plane, the political leadership may have wanted to put the onus for the action on the Soviet Military, but Moscow's insistence on its innocence and Ogarkov's sterling press conference performance may well have served to consolidate his position for some time thereafter.

Until 1988, Nikolai Ogarkov was the Commander of the Western Direction, where he was subordinated to: the troops of the Carpathian and Byelorussian military districts, the Group of Soviet troops in Germany, the Central and Northern groups of forces, the Forces of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet, one air army of the RGC and one air defense army. But in 1988, the new General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, Mikhail Gorbachev and his entourage decided to fire Marshals Ogarkov, Sokolov, Akhromeev and a number of other generals from the army.

In 1988-1992 he served as Inspector General of the Group of Inspectors General of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR. At the same time, until August 1991, he headed the All-Union Council of War, Labor and Armed Forces veterans of the USSR. Ogarkov no longer played any significant role in the military affairs of the country. In 1992 he was appointed adviser to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

On January 23, 1994, Nikolai Vasilyevich died.

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Page last modified: 03-07-2018 19:20:25 ZULU