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Konstantin Rokossovsky
December 21, 1896 – August 3, 1968

Rokossovsky always said that he was a Pole. And though his entire adult life he spent in Russia until the end of his life he spoke Russian with a strong Polish accent. In Poland, he is remembered mainly due to the fact that he commanded the Belorussian Front, and did not respond to the call of the Warsaw insurgents.

Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky (1894-1968) is known as one of the greatest generals of World War II, the creators of the Great Victory of the Soviet people over fascism. With all the interest in his personality existing biographies remain obscure, many questions: Rokossovskogo exact date of birth, his participation in the Civil War, the circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment, an uneasy relationship with the other, "Marshal of the Victory" - Georgy Zhukov.

Konstantin Rokossovsky was born 8/20 of December 1894 (or 1896) in Velikie Luki, a small Russian town not far from Pskov. His father, a man of Polish origin, was a railway machinist, and his mother was a Russian schoolteacher. By creating a proletarian Marshal biography, his father dropped to a railway worker, and of his noble origins biographers were silent. Rokossovsky lived in the estate of his uncle, a wealthy landowner.

Soon after Konstantin’s birth the family moved to Warsaw. Konstantin was just 5 years old when his father died in a railway accident. The family was left aground; they were very poor and Konstantin was forced to abandon his studies after grade 4 to work in a factory producing stockings. In 1911 Konstantin’s mother died. The boy and his little sister Helena were left orphans. Konstantin kept working as an unskilled laborer. However, he found time to read many books in both Russian and Polish.

When the Great War broke out Konstantin Rokossovsky joined the Russian regiment that moved through Warsaw to the west. He was almost 18 years old by then, and was warmly welcomed by the regiment. He started as a private soldier, but thanks to his military talent, courage and leadership he soon became a junior non-commissioned officer. He remained as such until October 1917. That’s when Rokossovsky joined the Communist Party and entered the Red Army. Step by step, the young and ambitious man advanced to the rank of battalion commander. He played an active role in defeating the White Guard, including the troops headed by Alexander Kolchak. For his outstanding results Rokossovsky received the Order of the Red Banner, which was the highest military decoration in Soviet Russia. In 1923 Rokossovsky married Julia Barmina, and in 1925 their daughter Ariadna was born. After two years of studying at the Higher Cavalry Commander School, Rokossovsky was invited to serve as an instructor in the Mongolian army. He spent several years defending the Chinese Eastern Railway until it was sold to Japan in 1935.

In August 1937 Rokossovsky was falsely accused of having connections with the Japanese and Polish secret services. He was arrested and put in prison. Rokossovsky spent three years in the ruefully famous jailhouse “The Crosses” (“Kresty”) in Leningrad.

Obviously against him were used interrogation methods similar to medieval torture. How during these inhuman tests broke human lives. People confessed to what he did not commit, providing different to torment stopped. But Rokossovsky knew that once he confessed the chances of surviving are minimal. Despite imprisonment and torture (front teeth knocked out, toes beat with a hammer, three broken ribs), , he remained courageous and denied all charges.

In March 1940, at the request of the newly appointed Defense Minister SK Timoshenko, Rokossovsky was released and returned to the army. After meeting with Stalin, Rokossovsky was reestablished in the Red Army and in the Communist Party. Soon after he was given the rank of major general.

Rokossovsky explained in his memoirs that the party did not know about these persecutions. He believed that it was a provocation by enemies of the party, which fell on fertile ground. Of all the people who got the worst, the army began to spread betrayal. The colonel knew he could become a general, if you eliminated the boss. The captain informed on the Major and Major Colonel. So he explained it himself. He believed in Stalin. He was convinced that the Generalissimo knew nothing these repressions But before the end of his days, even when he was a minister, he carried a small revolver, which was put under his pillow at night.

When World War II started and the Nazis attacked the USSR, Rokossovsky commanded the 9th Mechanized Corps. Despite a lack of tanks, the troops headed by Rokossovsky wore out the enemy and retreated only upon order. Rokossovsky was promoted and became the commander of the 16th Army that was obliged to protect the Volokolamsk approach to Moscow. It was an extremely difficult task due to a lack of soldiers and transportation. However, Rokossovsky managed to maintain an unbroken defense line. Rokossovsky proved himself as a gifted commander. The Nazi plan for a quick Moscow capture collapsed. Rokossovsky was honored with the Lenin Order.

In March 1942 Rokossovsky was badly injured by a shell splinter. He spent two months in a Moscow hospital, but as soon as he got well he took command of the 16th Army again. In September 1942 Lieutenant General Konstantin Rokossovsky was appointed commander of the Stalingrad Front (also known as the Don Front). He was among those who elaborated the so-called “Uranus Plan” which resulted in the capture and defeat of the 6th German army headed by Field Marshal von Paulus. The 6th Army’s attack on Stalingrad was stopped. He captured Field Marshal Paulus at Stalingrad January 31, 1943 as the commander of the Don Front. For his deeds, Rokossovsky received the Suvorov Order.

In February 1943 Rokossovsky wrote in his diary: “I’m appointed commander of the Central Front. It means that Stalin has entrusted me to play the key part in the summer Kursk campaign.” Actually, Rokossovsky was responsible for stopping the Nazi’s attack in the outskirts of Kursk in 1943. It was the turning point of the whole of World War II. Rokossovsky showed himself as a brilliant strategist. Using Soviet secret service data, he managed to define the exact point of the Nazi’s principal thrust and organized a strong defense line. Rokossovsky guaranteed victory in the Kursk Battle. Soon after that, he was promoted to colonel general and finally general.

In the summer of 1944 Rokossovsky, commanding the 1st Belorussian Front, brilliantly distinguished himself in the operation "Bagration", during which the German Army Group "Center" was inflicted a crushing defeat in Belarus. In making decisions and planning the operation Konstantin again showed independence of operational thinking, a creative approach to the fulfillment of the tasks of the front, firmness in upholding the decision.

Acting in difficult marshy terrain, during the first five days of the offensive the troops under Rokossovsky surrounded and destroyed in the Bobruisk area for more than five German divisions advancing on 100-110 km. Allied troops on the western flank of the Normandy bridgehead under General O. Bradley in three weeks of fighting against a far less formidable enemy advanced as calculated Liddell Hart, only 8-13 km. Even before the end of the operation "Bagration" KK Rokossovsky was awarded the title of Marshal of the Soviet Union, and a month later - the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Rokossovsky, as commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, participated in the liberation of Poland, which he considered to be his native land. He brought communism to Poland, he believed in it and thought that this is the best of the modes - happiness for Poland. Only Poland did not understand.

The troops of the 1st Belorussian Front began conducting Lublin-Brest offensive, during which they reached the approaches to Warsaw. The German command, however, managed to gather reserves and organize the counter-attack, forcing troops Rokossovsky on the defensive. In August 1944, incorrectly assessing the situation on the Soviet-German front, the Polish exile government gave sanction for implementation of the anti-fascist uprising in Warsaw.

It was assumed that the liberation of the capital of Poland without the participation of Soviet troops would enable the "London Poles" to restore its authority in the country after the war. Despite the unexpected happened and unwillingness to cooperate with the leaders of the uprising by the Soviet command, by one account Rokossovsky did all he could to help the rebels. Exhausted in previous battles, the forces of the 1st Belorussian Front launched a series of offensive actions, but without success. The uprising was suppressed.

After the liberation of Belarus, Stalin began to address Rokossovsky by name, the only except Shaposhnikov.

Konstantin Rokossovsky went on to become one of the most talented Soviet commanders. He confirmed his status during the operation of Belorussia’s liberation known as “Bagration.” It was the strongest attack in the history of both world wars. Some historians believe that Stalin called Rokossovsky “my Bagration.” As soon as operation “Bagration” had been successfully completed, Rokossovsky was given the Diamond Star of the Soviet Union Marshal.

For generalship the signature of KK Rokossovsky was characterized by the ability to avoid rectilinear templates and actions, the ability to recognize the enemy's intentions, and to use his weaknesses, to ensure maximum fire support to troops on the defensive and the offensive. He could often be seen in the trenches, at the forefront among the soldiers and officers. "If long time passes without going to the the trenches - he said - that there is a feeling as if some important link was broken, and some very valuable information was losth." One of the most outstanding creators of Victory, Rokossovsky as a commander summed up his activity: "The greatest happiness for the soldier - the knowledge that you have helped his people to defeat the enemy, to defend the freedom of the homeland, to return to her world. Knowing that you fulfilled his soldier's duty, heavy duty and noble, beyond which there is nothing on earth!"

Marshal GK Zhukov said "Rokossovsky was a very good boss. Brilliantly knew military affairs, clearly set objectives cleverly and discreetly check the performance of their orders. It subordinates showed constant attention and, perhaps more than anyone else, know how to evaluate and develop the initiative of subordinate commanders to him. Many give to others and could at the same time learn from them. I'm not talking about his rare mental qualities - they are known to all who have served a little under his command. ... A more thorough, hard-working, hard-working and gifted human large hard for me to remember."

By the end of World War II Konstantin Rokossovsky was heading the 2nd Belorussian Front. It was Rokossovsky who commanded the Victory Parade in Moscow on the 24 June 1945. Rokossovsky was riding on a black horse, and Zhukov on white.

After the end of World War II, Stalin ordered Rokossovsky to re-organize the Polish army. He did not want to settle in Poland, but had to ("For the Poles, I will always be Russian"). On 07 November 1949 the Polish Government announced that Marshal of the Soviet Union Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovskiy had been named Marshal of Poland and had been appointed Polish Minister of National Defense. On November 13 it was further announced that Rokossovskiy had been co-opted to the membership of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (the Communist Party in Poland). The incumbent Minister of National Defense, Marshal of Poland Michal Rola-Zymierski, was relieved of his duties and was named a member of the Polish Council of State.

The appointment of Rokossovskiy represented the culmination of the trend of the flouting of Polish national sensibilities by the USSR. The action clearly bore out the greatly reduced importance with which Poland was viewed by Soviet leaders following the establishment of the German Democratic Republic in East Germany in October 1949. The most significant aspect of the appointment appeared to be the opening it gave the Soviet Union to withdraw its troops from East Germany.

The primary, immediate objective of appointment was Moscow’s determination to gain firmer control over Polish Army. The reason it felt this necessary at this time was because of long-range objectives. At that time, control of the Polish army meant military security service. "Suspicious" officers and generals simply disappeared in broad daylight. Under present circumstances Soviet control seemed adequate and Moscow minions (both Poles and those Soviets who may have been insinuated into Polish services) were effectively, though slowly, whittling down a sea of unreliability. The present rate of correction may, however, not be considered sufficient in view of conditions Kremlin may anticipate as result her own future actions.

That the Kremlin and Warsaw regime had doubts about reliability of Polish Army was reflected during previous year in retirements and shifts of a number of higher Army officers and in the appointment in April 1949 of Edward Ochab, an old time trusted Communist as Vice Minister Defense, with rank of General, charged with political education of Army.

In 1952, he became deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Poland. After Poland was somewhat liberalized by reformers in 1956, Rokossovsky returned to the Soviet Union. By one account, in 1956, due to deteriorating health, he resigned and returned to Moscow. Some sources relate that he became Minister of National Defense in the USSR in 1956, though only for a brief time. But Zhukov was Minister of Defense from 1955 to 1957, so this poorly attested story is a difficult to believe.

From November 1956 to June 1957 he served as Deputy Minister of Defence of the USSR, and in October 1957 he was named the Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR, leaving as Deputy Defense Minister. From October 1957 to January 1958 he was the commander of the Transcaucasus Military District. From January 1958 to April 1962 he served as the Deputy Minister of Defence of the USSR and Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Defence. In 1956, due to the worsening situation in the Middle East served as commander of the Transcaucasus Military District. In July 1957, he was named deputy minister of defense and commander of the Transcaucasian Military District. The following year he became chief inspector of the Ministry of Defense, the post he held until his retirement in April 1962. [there is evidently something deffective in this chronology, since there are multiple dates on which he was appointed chief inspector]

At the plenum of the CPSU Central Committee on October 28-29, 1957, in which Marshal Zhukov was removed from his post as defense minister and retired from the Presidium of the Central Committee of "Bonapartism", Rokossovsky criticized Zhukov rather harshly: "The main drawback of Comrade Zhukov during the war ... was rudeness, he could offend a person to inflict insult, humiliate.... Instead of the senior commander in conversation with subordinates speaking in a calm, confident voice that encouraged and supported, we heard a continuous swearing with the threat of execution.... "

The new leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, demoted him. In April 1962, Khrushchev asked KK Rokossovsky to write a "custom-made" article about Joseph Stalin, in the spirit of the well-known decision of the CPSU XX Congress of the "cult of personality". But Marshal resolutely refused to comply with the political order, and the next day was removed from office. Some historians believe that Rokossovsky refused because he respected Stalin deeply, others think that he just didn't want to interfere in politics.

Another version relates that a group of Inspectors General of the Ministry of Defence spread rumors that the resignation was due to the fact that the Marshal refused to participate in the exposure of Stalin's cult of personality campaign. Konstantin really never made a public condemnation of Stalin. However, according to the grandson of Marshal Konstantin Vilevich, the resignation of the reason lay elsewhere. Shortly before Marshal inspected the Baltic Fleet and revealed gross violations of the rules of acceptance of warships from shipbuilders.

In December 1966, Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky was one of those who carried on their shoulders the coffin with the remains of the Unknown Soldier and lowered it into the grave in the Alexander Garden. So the great commander gave his last respects to the men with whom he defended Moscow in 1941.

Rokossovsky was awarded two stars of the Hero of the Soviet Union, seven Orders of Lenin, six Orders of the Red Banner, the Order of Victory Order of the October Revolution, Order of Suvorov and Kutuzov 1 st degree, Polish Order of "Virtuti military" with a star and a cross Grunwald 1st degree, Polish Order of "Builders of People's Poland", the French Legion of honor, the French Croix de Guerre, the American Order of the Legion of honor degree of commander in chief, the Mongolian Order of Sukhbaatar and of the Red Banner. He was the only Soviet general to be awarded the British Order of the Bath Knight's Cross. In addition, the Marshal was awarded many medals. Among his awards and honorary weapons listed with a gold State Emblem of the USSR.

His daughter Ariadna recalled: "His whole life was an ongoing activity, he did not know how to be alone, did not like slackers, idleness considering one of the greatest evils. I often think that fueled its indestructible vitality. First of all, the natural enthusiasm - he just could not do anything with indifference, without this same passion: if he played chess with his grandchildren and worked there over the military works, singing or arguing with friends. And yet, perhaps, sport, exercise, without which he did not start the day. Father passionately fond of nature, but not the contemplative love. He could spend hours wandering through the woods in search of mushrooms, patiently explain to us the healing properties of various herbs, berries, loved hunting and fishing, which took me with pleasure, if only I had the patience to wait to start biting. Respect for nature and he managed to pass his grandchildren, especially the youngest, in communion with whom spent a lot of time in recent years."

Konstantin Rokossosky had a heart condition. But he died from prostate cancer on 03 August 1968, after a severe and prolonged illness. He is buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis located on the Red Square in Moscow. Rokossovsky wanted to be buried with his wife and daughter at the Novodevichy Cemetery. Before his death, he said to Marshal Zhukov: "I am not afraid of death, but I was afraid of this wall."

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Page last modified: 21-02-2016 20:06:13 ZULU