Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov

Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov ( _ru. Николай Герасимович Кузнецов) (July 24, 1904–December 6, 1974) was a Soviet naval officer and People's Commissar of the Navy during World War II.


Early Years and Advancement

Kuznetsov was born in the village of Medvedki in the Kotlas district of the Arkhangelsk Oblast as a son of Serbian immigrant.In 1919, he joined the Soviet Northern Dvina Naval Flotilla, adding two years to his age to be accepted. His military service records give the year of his birth as 1902. From 1920 he was stationed at Petrograd and in 1924, as a member of a naval unit, he attended the funeral ceremony of Vladimir Lenin. That same year he joined the Bolshevik Party.

Upon graduation from the Frunze Military Academy in 1926, Kuznetsov served on the cruiser "Chervona Ukraina", first as watch officer and then as First Lieutenant. He completed studies in operations and tactics at the operations department of Naval College in 1932. Upon graduation he was offered a choice of position: he could opt for a job on the staff or a command post on a ship.

Kuznetsov thought it unwise to let such an opportunity slip and he successfully applied for the post of executive officer on the cruiser "Krasny Kavkaz" ("Red Caucasus"). Within a year he had been promoted. In 1934 he returned to the "Chervona Ukraina", this time as her commander. Under Kuznetsov, the ship became an outstanding example of discipline and organization, quickly attracting attention to her young captain.

From September 5, 1936 to August 15, 1937, Kuznetsov was the naval attache and chief naval advisor to Republican Spain. While serving in Spain he developed a strong dislike of fascism.

On returning home, on January 10, 1938, he was promoted to Flagman, 2nd rank, and given command of the Pacific fleet. While in this position, he came face to face with Stalin's purge of the military. Kuznetsov himself was never implicated, but many of the officers under his command were. Kuznetsov resisted the purges at every step, and his intervention saved the lives of many Soviet officers.

On April 28, 1939, Kuznetsov, still only thirty-four, was appointed the People's Commissar (Minister) of the Navy, a post he would hold through World War II.

The Second World War

Kuznetsov played a uniquely crucial role during the first hours of the war - at this pivotal moment, his resolve and blatant disregard for orders averted the destruction of the Soviet Navy. By June 21, 1941, Kuznetzov was convinced of the inevitability of war with Nazi Germany. On the same day Timoshenko and Zhukov issued a directive prohibiting Soviet commanders from responding to "German provocations." The Navy, however, constituted a distinct ministry (narkomat), and thus Kuznetsov held a position which was technically outside the direct chain of command. He utilized this fact in a very bold move.

Shortly after midnight on the morning of June 22, Kuznetsov ordered all Soviet fleets to battle readiness. At 4.45am that same morning, the Wehrmacht began operation Barbarossa. The Soviet Navy was the only branch of the military in state of readiness at the start of the initial German push.

In the following two years, Kuznetsov's primary concern was the protection of the Caucusus from a German invasion. Throughout the war, the Black Sea remained the primary theater of operations for the Soviet navy. During the war years Kuznetsov honed Soviet methods of amphibious assault. In February 1944 he was given the rank of Admiral of the Fleet - a newly created station initially equated to a four-star general. In the same year, Kuznetsov was given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. His rank was equated to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union with a similar insignia on May 31, 1945.

The First Fall

From 1946 to 1947 he was the Deputy Minister of the USSR Armed Forces and Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces.

In 1947 he was removed from his post on Stalin's orders and in 1948 he, as well as several other admirals were put on trial by the Naval Tribunal. Kuznetsov was demoted to vice-admiral, while the other admirals received prison sentences of varying length.

In 1951 Stalin ended Kuznetsov's pariah status, once again placing him in command of the Navy (with the Minister of the Navy of the USSR), but without restoring his military rank, which was returned to him upon Stalin's death in 1953. In the same year, he became the First Deputy Minister of Defence of the USSR. In 1955, Kuznetsov was made Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces. His rank was renamed Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union and he was awarded the Marshal's Star.

The Second Fall and Retirement

His newfound prominence brought him into direct conflict with Marshal Zhukov, with whom he had clashed during the war years. On December 8, 1955, using the loss of the battleship "Novorossiisk" as pretense, Zhukov removed the Admiral from his post; in February 1956 Kuznetsov was again demoted to the rank of vice-admiral, retired and expressly forbidden "any and all work connected with the navy."

During his retirement he wrote and published many essays and articles, as well as several longer works, including his memoirs and an officially sanctioned book, "Курсом к Победе" (With a Course for Victory), which dealt with the Patriotic War. His memoirs, unlike those of many other prominent leaders, were written by him personally and are noted for their style.

Kuznetsov also authored several books on the war, on Stalin's repressions, and on the navy which were published posthumously. In these he was highly critical of the Party's interference in the internal affairs of the military, and insisted that "the state must be ruled by law."

Restoring his Name

After the retirement of Zhukov in 1957, and of Khruschev in 1964, a group of naval veterans began a campaign to restore Kuznetsov's rank, with all benefits, and to make him one of the general inspectors of the Ministry of Defence. Invariably, these requests fell on deaf ears, particularly on those of Kuznetsov's successor, Admiral Gorshkov. Not until July 26, 1988 did the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet reinstate Kuznetsov to his former rank of Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union.Kuznetzov is now recognized as one of the most prominent men in the history of the Soviet and, today, of the Russian Navy.


:"My whole life has been the Soviet Navy. I made my choice when young and have never regretted it."

ee also

* "Admiral Kuznetsov" class aircraft carrier
** Soviet aircraft carrier "Admiral Kuznetsov"

External links

* [ Information page, including memoirs]
* [ Colour photo and biography from site of ETS Publishing House]

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