Leonid Govorov

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Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov
Leonid Govorov 1.jpg
Born(1897-02-22)22 February 1897
Butyrki, Vyatka Governorate, Russian Empire
Died19 March 1955(1955-03-19) (aged 58)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Allegiance Russian Empire (1916–1918)
 Soviet Union (1920–1955)
Years of service1917–1955
RankMarshal of the Soviet Union
Commands held5th Army
Leningrad Front
Leningrad Military District
Battles/warsWorld War I
Russian Civil War
Soviet-Finnish War
World War II
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union
Order of Lenin (5)
Order of Victory
Order of the Red Banner (3)
Order of Suvorov, 1st Class (2)
Order of Kutuzov, 1st Class
Order of the Red Star
Légion d'honneur
Croix de guerre 1939-1945
Other workChief Inspector of Ground Forces
Commander of National Air Defense Forces
Deputy Minister of Defense

Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov (Russian: Леони́д Алекса́ндрович Го́воров) (22 February [O.S. 10 February] 1897 – 19 March 1955) was a Soviet military commander. An artillery officer, he joined the Red Army in 1920. He graduated from several Soviet military academies, including the Military Academy of Red Army General Staff. He participated in the Winter War as a senior artillery officer.[1]

In World War II, Govorov rose to command an army in November 1941 during the Battle of Moscow. He commanded the Leningrad Front from April 1942 to the end of the war. He reached the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1944, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and many other awards.[2]

Early years and Russian Revolution[edit]

Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov was born into a peasant family of Russian ethnicity in the village of Butyrki in Vyatka Governorate (now in Kirov Oblast).[1] He attended a technical high school in Yelabuga and enrolled in the shipbuilding department of Petrograd Polytechnical Institute. In December 1916, however, he was mobilized and was sent to the Konstantinovskye Artillery School, from which he graduated in 1917. He became an artillery officer with the rank of podporuchik.[1]

When the Russian Revolution broke out and the Russian Army disintegrated, Govorov returned home, but was conscripted into the White Guard army of Aleksandr Kolchak in October 1918, serving in an artillery battery with the 8th Kama Rifle Division of the 2nd Ufa Army Corps in the Western Army, fighting in the Russian Civil War. Govorov fought in the Spring Offensive of the Russian Army, a general drive westwards by White forces in the east. He deserted in November 1919, fleeing to Tomsk, where he took part in an uprising against White authorities as part of a fighting squad. Govorov joined the Red Army in January 1920, serving in the 51st Rifle Division as an artillery battalion commander. With the division, he fought in the Siege of Perekop in November, during which Soviet forces drove Pyotr Wrangel's White Army out of Crimea. Govorov was wounded twice during the year and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1921 for his actions in Crimea.[1]

Interwar years[edit]

Govorov with his wife, 1923

Govorov obtained further military education, graduating from the Artillery course in 1926, the Higher Academy course in 1930, and the Frunze Military Academy in 1933. In 1936, Govorov was among the first officers who attended the newly founded Military Academy of Red Army General Staff, from which he graduated in 1938.[3]

From 1936, he was head of artillery in the Kiev Military District. In 1938 he was appointed as lecturer in tactics at the Dzerzhinsky Artillery Academy. In 1939, he finished his first research publication.[4] This was the period of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. Govorov was close to being arrested, but in the end survived thanks to the intervention of Mikhail Kalinin[5] and continued to rise in rank.[2]

Winter War[edit]

In 1939 the Soviet-Finnish War broke out, and Govorov was appointed chief of artillery of the 7th Army, as his research while at Dzerzhinsky Artillery Academy was about assaulting and penetrating fortified enemy positions. He commanded the massive artillery assault that allowed the Soviet breakthrough along the Mannerheim Line in 1940. For this he was awarded the Order of the Red Star and promoted to the rank of division commander. He was then appointed Deputy Inspector-General of Artillery of the Red Army.[4]

World War II[edit]

1941 and early 1942[edit]

After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Govorov commanded the Artillery on the Western Front in Belarus from August to October 1941. During the Battle of Moscow, he was appointed Chief of Artillery of the 5th Army, under the command of Major General Dmitri Danilovich Lelyushenko. After Lelyushenko was wounded on 18 October Govorov assumed command of the army. During the Soviet counter-offensives in the winter of 1941–42, his army liberated Mozhaisk. As a result, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general of artillery.[6]

Defense of Leningrad[edit]

In April 1942 Govorov was appointed commander of the Leningrad Group of Forces of the Leningrad Front, which combined the former Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts.[7] In July, the Volkhov Front was re-established, and Govorov became the head of the entire Leningrad Front, replacing Lieutenant General M.S. Khosin. Leningrad had been cut off from the rest of the country since September 1941, and the Soviet forces were trying to lift the siege of Leningrad, which was causing colossal damage to the city and suffering to the civilian population. The Road of Life, which was the only means of supply to the city, was frequently cut by regular German and Finnish air strikes. Soviet forces launched several offensives in the region in 1942, but these failed to lift the siege. The Lyuban Offensive Operation resulted in the encirclement and destruction of most of the Soviet 2nd Shock Army.[8] In this situation, Govorov's background as an artilleryman was considered most valuable, since the city was under constant shelling, and one of Govorov's tasks was to launch an artillery counter-offensive against the German guns.[6]

As soon as he became the commander of the Leningrad Front in July 1942, Govorov mounted local attacks in several sectors of the front, while preparing a much larger offensive. Together with the Volkhov Front, the Leningrad Front would break the blockade of the city by eliminating the German positions south of Ladoga Lake, where only 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) separated the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts. This position was called "the bottleneck". At the same time, German forces were planning Operation Northern Light (German: Nordlicht) to capture the city and link up with Finnish forces. To achieve that, heavy reinforcements arrived from Sevastopol, which the German forces had captured in July 1942.[9] Both sides were unaware of the other's preparations. As a result, the Soviet Sinyavino Offensive failed and the 2nd Shock army was decimated for the second time in a year, but the German forces suffered heavy casualties and canceled Operation Northern Light.[10]

Operation Iskra, January 1943

In late November 1942, Govorov began planning the next operation to break the blockade of Leningrad. In December, the plan was approved by the Stavka and received the codename Operation Iskra (Spark).[11] Operation Iskra began on 13 January 1943, and on 18 January Soviet forces linked up, breaking the blockade. By 22 January the front line stabilized. The operation successfully opened a land corridor 8–10 km wide to the city. A railroad was swiftly built through the corridor that allowed far more supplies to reach the city than the "Road of Life", eliminating the possibility of the capture of the city and a German-Finnish link up.[12] Govorov was promoted to Colonel General on 15 January and was awarded the Order of Suvorov 1st Class on 28 January.[13]

The Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts tried to follow up their success with a much more ambitious offensive operation named Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda (Polar Star). This operation had the aim of decisively defeating the German Army Group North, but achieved very modest gains.[14] Several other offensives were conducted by Govorov in the area in 1943, slowly expanding the corridor into Leningrad, and making other small gains.[15] In November 1943, Govorov began planning the Leningrad-Novgorod Offensive which would drive Army Group North out of the Leningrad region.[16] On 17 November he was promoted to army general.[1]

Soviet Counter Offensive[edit]

The Soviet offensive started on 14 January 1944. By 1 March the Leningrad, Volkhov and 2nd Baltic Fronts had driven Army Group North back up to 300 kilometres (190 mi) on a 400 kilometres (250 mi) front, liberating the southern Leningrad region and part of the Kalinin region.[17] By that time, the reinforced Germans forces were at the "Panther Line", stretching from Narva to Pskov using Lake Pskov as a barrier, where the offensive was stopped in several heavy battles around Narva.[17] On 18 April the Soviet forces were ordered to the defense, a new 3rd Baltic Front was created to coordinate operations near Narva and Govorov's Leningrad Front turned attention to the north.[18] In June 1944, during the Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive, which led to Soviet recapture of Vyborg, Govorov was promoted to the rank of marshal of the Soviet Union. Later his forces recaptured the Baltic states, and in autumn 1944 his forces blocked Army Group North in what became known as Courland Pocket. On 27 January 1945, Govorov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.[1]

Post-war career[edit]

In the postwar years Govorov was commander of the Leningrad Military District, and then Chief Inspector of Ground Forces. In 1948 he was appointed Commander of National Air Defense Forces, and in 1952 he also became Deputy Minister of Defense. In these posts he oversaw the modernization of the Soviet air defense system for the age of the jet aircraft and the atomic bomb. But Govorov was by this time suffering from chronic heart disease, and died in March 1955. He is buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. A street in St Petersburg is named after him.[1]

Honours and awards[edit]

Soviet Awards
Hero of the Soviet Union medal.png Hero of the Soviet Union (27 January 1945)
Ordervictory rib.png Order of Victory (№ 10–31 May 1945)
Order of Lenin ribbon bar.png Five Orders of Lenin (10 November 1941, 2 January 1942, 27 January 1945, 21 February 1945, 21 February 1947)
Order of Red Banner ribbon bar.png Order of the Red Banner, three times (1921, 3 November 1944, 15 November 1950)
Order suvorov1 rib.png Order of Suvorov, 1st class, twice (28 January 1943, 21 February 1944)
Order kutuzov1 rib.png Order of Kutuzov, 1st class (29 July 1944)
Order redstar rib.png Order of the Red Star (15 January 1940)
Defleningrad.png Medal "For the Defence of Leningrad"
Ribbon bar for the medal for the Defense of Moscow.png Medal "For the Defence of Moscow"
OrderStGeorge4cl rib.png Medal "For the Victory over Germany 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"
800thMoscowRibbon.png Medal "In Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow"
Foreign Awards
Order of the Republic (Tuvan People's Republic, 3 March 1942)
US Legion of Merit Chief Commander ribbon.png Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit (USA)
Legion Honneur GO ribbon.svg Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)
Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 ribbon.svg Croix de Guerre 1939-45 (France)

Citations and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Leonid Govorov". warheroes.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b Glantz p. 214
  3. ^ Glantz, p 214
  4. ^ a b Kiselev p. 115
  5. ^ John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin's War with Germany, Vol. 1 (Yale University Press, 1999: ISBN 0-300-07812-9), p. 6.
  6. ^ a b Glantz, p. 214
  7. ^ Glantz (2002), p. 182
  8. ^ Isayev p. 134
  9. ^ Glantz (2002), p. 213–214
  10. ^ Glantz, p.230
  11. ^ Glantz p. 265
  12. ^ Glantz p. 284–285
  13. ^ Kiselev p. 140
  14. ^ Glantz p. 284
  15. ^ Glantz p. 323
  16. ^ Glantz p. 333
  17. ^ a b Glantz p. 410
  18. ^ Glantz p. 409–410


Further reading[edit]

  • Glantz, David M. (2005). Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War 1941–43. Kansas University Press. ISBN 978-0-7006-1353-3.