Bagramyan attended the Higher Cavalry School and the Frunze Military Academy. For four years, he was a lecturer at the General Staff Academy. He attained the rank of colonel by 1940, at which time he was posted to the Kiev Special Military District as deputy chief of staff to its commander, General Georgii Zhukov. Bagramyan assisted in preparing a paper for Zhukov entitled "Conducting a Contemporary Offensive Operation," which the general presented at the December meeting of the heads of military districts. The paper helped assure Bagramyan of Zhukov's future support.
At the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Bagramyan was operations officer for Marshal Semen Budenny's Southwestern Front. He escaped from the Kiev encirclement and was promoted to major general. In August 1941, Bagramyan became chief of staff to Marshal Semen Timoshenko, commander of the Southwestern and Southern Fronts. Bagramyan orchestrated two Soviet counteroffensives and was promoted to lieutenant general and made chief of staff of an operational group consisting of the Southern, Southwestern, and Bryansk Fronts. In late March 1942, Timoshenko sent Bagramyan to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to discuss plans for the recapture of Kharkov.
Bagramyan impressed Stalin, and in April, he was promoted to lieutenant general and appointed chief of staff of the Southwestern Front. In May, he was chief of staff of the Direction (Axis) as well. The Soviets recaptured Kharkov, but German forces then threatened to cut them off. Bagramyan sensed the danger, and on 18 May, he urged that the plan be changed; however, Stalin refused to intervene, and three Soviet armies were lost. Stalin made Bagramyan the scapegoat for the disaster, removing him from his post.
In July, a rehabilitated Bagramyan took command of the Sixteenth Army, which he led in the rzhev-sychev Operation to drive German forces from north of the Volga River and east of the Vazuza River. In February, following the Battle of Stalingrad, the Sixteenth Army was increased to six divisions, two brigades, a tank corps, four tanks brigades, and several artillery regiments. The Sixteenth Army performed well and was renamed the Eleventh Guards Army. It played a major role in the Battle of Kursk. For this success, Bagramyan was promoted to colonel general in July.
Eleventh Guards Army was then redeployed as part of the 2nd Baltic Front in preparation for Operation bagration, the Soviet offensive to destroy German Army Group Center. In November 1943, Stalin promoted Bagramyan to full general in command of the 1st Baltic Front. Bagramyan was the only front commander during the war of non-Slavic origins. On 31 July 1944, his forces reached the Baltic near Riga. In October, Bagramyan was promoted to General of the Army. In January 1945, his forces took Memel, cutting off 20 German divisions. In disfavor for not making as much progress in East Prussia as Stalin expected, Bagramyan found his front downgraded to the Zemland Forces Group.
In April 1945, Bagramyan was appointed commander of the 3rd Belorussian Front, a post he held until its disbandment that August. He had command of the Baltic Military District from 1946 to 1954. One year later, he was promoted to marshal and appointed inspector general of the Ministry of Defense, and from 1956 to 1958, Bagramyan headed the General Staff Academy. Through the decade that followed, he was chief of home front services. Bagramyan died in Moscow on 21 September 1982.
Neville Panthaki and Spencer C. Tucker
Bagramyan, Ivan. Tak Shli My k Pobede. Moscow: Voenizdat, 1977.; Erickson, John. The Soviet High Command. London: Macmillan, 1962.; Jukes, Geoffrey. "Ivan Khristoforovich Bagramyan." In Harold Shukman, ed., Stalin's Generals, 25–32. New York: Grove Press, 1993.