In the Russian Civil War in 1918, Budenny joined a partisan cavalry regiment that grew to a brigade and then a division. Given brigade command, he showed great talent as a cavalry commander at the Battle of Tsaritsyn. During the war, Budenny distinguished himself against the best opposing White (counterrevolutionary forces) cavalry generals, and he ended the civil war in command of a cavalry army. Assigned to support the Western Front, he and Kliment Voroshilov—encouraged by political officer Josef Stalin—refused to obey front commander General Mikhail Tukhachevsky's orders, which led to the 1921 defeat of the Red Army in Poland.
Budenny was appointed deputy commander of Cavalry Forces in 1923. When that post was abolished in 1924, Stalin secured Budenny's appointment as inspector of the cavalry. Despite this relatively modest post, he was one of five generals appointed marshal of the Soviet Union in 1935.
During the 1937 military purges, Budenny headed the Moscow Military District and served on the tribunal that condemned his colleagues to death. But poor troop performance during the Finnish-Soviet War (1939–1940, Winter War) exposed Budenny's outdated training views, causing his removal from district command and appointment to the honorific post of deputy defense commissar. He held this post when the Germans attacked in 1941.
Given command of the strategic Southern Axis, Budenny became responsible for Kiev, which Stalin ordered not to be surrendered. When it became apparent that the city would fall, Budenny recommended its abandonment, resulting in his relief and transfer to command the Reserve Front behind Moscow.
Unable to organize an effective defense when the German army launched its advance on Moscow, Budenny was replaced by General Georgii Zhukov. In spring 1942, Budenny took command of the strategic North Caucasus Axis but was relieved after the Germans crushed the Crimean Front and raced into the Caucasus. In January 1943, Stalin appointed Budenny commander of the Red Army Cavalry. He held that post until 1953. Budenny died in Moscow on 26 October 1973.
Arthur T. Frame
Anfilov, Viktor. "Semen Mikhailovich Budenny." In Harold Shukman, ed., Stalin's Generals, 57–66. New York: Grove Press, 1993.; Glantz, David M., and Jonathan M. House. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995.