Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Rokossovsky, Konstantin Konstantinovich (1896–1968)

Marshal of the Soviet Union who was in command of the 2nd Belorussian Front in 1945. Born to a Polish railway worker and his Russian wife in Velikiye Luki, Poland, on 21 December 1896, Konstantin Rokossovsky moved with his family to Warsaw in 1900. In 1914, he was drafted into the Russian army, where he served with the 5th Kargopol Dragoon Regiment and rose to sergeant. He joined the Red Army in 1918 and fought in the Russian Civil War in Siberian Mongolia.

Rokossovsky completed the cavalry short courses in 1923 and the Frunze Military Academy in 1929. He commanded the 5th Kuban Cavalry Brigade (1929–1930) and then the 7th Samara Cavalry Division (1930), which included his friend Georgii Zhukov. Rokossovsky next commanded the 15th Cavalry in the Far East until 1935. In 1936 and 1937, he commanded the V Cavalry Corps. In August 1937, during the purge of the Soviet officer corps, Rokossovsky was arrested on a false charge of having spied for Poland and Japan. He was subsequently tortured and twice taken into the woods to be shot. After being imprisoned near Leningrad, he was freed on 22 March 1940. Rokossovsky again commanded the V Cavalry Corps and took part in the "liberation" of Bessarabia in the summer of 1940. He then received command of the newly formed IX Mechanized Corps in the Ukraine.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Rokossovsky commanded Sixteenth Army in the defense of Moscow. The next year, he organized the reduction of the encircled German Sixth Army at Stalingrad with his Don Front. As a result of his success, he was promoted to colonel general in January 1943 and to full general that April. After a successful defense of the north side of the salient during the Battle of Kursk, his Central Front (later redesignated the 1st Belorussian Front) drove across the Dnieper River.

In Operation bagration, Rokossovsky, promoted to marshal of the Soviet Union in June 1944, led forces that defeated German Army Group Center in Belorussia. His troops captured Minsk (3 July) and Lublin (23 July) before halting on the Vistula River opposite Warsaw (1 August). He next commanded the 2nd Belorussian Front and conducted an effective campaign in East Prussia and Pomerania in 1945, aiding in the Berlin Campaign.

After the war, Rokossovsky commanded Soviet forces in Poland from 1945 to 1949, and in November 1949, he was appointed commander in chief of the Polish army and minister of defense. He remained in these posts until returning to the Soviet Union in 1956. From 1956 to 1962, he was deputy minister of defense of the Soviet Union, save for a one-year break to command the Transcaucasus Military District between 1957 and 1958. Rokossovsky died in Moscow on 3 August 1968.

Claude R. Sasso

Further Reading
Erickson, John. The Road to Berlin. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983.; Rokossovsky, Konstantin. A Soldier's Duty. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970.; Shtemenko, Sergei M. The Soviet General Staff at War, 1941–1945. 2 vols. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970.; Woff, Richard. "Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovsky." In Harold Shukman, ed., Stalin's Generals, 177–196. New York: Grove Press, 1993.; Zhukov, Georgii Z. Reminiscences and Reflections. 2 vols. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974.

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