Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Sokolovsky, Vasily Danilovich (1897–1968)

Soviet general and defense official. Born the son of peasants in the village of Kozliki, near Grodna (then Poland, now Belarus), on 9 July 1897, Vasily Sokolovsky in 1918 joined the Red Army. As a participant in the Russian Civil War, he commanded a company, a regiment, a brigade, and finally the 32nd Rifle Division. He graduated from the Red Army Staff Academy in 1921 and then served in Central Asia in the Operations Directorate of the General Staff. He was then chief of staff first of a division and then a corps. Later he was chief of staff of first the Urals and then the Volga Military Districts.

Promoted to major general in May 1938 and to lieutenant general in June 1940, Sokolovsky became deputy chief of the General Staff in February 1941. In midsummer he was chief of staff of the Western Front, with responsibility for the defense of Moscow. Promoted to colonel general in June 1942, he took command of the Western Front in early 1943. In August 1943 he was promoted to general of the army. From April 1944 he was chief of staff of the First Ukrainian Front. In the last months of the war he was deputy commander of the First Belorussian Front.

After the war, Sokolovsky became deputy commander of Soviet occupation forces in Germany and governor of the Soviet zone of Berlin. During 1946–1949 he commanded Soviet occupation forces in Germany, a period that coincided with the Berlin Blockade of 1948–1949. Indeed, it was Sokolovsky who suggested that American, British, and French soldiers in the western sectors of Berlin were guests of the Soviets rather than fellow occupiers.

Returning to the Soviet Union in 1949, Sokolovsky continued to play a major role in the Soviet military. During 1949–1960 he was first deputy minister of defense and then chief of the General Staff (1952–1960). At the end of his military career, he served as inspector general for the Ministry of Defense and oversaw the writing of Voennaia strategiia (Military Strategy), a 1962 planning manual that shaped Soviet thinking for most of the remainder of the Cold War. Sokolovsky died in Moscow on 10 May 1968.

Roger Chapman and Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Richie, Alexandra. Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1998.; Seaton, Albert, and Joan Seaton. The Soviet Army: 1918 to the Present. New York: New American Library, 1987.; Sokolovsky, Vasily. Military Strategy: Soviet Doctrine and Concepts. New York: Praeger, 1963.
 

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