The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

No. 791

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith a list27 prepared in the Embassy of important Communist Party and Soviet Government leaders who have during the present war been assigned by the Party to do full or part time military work and have been given high military rank. A considerable number of these leaders have received very high military decorations. …

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Probably the most outstanding leaders in the enclosed list who have been given military rank during the war are Zhdanov28 and Shcherbakov,29 leaders, respectively, of the Leningrad and Moscow party organizations. A recent publication dealing with the defense of Leningrad during the present war contains numerous documents in which Zhdanov figures as a member of the military council of the Leningrad front. He holds the rank of Colonel General. It will, of course, be recalled that Stalin himself assumed the rank of Marshal on March 7, 1943, and that on July 30, 1944, he was awarded the highest Soviet military decoration, the Order of Victory.

While the attached list is probably quite incomplete, it illustrates a wartime trend demonstrating the infiltration of party leaders into leading military positions. The assumption of high military rank by party officials and the awarding to them of decorations emphasizes the leading role of the party in the conduct of the war. It is also doubtless one of the devices by which the party seeks to prevent development of an army caste distinct from the party. Moreover, high party officials scattered throughout the military organization of the country can exercise supervision over military affairs. It is possible that party leaders in the military councils may have played a large part in selecting some of the able young generals now leading the Soviet armies. A hint of this is given in the play “Front”, in which a member of a military council engineers the removal of an incompetent general and his replacement by a brilliant young commander.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
George F. Kennan

Counselor of Embassy

N.B. Above dates are those on which Soviet press indicated that the persons listed held the titles, offices or decorations noted. They do not necessarily indicate dates of appointment or awarding of titles or decorations. Sources are daily newspapers except where otherwise indicated.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Audrey Alexandrovieh Zhdanov was the First Secretary of the Leningrad oblast and city Party Committee; he became a Lieutenant General on February 14, 1943, and a Colonel General on June 16, 1944. He received the Order of Suvorov (first degree) on February 22, and the Order of Kutuzov (first degree) on July 30, 1944.
  3. Alexander Sergeyevich Shcherbakov was the First Secretary of the Moscow Party Committee, the head of the Soviet Information Bureau, Chief of the Political Administration of the Red Army, and an Assistant People’s Commissar for Defence. He became a Lieutenant General in February 1943, and a Colonel General on September 17, 1943, receiving the Order of Suvorov (first degree) on February 23, 1944.