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Kirill Meretskov : biography

June 7, 1897 - December 30, 1968

Kirill Afanasievich Meretskov ( June 7, 1897 – December 30, 1968) was a Soviet military commander. Having joined the Communist Party in 1917, he served in the Red Army from 1920. During the Winter War, he was responsible for penetrating the Mannerheim Line as commander of the 7th Army. He was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union shortly afterwards.

Meretskov was arrested at the start of World War II, but was released two months later. He returned to command the 7th Army and later the Volkhov Front during the Siege of Leningrad. He commanded the Karelian Front from February 1944, notably the Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive. From April 1945 he was assigned to the Far East, where he commanded a front during the Soviet invasion of Japanese Manchuria. During the war he reached the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union.; on

Early life and career

Meretskov was born at Nazaryevo in Ryazan province (now in Moscow Oblast), southeast of Moscow. His parents were peasants and lived in a rural village. He was a factory worker from 1909, first in Moscow, later near Vladimir. He joined the Bolsheviks (later the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in August 1917, and became chief of staff of Red Guard militia that helped to organise in the town. During the Russian Civil War, he was chief of staff of a regiment, and later a division. In 1921 he graduated from the Military Academy (later Frunze Military Academy).

From 1922, he held a number of commands as chief of staff, first in a cavalry division, later in various armies and military districts. From September 1936 to May 1937, Meretskov fought for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War under a pseudonym of "General Pavlovich". In 1939 he was appointed commander of the Leningrad Military District.

Winter War

In November 1939, at the start of the Winter War, Commander of the Leningrad Military District Kiril Meretskov initially ran the overall operation against the Finns.Edwards, p. 93 However gross underestimations of the Finnish defenses, the size of their forces and the corresponding overestimations of the capacity of the Red Army, led to serious planning flaws. Only five rifle divisions were initially sent to assault the Mannerheim Line and piecemeal commitment of reinforcements did not achieve any effect.Isayev (2004) p. 19 Meretskov failed and the command was passed on 9 December 1939 to the General Staff Supreme Command, Stavka, directly under Kliment Voroshilov (chairman), Nikolai Kuznetsov, Joseph Stalin and Boris Shaposhnikov.Edwards, p. 125Manninen (2008), p. 14

Meretskov was appointed to command of the 7th Army. In January 1940, the Leningrad Military District was reformed and renamed "North-Western Front." Semyon Timoshenko was chosen Army Commander to break the Mannerheim Line.Trotter, p. 204 For the next offensive, the Stavka significantly reinforced the 7th Army, deployed the 13th Army on its flank and substantial assigned heavy artillery to both armies, including B-4 howitzers and Br-5 mortars.Isayev (2004) p. 20

The next Soviet offensive began in February 1940. The heavy artillery support allowed the Soviet forces to breach the Mannerheim Line. Meretskov's 7th Army proceeded to take Vyborg. Less than two weeks after the singing of the Moscow Peace Treaty, on March 21, 1940 Meretskov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Afterwards, Meretskov was promoted to rank of army general and made Deputy Commissar of Defense. From August 1940 to January 1941 he was Chief of the General Staff.

Honours and awards

Soviet Union
  • Hero of the Soviet Union (21 March 1940)
  • Order of Victory (№ 18–8 September 1945)
  • Seven Orders of Lenin (3 January 1937, 21 March 1940, 2 November 1944, 21 February 1945, 6 June 1947, 6 June 1957, 6 June 1967)
  • Order of the October Revolution (22 February 1968)
  • Order of Red Banner, four times (22 February 1928, 2 March 1938, 3 November 1944, 6 November 1947)
  • Order of Suvorov, 1st class, twice (28 January 1943, 21 February 1944)
  • Order of Kutuzov, 1st class (29 June 1944)
  • Medal "For the Defence of Leningrad"
  • Medal "For the Defence of the Soviet Transarctic"
  • Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
  • Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
  • Medal "For the Victory over Japan"
  • Jubilee Medal "XX Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army"
  • Jubilee Medal "30 Years of the Soviet Army and Navy"
  • Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
  • Jubilee Medal "50 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
  • Medal "In Commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of Leningrad"
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