Semyon Mikhailovich Budyonny

Rank: Marshal of the USSR
Fate: Died Moscow 1973, aged 90
Bio: Budyonny was conscripted into the Russian Tsarist army in 1903, and fought in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/5. As a young cavalryman, he distinguished himself with exceptional courage and horsemanship. By the First World War he was a senior sergeant in an elite regiment of dragoons, who sided with the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Budyonny was an early and close personal ally of Josef Stalin. The two men served alongside each other during the Civil War and the Soviet-Polish war. Despite defeat in Poland, Budyonny emerged from these wars as a famous and admired cavalry commander and a Bolshevik legend.
Budyonny was staunchly loyal to Stalin. He was complicit in his ‘Great Purge’ of 1937, giving testimony against fellow officers who were later executed, and in which his own wife was punished for adultery by being sent to a camp for nearly 20 years. Budyonny also opposed attempts to modernise the Red Army – he clung stubbornly to the belief that tanks were no match for good cavalry.
When war came, Marshal Budyonny commanded the ‘South-Western Direction’, overseeing Red Army operations in Ukraine. Like most other Soviet commanders, he had no answer to the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ attack. After his request for permission to retreat was turned down by Stalin and the Stavka High Command, most of his forces, more than 500,000 men, were encircled by the Germans around Kiev. It ranks as one of the greatest military disasters in history.
For the rest of the war Budyonny held commands of secondary importance. He was, as General Konev put it, ‘a man with a past, but no future.’ In 1942 his North Caucasus Front did play a key role in opposing the German advance into the Caucasus. Their goal was the oilfields of Baku. Their loss would have had a major impact on the course of the war, but Budyonny successfully parried all attempts by Von Kleist’s over-extended Army Group A to break through.
In 1943 Budyonny became Commander-in-Chief of Cavalry, a supervisory role which entailed no field command. He remained a devoted cavalryman and horse-lover, and after the war turned to horse-breeding - the Budyonny breed remains popular in Russia today.