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Marshal of the Soviet Union
Dmitry Yazov
Дми́трий Я́зов
Marshal Dmitry Yazov.jpg
Yazov in 2013
Minister of Defence
In office
30 May 1987 – 28 August 1991
Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov
Valentin Pavlov
Preceded by Sergei Sokolov
Succeeded by Yevgeny Shaposhnikov
Personal details
Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazov

(1924-11-08)8 November 1924
Yazovo, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died 25 February 2020(2020-02-25) (aged 95)
Moscow, Russia
Resting place Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, Moscow Oblast
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1944–1991)
Military service
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Branch/service Soviet Army
Russian Ground Forces
Years of service 1941–1991
Rank Rank insignia of маршал Советского Союза.svg Marshal of the Soviet Union
Battles/wars World War II
Soviet–Afghan War

Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazov (Russian: Дми́трий Тимофе́евич Я́зов; 8 November 1924 – 25 February 2020) was a Marshal of the Soviet Union. A veteran of the Great Patriotic War, Yazov served as Minister of Defence from 1987 until he was arrested for his part in the 1991 August Coup, four months before the fall of the Soviet Union. Yazov was the last person to be appointed to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union on 28 April 1990, the only Marshal born in Siberia, and at the time of his death on 25 February 2020, he was the last living Marshal of the Soviet Union.


Дмитрий Язов в 1941 году
Yazov in 1941.

Early life

He was born in the village of Yazovo (called Lyebyezhye at the time of his birth), Krestinsky volost, Kalachinsky district, Omsk province. He was the son of Timofey Yakovlevich Yazov (died in 1933) and Maria Fedoseevna Yazova, who were both peasants. The family had four children.

World War II

Yazov joined the Red Army voluntarily in November 1941, a seventeen-year-old young man, not having time to finish high school. When he joined the army, he said he was a year older than he was, saying that he was born in 1923. He was enrolled in training at the Moscow Higher Military Command School (Evacuated due to the Battle of Moscow to Novosibirsk from 2 November 1941 to 28 January 1942) and graduated from it in June 1942. He received a school graduation certificate only in 1953, already being a major.

Язов Дмитрий Тимофеевич, 1989 год
Minister of Defense Dmitry Yazov during a visit to the United States in 1989

From August 1942 he fought on the Volkhov and Leningrad fronts as commander of a rifle platoon, a commander of a rifle company, and a platoon commander of front-line courses of junior lieutenants of the 483rd Rifle Regiment of the 177th Rifle Division of the Leningrad Front. He participated in the battles of the Siege of Leningrad, in the offensive operations of Soviet troops in the Baltic states, and in the blockade of the Courland Pocket. In 1944 he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Post–war military career

In 1962, Yazov commanded Soviet ground forces in Oriente Province, Cuba, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where he personally worked with Cuban Defence Minister Raúl Castro. The unit, which was headquartered at Holguín Air Base, was ordered to attack Guantanamo Bay Naval Base with KS-1 Komet nuclear cruise missiles if war with the United States started.

In 1971–1973, he commanded the 32nd Army Corps in the Crimean region of the Odessa Military District. In 1979–1980, Yazov was commander of the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia. He was commanding the Far East Military District in the northern summer of 1986, when, according to Time magazine, he made a favourable impression on General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to later promotions. He was appointed Soviet Defence Minister on 30 May 1987, after Marshal Sergei Sokolov was sacked as a result of the Mathias Rust incident two days earlier. From June 1987 to July 1990, Yazov was a candidate member of the Politburo. He was a key part of Black January. Yazov was responsible for deployment of Russian OMON commando units to Latvia and Lithuania in early 1991. During the August Coup of 1991, Yazov was a member of the State Emergency Committee. For supporting the GKChP, the government of Valentin Pavlov was dismissed and, accordingly, Yazov lost the post of Minister of Defence. During the Yeltsin period, Yazov was prosecuted and acquitted in 1994.

On the morning of 22 August, before the first interrogation, Yazov turned to Gorbachev with a video recorded message in which he read a letter and called himself an "old fool", regretted participating in this "adventure" and asked for forgiveness from the President of the USSR. 20 years after these events, the former defence minister said that he did not remember what he said, because he did not sleep for a day. And he named the journalist Vladimir Molchanov the initiator of this letter and video. In his memoirs, Yazov clarified that he was persuaded to turn to Gorbachev with a penitential speech to protect him from the criminal article "Treason to the Motherland", and under the influence of fatigue he succumbed to the persuasion of television reporters.

Yazov was released on recognisance not to leave in January 1993. He was amnestied by the State Duma in 1994, accepting the amnesty offered by Boris Yeltsin and stating that he was not guilty. He was dismissed from the military service by Presidential Order and awarded a ceremonial weapon. He was awarded an order of Honour by the President of Russian Federation. Yazov later worked as a military adviser at the General Staff Academy.

Despite his selection by Gorbachev for the Defence Minister's position, William Odom, in his book The Collapse of the Soviet Military, repeats Alexander Yakovlev's description of Yazov as a "mediocre officer", "fit to command a division but nothing higher". Odom suggests Gorbachev was only looking for "careerists who would follow orders, any orders".

In March 2019, Yazov was tried in absentia and convicted of war crimes by a Lithuanian court for his role in the military crackdown in Lithuania in January 1991, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Russia denounced the trial as politically motivated and refused to extradite Yazov.


Yazov died in Moscow on 25 February 2020 at the age of 95, following what the Defence Ministry of Russia called "a serious and prolonged illness". He is buried at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery outside Moscow.

Awards and honors

Soviet Union

  • Order of Lenin, twice
  • Order of the October Revolution
  • Order of the Red Banner
  • Order of the Patriotic War, 1st class
  • Order of the Red Star
  • Order for Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces of the USSR, 3rd class
  • Medal "For Military Merit"
  • Medal "For Impeccable Service", 1st and 2nd classes
  • Medal "For Distinction in Guarding the State Border of the USSR"
  • Medal "Veteran of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
  • Medal "For Strengthening Military Cooperation"
  • Medal "For Development of the Virgin Lands"
  • Medal "For the Defence of Leningrad"
  • Jubilee medals

Russian Federation

  • Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 3rd and 4th class
  • Order of Honour
  • Order of Alexander Nevsky
  • Jubilee medals


  • Order of Red Banner (Afghanistan)
  • Order of "Friendship of Peoples" (Afghanistan)
  • Medal "For the strengthening of friendship in Arms" (Bulgaria)
  • Order of Che Guevara (Cuba)
  • Order of Red Banner (Czechoslovakia)
  • Scharnhorst Order (East Germany)
  • Medal "20 years of independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan"
  • Medal "30 years of Victory over Japan" (Mongolia)
  • Medal "40 years of Khalkhin Gol Victory" (Mongolia)
  • Medal "50 Years of the Mongolian People's Revolution" (Mongolia)
  • Order of Civil Merit, 1st class (Syria)


See also

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