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Dmitriy Ustinov

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Dmitriy Ustinov

Dmitriy Ustinov
Дмитрий Устинов
Minister of Defence
In office
30 July 1976 – 20 December 1984
Premier Alexei Kosygin
Nikolai Tikhonov
Preceded by Andrei Grechko
Succeeded by Sergei Sokolov
First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers
In office
13 March 1963 – 26 March 1965
Premier Nikita Khrushchev
Alexei Kosygin
Preceded by Alexei Kosygin
Succeeded by Kirill Mazurov
Full member of the 24th, 25th, 26th Politburo
In office
5 March 1976 – 20 December 1984
Candidate member of the 20th–21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th Politburo
In office
8 April 1966 – 5 March 1976
In office
25 March 1965 – 29 March 1966
Member of the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th Secretariat
In office
26 March 1965 – 26 October 1976
Personal details
Born (1908-10-17)17 October 1908
Samara, Russian Empire
Died 20 December 1984(1984-12-20) (aged 76)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Profession Mechanical engineer
Military service
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Soviet Armed Forces
Years of service 1941–1984
Rank Marshal of the Soviet Union
Battles/wars World War II

Dmitriy Feodorovich Ustinov (Russian: Дми́трий Фёдорович Усти́нов; 30 October 1908 – 20 December 1984) was Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union from 1976 until his death.


  • Early life 1
  • War service 2
  • Post war 3
    • Brezhnev years 3.1
    • Minister of Defense 3.2
    • Minister Ustinov and KAL 007 3.3
  • Death and legacy 4
  • Personality and family 5
  • In popular culture 6
  • Honours and awards 7
    • Foreign 7.1
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Dimitry Feodorovich Ustinov was born in a working-class family in Samara. During the civil war, when hunger became intolerable, his sick father went to Samarkand, leaving Dimitry as head of the family. Shortly after that, in 1922, his father died. In 1923, he and his mother, Yevrosinya Martinovna, moved to the city of Makarev (near Ivanovo-Voznesensk) where he worked as a fitter in a paper mill. Shortly after that, in 1925, his mother died.

Ustinov joined the communist party in 1927. In 1929, he started training at the Faculty of Mechanics in the Polytechnic Institute of Ivanovo-Voznesensk. Afterward, Ustinov was transferred to the Moscow Bauman Higher Technical School. Then, on March 1932, he entered the Institute of Military Mechanical Engineering in Leningrad from where he graduated in 1934. Afterward, he worked as a construction engineer at the Leningrad artillery Marine Research Institute. In 1937, he was transferred to the "Bolshevik" Arms Factory as an engineer. He later became the director of the Factory.

War service

Dmitriy Ustinov served as People's Commissar of Armaments during the Great Patriotic War.

At the time of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941, Stalin appointed the 32 year-old Ustinov to the post of People's Commissar of Armaments.[1] From this position, he supervised the massive evacuation of the defense industry from the besieged city of Leningrad to east of the Ural Mountains. Over 80 military industries were evacuated that together employed over six hundred thousand workers, technicians, and engineers. Stalin later rewarded Ustinov, whom he called "the Red-head", with the Soviet Union's highest civilian honour, Hero of Socialist Labor. After the war was over, Ustinov played a crucial role in requisitioning the German missile programme, developed during World War II, as an impetus to the Soviet missile and space programmes.

Post war

In 1952, Ustinov became a member of the Central Committee. In March 1953, after Stalin died, the Ministry of Armaments was combined with the Ministry of Aviation Industry to become the Ministry of Defense Industry, with Ustinov assigned as head of this new ministry. In 1957, he was appointed as a Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union and became chairman of the Military-Industrial Commission.

Brezhnev years

Almaz space station with Sergei Korolyov's design bureau, headed by Vasili Mishin. This order was designed as an impetus towards the development of the Salyut space station.

Ustinov gained power in the bureaucracy as he rose in the defense industry.

Minister of Defense

In 1984 in East Berlin, with Erich Honecker.

In 1976, after Andrei Grechko died on April 26, Ustinov became the Defense Minister and was promoted to General of the Army on April 29. On July 30, he was promoted to the highest military rank in the Soviet Union, Marshal of the Soviet Union, although he had no prior military career. Together, with Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov and the Soviet General Staff, Ustinov embarked on a program to enhance and modernize the Soviet Union's development of military sciences. In 1979, he confidently asserted that "The armed forces of the USSR are on a high level that ensures the accomplishment of any tasks set by the party and the people".

The growing influence of the Soviet military gave Ustinov the role of Kremlin kingmaker, for his support was decisive in allowing Yuri Andropov to succeed Brezhnev. Ustinov was also influential in the Chernenko regime, compensating for the latter's serious health problems and inexperience in military affairs.

In 1979, Hafizullah Amin assassinated the leader of Afghanistan, Nur Muhammad Taraki. In October 1979, the sentiment for Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan grew stronger in the Soviet politburo where Ustinov and Andropov were the strongest proponents for military intervention. Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko also lent his support for an invasion. The introduction of US forces into the Persian Gulf after the 1979 Iran hostage crisis particularly alarmed the Soviet General Staff. Ustinov began to wonder, "If the Americans do all these preparations under our noses, then why should we hunker down, play cautious, and lose Afghanistan?" In November, Ustinov and Andropov began to formulate plans for a Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan. On 12 December 1979, the Politburo approved the Ustinov-Andropov plan to invade Afghanistan. In 24 December 1979, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan.

In the early 1980s, the development of the Space Shuttle program in the United States caused considerable concern in the Soviet defense industry. While Defense Minister, Ustinov received a report from his analysts that the US Shuttle could be used to deploy space based nuclear missiles over Soviet territory. Russian space program academic Boris Chertok recounts that Ustinov was so worried about the US Shuttle that he gave the development of the Soviet response program, the Buran Shuttle, top priority.

Minister Ustinov and KAL 007

In 1992, Russian president Boris Yeltsin disclosed five top-secret memos dating from late 1983, memos that had been written within weeks of the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007. These memos were published in Izvestia number 228 on October 16, 1992. According to these memos, the Soviet Union had been able to recover the "Black Box" from KAL 007 and decipher its tapes. Thereafter, Ustinov, along with Viktor Chebrikov, head of the KGB, recommended to premier Yuri Andropov that their possession of the Black Box not be made public since its tapes could not support the Soviet contention that KAL 007 was on a U.S. espionage mission.

"In connection with all mentioned above it seems highly preferable not to transfer the flight recorders to the

Death and legacy

Ustinov(far left in hat) with Leonid Brezhnev and other military figures visits the exhibition of the aircraft weapons

On 7 November 1984, Ustinov did not preside over the annual Red Square Military Parade on the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. First Deputy Defense Minister Marshal Sergey Sokolov stood in for Ustinov to both inspect the troops and deliver the commemoration speech. Ustinov had contracted pneumonia in late October. Emergency surgery had to be performed to correct an aneurysm in his aortic valve. His liver and kidneys later deteriorated. Eventually, he suffered a cardiac arrest that killed him. He was honored with a state funeral, and his ashes were interred in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis on 24 December 1984.

The RFS Marshal Ustinov is a Russian warship named after him in his honor. The Baltic State Technical Military-Mechanical University in Saint Petersburg changed its name to the Ustinov Baltic State Technical Military-Mechanical University. The city of Izhevsk was also renamed after him. However, under Mikhail Gorbachev, cities that had been renamed for recent Soviet leaders were reverted to their former names.

Ustinov placed great importance on the military for many decades. For example, he succeeded in always keeping the USSR's intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs, current. Ustinov also wrote several books throughout his life. These included "Selected Speeches and Articles" (1979), and "To serve my country - the cause of Communism" (1982).

Personality and family

In his memoirs Mikhail Gorbachev describes Ustinov as a man who normally had an energetic and bright personality. When Gorbachev was facing opposition in the Politburo shortly after Andropov's death, Ustinov told Gorbachev to "stand firm" and to "take heart".

Soviet Army Colonel General Igor Illarionov, an assistant of Ustinov for 30 years, described him as "the most Stalinist of all the Commissars". Indeed, Ustinov had been groomed by Stalin to maintain the established system. Illarionov also spoke that Ustinov, like many of his contemporaries, was shaped by his experiences in the Great Patriotic War. Illarionov described Ustinov as a man who was very passionate about his work and had a habit of working late at night and sleeping for a couple of hours during the day.

The former head of the 4th Chief of the Ministry of Health, Academician Yevgeniy Chazov wrote about Ustinov: "I met him for the first time thanks to Andropov, who was his close friend. From the first moment I liked his will power, quick decision making, optimism, drive, expertise, combined with a certain simplicity and openness. In my mind, he represented the best representatives of the so-called command-and-control systems by which we defeated Germany during World War II. I think his only mistake, which he may not have realized, was the Afghan war. A bad politician and diplomat, he, as a representative of the old Stalinist "guard", believed that all issues could be solved via a position of strength. On the other hand, I saw Andropov tossed and nervous because of the Afghan war. I believe that he ultimately understood their mistake. Ustinov, however, was always calm and apparently convinced that he was right.

However, Ustinov's unwillingness to support any kind of reforms, even if popular within the Politburo itself, led to him frequently clashing with the Chief of the General Staff, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov. Ogarkov and many Officers of the General Staff resented Ustinov's influence over Brezhnev, viewing him as a lobby for the interests of the Defense Industries against those of the Military. This became problematic for Ogarkov, since he favored reducing the massive Soviet military into a more compact strike force that utilized high-technology conventional arms and centered around Special Forces operations. Ustinov on the other hand (his lobbying for the defense industries notwithstanding), favored the usual emphasis on manpower and nuclear deterrence to maintain his "high intensity non-nuclear conflict" strategy, despite the lack of efficiency that became apparent in Afghanistan. In light of this, although Ustinov dramatically increased the technological capabilities of the Soviet Armed forces, most of the improvements were directed towards the operation of Strategic Nuclear Weapons, such as the Typhoon-class submarine, the Tu-160 bomber, and the SS-20 Saber IRBM's. Despite these improvements, much of the technology developed by the Soviet Armed forces were still a generation behind that of the United States. Ogarkov believed that reforms (both political and economic) were the only way to truly allow the Soviet Military to modernize at a level that would be on par with the United States.

Ustinov was married to Taisa Alekseevna Briekalova-Ustinova. They had a daughter, Vera Dmitriyvna Ustinova, and a son, Nikolai Dmitriyvich Ustinov (1931-1992). Ustinov also had a granddaughter, Nastya Nemtsova.

In popular culture

Ustinov appears briefly in Tom Clancy's 1984 novel The Hunt for Red October in his capacity as Defense Minister; his death is mentioned by the titular spy Colonel Filitov in The Cardinal of the Kremlin.

Ustinov is also character of The Manhattan Projects, a comic book by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. He is depicted as a disembodied brain mounted on a robot body.

Honours and awards

Soviet Union
Hero of the Soviet Union
Hero of Socialist Labor, twice (1942, 1961)
Order of Lenin, 11 times (1939, 1942, 1944, 1951, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1968, 1971, 1978, 1983)
Order of Suvorov, 1st class (1945)
Order of Suvorov, 1st class (1944)
Medal "For Distinction in Guarding the State Border of the USSR"
Medal "For Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
Medal "For Strengthening Military Cooperation"
Medal "For the Development of Virgin Lands"
Medal "For the Defence of Moscow"
Medal "For the Victory over Japan"
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"
Jubilee Medal "Thirty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
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"
Jubilee Medal "60 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
Jubilee Medal "50 Years of the Soviet Militia"
Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin"
Medal "In Commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of Leningrad"
Medal "In Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow"
Lenin Prize (1982)
Stalin Prize winner, 1st class (1953)
USSR State Prize (1983)


Mongolian People's Republic
Hero of the Mongolian People's Republic (6 August 1981)
Order of Sukhbaatar, three times (1975, 1978, 1981)
Order of the Red Banner (1983)
  • 6 other medals
Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (6 October 1982)
Order of Klement Gottwald, twice (1978, 1983)
Order of the White Lion, 1st class (1977)
  • 2 other medals
Order of Ho Chi Minh (1983)
Order of Georgi Dimitrov, twice (1976, 1983)
  • 7 other medals
Cross of Grunwald, 1st class (1976)
Order of Aeronautical Merit
Order of the Flag of the Republic of Hungary with rubies, twice (1978, 1983)
Order of the Sun of Liberty (1982)
East Germany
Order of Karl Marx, twice (1978, 1983)
Scharnhorst Order (1977)
Order of the White Rose, 1st class (1978)
Order of Playa Giron (1983)
  • 2 other medals


  1. ^ Eric Pace (22 December 1984). "Ustinov Had key roles in military and politics". New York Times. 



External links

  • Устинов Д.Ф. Memorial website on the life and career of Dmitriy Ustinov. (in Russian)

Political offices
Preceded by
Andrei Grechko
Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Sergei Sokolov
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