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Pavel Alexeyevich Belov
File:Pavel Alekseevich Belov.jpg
Born (1897-02-18)18 February 1897
Died 3 December 1963(1963-12-03) (aged 66)
Place of birth Shuya, Vladimir Governorate, Russian Empire
Place of death Moscow, Soviet Union
  •  Russian Empire (1916–1917)
  •  Russian Republic (1917)
  •  Soviet Russia (1918–1922)
  •  Soviet Union (1922–1960)
Years of service
  • 1916–1960
Rank Colonel General
Commands held

Pavel Alexeyevich Belov (Russian: Павел Алексеевич Белов; 18 February 1897 – 3 December 1963) was a Soviet Army colonel general and a Hero of the Soviet Union. He was nicknamed the "Fox" by the Germans, and personally led the longest successful raid of the war, lasting five months behind the German lines.

At the beginning of the war, Belov commanded the 2nd Cavalry Corps. During the Battle of Moscow on 26 November, it was renamed and given the honor of becoming the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps. The divisions also received 'Guards' designations. The newly established cavalry corps played a pivotal role in stopping Guderian's Panzers in 1941 on the southern outposts of Moscow near the town of Kashira. His unit was among the first to start the counterattack in the Battle of Moscow. Following the winter-counterattack they penetrated deep into the enemy rear being cut off in the process. During Battle of Rzhev Belov would lead a successful five-month raid with the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps behind Army Group Center.

After returning from the raid in the summer of 1942, he was promoted and given command of the 61st Army, which he led for the rest of the war finishing the war in Battle of Berlin on the Elbe River, his successor became Viktor Kirillovich Baranov. Belov's command of the army included the Battle of Kursk in 1943. Later taking part in Operation Bagration where his units helped to liberate the Fortress of Brest. later the units participated Riga Offensive the Courland Pocket followed by the defeat of the German Pomeranian offensive in early 1945. The 61st Army alongside the 1st Polish Army had the responsibility of encircling the German capital from the north meeting the Americans on the Elbe in the Battle of Berlin. Overall he is considered as one of the most talented and daring generals of the Second World War. He has earned legendary status and could be considered as one of the greatest cavalry generals. Considering his accomplishments through 1941-1945 his adaptation of combining horses, tanks, artillery, and aircraft on a modern battlefield resulted in the victory against a more technologically advanced enemy often in most desperate parts of the Eastern Front.

Belov was one of the few generals not affected by Stalin's military purges despite having a Polish wife. From the first days, he demonstrated effective tactics against the onslaught of Blitzkrieg, along with Dovator earning first tactical victories for the Red Army. Due to the constant retreats, the unit played rear guard duties, especially during the Uman disaster. The unit, additionally played a rescue role for the many trapped troops in the Battle of Kyiv, which Belov's forces unsuccessfully tried to save. Stalin called his unit the "Fire Squad" as he was often thrown in the most difficult parts of the front expected to save the situation. Pavel Belov was very respected among his peers as he was a general who truly cared about his soldiers. He often refused to send his units into pointless attacks that his superiors often demanded, this could possibly explain why he was only awarded the Gold star in 1944, considering all of his admiration by the foe along with his incredible accomplishments on the battlefield.

Early life, World War I, and Russian Civil War

Born in Shuya on 18 February 1897, in to a working-class family. Pavel Alexeyevich Belov worked at the railway station in Ivanovo-Voznesensk. Conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army in May 1916, Belov became a private in the 4th Reserve Cavalry Regiment. After graduating from the regimental training detachment in February 1917, he was sent to serve as a junior unter-ofitser with the 7th Marching Squadron of the 17th Hussar Regiment. Due to his above-average education, Belov was selected for a preparatory course at the 2nd Kyiv School of Praporshchiks in September. Granted leave in late November following the October Revolution, Belov did not return to the army.[1]

Conscripted into the Red Army in July 1918 during the Russian Civil War, Belov was appointed a Vsevobuch instructor in the Yaroslavl Military District, where he provided military training for railway workers. He commanded a platoon of the Separate Cavalry Battalion in Tambov from July 1919, and in February 1920 transferred to command a platoon of the 1st Reserve Cavalry Regiment of the Southern Front. Belov became secretary of the party bureau and regimental adjutant in May, and in October was transferred to the Caucasian Front, serving there as a squadron commander of the 1st and 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiments.[2]

Interwar period

After the end of the war, Belov was appointed assistant commander of the 1st Reserve Cavalry Regiment of the 2nd Don Rifle Division in June 1921. In September of that year, he was transferred to the 14th Cavalry Division to serve as assistant commander of its 82nd Cavalry Regiment, and was later appointed commander of the 81st Cavalry Regiment. After graduating from the Cavalry Improvement Course for Senior Commanders of the North Caucasus Military District in August 1927, Belov was appointed commander of the 60th Separate Reserve Squadron of the 10th Cavalry Division (renumbered from the 14th), now stationed in the Moscow Military District. After serving as assistant chief of the 4th department of the staff of the district from May 1929, in June 1931 Belov became an officer for special assignments under Semyon Budyonny, who was then a member of the Revolutionary Military Council. In September 1932 he was appointed assistant inspector of cavalry with the Cavalry Inspectorate, before graduating from the Frunze Military Academy in 1933.[1]

Belov was sent to the 7th Samara Cavalry Division, stationed in the Belorussian Military District, in January 1934, serving as assistant commander and later succeeding to the command of the division. Having received the rank of kombrig when the Red Army introduced personal military ranks in November 1935, he became chief of staff of the 5th Cavalry Corps in July 1937, and participated in the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939. Promoted to komdiv, Belov became a major general in June 1940 when the army introduced general officer ranks, and in October of that year was appointed commander of the 96th Mountain Rifle Division of the Kiev Special Military District. In March 1941 he advanced to command the 2nd Cavalry Corps of the district.[1]

World War II

Operation Barbarossa

After Operation Barbarossa began, Belov led the corps in fighting on the Southern Front, completing a number of combat missions to quickly cover the front of the 9th and 18th armies of the Southern Front and hold the line on the Dniester. He conducted a fighting retreat from Tiraspol to Kiev. During the Kiev operation, which ended in the defeat of Soviet troops in Ukraine, he waged successful defensive battles in the direction of Romny-Shtepovka, and even launched a strong counterattack in this area, which made it possible to save part of the encircled troops. During the summer-autumn battles of 1941, he was awarded the Order of Lenin.[citation needed]

During the October 1941 German offensive towards Moscow, Army Group Center was stuck in the rasputitsa. These muddy periods are of particular interest because they enhanced the operations of the Belov's cavalry as it defeated the bogged down German 25th Motorized Division in September 1941. The mud-caused quagmire was also a factor in the Soviet Army's failure to support Belov's 1st Guards Cavalry Corps' return to friendly lines after its five-month raid behind enemy German lines in April 1942.[3]

Battle of Moscow

In September 1941, Belov's 2nd Cavalry Corps had been transferred to the Western Front to defend the approaches to Moscow. By late October, after fighting on the flanks of the German assault at Orel and Tula, the 2nd Cavalry Corps was withdrawn from the line and send into Stavka Reserve to be rebuilt. On 26 November, it was renamed the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps. The corps' divisions also received 'Guards' designations. The new honorific title did not come with new weapons. On the eve of the Moscow counter-offensive, Belov made a personal appeal, with Marshal Zhukov's support, directly to Stalin for the rearmament of his corps. Belov's men were armed primarily with rifles, giving the German infantry a clear advantage. After Belov's meeting with Stalin, he was promised 1,500 automatic weapons and two new batteries of new 76mm guns to replace his worn-out guns. [3]

He played a key role in stopping Operation Typhoon, the German code-name for the assault on Moscow. Particularly in stopping Heinz Guderian's Panzers outside of Kashira on the southern flank of Moscow thus saving both Moscow and besieged Tula. Guderian's penetration had culminated by forming a salient north-east of Tula, threatening the towns of Kashira and Riazan. The 2nd Panzer Army was poised to enter Moscow from the south and south-west. [3] Guderian had attempted to seize Tula from the rear and was strung out without reserves. The corps along with the 50th Army and 10th Army were to hold out at all costs, while the mobile group Belov with cavalry, tanks, katysha rockets, airborne units, and additional rifle troops began the offensive. By 5 December, Guderian's armored assault had ground to a halt against the stubborn defenses of Belov's 1st Guards Cavalry Corps outside of Kashira. The first stroke of the Western Front's counter-offensive on the outskirts of Moscow fell up Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army. The Germans in this sector had an advantage in men, equipment, and tanks where the average front line saw the disparity of 3-1 tanks in Guderian's favor.

Not only did the guards' cavalry corps heroically hold its position after many German counter-attacks, but some units also managed to be the first to counter-attack on the night of 27–28 November, thus leading the Soviet forces as the vanguard of the Moscow counter-attack. On the eve of 5 December, the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps reinforced with the 9th Tank Brigade which at that moment was regarded to be the most elite and capable tank unit lead the attack along with the 173rd Rifle Division in the vicinity of Gritchino. On the Corps western flank was the 50th army that successfully defended Tula. The 50th Army attacked along with the 10th Army which covered Belov's eastern flank. The forces smashed against German 17th Panzer Division, 17th Motorized Division, and the 18th Panzer Division, which saw many towns and villages liberated. Many Soviet soldiers for the first time saw the horrors that were happening behind the rear; this motivated many to fight harder as many now understood that their relatives were suffering immensely under the occupation. The Guards then liberated the important industrial city of Stalinogorsk after coming to the help of the 330th Rifle Division of the 10th Army, which unsuccessfully was trying to take the city. The cavalry used outflanking maneuvers to take both parts I and II of the industrial city in four days of intense fighting. Some local citizens also actively participated in the battle. While the Corps was pushing further in the direction of the south-west, the German 17th Panzer Division, 167th Division, and parts of 29th Motorized Division blew up a dam. Hoping to stop or at least slow Belov, however, due to the cold the water quickly froze and Belov's forces continued to pursue. Eventually, with the success of the 10th and 50th Armies the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps was able to drive the Germans the furthest from Moscow as far as 250 km, this event caused Hitler to sack Heinz Guderian on 25 December 1941. In the Documentary Moscow strikes back Pavel Belov and the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps are given significant attention on their heroic actions. This demonstrated to the world that the proper and skillful use of cavalry can destroy even the best German armored units. The documentary became an instant hit showing the realities of war, winning Stalin Prize in addition internationally winning the 15th Academy Awards for Best Documentary in 1942.

Battle of Rzhev and the Raid

The winter of 1941-1942 was extremely severe. Mean temperatures near Moscow during January 1942 were -32 °F or -35 °C with the lowest temperature recorded on 26 January 1941 -63 °F/-52 °C. In the counterattack and the general offensive of Soviet troops in the western direction, the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps under the command of Belov distinguished himself more than once in battles: after the Rzhev-Vyazma operation (1942), being surrounded, he fought in the enemy's rear for more than five months. Belov's 1st Guards Cavalry Corps along with the 33rd Army controlled a pocket from south of Smolensk-Vyazma in size of 2 500 km2/1 553 mile² area. In his pocket, Belov mustered 2000 men from the cavalry, partisans, paratroopers, and riflemen, supported by a battalion of eight tanks including one KV heavy and one T-34 medium tank.[3]

A certain recognition of Belov's merits at the initial stage of the war may be the fact that the chief of the General Staff of the Wehrmacht, Franz Halder, repeatedly mentions the general in his diaries (much more often than any of the Soviet commanders), giving his actions a positive characterization.

On June 16, General Franz Halder, head of the OKH, wrote in his operations diary:

"Cav Corps Belov has again broken out and is moving in the direction of Kirov. Nothing we could brag about. Cav Corps Belov is now floating around the area west of Kirov. Quite a man, that we have to send no less than seven divisions after him." Halder also wrote "Belov did it, after all, keeping seven German divisions on the jump."

The former Chief of staff of the Fourth Army wrote an appropriate tribute to Belov's accomplishments.

"The episode cause many humorous remarks at the time and the motorized troops which had taken part in the operations became the butt of those jokes. I admire General Belov as a soldier and I was secretly glad he escaped. It was said he was received with all honors in Moscow and rightly so."

The 1st Guards Cavalry Corps escaped the pocket, although the 11th Cavalry Corps did not.[3]

From Kursk to Berlin

From June 1942 until the end of the war, Belov commanded the 61st Army. The army fought defensive and offensive battles south and south-west of Bely until mid-1943. As part of the Bryansk Front, they participated in the Oryol Operation in July and August 1943. Commanding the 61st Army, Belov especially proved himself in the battle for the Dnieper: from September 26 to October 1, 1943, formations and units of the army crossed the Dnieper near the village of Lubech and captured the bridgehead on the right bank. For the successful crossing of the Dnieper, Belov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Subsequently, the army took part in the Gomel-Rechitsa, Kalinkovichi-Mozyr, Belorussian, Riga offensive operations, the blocking of the Courland group, in the Warsaw-Poznan, East Pomeranian and Berlin offensive operations.[4][2]


After World War II, he commanded the South Ural Military District for ten years.[2] He then chaired the Voluntary Association for Support of the Army, Air Force, and Navy (DOSAAF).[2] Belov retired from the military in 1960 and died on 3 December three years later. He was buried with military honors at the Novodevichy Cemetery.[2]

Awards and honors

Hero of the Soviet Union medal.png Hero of the Soviet Union (15 January 1944)
Order of Lenin ribbon bar.png Five Orders of Lenin (11 June 1941, 2 January 1942, 15 January 1944, 21 February 1945, 28 February 1957)
Order of Red Banner ribbon bar.png Order of the Red Banner, thrice (11 December 1941, 13 March 1944, 20 June 1949)
Order suvorov1 rib.png Order of Suvorov, 1st class, thrice (23 August 1944, 6 April 1945, 29 May 1945)
Order kutuzov1 rib.png Order of Kutuzov, 1st class (27 August 1943)
Partizan-Medal-1-ribbon.png Medal "To a Partisan of the Patriotic War", 1st class (7 September 1943)
Ribbon bar for the medal for the Defense of Moscow.png Medal "For the Defence of Moscow" (1944)
Caputureberlin rib.png Medal "For the Capture of Berlin" (1945)
Ribbon Medal For The Liberation Of Warsaw.png Medal "For the Liberation of Warsaw" (1945)
Order of Glory Ribbon Bar.png Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" (1945)
20 years saf rib.png Jubilee Medal "XX Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army" (1938)
30 years saf rib.png Jubilee Medal "30 Years of the Soviet Army and Navy" (1948)
40 years saf rib.png Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR" (1958)
Foreign Awards
OrdenSuheBator.png Order of Sukhbaatar (Mongolia)
POL Virtuti Militari Kawalerski BAR.svg Knight's Cross of the Virtuti Militari (Poland)
POL Order Krzyża Grunwaldu 3 Klasy BAR.svg Cross of Grunwald, 3rd class (Poland)
POL Za Warszawę 1939-1945 BAR.svg Medal "For Warsaw 1939-1945" (Poland)
POL Medal za Odrę Nysę i Bałtyk BAR.svg Medal "For Oder, Neisse and the Baltic" (Poland)

See also




  • Buttar, Prit (2012). Battleground Prussia: The Assault on Germany's Eastern Front 1944-45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1849087902. 
  • Harrel, John (2019). Soviet Cavalry Operations During The Second World War: The Genesis Of The Operational Manoeuvre Group. Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 978-1849087902. 


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