Semyon Mikhailovich Budyonny (1883-1973) is one of the most famous Soviet military leaders. This three times Hero of the Soviet Union became one of the first marshals of the young country. The brightest part of Budyonny's career took place during the Civil War. On the territory of the former Russian Empire, this military leader helped organize the Red Cossack movement. His 1st Cavalry Army became a real force, taking an active part in the south of the country.
In the 1920s-1930s, Budyonny continued his military career, becoming the first deputy commissar of defense. During the Great Patriotic War, the marshal was a member of the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, participated in the defense of Moscow, and headed the Reserve and North Caucasian fronts. After the war, Budyonny held various honorary, but not so significant positions.
The fate of the commander is amazing - he is one of the few heroes of the Civil War who was able to avoid Stalin's repressions, despite the arrest of his second wife and accusations of espionage. Modern historians assess Budyonny's personality ambiguously.
In Soviet memoirs and encyclopedias, he appears as a hero, but popular rumor considered him a real peasant, straightforward, honest and simple-minded, or even a careerist, an ordinary soldier. We will try to consider in more detail the personality of this unusual person and debunk the main myths about him.
Budyonny came up with Budenovka. From the name of the famous headdress, one of the symbols of the Civil War, it is clear in whose honor it got its name. In fact, according to one version, the history of the emergence of Budenovka originates from Nicholas II. He wanted to create a new element of military uniform, symbolizing the coming victory in the First World War. It is no coincidence that the shape of the Budenovka resembles a hero's helmet, it was supposed to personify the power of the Russian state and the strength of its army. Many famous artists, including Viktor Vasnetsov and Boris Kustodiev, worked on the design of the new headdress. By 1917, a huge number of new-form kits were in warehouses. A double-headed eagle was embroidered on the front of the Budenovka, which the new authorities closed with a five-pointed star. But according to the official Soviet version, after the birth of the Red Army in February 1918, it became necessary to create a uniform uniform for it. It was then that the artists Vasnetsov and Kustodiev, along with others, took part in the competition for the creation of a new winter woolen headdress. The new helmet has become a classic feature of the Red Army soldier. He was called by the name of the units that were the first to use such a dress. The helmet was called Frunzevka, and then Budenovka. This headpiece was used until 1940. Its abolition was associated with poor performance in a war in severe frosts, but not with the personality of the marshal.
Budyonny with his First Cavalry played a decisive role in the defeat of Wrangel in the Crimea in 1920. In 1973, Budyonny's memoirs were released. There, he questions the merits of Frunze in the liberation of the Crimea. And in an interview with Pravda in 1960, the marshal confirmed his version. In fact, he tried to oppose himself to the commander of the Southern Front and implement his own plan. But even with the support of Voroshilov, these ideas were not supported by the Revolutionary Military Council. At such a critical moment, separatism was not needed in the army. In October 1920, the Southern Front and the 1st Cavalry Army launched an offensive in the south. One of the most important tasks was to cut off Wrangel's path to the Crimea. It was Budyonny who was responsible for reaching the isthmuses and cutting off the path of retreat for White. The military leader did not cope with the task, but he was not accused of it. A painfully strong onslaught was of armored detachments and tanks. But Budyonny himself in his memoirs directly blamed the 2nd Cavalry Army for this. True, Gusev, a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front, in hot pursuit refutes this myth, emphasizing the valor of the 2nd Cavalry. The assessment happened just weeks after the events. On November 8, the Red Army launched an offensive against the Crimea. In his memoirs, Budyonny recalled that his army marched along the land, where battles had recently been fought. The author himself sparingly mentions that the 2nd Cavalry Army fought in front of his units. The battles on November 11 and 12 were decisive, when Wrangel tried to turn the tide. And again he was opposed by Mironov's 2nd Cavalry Army. And only when on November 13 Wrangel declared the army dissolved, Budyonny entered the Crimea with his army. And in Simferopol, he met Mironov, blatantly accusing him of aiding the enemy. In Budyonny's memoirs, you can read how the lava of the red cavalry rushed into the Crimea, sweeping away Wrangel's troops. But the merits of the future marshal himself were not in this. He was not in command of the victorious cavalry.
Semyon Budyonny was a Cossack. This man is considered a symbol of Cossack valor, but in fact he was not a Cossack. Budyonny's grandfather was a Voronezh serf who received his freedom by order of Alexander II. Together with his family, this commoner went to the Don, in search of a better life. There, on the Kozyurin farm in the village of Platovskaya, Semyon Mikhailovich was born. But the poor peasant family was considered nonresident and alien here. Such people, who did not belong to the local class, were usually poor. They were forced to put up with their origin, having no chance to acquire large land plots, like the Cossacks. Budyonny himself preferred not to talk about his pre-revolutionary biography. Enduring the ridicule of his fellow villagers, Semyon could only try to master their horse riding better. And he succeeded - he famously handled the horse, winning even in local competitions. And being drafted into the army, Budyonny served in the dragoon regiment. In the Russo-Japanese War, he was listed in the 26th Don Cossack Regiment.
Budyonny was a religious person. It was rumored that this man, who had served under the tsar, secretly kept his faith. In Soviet times, it was impossible to speak openly about religiosity. And how could a Marshal, a living symbol of the Red Army, an idol of the younger generation, undermine the ideological attitudes of the state and the course towards atheism? But Budyonny himself recalled that even when he met Lenin, he said that things were going with God's help. Then it was perceived as a joke. Later, this topic was not raised. So if Budyonny retained his religiosity, it remained deeply his personal affair. In the family circle, there was talk about the meeting of Semyon Mikhailovich with the Mother of God. She asked the young soldier not to desecrate her family, promising protection from bullets.
Budyonny had a full St. George's bow. This term refers to four St. George's crosses and four St. George medals for bravery. Although the valor of Budyonny is not questioned, the number of awards should be clarified. Although there are detailed descriptions of the exploits for which Budyonny received his crosses, only two such awards are confirmed in the archives - the 4th and 3rd degrees, as well as only one medal. So even all four crosses are also a dubious fact in the biography of the marshal. It is worth saying that these awards have not survived. He himself said that in Soviet times he donated the tsar's crosses and medals to be melted down to the support fund of OSOAVIAKHIM. This looks very strange for a person who had a fondness for awards and distinctions.
Budyonny created the 1st Cavalry Army. The name of Budyonny is closely connected with the 1st Cavalry Army, which brought him fame. In the fall of 1919, the Red Army turned the tide of the war. Large cavalry forces of the white generals Shkuro and Mamontov were defeated, the front rolled back from Voronezh to the south, in the area of the Don Army. On November 19, 1919, the 1st Cavalry Army officially appeared. According to the official Soviet history, it was created by Voroshilov and Budyonny. Already in perestroika times, they began to talk about the leading role of Boris Dumenko. And although a unit appeared on the basis of Budyonny's Cavalry Corps, which emerged from Dumenko's Cavalry Corps, neither one nor the other was the initiators of the creation of the whole army. Initially, General Mamontov spoke about the creation of a large cavalry unit capable of solving strategic tasks. The implementation of this idea almost turned into a disaster for the young republic. The mass desertion of the Cossacks, who did not want to fight far from the Don, did not allow Mamontov's army to occupy Moscow. The creators of the Soviet 1st Cavalry Army were Klim Voroshilov and the former Tsarist General Alexander Yegorov. These units had to fulfill an important task - to cut off the White Volunteer Army from the Don Cossack Army and defeat them separately. Budyonny himself learned about the formation of the 1st Cavalry Army and his appointment at the end of November. And Dumenko by that time had nothing to do with the corps. Its units in theory could become the basis of a new army, but the choice was made in favor of Voroshilov's protégé. And to make the appointment of Budyonny look more logical for the Revolutionary Military Council, he was retroactively accepted into the communists. The statement was written back in March 1919, but it was not signed. Now they remembered this, and on Stalin's recommendation Budyonny suddenly found himself admitted to the party six months ago.
During the Great Patriotic War, Budyonny proved himself to be a military leader thinking in terms of the past. The events of that war did not bring additional glory to Budyonny. His resignations from the post of commander-in-chief of the South-Western direction, the North Caucasus direction, and the fronts indicated that the commander's talents were either exaggerated or unclaimed in modern conditions. However, there are several facts that cast doubt on this. So, in September 1941, Budyonny sent a telegram to Headquarters, offering to withdraw troops from near Kiev. The situation threatened to turn into a large encirclement. But the front commander informed Stalin that this was not necessary. As a result, the obstinate Budyonny was removed from his post as the commander of the South-West direction. But history has shown that the marshal was right. If Stalin had listened to him, there would have been no "Kiev boiler" with 650 thousand captured soldiers. And in the winter of 1941, near Moscow, it was the cavalry, which was under the tutelage of Budyonny, who helped crush the Germans. In those cold weather, all equipment stood up.
Even in the late 1930s, Budyonny advocated the preservation of the cavalry, opposing the fans of tanks. Budyonny was a cavalry inspector, and therefore defended the preservation of a kind of troops. It is believed that he was opposed by Tukhachevsky, who saw the future of the Red Army in tanks. But Budyonny himself did not argue about the superiority of technology over horses. His opponent believed that tanks should be light and mobile, while Budyonny himself insisted on their reliable armor and heavy weapons. As a result, during the war, the mechanized cavalry units were created, of which the marshal spoke. Budyonny understood that the time of the cavalry was running out. It could be used under certain conditions; in the same swamps, heavy equipment may not pass. There is no need to talk about the overestimation of the role of cavalry in the pre-war years, which Budyonny is imputed to - its share in the army was constantly decreasing.
Budyonny served in the royal stables. After the end of the Russo-Japanese War, the promising rider was sent to study in St. Petersburg, to the Officer's Cavalry School for rider courses for lower ranks. They even wanted to leave Budyonny there, but he returned to Primorye. And the dragoon did meet with Emperor Nicholas II - he shook hands with the winner of the equestrian competition. But Budyonny did not serve in the royal stables.
Budyonny was just an illiterate non-commissioned officer. This myth appeared thanks to envious people and ill-wishers who want to reduce the merits of an outstanding, whatever one may say, personality. In 1932, Budyonny graduated from the Frunze Military Academy. He was constantly engaged in self-education, knew several languages. In addition to German, French and Turkish, Budyonny also learned English after the war as the language of a potential enemy. It was the "uneducated sergeant" who insisted on re-testing the Katyusha, which Marshal Kulik rejected due to its low accuracy. It was Budyonny who initiated the creation of the airborne troops. At the age of 48, he personally made a parachute jump to assess the capabilities of the new service. Even during the war, education allowed Budyonny to adequately perceive the current situation. But in the first months, there was no need to talk about any non-standard winning solutions. And the ideas of Budyonny's operational and tactical techniques from the time of the Civil War were adopted by the Germans for their blitzkriegs.
Budyonny lived only in service. The real element of Budyonny was not military service, but horses. Budyonny was even actively involved in breeding new breeds for the army and agriculture. Thanks to his intelligence and enthusiasm, the marshal achieved outstanding results in this field. The bred Budyonovskaya breed combines strength, beauty and endurance. The Dutch queen even paid a million dollars for one such horse. Budyonny also had other talents - he played the button accordion and even performed in front of Stalin.
Budyonny killed his first wife. Budyonny's first wife, Nadezhda Ivanovna, died in 1924 in an accident. Officially, she picked up a revolver and jokingly announced that she would try to shoot herself. Unfortunately, the pistol was loaded and the safety was removed - a shot rang out. After that, they began to say that Budyonny had an affair on the side. Having learned about this, Nadezhda Ivanovna threw a scandal to her husband. The gossips even whispered to accuse the commander of the murder. So it is not clear whether it was an accident or whether the spouse hid despair behind feigned gaiety, but she killed herself. Everything happened in the presence of guests. The suicide theory has never been officially refuted.
Budyonny renounced his second wife. Just a few months after the tragedy, Budyonny had a new woman - a student at the conservatory Olga Mikhailova. It was she who was called the ill-fated homewoman. Relationship problems appeared immediately. Budyonny's wife led a bohemian lifestyle, was interested only in theater. She visited foreign embassies, suspicious persons circled around her. Olga Stefanovna did not want to have children and generally openly cheated on her husband. As a result, Budyonny was summoned by Stalin, and then Yezhov. They drew attention to the inappropriate behavior of his wife. The NKVD quickly collected dirt on her, and Budyonny's wife was arrested in 1937. The marshal himself did not bother for her, but he helped in imprisonment. Moreover, he moved to his house and added his mother-in-law. And her niece, Masha, began to visit her. It was she who became the third wife of Budyonny, giving birth to children. And Olga Stefanovna was released in 1956 with the active assistance of Semyon Mikhailovich. He moved his ex-wife to Moscow, supported her and even invited her to visit.
Budyonny helped Stalin to repress the top commanding staff of the Red Army. A wave of repression bypassed Budyonny, affecting only his wife. Meanwhile, many of his associates in the Civil War were arrested. Budyonny himself was a member of the commission on the Bukharin and Rykov case, was a member of the court that sentenced Tukhachevsky to death.However, the marshal did not welcome mass arrests in the military leadership. It is believed that he personally bore to Stalin lists of those who could not be arrested. Allegedly, Budyonny told the leader that then both of them should be arrested. As a result, many military leaders were returned to service. Among them is General Chumakov, a former brigade commander of the 1st Cavalry Army, and also a cavalryman, General Rokossovsky. But Budyonny was not shy about his participation in the courts, believing that the pests and traitors got what they deserved. The Marshal believed that it was mainly the guilty who were punished, but there were also worthy people among them.