Ivan Panfilov

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Ivan Panfilov
File:Ivan Panfilov.jpg
A portrait of Major General Ivan Panfilov, by Vasili Yakovlev.
Born (1893-01-01)1 January 1893
Petrovsk, Saratov Oblast, Russian Empire
Died 18 November 1941(1941-11-18) (aged 48)
Guseniovo, Volokolamsky District, Soviet Union
Buried at Novodevichy Cemetery
Allegiance  Russian Empire (1915–1917)
 Soviet Union (1918–1941)
Years of service 1915–1941
Rank Major General
Commands held 316th Rifle Division
Battles/wars World War I
Russian Civil War
Polish-Soviet War
Basmachi Revolt
World War II
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union
Order of Lenin
Order of the Red Banner (3)
Jubilee Medal "XX Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army"

Ivan Vasilyevich Panfilov (Russian: Иван Васильевич Панфилов; 1 January [O.S. 20 December 1892] 1893 – 18 November 1941) was a Soviet general and a posthumous Hero of the Soviet Union, known for his command of the 316th Rifle Division during the defense of Moscow at the Second World War.


Early life

Panfilov was born to a clerk's family in Petrovsk. After the death of his mother in 1904, the child was forced to quit school and started working in a local shop when he was twelve years old.[1] His father died in 1912.[2]

In 1915, during the First World War, Panfilov was drafted into the Imperial Russian Army and stationed in the 638th Olpinsk Infantry Regiment. Afterwards, he was transferred to the Southwestern Front, where he was promoted to sergeant. During 1917, following the February Revolution, Panfilov was elected by his fellow soldiers to be a member of the Regimental Soviet.[3]

Civil War

After the October Revolution and the beginning of the Russian Civil War, Panfilov volunteered into the nascent Red Army in 1918, where he was stationed as a platoon commander in the 25th Rifle Division under the command of Vasily Chapayev. In March 1919, the division was sent to the Urals to confront the Cossack White army led by Alexander Dutov, a follower of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak. In the autumn, Panfilov's regiment was transferred to the southern city of Tsaritsyn, taking part in the battle against Anton Denikin's forces. During the campaign, Panfilov contacted typhus and had to be evacuated to the rear.[4]

In April 1920, after recovering, he volunteered to return to active duty. He was assigned as a platoon commander to the 100th Infantry Regiment and fought in the Polish-Soviet War, joining the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in September (membership number: 0291274).[2] For his performances during the fighting, Panfilov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1921.[5] Afterwards, Panfilov joined the 183rd Border Battalion in Ukraine and took part in counter-insurgency operations against local guerrillas. In November 1921, he entered the Sergey Kamenev Infantry School in Kiev. In the same year, he married Maria Kolomietz, with whom he had five children: four daughters – Valentina, Evgenia, Galina and Maya – and a son, Vladlen.[2] After graduating in September 1923, he was posted to the 52nd Yaroslavl Infantry Regiment with the rank of company commander. [4][6]

Central Asia

In March 1924 Panfilov volunteered for the campaign against the Basmachi and traveled to the Turkestan Military District. In April he was given command of a company in the 1st Turkestan Rifle Regiment. In October he was transferred to head the Regimental School. In August 1925 he was returned to the field and later commanded an outpost in the Pamir Mountains. In April 1928 he was promoted to command a regiment, a post he held for three years.[4] His involvement in the quelling of the Basmachi revolt gained him his second Order of the Red Banner, awarded in 1929.[7]

In June 1931 Panfilov was appointed commander of the 8th Independent Rifle Battalion. In December 1932 he was transferred to head the 9th Red Banner Mountain Infantry Regiment. From 1935 Panfilov served in an instruction post in the Vladimir Lenin Red Banner Military Academy in Tashkent.[4] In September 1937 he was designated the Central Asian Military District's chief of staff. In October 1938 he was assigned as the military commissar of the Kyrgyz SSR, and promoted to Combrig on 26 January 1939. On 4 June 1940 he received the rank of a Major General.[8]

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 Panfilov began mobilizing reserves to be sent to the front. On 12 July he was assigned as the commander of the 316th Rifle Division, a new unit being formed in Alma Ata. The division consisted mainly of reservists from the Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet Republics.[9]

Battle of Moscow

On 27 August 1941, the division arrived in Borovichi, near Leningrad, and joined the Fifty-Second Army. On 2 September, it was consigned to the reserve, spending a month in the rear.[10]

On 7 October, after the Wehrmacht commenced Operation Typhoon, the division was sent to the Moscow region, where it arrived on the 10th. It was stationed in the left flank of General Konstantin Rokossovsky's Sixteenth Army and tasked with defending a 41-kilometer long sector to the south of Volokolamsk, a part of the Mozhaisk fortified line.[11]

On 15 October, the Germans attacked the region. After two weeks of fighting, the 316th abandoned Volokolamsk. Together with the rest of the Sixteenth Army, the division retreated towards Moscow. In spite of suffering heavy casualties, the 316th managed to significantly delay the enemy's advance on the capital, buying time for the defenders of the city. On 11 November, Panfilov was awarded his third Order of the Red Banner for the personal courage he displayed during the fighting.[12] According to historian Richard Overy, Marshal Georgy Zhukov told Panfilov that he would be shot if he were to retreat.[13]

The 316th Division's new line of defense, near the village of Dubosekovo, was overrun by the Germans on 15–16 November; Soviet newspapers later claimed that on the 16th, twenty-eight soldiers from the division's 1075th Regiment destroyed eighteen German tanks while fighting to the last man, though an investigation by a Soviet military judge in 1948 revealed the tale was exaggerated.[14] The threat to Rokossovsky's flank prompted the Stavka to send in the reserve 78th Siberian Rifle Division. The 78th soldiers' were forced to retreat after three days, but the Wehrmacht's advance was slowed down due to the Soviets' resistance and the weather conditions, gradually grinding into a standstill.[15]

On 17 November, the People's Commissar of Defense passed a decree to grant the 316th the status of a Guards formation, renaming it the 8th Guards Rifle Division.[16] On the 18th, a group of correspondents visited Panfilov's command post in the village of Guseniovo, and informed him of the resolution. While he briefed the journalists in the open, they came under a mortar attack. Panfilov was killed by a shell splinter. The Defense Commissar's edict was brought into effect on that day.[17]



On 23 November, the 8th Guards was awarded the sobriquet Panfilovskaya in honor of its fallen commander, and its soldiers were henceforth known as "Panfilov's Men" (Panfilovtsy). It took part in the Red Army's counter-offensive which drove the Wehrmacht away from Moscow during December. The division ended the Second World War in Latvia, as part of the forces besieging the German pocket in Courland.[18]

On 12 April 1942, Panfilow was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. The general is buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery alongside two other Heroes of the USSR, Lev Dovator and Viktor Talalikhin.[19]


Panfilov's character gained recognition through the book trilogy authored by Alexander Bek, which described the fighting around Moscow through the eyes of a Kazakh officer who served in the 316th Division, Baurzhan Momyshuly. The books - Volokolamsk Highway, Several Days and General Panfilov's Reserve[20] – were popular both in the USSR and abroad.[21] Published in Hebrew in 1946, Volokolamsk Highway "held an almost cult status in the Palmach and later in the Israeli Army" according to media researcher Yuval Shachal,[22] and became a standard tactical handbook in the Israeli Defense Forces.[23] Inspired by the novel, future Israeli Chief of the General Staff Motta Gur once held a "Panfilov Roll Call" for two soldiers who deserted from his company when he was a young officer, shaming them in front of the other troops; he wrote that it was a common practice in the IDF at the time.[24] During 2005, Ehud Barak told "we, as young officers, were raised on Momyshuly."[25] Volokolamsk Highway was popular in Cuba, as well.[26] Fidel Castro told Norberto Fuentes that "the idea to use the love of the Motherland for convincing people to support me, came to me after reading the novel."[27] The novel was well known among members of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces;[28] In 1961, Raul Castro told a journalist that every regimental commander was "compelled to have a copy".[29] In Jesús Díaz's acclaimed 1987 novel Las iniciales de la tierra, the protagonist cites Bek's book as a major influence on his life.[30] The novel was also included in the list of "compulsory reading" for members of the Chinese Communist Party and People's Liberation Army personnel.[31] On 27 June 1963, the East German Ministry of National Defense issued its Order no. 50/63 - drafted on the initiative of Walter Ulbricht - which introduced Volokolamsk Highway as part of the political education program for the soldiers of the National People's Army.[32][33] In the official history of the NVA, historian Major General Reinhard Brühl had cited it as having a major influence of the soldiers.[34]

Bek's Volokolamsk Highway served as one the settings for an eponymous series of five plays by Heiner Müller, written from 1984 to 1987. The first part, "Russian Opening", was based on Heinrich von Kleist's The Prince of Homburg. In Müller's reinterpretation, Momyshuly assumes the role of the Great Elector.[35]

Momyshuly had himself turned to writing after the war, and discussed the battles near Volokolamsk in several works, like Moscow is Behind Us and Our General, Ivan Panfilov.[36]

List of places named after Ivan Panfilov

Portrayal in the media

Ivan Panfilov has been depicted by the following actors in film and television productions:


  1. Heroes of the Soviet Union from Saratov. Saratov News. 28 April 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Panfikov's curriculum vitae, quoted in an article by Dmitry Yazov.
  3. Ivan Vasilyevich Panfilov. Retro-almaty.kz.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Michael Parrish. Sacrifice of the Generals. Scarecrow Press, Oxford (2004). ISBN 0-8108-5009-5. p. 279.
  5. List of the Recipients of the Order of the Red Banner, 1920-21. Kdkv.narod.ru.
  6. Ivan Panfilov. Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  7. Ivan Panfilov. Bsc.sci-lib.com.
  8. A Biography of Ivan Panfilov. Cprfsb.ru.
  9. Ivan Panfilov. Biography.kz.
  10. A History of the 316th Rifle Division. Samsv.ru.
  11. The 8th Guards Rifle Division. Yandex.ru.
  12. Ivan Panfilov on hrono.ru.
  13. Overy, Richard (1999). Russia's War. Penguin. pp. 116–117. ISBN 0-14-027169-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Chris Bellamy. Absolute War. Knopf (2008). ISBN 978-0-375-41086-4. pp. 307-8.
  15. Rodric Braithwaite. Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War. Tantor Media (2006). ISBN 978-1-4000-4430-6. pp. 283-284.
  16. A History of the 8th Guards Rifle Division. Eskert.ru.
  17. Mikhail Katukov. In the Vanguard of the Primary Strike. Voenizdat, Moscow (1974). pp. 83-4.
  18. Ivan Panfilov. War60.ru.
  19. Ivan Panfilov. Novodevichye.ru.
  20. Alexander Bek. Sovlit.net
  21. Issue 98 of the OSCE's Kazakh mission.
  22. Journal of Media History in Israel, November 2007, pp. 6e.
  23. Braithwaite, p. 298.
  24. Motta Gur. Panfilov Roll Call. mota.co.il
  25. Knesset protocol no. 232, 17 May 2005. p. 4.
  26. Fernando Heredia . Che Guevara's Marxism.
  27. Norberto Fuentes. Die Autobiographie des Fidel Castro. DTV Deutscher Taschenbuch (2008). ISBN 978-3-423-34495-1. p. 530.
  28. C. F. Judson. Cuba and the Revolutionary Myth: The Political Education of the Cuban Rebel Army, 1953-1963. Westview Press (1984). ISBN 9780865318274. p. 124.
  29. USSR Union of Writers. Soviet Literature: April 1961. ISSN 0202-1870. p. 146.
  30. Jesús Díaz. The Initials of the Earth. Duke (2006). ISBN 978-0-8223-3844-4. pp. 184-188. See, for example, in 184: "a leader of the People's Army, as hard as Momish-Uli".
  31. Oleg Borisov, Boris Koloskov. Soviet-Chinese relations, 1945-1970. Indiana University Press (1975). ISBN 9780253354105. pp. 163-164.
  32. Toni Nelles. Zeittafel zur Militärgeschichte der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1949 bis 1968. Deutscher Militärverlag (1969). OCLC 4984029. p. 204.
  33. Klaus Froh. Chronik der NVA, der Grenztruppen und der Zivilverteidigung der DDR 1956-1990. Köster (2010). ISBN 9783895747458. p. 140.
  34. Reinhard Brühl. Armee für Frieden und Sozialismus: Geschichte der Nationalen Volksarmee der DDR. Militarverlag der DDR (1987). ISBN 9783327004593. pp. 319-321.
  35. Jonathan Kalb. The Theater of Heiner Müller. Limelight (1998). ISBN 0-87910-965-3. pp. 52.
  36. Baurzhan Momyshuly. Lit.kz.
  37. Climbing the Panfilov Peak. A.S. Marechko, 1998.
  38. Ivan Panfilov. El-history.ru.]
  39. Moscow Is Behind Us. IMDb.com
  40. Volokolamsk Highway. kino-teatr.ru.


  1. In Allen Paul's book Katyn: Stalin's Massacre and the Triumph of Truth (Northern Illinois University Press, 2010; ISBN 978-0875806341), p. 172, it is written that the name of the assistant chief of the General Staff of the Red Army who negotiated with the Poles was Ivan Panfilov. Anna M. Cienciala and Wojciech Materski, however, recognize this man as 'Alexei P. Panfilov'. (Katyn: A Crime Without Punishment. Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-300-10851-6. p. 401).

External links