Pavel Grachev

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Pavel Grachev
Павел Грачёв
Grachev speaking at the State Duma in 1994.
(Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev)
Minister of Defence
In office
18 May 1992 – 17 July 1996
President Boris Yeltsin
Prime Minister Boris Yeltsin
Yegor Gaidar (acting)
Viktor Chernomyrdin
Preceded by Boris Yeltsin (acting)
Succeeded by Mikhail Kolesnikov (acting)
Personal details
Born (1948-01-01)1 January 1948
Rvy, Tula Oblast, RSFSR, USSR
Died 23 September 2012(2012-09-23) (aged 64)
Krasnogorsk, Moscow Oblast, Russia
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union
Order of Lenin (2)
Order of the Red Banner
Order of the Red Star
Order for Personal Courage
Order of the Badge of Honor
Order for Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces of the USSR
Military service
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Russian Airborne Troops
Years of service 1965–1996
Rank General of the Army
Commands Soviet Airborne Troops
Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Battles/wars Soviet War in Afghanistan
First Chechen War

Pavel Sergeyevich Grachev (Russian: Па́вел Серге́евич Грачё́в; 1 January 1948 – 23 September 2012), sometimes transliterated as Grachov, was a Russian Army General and the Defence Minister of the Russian Federation from 1992 to 1996; in 1988 he was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union gold star. As Defence Minister, Grachev gained notoriety because of his military incompetence displayed during the First Chechen War and the persistent allegations of involvement in enormous corruption scandals.

Life and career

In the Soviet Union

Grachev, born in 1948 in Tula Oblast, RSFSR, joined the Soviet Army's airborne troops in 1965 and finished the Ryazan Airborne Military Command School. After commanding parachute platoons, companies and battalions in the 1970s, he attended the Frunze Military Academy and the General Staff Academy, graduating in 1981. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Grachev commanded the 345th Independent Guards Airborne Regiment from 1982 to 1983, and was in command of the 103rd Guards Airborne Division in Afghanistan in the last years of the Soviet involvement from 1985 to 1988.[1]

In December 1990, he was appointed commander of the Soviet airborne troops. In August/December 1991, Grachev became the Soviet Union's First Deputy Minister of Defence during its break-up.

In the Russian Federation

For a period of time, in the early-to-mid-1990s, Grachev was a close friend of the President of Russia Boris Yeltsin,[2] and held the post of the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation from May 1992 to June 1996. Grachev took part in the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 and the events of the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993, during which he supported Yeltsin. In November 1994 Yeltsin called Grachev "the best defense minister of the decade."[3]

In late 1994 through 1996, Grachev played a key role in initiating and leading the First Chechen War. He was one of authors of the idea to use force to "restore constitutional order" in the breakaway republic of Chechnya and publicly promised to swiftly crush the Chechen separatist forces "in a couple of hours with a single airborne regiment."[4][5] He was rumoured to have launched the disastrous storming of Grozny while drunk during the celebrations of his 1 January birthday.[6] As TIME commented in 1995: "Grachev had remarked recently that only an 'incompetent commander' would order tanks into the streets of central Grozny, where they would be vulnerable (...) Yet at the end of December he did it."[7] Eventually, in July 1996, following his re-election, Yeltsin sacked the disgraced Grachev. The war soon ended, with hundreds of thousands of military and civilian casualties.

In December 1997, Grachev was appointed a senior military adviser to Rosvooruzhenie State Corporation, the Russian arms export monopoly. On 25 April 2007, Grachev was fired from this position.[8]

Grachev died on 23 September 2012 of acute meningoencephalitis,[9] in the Vishnevsky Military Hospital in Krasnogorsk.[10] He was 64.

Corruption accusations

Grachev was accused of being personally involved in major military corruption scandals, which was not proven in court, that occurred during the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from East Germany.[citation needed] The alleged corruption, which gained Grachev the nickname of "Pasha Mercedes", was the focus of a series of articles published by the investigative journalist Dmitry Kholodov. Four of Grachev's airborne officers and two others were tried in the murder of Kholodov but were later acquitted.

Popular culture

The archival footage of Grachev saying "tank regiments are commanded by total idiots; you send in the infantry first, then the tanks" is shown on TV in the 2002 film House of Fools.


  1. "Грачёв Павел Сергеевич" [Grachev Pavel Sergeyevich]. (in Russian). Retrieved 25 December 2015.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink by Peter Vincent Pry.
  3. The War in Chechnya: Implications for Military Reform and Creation of Mobile Forces
  4. Botched operation. (Russian troops in Chechnya) (Editorial), The Nation, January 1995.
  5. Why the Russian Military Failed in Chechnya, Foreign Military Studies Office, December 1996.
  6. Grozny rebels braced for final assault, The Independent, 13 January 1996.
  7. Why It All Went So Very Wrong, TIME, 16 January 1995.
  8. (Russian) Экс-министр обороны Павел Грачев, уволен сегодня с должности советника гендиректора «Рособоронэкспорта», которую он занимал на протяжении последних 10-ти лет., Ekho Moskvy, 25.04.2007.
  9. Названа причина смерти экс-министра обороны Павла Грачева (in Russian). Interfax. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2012.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Pavel Grachev, Yeltsin-Era Defense Minister, Dead At 64". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 23 September 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Boris Yeltsin (acting)
Defence Minister of the Russian Federation
Succeeded by
Mikhail Kolesnikov