Soviet army general who would head the German-sponsored Russian Liberation Army. Born on 16 December 1901 in Chepukhimo, Nizhni-Novgorod Province, Russia (now Kursk Oblast), Andrei Vlasov fought in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. In 1928, he attended a course in infantry tactics in Moscow, and two years later, he became an instructor at the Leningrad Officers’ School. Between 1937 and 1938, Vlasov was a military adviser in China to Nationalist leader Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek). He returned to the Soviet Union and, as a general major, led the 90th Infantry Division into Bessarabia.
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Vlasov assumed command of IV Mechanized Corps in delaying actions around Przemysl and L’viv (Lvov). In August, he had charge of Thirty-Seventh Army in the defense of Kiev. In December 1941, Vlasov, now a lieutenant general, commanded the reinforced Twentieth Army before Moscow and was regarded as one of the principal heroes of the battle that drove the Germans from the Soviet capital city. In January 1942, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
Vlasov was one of Josef Stalin’s favorite generals, and in March 1942, the Soviet dictator sent him to beleaguered Leningrad as second in command of the new Volkhov Front. The next month, Vlasov took over the Second Guards Army. Under heavy German attack, their supply lines severed, and permission to withdraw denied until it was too late, he and his unit were surrounded. Vlasov ordered his troops to split into small units and fend for themselves. He himself was taken prisoner in July 1942.
Vlasov’s hatred of Stalin for his disastrous mismanagement of the military situation led German intelligence officers to seek his cooperation in heading an army of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) committed to fight against the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet POWs were already serving as auxiliaries to the German army in noncombat roles, many of them doing so simply to stay alive. Vlasov worked out a political program for a non-Communist Russian state, but this concept flew in the face of Adolf Hitler’s policy of subjugating and colonizing the Soviet Union. Although German intelligence officers proceeded to create the Russian Liberation Army (ROA), Hitler refused it any combat role, and it became a device only to encourage Red Army desertions.
German Schutzstaffel (SS) Chief Heinrich Himmler met with Vlasov in September 1944 and promised him a combat role. Himmler also arranged for the creation of the multiethnic Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (KONR), which was announced in Prague that November. Two divisions of the ROA came into being, one of which was sent along the Oder River in mid-April 1945 but retreated before the Red Army. The “Vlasov Army” then changed sides. Cooperating with the Czech Resistance, it helped liberate Prague and disarmed 10,000 German soldiers, hoping to be recognized by the Western Allies.
At the end of the war, Soviet authorities demanded Vlasov’s return in accordance with repatriation agreements reached at the Yalta Conference, and on 12 May 1945, U.S. units handed him over, together with other ROA prisoners of war. On 13 August 1946, the Soviet Supreme Court condemned Vlasov as a “German collaborator” and an “enemy of the Russian people” and imposed the death penalty on him the same day.
Andreyev, Catherine. Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement: Soviet Reality and Émigré Theories. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Elliott, Mark. “Andrei Vlasov: Red Army General in Hitler’s Service.” Military Affairs 61 (April 1982): 84–87.
Steenberg, Steve. Vlasov. Trans. Abe Fabsten. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.
Strik-Strikfeldt, Wilfried. Against Stalin and Hitler: Memoir of the Russian Liberation Movement, 1941–1945. New York: John Day, 1973.