- Dear Bronislav Alexandrovich, 5 May marks 90 since the birth of Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergey Fedorovich Akhromeyev. The figure is large. The figure is tragic ... You had to work together with him for a long time in the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR. How do you remember the marshal?
- Almost eight years of work next to this person clearly and clearly showed me that this was a professional of the highest standard. The main quality of this man, as a military leader, was that he never lived today, tomorrow, built his work and the work of the General Staff for the future so that we could analyze the situation five, ten, fifteen years ahead. This is given to very, very few.
- For such foresight, of course, we need great knowledge, and not only military, but also political, historicalEtc.
- Before talking further about Sergey Fedorovich, I would like to give an assessment to the body he ruled. The General Staff is the main military and political governing body of the country. It accumulates and analyzes the military-political situation in all parts of the world. The conclusions are presented to the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the leadership of the country for making appropriate military-political decisions. On the one hand, and on the other, it is a body that constantly has to guarantee high combat readiness and combat capability of the Armed Forces, their development, and equipment with the most modern types of weapons and equipment. This is the body that plans to use the Armed Forces in military conflicts of varying intensity, including the use of the nuclear component. The General Staff monitors the state and improvement of the management system of the Armed Forces, theaters of military operations and so on.
To lead such a body, one must have the appropriate military education, knowledge, have an analytical mindset, the ability to understand the entire complex system of tasks that the General Staff faces, and put the work so that all its departments work precisely on these tasks. Sergey Fedorovich is firmly convinced that before heading the General Staff, one must go through a good army school in command and staff positions. Then the chief of the General Staff will participate in decision-making not as an statistician and not just as an analyst, but as a person who understands everything, because he had to go through it himself. Sergey Fedorovich all this was inherent.
- Tell me, Bronislav Alexandrovich, before you were assigned to the General Staff, were you familiar with Marshal Akhromeyev for a long time?
- No, I had never met him before.
- Under what circumstances did you meet?
- I think, first you need to talk about some facts from the life of Sergei Fedorovich Akhromeyev (in the photo). He was born, as we have already noted, 5 May 1923, in Mordovia, Russian. He began his military service in 1940, when he entered the Frunze Higher Naval School. In July-December, 1941 participated in the battles for Leningrad as part of the combined infantry battalion of cadets. In 1942, he graduated from the Astrakhan Infantry School, was commander of a platoon of marines, chief of staff of the battalion, since July 1944-th commanded a battalion of machine gunners. So he knew the war firsthand - he was in such positions in which he did not live long in the war ...
And after the war, from June 1945, he was deputy commander, then commander of a tank battalion, chief of staff and commander of a tank regiment, commander tank division, the commander of a tank army, and so on until the chief of the General Staff, served in this position from September 1984 to December 1988. In general, as they say, he went through all the steps of military service and at the same time studied a lot. He brilliantly graduated from the Higher Officers' School of Self-propelled Artillery of the Red Army Armored and Mechanized Forces (1945), with gold medals - the Military Academy of Armored and Mechanized Forces (1952) and the Military Academy of the General Staff (1967).
... The offer to move to the capital was unexpected for me. I served only three years as chief of staff of the Leningrad Military District, and this position suited me perfectly. I did not want to go to work at the General Staff. Before this 30 years stood in the ranks. For five years he commanded a platoon and a company, then he was a regiment commander, chief of staff and division commander, chief of staff and army commander, and thought about himself: why Omelichev could not continue to follow the command line, and the prospect was appropriate. Therefore, when the Chief of the Personnel Directorate of the Armed Forces of the USSR, General of the Army Shkadov, invited me to the conversation, I refused to be transferred to the General Staff. The results of the conversation Shkadov reported to Marshal Akhromeev. Then our personal acquaintance took place in his office.
- What do you think, why Marshal Akhromeev chose you?
- According to him, I was well prepared theoretically, my overall development and long service in the troops allowed me to carry out the tasks that stood before the Chief Operational Directorate of the General Staff, the post of deputy chief of which was offered to me.
- He could not know your track record.
- Without a doubt. And in my personal file were the certification of my previous commanders. This is also General of the Army Ivanovsky - commander-in-chief of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, where I commanded a division for two years, was the chief of staff of the army, who knew who Omelichev was. This is General of the Army Snetkov, commander of the troops of the Leningrad Military District, where I served as the chief of staff of the district. Naturally, the marshal suggested that I explain why I refuse to work at the General Staff.
I answer: "Comrade Marshal, I do not see myself in the General Staff." I am a military officer. All his life he served in the army, stood in line. I want to continue to serve in the army. " “You know,” said Sergey Fedorovich. - I thought so too when I was offered a job at the General Staff. I had exactly the same service. You are at the post of chief of staff of the Leningrad Military District, and I have come from the post of chief of staff of the DVO. I answer: Comrade Marshal, you were invited to the position of head of the main operational department, and you are inviting me to the position of deputy head. Already a difference. I believe that this is for me even some kind of decrease. I do not ask to transfer me somewhere to increase, leave me in the post of the chief of staff of the district, it suits me.
“Comrade Omelichev, we are soldiers. Soldiers do not choose a place of service. Go to Leningrad, there will be an order in a week, ”said the marshal.
- That is, the conversation was quite tough ...
- Yes. But we were so brought up by our entire army service that I did not find it appropriate to continue to object. I expressed everything I wanted in my eyes, so I said “I am” and left for Leningrad. Seven days later I received an order, and I arrived to serve in Moscow. Shel 1985 year. Sergey Fedorovich saw certain perspectives for me - and these perspectives with him occurred. At first I was the deputy head of the Main Operations Department, then the head of the same department, and from January 1989 to September 1992 I was the first deputy head of the General Staff.
By the way, in 1992, the publishing house “International Relations” published the book “Through the Eyes of a Marshal and a Diplomat,” written by Sergey Fedorovich Akhromeev in collaboration with Georgy Markovich Kornienko. Almost at the very beginning of the book there are lines dedicated to your humble servant. I read: “Then this department was headed by a young (already the next generation leader) Colonel-General Omelichev Bronislav Aleksandrovich, who grew up in an excellent general staff.” I really value this assessment. And to anyone else in his service, he is not grateful as Marshal Akhromeev. I keep a photo taken in 1988 in the office of the Chief of the General Staff. In the center - Sergey Fedorovich, I am in the first row, on the far right (in the photo).
- Did he remember the war?
- Sergey Fedorovich often recalled the war, but he spoke more not about the war itself, but about those people who commanded divisions, armies and fronts in the war. According to him, these were teachers both during the war and after the war. He said: they taught us everything that we could not get in the war, because our command level did not allow us to understand this. But when, after the war, we began to occupy the relevant positions, it was then very important to hear the assessment of a participant in the Great Patriotic War on one or another decision taken. He spoke a lot about the role of military leaders of the highest level of the Great Patriotic War, who, according to him, “taught me from the first post-war days”.
- And how did he celebrate Victory Day?
- On Victory Day, we necessarily attended the parade. Then on the site to the left (if you look at the Mausoleum), the leadership of the General Staff, the main and central directorates of the Ministry of Defense, as well as the cosmonauts gathered. After the parade, most went home, as it should be, and we, the staff of the General Staff, returned directly to the workplace from Red Square. You can believe, you can not believe, but for seven and a half years of my work in the General Staff, I never had one, so that after the parade I would not work hours before 17-18, and only then - home. The family got used to it ...
- And what, there was no weekend?
- The Chief of the General Staff, the Chief of the Main Operational Directorate, the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff every Saturday, every Sunday were working days. True, on Sunday you will come an hour and a half later, and you will leave for an hour or two earlier ...
- Marshal Akhromeev also worked without days off?
- Seven days a week.
- Have you ever been on vacation?
- There were, of course. Here, for example, to me, the chief of the Main Operations Department, Marshal Akhromeev, Chief of the General Staff, is calling: Bronislav Aleksandrovich, come in. Getting in. Asks: you, like, were not on vacation? Not been yet. Good. Tomorrow you can go to a sanatorium. They are ready to meet you there. I called my wife: from tomorrow we are on vacation, we are going to a sanatorium.
“But wasn’t they worried there?”
- For nothing - no. But by the time I arrived, the HF phone was already there - this is a direct connection with the Chief of the General Staff, with the Central Command General Staff.
- And they called?
- If the situation is complicated, then the duty general should report back on time. It doesn't matter if I am on vacation or not, I should know the situation. This is how the General Staff worked, and it cannot work in a different way.
- It was necessary to have colossal health ...
- Yes. Sergey Fedorovich physically was a very strong man.
- And the memory, for sure, he had a good?
- amazing. It can be said unique.
- How did it manifest?
- He remembered, for example, the numbers of all our associations, connections. Knew knew the group of NATO troops, their condition. At any point where they are present. But he left the service when he was 68 for years, allegedly due to a decrease in memory, which, according to him, negatively affects his work, as he explained to the Secretary of Defense and the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the Supreme Commander.
- Can you give an example when you were really amazed by Akhromeyev’s foresight, when he showed the brilliance of his thought?
- To begin with, I would note that at that time the chief of the General Staff was part of the working group of the Politburo. This group was engaged in the preparation of materials for the head of state, members of the Politburo, for the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of defense, when they represented the country at intergovernmental meetings where a military-political issue was resolved. Once Sergey Fedorovich calls me, shows some document and says: “Bronislav Aleksandrovich, are you familiar with this document? He passed through the main operational management? "
The document was small, on two - two and a half pages, and already signed by Shevardnadze (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Yakovlev (member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee). And left a clean place to sign the Minister of Defense Yazov. And the Ministry of Defense established a strict rule: no document will be accepted at the reception of the Ministry of Defense if it does not have a visa of the Chief of the General Staff. I answer: no, comrade marshal, this document did not pass through the Main Operational Directorate, they did not study the problem, the document was born outside the General Staff. Then Sergey Fedorovich takes a green pen (he liked to work with a green pen) and reads. Then I wrote something over there, corrected it, picked up the telephone of the direct telephone and called the Foreign Minister: we received a document for signature by the Minister of Defense, but this problem was not worked out in the General Staff, so I cannot provide a report to the Minister. But we have worked through this document, and if you do not have objections to our proposals, I will now send the document to you. In this edition, the Minister of Defense will sign it.
And I thought then: it’s worth a lot when the chief of the General Staff is ruled by a document already signed by two members of the Politburo, the country's top leadership. Is there now such a chief of the General Staff, who will decide on such an act? I do not just doubt, I'm just sure: no one will dare. This is how much it is necessary to clearly and clearly understand the problem that was discussed - and it was related to reductions in strategic nuclear weapons - in order to be so self-confident? And Marshal Yazov would never have signed a document that was not endorsed by the Chief of the General Staff.
I was impressed in the work of Sergei Fedorovich with his ability to foresee events. He comes somehow from a meeting at Gorbachev, where the Minister of Defense, the Chairman of the KGB, the Minister of Foreign Affairs participated and discussed the possible reduction of the Armed Forces. At this meeting, the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff managed to prove that now it is not advisable to do this, but, as he said to me, “they will still dozhmut us, they will not allow us to live in peace”.
- And "they" - who is this?
- Yes, Gorbachev, Shevardnadze, Yakovlev, Kryuchkov (chairman of the KGB) and others like them. By order of Sergei Fedorovich, a group was created, about five people headed by me to prepare calculations that would minimize the damage from such a reduction. We have prepared such a document, which later formed the basis for the reduction of the Armed Forces by half a million people.
- Bronislav Aleksandrovich, speaking about the chiefs of the General Staff, perhaps, we can draw the following conclusion: large-scale tasks required large-scale personalities.
- Of course. The General Staff can be managed only by a person who covers the whole huge complex of tasks. May foresee. May affect. May organize work.
- What was Sergey Fedorovich’s style of communication with people who were repaired?
- The style of communication he was extremely respectful, extremely intelligent. And I had a very trusting relationship with him, I am proud of it. Sergey Fedorovich believed me, and this without exaggeration, as to myself.
- How did the staff of the General Staff relate to Marshal Akhromeev?
- The team was in love with the Chief of the General Staff, but at the same time, he was very careful that the executed document did not cause any serious remarks to him.
- How was it called among themselves?
- Only - "Chief of General Staff." Or - "Marshal Akhromeev." I repeat, we had an extremely trusting relationship, however, he called me only for you and only - “Comrade Omelichev”.
- He was seasoned?
- Sorry, "obscene" was not expressed?
-Peep the Lord! For all the years I have not heard a single swear word from him.
- What can you say about its cultural level? What did he read, what films did he watch? What preferences did he have?
- Sergey Fedorovich’s cultural level was such that we all envied him. No matter how much he worked, he found the opportunity to read something. He knew well the historical literature. Could cite examples from the biographies of military leaders of different times and peoples. Classics knew very well. Lev Tolstoy, Chekhov, many times cited examples from Turgenev ...
- And the music, the songs?
- I can not say.
- Cinema Sergey Fedorovich loved?
- Yes, films of historical and patriotic content, military subjects. I saw him in his study in the office of the famous artist Vyacheslav Tikhonov. He also met with Yevgeny Matveyev, an actor and director.
But the main thing has always been one thing - work, work and work again. Day and night. Family in the background. If not on the third.
- How did he rest?
- Loved the sport. I will never forget such a case. Once I had a rest in the sanatorium “Arkhangelskoye”, and it so coincided that at the same time with Sergey Fedorovich. Once he suggested: let's go in the morning instead of charging, let's go for a walk. Vladimir Shuralev, the commander of the Belarusian Military District at that time, also asked us to join the company. When I returned from this walk, I thought I would die. Distance 10 km. He walked so fast that we barely had time for him ... The next day, Sergei Fedorovich again offered to take a walk. I had to refuse, although I, too, was not frail.
By the way, Sergey Fedorovich did not smoke. He drank very moderately. Highly. A glass of brandy for the evening.
-And hunting, fishing?
- No, not fascinated.
“Sad as it may be, but you have to remember that there are still different conversations about the causes of his death, the most incredible versions are being put forward ... He was a strong man, and did he end up suicide?
- This is a special topic that, indeed, still worries our society. Once I was invited to the NTV channel when they were making a film about Sergei Fedorovich. A rather long conversation took place, however, only two small fragments were later shown on TV, but I nevertheless expressed my point of view: Sergey Fedorovich took his true cause of death with himself. However, I think: he left life voluntarily. This is my point of view, I do not impose it on anyone. But, knowing him as a person who gave himself all to the service in the army, the Soviet Union and the Communist Party - and he was a communist in the highest sense of the word, I can say this: when everything that he believed more than himself broke up before his eyes in just a few days, he simply could not stand it ... The human psyche could not stand it. This is my, I emphasize, personal point of view.
- And you are not convinced of the opposite of two documentary films investigating him? They express doubts about the official version ...
- No, they do not convince me.
- Or maybe he wanted to eliminate as a person who knows a lot, who could play a certain role in the upcoming events?
- And what was the point of eliminating Sergei Fedorovich, when by the time the Emergency Committee emerged he had been a retired marshal for more than three years? Practically nothing then depended on him in big politics, including in the military-political sphere. The Minister of Defense, who somehow took part in this putsch, was already arrested, and Sergey Fedorovich did not take absolutely no part in the Emergency Committee. I can guarantee it. He was at this time on vacation, in a sanatorium. I remember that somewhere around August 22, Oleg Baklanov, secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, who was part of the Emergency Committee, was scheduled to meet the so-called Emergency Committee headquarters. I was included in the list of participants in this meeting, for which they were then interrogated and were put in jail, but this is a different matter. We met there with Sergey Fedorovich. Last time. Just the Ministry of Defense made a decision to remove tanks from the streets of Moscow, in which there was no ammunition, which did not play any role, except the one that frightened people. He asks me: why did the troops enter Moscow?
“Was he at that meeting?”
- No, he just went to Baklanov, in the office on the Old Square.
- And he asks you a question ...
- Yes. And why did the tanks injected? I answer: no one asked me about this, it is an order of the Minister of Defense. I also kind of complained: all this slander, they say, all this state emergency committee passed without the participation of the General Staff. And indeed it is. I have spoken in many interviews, and it is still not clear to me why the Minister of Defense, Marshal Yazov, removed the General Staff from participation in the State Emergency Committee. Or he was afraid that there would be reasonable people in the General Staff and they would say that they shouldn’t do this, or for some other reason, but the Chief of the General Staff Moses was sent on leave. Your obedient servant then performed the duties of the chief of the General Staff, and when all this boater passed, I could only state the events: for example, a meeting was held with the Minister of Defense. Usually, these meetings were never held without the Chief of the General Staff, and on August X, neither I nor the Head of the Main Operational Administration were invited to the meeting. Therefore, I said: I do not know who gave the command to deploy troops.
- And how did Akhromeyev react?
-As always, calm, balanced. I see him now: with a folder under his arm, the next day he called me something ... We talked with him for about five, maybe seven minutes. And that's it!
“And you suddenly find out ...”
- Yes, suddenly I find out that Sergey Fedorovich hanged himself in the office. My condition cannot be expressed in words. At first I just did not believe it ... And I did not believe until I saw the pictures.
“Actually, every officer has a pistol, and the chief of the General Staff has one ...”
-No, the pistols were not scattered at that time. They began to do this later, we did not have one.
- And where were the guns? Do the attendant?
-Yes. In a sealed safe at the duty of the General Staff. I also know that Sergei Fedorovich did not have an award weapons. It was not awarded at the time, it ended during the Civil War and did not resume until the wild 90s. At best, they gave an officer dirk. And the marshal, moreover, had already resigned and surrendered his weapon.
- In those three years, when he had already left the army, you did not communicate?
- We did not break the connection for a single day.
- He was in the group of general inspectors?
-No, he was an adviser to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU on military issues. His office was in the Kremlin. I have often been in this office, a little one. At the same time, he could not lose touch with the General Staff, and I was the link. He called only me. He asked: Bronislav Aleksandrovich, when will the meeting of the working group, which prepares documents for the politburo on disarmament and other issues, be held? Sometimes I came, participated in meetings, sat down beside me - I was the chairman of this group. We flew with him as part of a delegation to sign the preliminary START-2 agreement to the United States.
- You said that he said: develop a plan for the reduction of the Armed Forces, "they will still finish us." Already on this “they” one can see his attitude towards the group of these politicians, isn't it?
- All our structures were then, as they say, sharpened to follow the instructions of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU. Maybe Akhromeyev had a sense of guilt for the disastrous decisions that Gorbachev and Shevardnadze made?
- A premonition of collapse and led him to the tragedy ...
In the book “Through the eyes of a marshal and a diplomat,” Sergei Fyodorovich recalls how he became head of the General Staff, which coincided with the time Gorbachev came to power. At first, he and the Minister of Defense, Marshal Sokolov, enjoyed the first months in the activities of the new Secretary General. Gorbachev listened at first, penetrated, because in military affairs he did not understand anything. But then, how many times Marshal Akhromeyev, being the Chief of the General Staff, came from the Kremlin in frustrated feelings ...
And I also had to deal with the then Foreign Minister Shevardnadze. Pursuing a disarmament policy, he often made unjustified concessions to the United States. And only thanks to the persistent efforts of the General Staff, the Minister of Defense, were we able at the meetings of the "five" with the Secretary of the Central Committee Zaikov to somehow put obstacles in the way of this politician. There were several moments when he ignored the jointly worked out instructions for the negotiators. I will never forget how he single-handedly decided to reduce the marine aviation. Negotiations were about reducing the Ground Forces from the Atlantic to the Urals, and naval aviation belonged to the Navy, so the military department considered it reasonable to withdraw it from the subject of negotiations ...
- Prokhanov wrote: Gorbachev, Yakovlev and Shevardnadze - shampoo and conditioner in one bottle.
- I will give you this example. At one of the meetings in the Central Committee of the party, we were together with Sergey Fedorovich. During the break, they came out to breathe fresh air, we looked, Yakovlev wandering in the distance. Sergey Fedorovich and he says: Bronislav Aleksandrovich, remember for the rest of your life - more harm to the country and the Armed Forces than this person brought no one. He told me that personally. These words I will never forget.
- About Gorbachev, probably, he had the same opinion?
- Not. If he had thought the same about Gorbachev, he would never have gone to him as an adviser. Gorbachev personally invited him. Called to himself after Sergey Fedorovich wrote a report on the dismissal. He asks: where do you think to find a use for yourself? In the group of inspectors-general, if you identify me there, the marshal replied. Gorbachev says: we want to offer you another job. How do you look at the post of adviser to the Secretary General on military issues? We have been working together for about two years, you know the situation, you know my point of view. Sergey Fedorovich agreed. And I do not remember, and in the mentioned book there are no harsh statements of Akhromeyev regarding Gorbachev. But with Shevardnadze, he had clashes, and clashes are quite tough. I must say that in our time the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended their interests: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was interested in signing an international treaty more quickly, and the Ministry of Defense in signing an agreement with minimal damage to the combat readiness of the Armed Forces.
- It so happened that the first major obituary about Marshal Akhromeev was written not in the USSR, but in the USA and published in Time magazine. It was written by Admiral William Crow, who at one time served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States. He called Akhromeyev a man of honor. The words from the obituary headline “Communist. Patriot. The soldiers "relatives were knocked out later on the monument to the marshal.
“That's right, Admiral Crowe really wrote that.” About Marshal Akhromeev, I note, was the highest opinion among the Western military. I must say that he had unquestioning authority among the ministers of defense, the chiefs of staff and the leaders of the states parties to the Warsaw Pact. I have often visited Sergei Fedorovich at meetings with Western leaders. He enjoyed unquestioned authority everywhere. And Crowe is actually the same Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of America, a very authoritative military. And although they were irreconcilable enemies, their understanding of the place and role of the armed forces in the modern world gave rise to inner respect for each other.
- What was the attitude of the marshal to the case of Rust?
- Simple: it was the real bluntness on the part of the high leader - the commander of the northern air defense army. He was informed in time that the plane was flying. This plane, by the way, was spotted on the other side of the border, but he did not attach any importance to this and, in general, removed the target from the escort. In this loud case was a specific culprit, but the commander of the air defense forces Koldunov and the Minister of Defense Marshal Sokolov were removed. By the way, Sergey Fedorovich told me that he, Akhromeyev, had to be removed from his post, not the Minister of Defense.
- There is such a conspiracy thesis that Rust was sent to remove the high command of the USSR after the scandal. Or is this what is called brute force?
- Of course, bust. It is generally an accident that he flew to Moscow, he could be shot down. And more than once.
- What do you think, Bronislav Alexandrovich, what are the precepts of Akhromeyev, what his thoughts could be relevant in these not simple times for our army, for the country in general, times? The role of the General Staff should be strengthened?
“The role of the General Staff should neither increase nor fall - it should be as it always should be for this the main administrative body of the country in matters of defense.”
- And she, this role is sufficient today?
- No, not enough. The current head of the General Staff is very difficult. After the collapse of the USSR, there were times when the General Staff turned into the office in general. And this is unacceptable. Today, I see positive developments, but one thing must be understood: when expanding an army of 20 for years, it will have to be restored for 40 of years. Faster unlikely to recover, although it is necessary to strive for this.
- Such a question, Bronislav Aleksandrovich: have you seen other chiefs of the general staff, what were they?
- Sergey Fedorovich took the post of Marshal Ogarkov. This is also an outstanding personality. Great organizer. A man of the highest erudition. Prior to that, the Chief of the General Staff was the living Marshal Kulikov. Then he, until the last days, while the Warsaw Pact existed, led this military-political organization. By the way, NATO never had a chance to defeat the Warsaw Pact in a military confrontation. Thus, Marshal Akhromeyev was the successor of the famous galaxy of chiefs of the General Staff, participants of the Great Patriotic War, starting with Marshal Zhukov, Marshal Shaposhnikov, Marshal Vasilevsky, Army General Antonov, Marshal Zakharov ...
The conversation was conducted by Valery Panov and Alexei Timofeev