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Yakov Smushkevich

Yakov Smushkevich was born in Rokiškis in 1902.  When the Czarist regime in May 1915 ordered the Jews of central Lithuania into internal exile, his family relocated to Russia.  He joined the Red Army in 1918 and in 1922 transferred to the Soviet Air Force, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant general.  In the 1936-1937 Spanish Civil War he shot down several Nazi aircraft and was an acquaintance of Ernest Hemingway.  He also fought in the 1939 battle of Khalkin Gol in Mongolia and in the 1940 Soviet invasion of Finland.  He was twice honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union and served from 1939 to 1941 as commander of the Soviet Air Force. 

Smushkevich was arrested on June 7, 1941, and was executed without trial on October 28, 1941, on the personal order of Lavrenti Beria.  In 1954, a year after Stalin’s death, he was rehabilitated.  A bust of Smushkevich was created by the renowned Lithuanian sculptor Konstantinas Bogdanas.  For many years it stood in Smushkevich Square in Rokiškis (a park immediately south of Laivės gatvė, between Vilniaus gatvė and Kauno gatvė).  After Lithuania effectively regained its independence, in 1991, many Soviet-era statues were removed from public spaces.  The Smushkevich sculpture was removed from this park around 2017.    

                                                                 statue                                                                         smush photo

This monument used to stand in Rokiskis but was removed in 2017

bullet Twice Hero of the Soviet Union . Awarded with two Gold Star medals (No. 29 dated June 21, 1937, No. 5 dated November 17, 1939)
bullet Two Orders of Lenin (January 1937, June 1937)
bullet Jubilee medal "XX Years of the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army"
medal front                      medal 2
Medal of the USSR War Veterans Committee, which was awarded (after death) to Jakov Smuškevičius, who took part in the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1939.


Wife - Basya Solomonovna Smushkevich (Golfand). Smushkevich's wife since 1922, originally from Belarus. On June 26, 1943, a special meeting at the NKVD of the USSR sentenced her and her daughter Rosa, as members of the family of a traitor to the Motherland, to five years in forced labor camps and exile. She was buried at the memorial cemetery of aviators in Monino near Moscow, next to her is a monument to her husband.

Daughter - Rose (born 1925). In the early 2000s, after an operation by German doctors in 2001, Rosa Smushkevich emigrated to Germany. She was present in 2008 at the unveiling of a monument to her father at the aviators' memorial cemetery in Monino.

Another (youngest) daughter died at the age of three in the spring of 1938, having fallen from the balcony due to the carelessness of the nanny.



bullet The first monument to Yakov Smushkevich was erected in 1969 in Rokiskis. Its creator was the Lithuanian sculptor Konstantinas Bogdanas . The monument existed in modern Lithuania until 2017 (now it has been dismantled).
bullet On August 17, 2008, at the Moninskoye memorial military cemetery of the Yuri Gagarin Air Force Academy in the village of Monino (Moscow region), a grand opening of the monument to YV Smushkevich took place.

In 1987, a street in Vitebsk was named after Ya. V. Smushkevich.


Near Samara, at the place of execution, there is a memorial sign on which is inscribed: “Installed at the burial place of victims of the repressions of the 1930-1940s. Let us bow to the memory of the innocent victims ... ”

bullet In the Klaipeda (Lithuania) base of the trawl fleet there was a large autonomous trawler Yakov Smushkevich under the USSR.

Russian Wikipedia article, translated by Chrome

Yakov Vladimirovich Smushkevich (April [14], 1902Rakishki , Kovno province , Russian Empire  - October 28, 1941 , Barbysh , Kuibyshev region , USSR ) - Soviet military leader, senior military adviser on aviation to the Spanish Republican Army ; Commander of the Red Army Air Force in combat operations in the area of ​​the Khalkhin-Gol River, Chief of the Red Army Air Force (1939), Assistant Chief of the Red Army General Staff for Aviation (1940); Lieutenant General of Aviation, Inspector General of the Red Army Air Force; twice Hero of the Soviet Union... Arrested and shot in 1941. He was posthumously rehabilitated in 1954. The first Jew is a Hero of the Soviet Union. The first twice Hero of the Soviet Union, arrested and executed as an "enemy of the people."



Born in the town of Rakishki, Novoaleksandrovsky uyezd, Kovno province (now the city of Rokiskis in north-east Lithuania, the administrative center of the Rokiski district in Panevezys county) in 1902. He is Jewish by nationality. Graduated from the parish school. In 1915, during the war, the family was evacuated to the Vologda province.

Member of the Civil War of 1918-1920, fought on the Western Front .

At the end of 1918 he was admitted to the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks and appointed to the post of commissar in the 1st Minsk Communist Battalion, which became part of the Western Army. In the battles on the Western Front, Smushkevich was wounded in the arm.

At the beginning of 1919, in the battles near Baranovichi, he received a saber wound in his leg and was taken prisoner by Polish troops. The Polish counterintelligence "Dvuika" became interested in Smushkevich, and he was transferred to the "Lukishki" prison in Vilnius, the prison term lasted thirteen months. In the spring of 1920, he managed to escape: hiding in a laundry room among laundry baskets, he was taken out of the prison.

Returning to the location of the units of the Red Army, Yakov is enlisted as an ordinary soldier in the 144th rifle regiment, which was part of the brigade under the command of the hero of the Civil War, Jan Fabricius . In July 1920, already as a political commander of a company, Smushkevich took part in the capture of the Smorgon fortified region. In the battle for Pultusk, he replaced the wounded regiment commissar.

In October 1922, Smushkevich was transferred to work in aviation - to the position of organizer of the party work of the 9th air squadron in the city of Smolensk. He mastered the flying business in the aviation unit and began to fly himself, setting a personal example for his colleagues. From 1923 on political work in an air squadron in Minsk . From February 1928 he was commissar of the 43rd air squadron in the 2nd air brigade, stationed in Vitebsk. Since the spring of 1930, deputy chief of the political department of the 2nd air brigade. In November 1931, he became the commander and commissar of the 2nd  air brigade, soon turning it into one of the exemplary formations of the Red Army Air Force. By 1932 he graduated from the Kachin Military Pilot School.

On September 22, 1936 he was awarded the military rank of "brigade commander".

From November 1936 to June 17, 1937 Smushkevich ("Spanish" pseudonym - General Douglas) in the ranks of Soviet volunteers took part in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the republican government - senior military adviser on aviation, head of the air defense of Madrid . Sometimes, despite his status, he personally flew out on a mission. He competently organized the air defense system of Madrid, sharply reducing the effectiveness of the city's bombing.

On June 20, 1937, he was awarded the military rank of "corps commander", bypassing the rank of "division commander".

Commander Yakov Vladimirovich Smushkevich was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union on June 21, 1937 for the courage and heroism shown in the performance of his international duty .

Upon his return from Spain in 1937, he graduated from advanced training courses for the commanding staff at the MV Frunze Military Academy and in the same year took up the post of deputy head of the Red Army Air Force Directorate A. D. Loktionov.

In April 1938 he was seriously injured in an accident while flying over a new P-10 bomber in preparation for the May Day parade in Moscow. He was treated for several months. Since then, sore legs periodically made themselves felt. In 1938 his article "Aviation in the Coming War" appeared in No. 4 of the Bolshevik magazine. In it, he considered the main thing for the Air Force - the timely airborne aviation, the concentration of the command of all the armed forces in one hand. On October 7, 1938, he was approved as a member of the Military Council under the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR.

In May - August 1939, during the Soviet-Japanese conflict on the Khalkhin-Gol River in Mongolia, he commanded the aviation of the 1st Army Group. The advantage of the Japanese aviation in the May and June battles was eliminated, incl. by the professional guidance of Smushkevich. Marshal G.K. Zhukov, who then commanded the entire 1st Army Group, later recalled:

“I often remember with soldier's gratitude the wonderful pilots ... The commander of this group, Ya. V. Smushkevich, was an excellent organizer, who knew very well the combat flight technique and was fluent in flying skills. He was an exceptionally humble man, an excellent boss and a principled communist. All pilots loved him sincerely."

In September 1939, Smushkevich was appointed to the post of Chief of the Air Force of the Kiev Special Military District. He took part in the September campaign of the Red Army in Western Ukraine as the commander of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Front.

By the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of November 17, 1939, for courage and bravery in battles with the Japanese invaders on the Khalkhin-Gol River, corps commander Yakov Vladimirovich Smushkevich was awarded the second Gold Star medal. The Government of Mongolia awarded him the Order of the Red Banner of the Mongolian People's Republic.

In November 1939, he was awarded the military rank of 2nd rank army commander. Since November 19, 1939, Smushkevich is the head of the Red Army Air Force. Took part, as the head of the Air Force, in the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940. Smushkevich did a lot to ensure the combat work of aviation in the most difficult winter conditions of the war.

Member of the Central Committee of the CPSU since 1939. Member of the Central Executive Committee of the BSSR in 1935-1936. Deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of the 1st convocation. In April 1940 he was awarded the next military rank of the 1st rank army commander. When Lithuania became the territory of the USSR, Smushkevich flew home to Lithuanian Rakishki to visit his parents, two brothers and a sister.

By the resolution of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR. On June 4, 1940, Smushkevich was awarded the military rank of Lieutenant General of Aviation. In August 1940, he was transferred to the post of Inspector General of the Red Army Air Force, and in December of the same year - Assistant Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army for Aviation. The Lieutenant General had a negative attitude towards the Soviet-German agreements of 1939 and did not hide it, realizing that war was inevitable. He actively coordinates the work of design bureaus and aircraft factories, accelerates the release of the latest aircraft and weapons models. Despite the crippled legs in the plane crash, Smushkevich continued to travel with inspectors. He tried to look for ways to convince Stalin of the need to urgently eliminate the shortcomings in the development of the Soviet Air Force, revealed during the Soviet-Finnish war.

Arrest and execution

In May 1941, the commander of the Air Force of the Moscow Military District, Hero of the Soviet Union, Lieutenant General of Aviation Pumpur, and the head of the Main Directorate of the Red Army Air Defense, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel General Stern , who had fought with Smushkevich in Spain. Most of the generals arrested were participants in the national revolutionary war in Spain. They were accused of being members of a military conspiratorial organization, on whose instructions they "carried out enemy work aimed at defeating Republican Spain, etc.

On June 8, 1941, in a hospital, Smushkevich was arrested by the NKVD of the USSR on charges of participating in a military conspiratorial organization, on whose instructions, among other arrested, he carried out "enemy work aimed at defeating Republican Spain, reducing the combat training of the Red Army Air Force and increasing the accident rate in the Military -Air Forces ". He was tortured in prison. At this time, in his Moscow apartment, in the famous House on the Embankment, everyone was turned upside down, looking for evidence.

Despite the absence of objective evidence of Smushkevich's guilt in committing grave crimes against the state, he, among the other 25 arrested, was shot on October 28, 1941 without trial according to LP Beria's order No. 2756 / B dated 10/18/1941, and the Deputy People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR Kobulov B.Z. and Vlodzimirsky L. Ye. in 1942 retroactively falsified the conclusion about the execution of Smushkevich, knowingly falsely indicating in it that the charge against him was proven.

Later, his family (wife and daughter) was arrested and exiled in 1943 to the Karaganda region - first to a camp, then to an eternal settlement in Kazakhstan. The order on their arrest was signed by Beria: "A high school student, Rosa Yakovlevna Smushkevich, as the daughter of a traitor to the motherland, should be sentenced to 5 years in prison with serving a term in Karlag labor camps with subsequent exile for life." They returned to Moscow in April 1954, with the help of Marshal G.K. Zhukov they received an apartment.

By the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of March 21, 1947, Smushkevich was deprived of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and all state awards. After the death of Stalin and Beria in 1954, he was posthumously rehabilitated. The titles of Hero of the Soviet Union and awards were returned by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of March 15, 1957.At the memorial cemetery of aviators in Monino near Moscow to Ya. V. Smushkevich, a cenotaph gravestone was installed in 2008.

Thanks to Giedrius Kujelis, Rokiskis Regional Museum and Susan Ansel, a Smushkevich cousin for much of this material.

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