Grachev speaking at the State Duma in 1994. (Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev).

Pavel Sergeyevich Grachev (Russian: Па́вел Серге́евич Грачё́в; January 1, 1948 – September 23, 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 war in Chechnya and the persistent allegations of involvement in enormous corruption scandals.

Life and careerEdit

 The Soviet UnionEdit

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 a parachute-landing regiment from 1981 to 1983, and was in command of the 103rd Guards Airborne Division in Afghanistan in the last years of the Soviet involvement.

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 FederationEdit

For a period of time, in the early-to-mid-1990s, Grachev was a close friend of the President of Russia Boris Yeltsin, 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."

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." He was rumoured to launch the disastrous storming of Grozny while drunk during the celebrations of his January 1 birthday.  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." 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 April 25, 2007, Grachev was fired from this position.

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

Corruption accusationsEdit

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. 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, killed by a booby-trapped suitcase in 1994. Four of Grachev's airborne officers and two others were tried in the murder of Kholodov but were later acquitted.

Popular cultureEdit

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.

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