Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov, born of humble origins in 1900, rose to command the Soviet Air Forces through most of the Great Patriotic War.  He developed a love for flying after winning a short flight in a drawing, but had to wait eleven years before he gained his pilot’s certificate.  His excellence in command of the Red Air Force, encompassing the period of rebuilding through final victory, earned the awards and acclaim afforded him.  As head of the Air Force, Novikov worked with many of the senior Soviet commanders.  He often moved from one critical battle to another and found himself on the ‘first string’ with another man of peasant origins, Georgy Zhukov.

In 1946 Novikov fell victim to a Stalinist purge of his beloved Air Force, only to be released and rehabilitated after the death of the dictator. For over a decade after his retirement from military service the Chief Air Marshal headed the Higher Civil Aviation School. On February 3, 1976 this great commander’s life came to an end.

Sources in English are few and difficult to obtain particularly primary sources. I recommend the compilation of short biographies edited by Harold Shukman as a source of biographical information not found in campaign histories.  In addition to several Russian authors, Professor Shukman’s book includes chapters by Geoffrey Jukes, David Glantz, and John Erickson, who contributed the section on Novikov.  No writing on the Soviet Air Force in World War II would be complete without mentioning Von Hardesty’s Red Phoenix as a source of immense value.  A U.S. Air Force translation of M. N. Kozhevnikov’s Command and Staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945, though it contains some truly warped history, is full of details. Finally, Alexander Boyd’s history of the Soviet Air Force contained concise accounts of wartime activities.


  • The Wings of Revolution: Youth and Civil War - Born into a peasant home in November 1900, Alexander Novikov was noted as a diligent student.  Rather than work the fields, he became a teacher, and it appears he was quite satisfied with that profession.  It wasn’t until 1917 that the war caught up with his family.  His father had been a NCO in the […]
  • During the Great Patriotic War - From the very beginning of the war with Germany Major-General Novikov skillfully used the forces available to him.  As early as 25 June 1941 Novikov launched offensive raids against German and Finish airfields.[9]  Although Novikov’s airmen flew 16,567 sorties in 22 days[10], nothing seemed to slow the Axis advance.  As German and Finnish forces closed […]
  • Victory and Disgrace - Marshal Novikov participated in many further operations, but continued to operate in much the same capacity, that of Stavka air representative, often commanding and coordinating air resources for multiple fronts.  A list of his battles includes the Kuban, Kursk, and Kiev (1943); Korsun, Ternopol, the relief of Leningrad, the Karelian campaign, and operation ‘Bagration’ (1944); […]
  • Selected Bibliography - Boyd, Alexander. The Soviet Air Force since 1918. New York: Stein and Day, 1977. Erickson, John. “Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov.” In Stalin’s Generals, ed. Harold, Shukman, 155-174.   New York: Grove Press, 1993. Hardesty, Von.  Red Phoenix, the Rise of Soviet Air Power, 1941-1945.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982. Kozhevnikov, M. N.  The Command and Staff of the […]