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 Tsar’s army and was called to serve in the Red Army.  Two years later Alexander found himself called to duty, with the 27th PriVolga Regiment.  Evidently he drew the attention of his superiors, for in 1920 he has selected to attend a course for junior infantry commanders at Nizhni Novgorod.  On 24 May 1920 he was admitted into the Communist Party.[1]

Novikov’s Civil War service took him first to the northern front, and then to Petrograd, where he arrive just days after the Kronshtadt mutiny.  Novikov was soon attached to Tukhachevsky’s 7th Army staff, and saw the tiny Red Air Force in action against the mutineers. After the campaign was resolved young Novikov was posted back with the infantry.[2]  An instructor from his infantry leaders’ course had become Chief of Staff of the Independent Caucasus Army and got Novikov posted to the south. Once there, this benefactor convinced Novikov to apply for further schools.  He was accepted at the Higher Rifle School for Commanders where he won a drawing for a fifteen-minute flight. Novikov was immediately smitten with a strong desire to fly, but could not gain the permission of his superiors to become an aviator.[3]

After the war ended Novikov was assigned command positions at the company and battalion level. By 1925 Alexander had a wife Militsa and son Lev, and in 1927 he entered the Frunze Academy which he graduated in 1930 near the top of his class. He was then posted to Smolensk as head of reconnaissance with 11th Rifle Corps. Though thousands of heretofore ground officers were being transferred into the Air Force during the thirties, Novikov’s vision had not considered good enough for an aviator.  It took arm twisting by his Military District commander, but Novikov was reassigned as chief of staff of the 450th Aviation Brigade.  Initially assigned as a non-flyer, by 1933 he passed his pilot’s examination.[4]

In 1935 Alexander Novikov accepted a demotion to command a bomber squadron. This personal triumph was mixed with tragedy due to the death of his wife.  Left with three young children and now a squadron to command, Novikov had many responsibilities.[5] Promoted to Colonel in 1936, Novikov was caught up in the purges of 1937, relieved of command, and issued a reprimand. Luck had it that Colonel Novikov was found “neither a tippler nor an associate of women of dubious virtue”[6] and the reprimand was withdrawn.[7]

A former brigade commander was named air commander for the Leningrad Military District and asked for Novikov as Chief of Staff.  Holding this post during the Finish war, Novikov came in for some criticism when the ill-trained Soviet Air Force failed to live up to expectations.  Most of the blame fell on his commander and one time benefactor, Ptukhin, who was transferred to Kiev. Surprisingly, Stalin appointed Novikov as air commander for the district effective July 1940.[8]


[1] John Erickson, “Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov,” In Stalin’s Generals, ed. Harold Shukman, 155-174, (New York: Grove Press, 1993), 155-156.

[2] Erickson, 156.

[3] Erickson, 155, 157.

[4] Erickson, 157-8; M. N. Kozhevnikov, The Command and Staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945. Moscow: Nauka, 1977, Soviet Military Thought, no. 17. Translated by United States Air Force. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, n.d.), 68.

[5] Erickson, 158.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Erickson, 160; Kozhevnikov, 68.