General Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov or Wlassow (Russian: Андрéй Андрéевич Влáсов, September 14, 1900 — August 2, 1946) was a Russian former Soviet Army general who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II.Born in Lomakino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russian Empire, Vlasov was originally a student at a Russian Orthodox seminary. He quit the study of divinity after the Russian Revolution, briefly studying agricultural sciences instead, and in 1919 joined the Red Army fighting in the southern theatre in Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the Crimea. He distinguished himself as an officer and gradually rose through the ranks of the Red Army.
Vlasov joined the Communist Party in 1930. Sent to China, he acted as a military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek from 1938 to November 1939. Upon his return, Vlasov served in several assignments before being given command of the 99th Rifle Division. After just nine months under Vlasov's leadership, after an inspection by Semyon Timoshenko, the division was recognized as one of the best divisions in the Army in 1940. Timoshenko presented Vlasov with an inscribed gold watch, as he 'found the 99th the best of all. The historian John Erickson says of Vlasov at this point that [he] 'was an up and coming man. In 1940, Vlasov was promoted to major general, and on June 22, 1941, when the Germans and their allies invaded the Soviet Union, Vlasov was commanding 4th Mechanized Corps.
Shortly after the invasion began, Vlasov's corps retook Przemyśl, holding it for six days. As a lieutenant general, he commanded the 37th Army near Kiev and escaped encirclement. He then played an important role in the defense of Moscow, as his 20th Army counterattacked and retook Solnechnogorsk. Vlasov's picture was printed (along with those of other Soviet generals) in the newspaper Pravda as that of one of the "defenders of Moscow". Described by some historians as "charismatic", Vlasov was decorated on January 24, 1942, with the Order of the Red Banner for his efforts in the defence of Moscow. After this success, Vlasov was put in command of the 2nd Shock Army of the Volkhov Front and ordered to lead the attempt to lift the Siege of Leningrad -- the Lyuban-Chudovo Offensive Operation of January-April 1942. Other forces (the Volkhov Front's 4th, 52nd, and 59th Armies, 13th Cavalry Corps, and 4th and 6th Guards Rifle Corps, as well as the 54th Army of the Leningrad Front) failed to exploit Vlasov's advances and his army was left stranded in German-held territory. The 2nd Shock Army was surrounded and, in June 1942, destroyed.
After Vlasov's army was surrounded, he himself was offered an escape by aeroplane. The general refused and hid in German-occupied territory; ten days later, on July 12, 1942, a local farmer betrayed him to the Germans. Vlasov's opponent and captor, German general Georg Lindemann, interrogated him about the surrounding of his army and details of battles, then had Vlasov imprisoned in occupied Vinnytsia.
Vlasov claimed that during his ten days in hiding he affirmed his anti-Bolshevism, believing Stalin was the greatest enemy of the Russian people. His critics, including Marshall Kirill Meretskov (who had endorsed Vlasov's promotion to executive officer of the Volkhov front) and most Soviet historians, argued that Vlasov adopted a pro-Nazi German stance in prison out of opportunism, careerism, and survival, fearing Stalinist retribution for losing his last battle and his army.
While in prison, Vlasov met Captain Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt, a German Balt who was attempting to foster a Russian Liberation Movement. Strik-Strikfeldt had circulated memos to this effect in the Wehrmacht. Strik-Strikfeldt, who had been a participant in the White movement during the Russian civil war, persuaded Vlasov to become involved in aiding the German advance against the rule of Stalin and bolshevism. With Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Boyarsky, Vlasov wrote a memo shortly after his capture to the German military leaders suggesting cooperation between anti-Stalinist Russians and the German Army.
Vlasov was taken to Berlin under the protection of the Wehrmacht's propaganda department. There he, together with other Soviet officers, began drafting plans for the creation of a Russian provisional government and the recruitment of a Russian army of liberation under Russian command.
Vlasov founded the Russian Liberation Committee, in hopes of creating the Russian Liberation Army—known as ROA (from Russkaya Osvoboditel'naya Armiya). Together with some other captured Soviet generals, officers and soldiers, the army's goal was to overthrow Stalinism and create an independent Russian state. Vlasov offered a democratic system of government. Many Russian POWs as well as soldiers who received Vlasov propaganda leaflets were interested in becoming a part of this army.
In the spring of 1943, Vlasov wrote an anti-Bolshevik leaflet known as the "Smolensk Proclamation", which was dropped from aircraft by the millions on Soviet forces and Soviet-controlled soil.
Even though no Russian Liberation Army yet existed, the Nazi propaganda department issued Russian Liberation Army patches to Russian volunteers and tried to use Vlasov's name in order to encourage defections—a strategy they found effective. Several hundred thousand former Soviet citizens served in the German army wearing this patch, but never under Vlasov's own command.
Vlasov's only combat against the Red Army took place on February 11, 1945, on the river Oder. After three days of battle against overwhelming forces, the First Division of the ROA was forced to retreat and marched southward to Prague, in German-controlled Bohemia. On May 6, 1945, Vlasov received a request from the commander of the first ROA division, General Sergei Bunyachenko, for permission to turn his weapons against the Nazi SS forces and aid Czech resistance fighters in the Prague uprising. Vlasov at first disapproved, then reluctantly allowed Bunyachenko to proceed. Some historians maintain it was the bitterness of the ROA against the Germans which caused them to switch sides once again, while other historians believe the sole purpose of this action was to win favor from the western Allies and possibly even the Soviet side, in the light of the nearly completed military annihilation of the German Reich.
Two days later, the first division was forced to leave Prague as communist Czech partisans began arresting ROA soldiers in order to hand them over to the Soviets for execution. At this point Vlasov was offered an escape, through changing into civilian clothes and flying to neutral Spain, but he refused to leave his men.
Vlasov and the rest of his forces, trying to evade the overpowering Red Army and wishing to preserve their ranks for a future war of liberation, attempted to head west to surrender to the Allies in the closing days of the war in Europe. On May 10, 1945, Vlasov and his men reached western Allied forces and surrendered to them.
Vlasov was taken into American captivity and held in a city in Tyrol. He and his generals continued talks with the British and the Americans, explaining the principles of their liberation movement and trying to persuade the western Allies to grant asylum to its participants. The Allied commanders were divided on the issue; some were sympathetic but afraid of angering the Soviet Union and of disobeying their western Allied political leaders, who were still in alliance with Stalin.
On May 12, 1945, returning from talks with Captain Richard Donahue, an American Armor Company Commander from the 37th Tank Battalion, Vlasov's car was surrounded by Soviet troops. Vlasov's American escort did not resist as Vlasov was arrested. Vlasov, along with many of his anti-communist Russian and other men, was forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union, most to face execution, or internment in the Gulag.
Soviet authorities sent Vlasov to Moscow, where over the course of a year he was held in the Lubyanka prison. A summary trial held in the summer of 1946 and presided over by Viktor Abakumov sentenced him and eleven other senior officers from his army to death in what was deemed a show trial by many non-Soviet observers. The twelve men were hanged on August 1, 1946. These were among the last death sentences in the Soviet Union carried out by hanging (later a group of Cossack leaders allied with the Germans, including Pyotr Krasnov, Andrei Shkuro, and Helmuth von Pannwitz, suffered the same fate).