Dmitry Grigorevich Pavlov (Дмитрий Григорьевич Павлов, 1897-July 22,1941) was a Soviet general who commanded the key Soviet Western Front during the initial days of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, or Operation Barbarossa, in June 1941. After his forces were heavily defeated in the first days of the campaign, he was relieved of his command, arrested, charged with military incompetence and treason, and then executed. He was exonerated (or rehabilitated in Soviet parlance) in 1956.
He was a veteran of the First World War, as well as the Russian Civil War, serving in the Red Army since 1919. He graduated from the Frunze Military Academy in 1928. He then commanded various mechanised and cavalry units. As one of the Soviet military advisers, in 1936-37 he took part in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and commanded a brigade of Soviet tanks, for which he was made a Hero of the Soviet Union. In contrast to many other officers who took part in that war, he was not purged after his return to the Soviet Union , and was made the Head of the Directorate of Tank and Armoured Car Troops of the Red Army which gave him considerable influence on its development. In particular he insisted that tanks be shifted to infantry support roles, which in hindsight turned out to be incorrect. He participated in the Winter War, as well as the border clashes with Japan. In 1940 he became the commander of the Western (Belorussian) Special Military District, which became the Soviet Western Front bearing the brunt of German attack during Operation Barbarossa in June, 1941. On February 22, 1941, he was one of the first Soviet generals to receive the new rank of General of the Army, inferior only to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. After the units under his command suffered a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Białystok-Minsk, during the first days of the invasion, Pavlov was relieved of his command, arrested and accused of criminal incompetence and treason, and subsequently sentenced to death and executed on July 22 (some sources give different dates in 1941). He was the only top Soviet commander executed during the war. His execution is widely considered to have been an attempt by Stalin to deflect the blame for the Soviet Union's disastrous initial performance in the war with Germany from himself. He was selected quite arbitrarily as a scapegoat, since other Soviet front commanders suffered similar defeats yet were spared. After Stalin's death in 1953, Pavlov was exonerated (in 1956), along with many other victims of Stalinist terror.