Born in 1917 in Novgorod, Pavlov joined the Red Army in 1938. During the Great Patriotic War, he fought on the South-West, Stalingrad, 3rd Ukrainian and 2nd Belorussian fronts. Pavlov was a commander of a machine gun unit, an artilleryman, and a commander of a reconnaissance unit with the rank of Senior Sergeant. During the Battle of Stalingrad, Pavlov's platoon seized a four-story residential building from the enemy on the night of September 27, 1942 and defended it against continual attack by the German army until relieved by advancing Soviet forces two months later. The building and its defense went down in history as "Pavlov's House" (Дом Павлова).
Post-war, he joined the Communist party, and for his actions in Stalingrad was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, two Orders of the Red Star and numerous other medals. He was elected three times as Deputy to the Supreme Soviet. He died in 1981, and was buried in Novgorod.
Yakov Pavlov has often been confused with Ivan Dmitriyevich Pavlov, another veteran of Stalingrad, possibly due to similarities in their biographies. Ivan Pavlov went on to join the Russian Orthodox Church after the war, and is today one of its most revered elders.
Yakov Pavlov is a playable character in Call of Duty