In the ranks of the Red Army, where Lev volunteered in 1924, he was greatly helped by a good education. He graduated from high school with a secondary education, which was rare for peasant children in the early 1920s. Then he mastered the one-year party school in Minsk, which allowed him to occupy, in addition to command positions, commissary positions in the army. And in the Red Army, Dovator studied a lot and varied – at first there were classes in Moscow, and in 1926 classes began at the Borisoglebsk-Leningrad Cavalry School. Ten years later, Lev Mikhailovich entered, and then successfully graduated from the Frunze Military Academy.
At the end of the 1930s, the cavalry, not without reason, was considered a branch of the army that was already rapidly losing its importance, but the intelligent and capable personnel commander Dovator learned to use the combat potential of the cavalry for the maximum. He served successfully in Rostov-on-Don, Transbaikalia and Irkutsk, and received his first baptism of fire during the Spanish Civil War. The most difficult thing was the need to change shoes – in the Spanish climate, boots had to be put on instead of the usual ones, and tying the shoelaces was difficult for the officer. Lev Mikhailovich was an excellent horseman – it was not for nothing that he became the understudy of Nikolai Cherkasov in the famous film “Alexander Nevsky” by Sergei Eisenstein.
At the start of the Great Patriotic War, Colonel Dovator was chief of staff of the 36th Cavalry Division in Volkovysk, western Belarus. His division was almost completely destroyed in the first days of the war, but Lev Mikhailovich escaped the tragic fate: an acute attack of sciatica shortly before June 22, 1941 sent him to a hospital bed in a Moscow hospital. After receiving medical treatment, he managed to distinguish himself several times during the first, most difficult months of the battles with the Nazis.
In July 1941, Colonel Dovator showed himself in all his glory, defending the Solovyovskaya passage through the Dnieper. The deliberate tactics of Lev Mikhailovich helped at the most critical moment to avoid the encirclement of two Soviet armies at once. The talented commander managed to organize a reliable barrier of units retreating to the pass, which stopped the advance of the Nazis.
A smart commander in August 1941 was appointed to command a cavalry group of two divisions. Dovator’s towering ingenuity was successfully combined with positive audacity. From August 23 to September 2, the horsemen he led carried out an impressive ten-day raid on the rear close to the Germans. They did not take artillery with them to the raid, the armament was limited to thirty heavy machine guns. Lev Mikhailovich’s horsemen managed to penetrate the front line, inflict serious damage on the enemy and return home just as well, finding a weak point in the Nazi defense. The enraged Germans put a reward of 100,000 Reichsmarks on the head of a desperate horseman.
Throughout the country, Dovator, who became a major general in September 1941, became known during the fateful Battle of Moscow. He skillfully combined the abilities of horsemen, who sometimes had to dismount, and chariots. Lev Mikhailovich fought with his 2nd Guards Cavalry Corps alongside the famous Panfilov Division. In the most difficult days of the defense near Moscow, the young general did not lose his optimism.
On November 25, 1941, the commander of the 16th army, Konstantin Rokossovsky, wrote to him: “Comrade Dovator! All of Europe is watching you. There is an opportunity to distinguish you. I hope you will restore the situation with a decisive decision quick counter-attack with tanks on Pawns.” The Germans were at that time thirty kilometers from the Soviet capital. Lev Mikhailovich replied to Rokossovsky with prophetic words: “Europe is not Europe, but the Germans will find out that Moscow cannot be taken.”
When the famous Soviet counter-offensive began on December 5, 1941, Dovator’s cavalry advanced resolutely to Zvenigorod and Ruza. Sadly, the 38-year-old commander didn’t have long to live. On December 19, Lev Mikhailovich, who attached great importance to intelligence and preferred to personally explore enemy positions, went to the village of Palashkino near Moscow near Ruza and was killed by a burst of German machine gun fire. His fighters managed to pull the commander’s body out of the battlefield only after dark. On December 21, Dovator was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. He was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow in the triple tomb of the heroes of the defense of Moscow – together with Lev Mikhailovich, division commander Ivan Panfilov and pilot Viktor Talalikhin.
Dovator is rightly called the best Soviet horseman of the Great Patriotic War. Already during the war years, planes and tanks bore his name – his name alone terrified the Nazis. Dovator streets appeared in more than twenty cities, including Moscow and Vitebsk, Minsk and Grodno, Khabarovsk and Vladikavkaz. The Moscow School N 2098 is named after him, Greco-Roman wrestling competitions are held in Vitebsk in memory of the hero, and equestrian sports are held in Ratomka near Minsk.
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