THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Political training to be ‘intensified' as the Red Army is purged by Stalin

From the News Letter, June 11, 1937

Thursday, 11th June 2020, 10:00 am
A woman carries a portrait of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during a traditional Communist Party demonstration in downtown Moscow on Tuesday, May 1, 2007. Picture: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP
A woman carries a portrait of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during a traditional Communist Party demonstration in downtown Moscow on Tuesday, May 1, 2007. Picture: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

According to a report from Reuters which was published in the News Letter on this day in 1937 that in official circles in Moscow that there was a policy of “absolute silence” with regard to questions concerning “suspect elements” in Soviet public life and that “quietly but drastically, the purge goes on”.

Reuters reported: “No Soviet institution has escaped the cleansing operations and the culminating point now seems to have been reached with the Red Army – the last organisation where one would have expected anti-Soviet activities.”

Although the loyalty of the average member was still “undoubted”.

Reuters noted that: “A sufficient number of high commanders, including Marshal Voroshiloff’s two right-hand men, General Gamarnik and Marshal Tukhacevsky, have been removed from office – the one to commit suicide, the other to disappear from public life. This leads to the belief that certain army circles are suspected of having been involved in some of the plots revealed since the assassination of Kiroff three years ago.”

Five of the most important military districts in European Russia – Kiev, White Russia, Moscow, Leningrad and Transcaucasia – had all been affected by the “shake-up”, declared the Reuters despatch.

It continued: “Nearly all the removed commanders are professional soldiers of known working-class origin, caught by the Revolution when scarcely beyond their teens. They hitched their wagons to the rising Bolshevik star and made careers hardly exampled in history.”

Of Tukhachevsky, Reuters noted: “At the age of 25, Tukhachevsky, born a nobleman, trained as an Imperial guardsman, became commander of several Bolshevik armies – a veritable Red Napoleon.”

While of General Uborevich, who had been removed as the commander of the White Russian garrison it was noted that he had: “At 22 led three victorious armies against the Czarist generals, Denikin and Wrangel.”

Political training of the Red Army had been allegedly “neglected and sabotaged” by Gamarnik, who was chief of political education, had been accused of betraying military secrets to Germany.

Accordingly such “political training” was to be “intensified as never before”.

Of Gamarnik Reuters noted: “Gamarnik is the only one of the fallen commanders definitely charged with commission of a crime. He has been linked with Trotsky’s plot to wreck industry.”