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Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky
February 16, 1893(1893-02-16) – June 12, 1937 (aged 44)
Tukhachevsky-mikhail-2.jpg
Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Tukhachevsky.
Place of birth Alexandrovskoye, Russian Empire
Allegiance  Russian Empire (1914-1917)
 Soviet Union (1917-1937)
Years of service 1914 — 1937
Rank Marshal of the Soviet Union
Commands held Chief of General Staff
Battles/wars Russian Civil War
Polish-Soviet War
Awards Order of Lenin
Order of the Red Banner

Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (Russian: Михаи́л Никола́евич Тухаче́вский) (February 16 [O.S. February 4] 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a Soviet military commander, chief of the Red Army (1925–1928), and one of the most prominent victims of Stalin's Great Purge of the late 1930s.

Contents

Early life

Tukhachevsky was born on his family estate Alexandrovskoye (now Slednevo in Safonovo District, Smolensk Oblast) into an aristocratic family related to Tolstoy's family in its origin. Since Smolensk once was under Polish power some authors by mistake claim a Polish origin for Tukhachevsky. He graduated from the Aleksandrovskoye Military School in 1914, joining the Semyenovsky Guards Regiment. A second lieutenant during World War I, Tukhachevsky was decorated for personal courage in battle. After he was taken prisoner by the Germans in February 1915, he escaped four times from the camps, was captured again, and finally as an incorrigible escapee held in Ingolstadt fortress, where he met another incorrigible - the then-captain Charles de Gaulle.

His fifth escape was successful, and he returned to Russia in October 1917. After the Russian Revolution he joined the Bolshevik Party in spite of his noble status.

During the Civil War

He became an officer in the newly-established Red Army in 1918 and rapidly advanced in rank due to his great ability. During the Russian Civil War he was given responsibility for defending Moscow. The Bolshevik Defence Commissar Leon Trotsky gave Tukhachevsky command of the 5th Army in 1919, and he led the campaign to capture Siberia from the White forces of Aleksandr Kolchak. Tukhachevsky used concentrated attacks to exploit the enemy's open flanks and threaten them with envelopment.

He also helped defeat General Anton Denikin in the Crimea in 1920, conducting the final operations. In February 1920, he launched an offensive into the Kuban, using cavalry to disrupt the enemy's rear. In the retreat that followed, Denikin's force disintegrated, and Novorossiisk was evacuated hastily.

In the final stage of the civil war, Tukhachevsky commanded the Seventh Army when they suppressed the sailors' revolt at Kronstadt in March 1921. He also ran the antipartisan war against the Tambov Republic in 1921 and 1922.

During the Polish-Soviet War

Tukhachevsky led soviet armies during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, and was defeated by Józef Piłsudski outside Warsaw. It was during the Polish war that Tukhachevsky first came into conflict with Stalin, when the latter disobeyed orders by attacking Lvov instead of Warsaw. Each blamed the other for the Soviet failure to capture Warsaw, which brought Soviet defeat in the war. His orders were frequently disobeyed, even by high-ranking officers, which led the soviet armies to several major failures throughout the campaign (see also 1st Cavalry Army). On the other hand, Tukhachevsky argued that he could not choose his division commanders or move his headquarters from Moscow, for political reasons. The animosity between him and Stalin continued into the 1930s.

The reform of the Red Army

Tukhachevsky served as chief of staff of the Red Army (1925–1928) and as Deputy Commissar for Defence. He attempted to transform the irregular revolutionary detachments of the Red Army into a well-drilled, professional military. In particular, Tukhachevsky strongly advocated for an industrialized modernization of the Red Army, replacing the traditional reliance on cavalry with a tank-based military. At this early point his ideas were rejected by Stalin as well as rival conservative forces in the Soviet military establishment, and he was removed from the Red Army staff and censured by Stalin for encouraging "Red militarism." Following this, he wrote several books on modern warfare and in 1931, after Stalin had accepted the need for an industrialized military, Tukhachevsky was given a leading role in reforming the army. He held advanced ideas on military strategy, particularly on the use of tanks and aircraft in combined operations.

Tukhachevsky took a keen interest in the arts, and during this period became a political patron and close friend of composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

The theory of deep operations

His theory of deep operations, where combined arms formations strike deep behind enemy lines to destroy the enemy's rear and logistics[1] [2] [3] [4] [5], were opposed by some in the military establishment[6], but were largely adopted by the Red Army in the mid-1930s. They were expressed as a concept in the Red Army's Field Regulations of 1929, and more fully developed in 1935's Instructions on Deep Battle. The concept was finally codified into the army in 1936 in the Provisional Field Regulations of 1936. An early example of the potential effectiveness of deep operations can be found in the Soviet victory over Japan at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan), where a Soviet Corps under the command of Georgy Zhukov defeated a substantial Japanese force in August-September, 1939.

Due to the widespread purges of the Red Army officer corps in 1937-1939 "deep operations" briefly fell from favor,[7] only later being gradually re-adopted following the embarrassment of the Red Army during the Winter War of 1939-40 when the Soviet Union invaded Finland. They were used to great success during the Great Patriotic War, in such victories as the Battle of Stalingrad and Operation Bagration.

The fall

Tukhachevsky at secret trial, 11 June 1937

In 1935 Tukhachevsky was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union, aged only 42. In January 1936 Tukhachevsky visited Britain, France and Germany. Worried over Tukhachevsky's growing influence, Stalin determined to eliminate him and seven other high-level Soviet military commanders.

Just before his arrest, Tukhachevsky was relieved of duty as assistant to Marshal Kliment Voroshilov and appointed military commander of the Volga Military District. It is believed that Stalin ordered this ruse (one employed with seven other arrested commanders as well) to separate Tukhachevsky from the troops and officers under his command. Shortly after departing to take up his new command he was secretly arrested on May 22, 1937, and brought back to Moscow in a prison van.[8]

Stalin named eight generals to serve as a court-martial board for Tukhachevsky and the seven other defendants.[9 ] All were charged with organization of a "military-Trotskyist conspiracy" and espionage for Nazi Germany. Brought before the court martial board, the Soviet military prosecutor alleged that during Tukhachevsky's foreign visits, the general had contacted anti-Stalin Russian exiles to foment plots against Stalin. The prosecution then introduced copies of confessions signed by the defendants as evidence.

In his book The Great Terror (1968), the British historian Robert Conquest speculated that German SD agents, on the initiative of Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, forged documents implicating Tukhachevsky in a conspiracy with the German General Staff, in order to make Stalin suspicious of him, thus weakening the Soviet Union's defence capacity. These documents, Conquest said, were passed to President Edvard Beneš of Czechoslovakia, who passed them on in good faith to Stalin, who believed the documents. The theory of a German-inspired conspiracy to eliminate Red Army commanders was based solely on a claim that surfaced in the late 1950s by a single German officer of Himmler's Sicherheitsdienst (SD), which Beneš later partially confirmed in his memoirs.[10] The alleged German-inspired plot was alluded to in a 1961 speech by the Polish Communist leader Władysław Gomułka.

However, after Soviet archives were opened to researchers after the fall of the Soviet Union, it became clear that Stalin actually concocted the fictitious plot by the most famous and important of his Soviet generals in order to get rid of them in a believable manner.[10] At Stalin's order, the NKVD instructed one of its agents, Nikolai Skoblin, to pass to Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the German Nazi SD (Sicherheitsdienst) intelligence arm, concocted information suggesting a plot by Tukhachevsky and the other Soviet generals against Stalin.[10] Seeing an opportunity to strike a blow at both the Soviet Union and his arch-enemy Admiral Canaris of the German Abwehr, Heydrich immediately acted on the information and undertook to improve on it, forging a series of documents implicating Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders; these were later passed to the Soviets via Beneš and other neutral parties. While the SD believed it had successfully deluded Stalin into executing his best generals, in reality they had merely served as useful and unwitting pawns of Stalin. It is notable that the forged documents were not even used by Soviet military prosecutors against the generals in their secret trial, instead relying on false confessions extorted or beaten out of the defendants.[10]

Afraid of the consequences of trying popular generals and war heroes in a public forum, Stalin ordered the trial also be kept secret; author and Stalin Terror survivor Alexander Barmine doubted there was really any 'trial' at all, noting that Stalin had ordered in advance that the eight generals be shot immediately following their court-martial.[11 ]. In the book The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, it is said that Tukhachevsky's confession, written by him, is stained in blood. From this, one could assume that Tukhachevsky and his fellow defendants were tortured.

After the secret trial, known as Case of Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization, Tukhachevsky and eight other higher military commanders were convicted on June 12, 1937 and immediately executed. Tukhachevsky was killed by NKVD captain Vasili Blokhin. When Tukhachevsky was in his cell, Blokhin shouted "Comrade Tukhachevsky is wanted at the plenary session of the political bureau!", and then shot Tukhachevsky in the cervical vertebrae (execution-style), causing immediate death.[12] Perhaps afraid of army uprisings, Stalin ordered the communiqué announcing their arrest, trial, and execution withheld from broadcast until after the executions had already taken place.[11 ]. Tukhachevsky's military writings were then banned.[13]

As a result, Marshal Tukhachevsky's family was not told that he had been arrested, tried, or shot. According to Alexander Barmine's book One Who Survived Tukhachevsky's twelve-year-old daughter learned of his death at school one day, when her classmates began to taunt her as the child of a "fascist traitor". Deeply traumatized, she went home and hanged herself. Tukhachevsky's widow was arrested by the NKVD the day after the girl's suicide; she later went insane and was last seen on the eve of her deportation to the Ural District, wearing a strait-jacket.[14] Actually Svetlana Tukhachevskaya, the Marshal's only daughter, did not hang herself but was sent to a special orphanage for the children of the people's enemies. She was arrested in 1944 and sentenced by an extrajudicial body Special Council of the NKVD to five years in Gulag. She died in 1982. There is a 2008 Russian TV documentary about her "Kremlin Children. Svetlana Tukhachevskaya, daughter of Red Napoleon".[15][16]

A 1963 Soviet stamp featuring Tukhachevsky

Today, the investigation, arrest, and execution of Tukhachevsky is, except for a few pro-Stalin historians (Sayers, M. & Kahn, A. E. (1946). The Great Conspiracy: the Secret War Against Soviet Russia. Little, Brown and Company: Boston), universally acknowledged as a sham, an act motivated primarily by Stalin's desire to eliminate potential rivals for power in the Soviet Union. As a personality known for his intense jealousy, Stalin may have also hated the idea of competing with heroes of the Russian Civil War, men with war records that far surpassed Stalin's actions as a War Commissar.[17] As one indicator, a survivor of the purges noted that five of the eight generals serving on Tukhachevsky's court martial board who allegedly affirmed Tukhachevsky's guilt were themselves later executed as traitors by the NKVD.[9 ] Once Stalin was able to eliminate the most famous and popular of the Soviet military commanders, he had free rein to continue purging the rest of the Red Army and the Soviet government.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his colleagues were declared to have been innocent of all charges against them and were "rehabilitated."

In popular culture

Tukhachevsky is portrayed in the 1943 film Mission to Moscow.

See also

References

  1. ^ Richard Simpkin in association with John Erickson Deep battle : the brainchild of Marshal Tukhachevskii, London, Brassey's Defence, 1987. ISBN 0-08-031193-8
  2. ^ Alexander Vasilevsky The Case of All My Life (Дело всей жизни). 3d ed. Политиздат, 1978 Chapter8 (Russian)
  3. ^ Mikhail Tukhachevsky Mannouere and Artillery (Russian)
  4. ^ Mikhail Tukhachevsky Fashionable Fallacies (Russian)
  5. ^ Mikhail Tukhachevsky About the New Manual of the Red Army (Russian)
  6. ^ John Erickson The Soviet High Command: A Military-Political History, 1918-1941, Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-71-465178-8
  7. ^ Sebag, Simon. "31". Stalin: the court of the red tsar. pp. 342. ISBN 978-1-4000-7678-9.  
  8. ^ Barmine, Alexander, One Who Survived, New York: G. P. Putnam (1945), pp. 7-8
  9. ^ a b Barmine, Alexander, One Who Survived, New York: G.P. Putnam (1945), p. 322
  10. ^ a b c d Lukes, Igor, Czechoslovakia Between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Beneš in the 1930s, Oxford University Press (1996), ISBN 0195102673, 9780195102673, p. 95
  11. ^ a b Barmine, Alexander, One Who Survived, New York: G. P. Putnam (1945), pp. 5, 7-8
  12. ^ Donald Rayfield, Stalin and his hangmen: the tyrant and those who killed for him, 2005, Random House
  13. ^ Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge, 1971
  14. ^ Barmine, Alexander, One Who Survived, G.P. Putnam (1945), p. 8
  15. ^ Кремлевские дети. Светлана Тухачевская. Дочь Красного Наполеона.
  16. ^ Приложение. Репрессии против членов семей высшего комначсостава РККА в 1937 — 1938 гг.
  17. ^ There were scores of Red Army commanders with military records more impressive than Stalin's during the Russian Civil War. Some of them had been present when Stalin forbade his fellow army commander to assist in a drive on Poland, leading to a series of defeats and withdrawal from that country. Later, virtually every one of them was shot.

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