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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Stalin's Officer Purge
Created by John Eipper on 04/24/19 4:01 AM

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Stalin's Officer Purge (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 04/24/19 4:01 am)

Eugenio Battaglia wrote on April 23rd:

"Contrast [Mussolini's actions] with [those of] Stalin, who prior to war eliminated all his untrustworthy officers."

Wow, I don't think any Russian would refer to the hideous bloodbath of 1937 as "eliminating untrustworthy officers," and I doubt that Eugenio thinks of it like that. I think he is playing the gadfly, being intentionally provocative.

For the record, I think that it is uncontroversial that Stalin's purge of the Soviet officer corps, motivated by paranoia and an obsessive fear of losing power, eliminated, on the contrary, most of the talent from the Soviet Army leadership, not the "untrustworthy officers," leaving shockingly incompetent Civil War veterans like Voroshilov and Buddeny.

37,000 officers were purged! 50 of 57 corps commanders, 154 of 186 divisional commanders, 220 of 406 brigade commanders, all army political commissars--the mind boggles (see: https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/joseph-stalins-paranoid-purge/ ). The word "decimated," meaning the killing of one-tenth (from the Roman practice), is inadequate to describe the purge. More generals and colonels were killed by Stalin, than were killed in the Great Patriotic War altogether!

As a direct result of the destruction of the Soviet officer corps, the mighty Soviet Army was humiliated by the plucky Finns in the Winter War of 1939, and nearly collapsed, taking five million (FIVE MILLION!) casualties, when the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa. The Soviets came within a gnat's eyelash of losing the war in December 1941, as the German forces advanced to within sight of the golden domes of Moscow, and that is 90% the result of extremely poor military leadership, which was in turn the direct result of the 1937 purge.

JE comments:  "Purge" is too gentle a word for the mass murders carried out by Stalin.  Human language cries for a stronger way to describe what happened.  Yet--and this is a big yet--might Eugenio Battaglia have something of a point?  Stalin's officers were probably more terrified of Stalin than of the Germans, which kept them perversely motivated.  "Accommodation" with the Germans and regime change in Moscow were unthinkable options.


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