CHAPTER 7 ‘Extending the Foundations of War’47
The national liberation of Germany lies in the proletarian revolution seizing Central and Western Europe, and uniting it with Eastern Europe in the form of the Soviet United States. TROTSKY (BO, No. 24, p. 9)
After Napoleon had been expelled from Russia, the victorious Russian Army entered Paris. Not finding Napoleon there, the Russian Army went home, singing songs on its way. For Russia the aim of the war had been to rout the armies of the enemy. If no one else was threatening Moscow, then the Russian Army had nothing further to do in Western Europe. The difference between Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union lies in their respective war aims. In 1923 Mikhail Tukhachevsky, who had already gained renown for his monstrous brutality in mass exterminations in central Russia, northern Caucasus, the Urals, Siberia and Poland, was formulating the theoretical basis for the aim of war.
According to Tukhachevsky, the aim of war was ‘to guarantee for oneself the free use of violence and for this purpose it is necessary in the first instance to wipe out the forces of the enemy’. (Revolyutsia i voina, Moscow 1923, Collected Works No. 22, p. 188) The rout of the enemy armies and their general destruction do not mark the end of war and coercion, but only the creation of conditions for ‘the free use of violence’. ‘Every territory occupied by us becomes Soviet territory after its occupation, where the power of the workers and peasants will be established.’ (Marshal of the Soviet Union M. Tukhachev-sky, Izbrannye Proizvedeniya, Moscow Voenizdat 1964, Vol. I, p. 258)
In his work, Questions of Modern Strategy, Tukhachevsky draws attention to the fact that Soviet military staff must give timely instructions to the political administration and other appropriate agencies to prepare revolutionary committees and other local administrative machinery for these or other regions’. (op. cit., p. 196)
In other words, Soviet military staff were to prepare ‘liberation’ operations in great secrecy, but while they were doing this they were also to alert the political commissars and the ‘appropriate agencies’ that they should prepare in good time the communist administrative machinery for the ‘liberated’ regions. The Red Army would bring freedom to its neighbours on its bayonets, along with ready-made organs of local authority.To this process of Sovietizing all seized territories as rapidly as possible by methods of unrestrained coercion and terror, together with the barbaric exploitation of all resources needed to continue aggression,
Tukhachevsky gave a ‘scientific’ name: he called it ‘extension of the basis of war’. Tukhachevsky even inserted this term into the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. (Bol’shaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, Moscow 1928, Vol. 12, pp. 276-277)
In a speech on 30 March 1941, Adolf Hitler proclaimed to his generals what the objective of the war in the East was to be. It was to defeat the enemy armed forces, to wipe out the communist dictatorship, to establish ‘real socialism’ and to make out of Russia a base for continuing the war. Were Tukhachevsky’s aims any different? Was he not promulgating the same ideas in 1923? When he was preparing a military operation, Hitler took care to set up administrative machinery for new territories even before they had been invaded; Tukhachevsky too proposed to do exactly the same thing. Tukhachevsky would have made a good Gauleiter, but he was no strategist.
A scrutiny of his ‘battering-ram’strategy reveals its complete lack of substance. It is the method adopted by a chessplayer who concentrates his attention on destroying all his opponent’s pieces en masse, beginning with the pawns. Carried away by his theory, Tukhachevsky quickly and inevitably found himself without reserves in any serious clash. His defeat on the Vistula certainly did not happen by chance. All his life he tried, with dim-witted obstinacy, to improvehis method, fallacious in principle, by using a theoretical base to shore up his ignorance.
Communist historians assure us that, once he had liquidated Tukhachevsky, Stalin completely rejected his methods. This was not the case. Stalin only spurned Tukhachevsky’s unacceptable strategic method, which was known to lead to defeat, but he retained his ideas about ‘the extension of the basis of war’ and allowed others to develop them further. Apart from Tukhachevsky and others like him, Stalin did have real strategists. The first and most brilliant of these was undoubtedly Vladimir Triandafillov, the father of operational art.6 It was in 1926 that, in a book entitled Range of Operations in Modern Armies, he expounded the first approximate formulation of the ‘operations in depth’ theory. Triandafillov developed his ideas further in a subsequent book entitled Character of Operations in Modern Armies.
Even today these books remain the foundation of the Soviet art of war. Triandafillov found people who understood his strategic ideas, which were truly ones of genius, and promoted them to the General Staff. Among these was A. M. Vasilevsky, the future marshal of the Soviet Union. G. K. Zhukov put Triandafillov’s ideas into practice in all his operations, beginning with Khalkhin-Gol. Triandafillov understandably could not easily relate to Tukhachevsky, even although Tukhachevsky was his immediate superior. Triandafillov was not afraid of Tukhachevsky and he exposed the poverty of the ‘battering-ram’ strategy by showing that a good chessplayer must not devote all his attention to destroying pawns. The good chessplayer delivers a blow ‘in depth’, thereby rendering his opponent’s pawns useless.
A good chessplayer will create a threat not in one but in at least two sectors, thereby compelling his opponent to divide his attention and reserves, while the player himself strikes a blow at another sector, where his opponent has no reserves at all. When he rejected Tukhachevsky’s military method, Triandafillov fully accepted and developed his theory on forcible and rapid Sovietization of’liberated’ territories; ‘the Sovietization of entire states must be dealt with within a short period of two to three weeks.
Where larger countries are concerned, Sovietization of very large areas must be managed in three to four weeks . . . When organizing revolutionary committees, it will be very difficult to count on local forces. Only a part of the technical apparatus and only the more junior executive officials will be available on the spot. All executive officials and even some of the technical personnel will have to be brought in along with the Army . . . The number of such officials needed to carry on Sovietization in recaptured areas will be enormous.’ (Kharakter Operatsii Sovremennykh Armii, V. K. Triandafillov, Moscow 1929, pp. 177-8)
Triandafillov drew attention to the fact that it would be mistaken to divert Red Army fighting units to tasks of’Sovietization’. It would be no bad thing to have special units for this. The Red Army does battle with the 6 Until the early twentieth century, all military art was divided into two levels: strategy and tactics. Soviet military thinking then developed an intermediate level and called it ‘operational art’. Haifa century later, Western military thinkers now accept this term. enemy and inflicts defeat upon him, while these special units go to work in the rear establishing power, and a happy life for the workers and peasants. Hitler latterly took the same viewpoint. The Wehrmacht would crush the enemy, while the S S would set up the New Order.
Of course, in critical situations — and war consists of these — the Wehrmacht divisions were thrown into the battle to suppress the partisan movement, while the SS divisions were thrown into tank battles on the forward edge of the battle area. That, however, was not what either the Wehrmacht or the SS was built for. Triandafillov understood the art of war in terms of the exact sciences, in which by means of mathematical calculation he worked out simple formulae for offensive operations involving armies of millions operating in great depth. The formulae covered every stage of an offensive. They even included a calculation as to how many Soviet political leaders would be needed for every administrative unit in captured territories. They are formulae as sharp and elegant as any geometric theorem.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact opened the gates to Sovietization. Stalin had everything ready and not only in theory. Soviet staff had worked out operations in great secrecy, but they did not neglect to give instructions to the political commissars and the ‘appropriate organs’ that they be fully prepared for Sovietization. On the night of 16-17 September 1939 I. A. Bogdanov, a brigade commander in the NKVD, issued an order to the Chekists in which he said that ‘at dawn on 17 September 1939, the armies of the Byelorussian Front will go over to the offensive. Their task will be to help the workers and peasants of Byelorussia who have risen in rebellion.’ Thus the revolution in Poland had begun; the workers and peasants would be up to dealing with it themselves, while the Red Army and the NKVD would only render them assistance.
The results are well known. The massacre of Polish officers at Katyn also comes into this category of’assistance’. Stalin was not afraid of Hitler, as the communists try to make it appear. If Stalin had feared Hitler, he would have kept the Polish officers safe and, when the German invasion took place, thrown them into battle at the head of tens of thousands of troops to fight as partisans on Polish soil. Defence against Hitler, however, did not enter into Stalin’s plans. Stalin not only did not use this Polish potential, he even dissolved his own partisan detachments which had been formed earlier to be used in the event of war.
The Sovietization of Finland was prepared in even greater detail. At the very moment when ‘the Finnish militarists began their armed provocations’, Stalin already had up his sleeve a Finnish communist ‘president’, a ‘prime minister’ and an entire ‘government’, including a leading Chekist, for a ‘free democratic Finland’. ‘People’s representatives’ also turned up in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bessarabia and in Bukovina, all demanding that these countries be annexed to the ‘fraternal family of nations’. Chairmen of revolutionary committees, people’s jurors, deputies and many more were all found with surprising speed. Sovietization thus gathered strength, while Stalin added to his reserves of Party administrators for new campaigns.
On 13 March 1940, the Politburo took a decision to entrust the People’s Commissariat for Defence with the practical task of grading the entire nomenklatura, or governing establishment of the Party, and of giving them military ranks. The entire Party changed from being semi-military into a purely military one. ‘Officials of Party committees,’ it was decided, ‘would be obliged systematically to undergo military retraining so that, whenever they might be called into the RKKA [Rabache-Krest’ yanskaya Krasnaya Armiya – the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army] or the RKKF [Rabache-Krest’yanskii Krasny Plot – the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Navy], they would be able to devote themselves to duties appropriate to their qualifications.’ (Politburo Decree, dated 13 March 1940, ‘Military Retraining and Regrading of Party Committee Officials and the Procedure to be Followed on their Mobilization into the RKKA’)
The words, ‘devote themselves to duties appropriate to their qualifications’, are of particular interest. What qualification does a big shot in the Party have, apart from being qualified to act as secretary of a Party regional committee? Yet here we had plans being made to use them as secretaries of regional committees (and town committees and district committees), even after they had been called up to the Army.
From May 1940 until February 1941, 99,000 political workers in the reserve, who included ’63,000 senior workers of Party committees’, were regraded, that is they had to sit examinations and appear before boards. The retraining of the Party establishment went ahead at an intensified pace.
And retraining was not all. On 17 June 1941 another decree was issued. Yet another 3,700 of the Party nomenklatura received orders to place themselves at the Army’s disposal. Were preparations under way for a new Sovietization? Not only did the Party bosses Sovietize the Baltic states, the western Ukraine, western Byelorussia, Bessarabia and Bukovina, but they also had a hand in the ‘appropriate organs’. Working behind the backs of the ‘people’s representatives’ and the ‘servants of the people’, the NKVD assisted the workers and peasants, who had risen in rebellion ‘to reinforce the power of the proletariat’, as it is put in Soviet propaganda parlance.
The frontier guards of the NKVD were the first to cross the borders. ‘Operating in small groups, they seized and held river crossings and road junctions.’ (VIZH* 1970, No. 7, p. 85) In the 1939-40 Winter War against Finland, a detachment of NKVD frontier guards infiltrated secretly into Finnish territory, made a dash through the tundra and, in a surprise attack, seized the town of Petsamo and its harbour. In the war with Japan some five years later, using frontier guards, ’320 assault detachments were formed, each consisting of between 30 and 75 men armed with machine guns, sub-machine guns, rifles and grenades. Separate detachments had a strength of between 100 and 150 men . . . The training which was carried out was based upon previously worked out and precisely defined plans of surprise attack . . . The surprise element in the operations was to play a paramount role in the attainment of success.’ (VIZH7 1965, No. 8, p. 12)
The NKVD frontier troops operated in exactly the same way in the war with Germany. In those places where German troops had not crossed the border, Soviet frontier troops went over it on their own initiative. They had been prepared. An example of this method of operating occurred on 26 June 1941. Soviet frontier motorlaunches made a landing in the area of the town of Kiliya on the Romanian frontier. The landing established a bridgehead, on which the members of the assault landing-force gave fire support to the members of the NKVD reconnaissance patrol who had preceded them with a landing on the bank. (Chasovye Sovetskikh granits, Moscow 1983; p. 141)
Interestingly ; at the time of the German attack these elite and highly trained NKVD troops, stationed on bridges at the frontier, had made no preparations either to repel an attack or defend the bridges. They yielded them to the enemy almost without a fight. When they had to capture the western part of a frontier bridge, however, these frontier troops revealed excellent training, and displayed both courage and bravery, all in the spirit of the Romanian assault described above. When they had to defend the eastern part of the bridge, these same soldiers showed a total lack of preparedness. It was simply that no one had trained them to do this. No one had ever put them through any defensive exercises.
7 An official military-historical magazine from the Ministry of Defence. In 1940, the volume of NKVD operations exceeded that of 1944 and 1945, and of many subsequent years.1940 was, of course, the year of Katyn. Polish officers were also exterminated in at least two other places, where the victims were no fewer than in Katyn. Lithuanian officers were exterminated at the same time, as were Latvian and Estonian officers; and not only officers. There were teachers, priests, policemen, writers, lawyers, journalists, peasants, entrepreneurs and people from all strata of society, exactly as in the Red Terror against the Russian people.
The scale of the NKVD operations grew; but suddenly something changed. From February 1941, the NKVD’s military sub-units covertly began a secret build-up near the state frontiers. The chief strength of the NKVD, however, did not lie in its frontier troops. Apart from them, the NKVD consisted of a great number of regiments and divisions of operational, convoy and security troops. All of these worked very hard at destroying ‘hostile elements’ and at ‘purging the territory’. In the Soviet -Finnish war of 1939-40, there were eight NKVD regiments engaged in this activity, as well as individual battalions, companies and formations of frontier troops. An operation carried out in 1944 in the rear of the Byelorussian Front may serve to illustrate the scale of these ‘purges’ of the area behind the front. Five NKVD frontier regiments, seven NKVD regiments of operational troops, four cavalry regiments, detached battalions and reconnaissance aircraft all took part in the operation.
The total strength involved was 50,000 troops. The area covered was 30,000 square kilometres. (Ibid,p. 181) The NKVD operated on no less a scale even before Hitler attacked, though information on operations carried out in 1940 in the Baltic states, the western Ukraine, Byelorussia, Bukovina and Bessarabia has never been published. Communist professors are now doing their best to play down the Red Army’s power at the outset of World War II, and to overstate the strength of the Wehrmacht. This is done by manipulating statistics; while they take into account all divisions of the Wehrmacht and the SS in Germany, in the Soviet Union only the divisions of the Red Army are counted. The elite, highly trained, fully equipped and armed NKVD divisions, however, are conveniently left out of the calculation.
The communists have proclaimed that 47 ground and six naval frontier detachments, each with a complement of about one regiment, and n regiments of NKVD operational troops, totalling about 100,000 men, were stationed close to the frontiers. This is the truth. But not all the truth. When the Germans invaded, not only NKVD regiments, but separate NKVD battalions of impressive strength, as well as entire NKVD divisions, were stationed directly on the frontiers. For example, the 4th NKVD Division, commanded by Colonel F. M. Mazharin, was on the Romanian frontier, while sub-units of the 57th NKVD Regiment of this division were stationed directly at frontier bridges. The 8th NKVD Motor Rifle Division was close to the frontier. The 10th NKVD Division was in the Rava-Russkaya region, while the 16th NKVD Cavalry Regiment, which formed part of this division, was directly dispersed among posts along the frontier.
The 2ist NKVD Motor Rifle Division was on the Finnish frontier. The 1st NKVD Division, commanded by Colonel S. I. Donskov, was there as well. The 22nd NKVD Motor Rifle Division first appears in German operational summaries on the seventh day of the invasion of Lithuania. Some of these NKVD units were incredibly close to the borders; sometimes literally only a few metres away from the frontier itself. For example, the 132nd NKVD Independent Battalion was in the Tiraspol fortification of the Brest-Litovsk fortress, though not for defensive purposes; the fortress had not been prepared for war. It had been intended, in the event of war, to leave only one infantry battalion there with ordinary troops. Sitting alongside, in the same barracks, for defensive purposes was the Fifth Frontier Detachment (a regiment); the 132nd NKVD Battalion was not in fact a frontier battalion at all, but a convoy battalion.
This had been used to deport ‘enemies’ from western Byelorussia and here it was now stationed on the western bank of the river Bug. The battalion was doing nothing for the time being. It was a long, hard road back to the Soviet Union. First the river Bug had to be crossed to the old citadel in the boats of the Chekist officials. Then there was a multitude of gates to pass through, and minor bridges and ditches to cross. Next came the river Mukhavets,but once over that, there were even more ditches, banks and barriers. There were no enemies in the fortress and it was therefore a long way to town, so the battalion was resting – for the time being.
In the other direction was the Tiraspol fortification, a fortress island on Polish territory, or rather, to be more exact, on German, as it was no longer part of Poland. And all the battalion had to do to reach German territory was to cross a small bridge. On a wall in the barracks of the 132nd Independent Battalion someone wrote an inscription: ‘I am dying, but I shall not surrender. Farewell, Motherland! 20. VII. 1941.’
These ‘heroes’ had good reason not to surrender. The SS would have already worked out who the Cheka officials intended to deport from the other side of the state frontier. I found, as we have seen, NKVD convoy battalions and regiments, and indeed convoy divisions, right on the frontier. The 4th NKVD Division straddled the frontier bridges across the river Prut.
Was it there perhaps to blow them up, should the situation become exacerbated? By no means. The bridges were mined. Afterwards the mines were removed and an NKVD division was placed alongside the same bridges. According to one piece of information, the 4th NKVD Division was a kind of security division: by making an analogy with the SS, the meaning of the word ‘security’ becomes altogether more sinister in this context. Other information, however, indicates that the 4th NKVD Division operated like a convoy division. Indeed Colonel Mazharin, who commanded the division, was an old GULAG wolf, who spent all his career in convoy work. But whom did the Gulag security intend to escort across the frontier bridges?
Why Howitzer Artillery for the Chekists? 58