In the end, the marshal asked to be shot
Published on 12.06.2021
The dictator Stalin had a long memory. He never forgot who got in his way, even when he promoted him to Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1935, like Mikhail Tukhachevsky (1893-1937). Only two years later he had him arrested by the Cheka and executed after a show trial on June 12, 1937. Almost the entire leadership of the Red Army was to follow the marshal.
Tukhachevsky was in many ways the opposite of Stalin. He came from the old Russian nobility, received a proper military education and is said to have confidently declared to his classmates: “If I am not a general at the age of 30, I will commit suicide!”The October Revolution saved him from that. In 1917, the sub-lieutenant had just become a highly decorated captain. By joining the victorious party, he signaled to the Bolsheviks that he was ready for collaboration.
Trotsky, who, as People’s Commissar for Defense, organized the Red Army for the Civil War and was not afraid to take tsarist officers into service, recognized the talent of Tukhachevsky. Just 25 years old, he was appointed war commissioner of the Moscow section and commander of an army. in 1920, he led the Soviet Western Front in the war against Poland.
The fact that the Poles managed to stop the Red Army on the Vistula was not least due to Stalin. As commissar of Semyon Budyonny’s First Cavalry Army in Ukraine, he delayed supporting Tukhachevsky until he had to retreat due to open flanks and overstretched logistics. Lenin raged and blamed Stalin for the catastrophe, who could only with difficulty maintain his position in the closest circle of leadership, while the rival rose to the rank of “Red Napoleon” at the latest with the suppression of the Kronstadt sailor uprising.
Stalin never forgot this to the “Napoleonchik”, as he called him. In addition, he was regarded as a follower of Trotsky, whom Stalin had chosen as his favourite enemy in the Diadochian struggles after Lenin’s death. True, the Secretary General let Tukhachevsky as the organizer and chief of the General Staff of the Red Army. But already in 1930 he conceived an intrigue to overthrow him as a “putschist”, but at first did not pursue the matter further.
Tukhakhchevsky’s ascent continued. He became Deputy Minister of Defense, candidate of the Central Committee, received the Order of Lenin. More than that, its plans to build motorized troops provoked the resistance of Budyonny and others who still thought in categories of the First World War.
On May 26, 1937, Tukhachevsky was arrested for “Trotskyist activities” and “espionage for a foreign power.” Immediately, experienced Chekists began to press the overthrown man’s signature under a corresponding confession, in which he confirmed that he had acted as a” puppet of the Germans ” and accepted the consequences. The splashes of blood on the paper on it clearly showed by what methods this was achieved. Stalin was so preoccupied with his intrigue that he even allowed himself to be represented at his mother’s funeral.
On 11 June, a military tribunal heard the case, which ended with the death sentence, as was to be expected. “It all seems like a bad dream to me,” Tukhachevsky is said to have told his executioner. On the morning of June 12, the sentence was carried out with a shot to the head.
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That was just the beginning. In the subsequent purges, Stalin had nine out of ten generals and eight out of ten colonels shot as “spies”, “putschists” or “counterrevolutionaries”. The loss of almost all of its leadership was one of the reasons for the heavy defeats of the Red Army in the invasion of Finland in 1940 and after the attack of the German Wehrmacht in 1941.
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