Nov 21 2011
At the annual meeting of the ASEEES (the organization-formerly-known-as-the-AAASS), I presented some preliminary research on the Great Purges in the Red Army, looking at the specific figure of Iona Yakir, then commander of the Kiev Military District. That made him one of the two men intended to bear the brunt of any future war in Europe, alongside the commander of the Belorussian Military District Ieronym Uborevich. In looking at the process of the purges in 1937, I found links back to the Red Army’s annual maneuvers, particularly the obscure 1933 Antoniny maneuvers of the then-Ukrainian Military District, and then the celebrated 1935 Kiev maneuvers.
Krasnaia zvezda devoted extensive coverage the 1935 maneuvers, which involved four corps, 65,000 men, 1000 tanks, and the drop of an entire paratroop regiment. One thing that jumped out at me from the visuals associated with that coverage was a particular emphasis on individual. As expected, Stalin’s puppet at the head of the Red Army Kliment Voroshilov figured prominently, but Iona Yakir, who’d be dead in two years, was almost as important. Even more surprisingly, there was a pronounced emphasis on a specific troika of individuals: Voroshilov, Yakir, and Ian Gamarnik (nicknamed “The Beard”), head of the Red Army’s Political Directorate.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s the front page of Krasnaia zvezda, 15 September 1935. This picture makes Voroshilov look quite Hitler-like, which is not intentional. It’s an artifact of the original photo, the scanning, and Voroshilov’s mustache, an attribute that seems characteristic of Stalin’s inner circle:
The next day we get the same three individuals, again on the front page:
And finally the next day a large shot from an interior page of the same three:
A couple things to note: there are lots of other high-ranking officials of the Red Army present in Kiev; those particular three are the ones chosen for emphasis. Tukhachevskii, in case you were wondering, is almost invisible. I’m still unclear on precisely how to interpret all this; that’s research still remaining to be done.