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Gustavs Klutsis

Klutsis and his project for the Higher State Art and Technical workshop exhibition stand  1924-1926

Klutsis and his project for the Higher State Art and Technical workshop exhibition stand 1924-1926

Gustavs Klutsis (Klucis) was one of the most famous Soviet artists from XX century twenties. His brilliant constructivist art and impressive soviet propaganda posters has made a historic legacy. Gustavs Klucis was Latvian, born in Latvia. As many young Latvians he was caught by the First World War and ended up in Revolutionary Russia. He became a passionate communist believing his experimental avant-garde art has place in the new socialist country. He also believed that his propaganda art is in within the lines of the soviet politics and ideology. In the end he became the victim of his own beliefs and was sentenced to death by his own regime. Yet, his art outlived him and is popular today. He is not forgotten in Latvia. This year at the art exhibition hall Arsenal a large collection of his works were displayed. A worldwide known   Latvian artist that has the place in the Latvian history.

Klutsis was born on 4 (16) January 1895 in the Valmiera district Koņu parish. A Latvian family, father Gustavs and Mother Ede. He had two elder brothers Jānis and Ādams, and four sisters Elīze, Ieva, Klāra and the youngest Alvīne. He was baptized in the Rūjiena Lutheran church. On 1905  his father died in accident. Family was left without breadwinner and Gustavs had work in the farming and go to school at winters. On that same year the revolution in Russia broke out and came to Latvia. His brother Jānis took part in the rebellion and was arrested and sentenced 15 years penal prison. No doubt this affected young Gustavs political worldview. From 1909 to 1911 he took studies in the Rūjiena pro-gymnasium.

The Attack. The Latvian Rifleman. 1918

The Attack. The Latvian Rifleman. 1918

Despite desire to study arts, do to the lack of money he came to Valmiera Teachers seminary on 1912. On 1913 he started studies in the Riga City Art School. The director of the school was Vilhelms Purvītis a well known Latvian artist – landscape painter. He attended the school till 1915 when the war came to Riga. He was conscripted in the 9th Latvian Riflemen regiment. Eventually he came to Russia and witnessed the February Revolution and later the October Bolshevik Coup. He joined the Red Latvian Riflemen guard to defend the Bolshevik Government at the Smolny Institute and served as machine gunner. When the Bolshevik government moved to Moscow he was defending the train used by Vladimir Lenin and his henchmen. This closeness to the heart of the Bolshevik revolution boosted his beliefs. He met Lenin at the Kremlin garden and had a talk. When off duty he used to write sketches of him. There in Moscow his artistic carrier had begun. His first work featuring the photo-montage technique was called “The Attack. The Latvian Rifleman” on 1918. Later he employed the photo-montage at full scale.

Painting  from the Dynamic City project.

Painting from the Dynamic City project.

Gustavs Klutsis and Kazimir Malevich on 1933

Gustavs Klutsis and Kazimir Malevich on 1933

But before that he was involved in the supermatism and contructivism. He begun work at the Second Free State Art School (SFSTAS) workshop. It was lead by Kazimir Malevich the author of the revolutionary Black Square painting on  1915.  Malevich soon left the SFSTAS and was replaced by Anthon (Nathan) Pevzner. However, Malevich left impression on Klutsis. Malevich wrote a book about the new artistic systems and connected supermatism with cosmic spaces. His ideas about connection between two cosmic bodies – Earth and Moon that rush trough the space – the possibility of making a new supermatistic satellite that would enter its orbit creating his own new way. With its contacts lost with Earth it can be studied and researched as any new system.  Klutsis got this idea and started working on the Dynamic City project. Kazimir Malevich created The Black Circle painting that was used further by Klutsis as his dynamic cities grew out the circles with skyscrapers and constructive futuristic forms. The paintings involved photo-montage.

Klutsis wife Valentina Kulagina 1920

Klutsis wife Valentina Kulagina 1920

In the winter of 1919 he met his love of the lifetime Valentina Kulagin. A Muscovite artist she accompanied his artistic efforts and stayed faithful until his death. On 1920 he joined the Communist Party and came to Artistic Culture Institute (ACI). He kept his connections with Malevich who was residing in Vitebsk. His art became more constructive and formalistic as he has preoccupied with complicated structures. It went well with Soviet Union in those days when it was a giant laboratory of ideas and structures. He called his art as a experimental laboratory. One of his most interesting constructions where the Radio Operator towers – futuristic weird looking structures. Only few were made and photographed.

Klustis Radio Operator installation project 1922

Klustis Radio Operator installation project 1922

The constructions made by Klutsis

The constructions made by Klutsis

The constructivim soon entered the political posters. Klutsis had no problem of becoming a political agitator – instead he made the posters as art. Photo-montage first regarded only as small artistic element became the core of his posters. First posters including photo-montage came out in 1927. Already recognized as a great artist, his posters became famous within the Union. The avant-garde collages involving workers, soldiers and his idol Lenin as the central figure, the formation of the figures were impressive and mesmerizing. One of the most famous posters the 1928 Gym and Sports dedicated to Sparticide sports with brilliant photo-montage scheme of jumping swimmers was great example of his art.

Sketch for the poster "We dont need hysterical flows, but the calm joining of the iron battalions of the proletariat in to the party" Lenin 1924-1925

Sketch for the poster “We dont need hysterical flows, but the calm joining of the iron battalions of the proletariat in to the party” Lenin 1924-1925

He also designed expressive decorations for the soviet exhibitions in foreign countries. One of them in Belgium was vandalized by far right anti communists. Various expressive avant-garde pavilions and exhibition stands were made and projected during twenties. He also made stage decorations for the satirical theater play “Bourgeoisie Latvia”. He had lost all  connections with his birthplace and regarded it as any other capitalist country. Latvia was no stranger to avant-garde art it had its own modern art society. As  the modern art was condemned by the conservative nationalist Latvians, these artists were mostly leftists. During the twenties and thirties the modern art was often regarded as a communist thing because it challenged the traditional art as much as the communists challenged the capitalist order.

Stage decoration sketch for the satirical play "Bourgeois Latvia"

Stage decoration sketch for the satirical play “Bourgeois Latvia”

At the late twenties the power in the Soviet Union was consolidated by Joseph Stalin. One of his first grand projects to change the country as the introduction of the five year plan. A move to centralize the countries economy by bringing up mass industrialization and collectivize the farming economy.  For such radical and painful moves a influx of a mass propaganda was needed. And that is where Klutsis and his posters came in. The first five year plan was started on 1928. Klutsis worked with the IZGOIZ – the state art publisher. It ordered the posters and censured them. From 1929 to 1937 more than 50 posters made by Klutsis were issued. Working with collage, experimenting with photo equipment he could change the size of the objects, combine the negatives. He looked for the objects and  people in the newspapers, books, took the pictures of himself. With the equipment of XX century thirties he made the poster even better then now with the use of the digital software. His posters featured industrial themes, workers, factories and Lenin himself as the ideological leader. In one 1930 poster Lenin was shown with Stalin, but Lenin still overshadowed rather   obscure looking face of Stalin. With the omnipresent expressive red color combined with the black and white picture the posters showed the dynamism of the five year plan. Complete unity as shown in the Worker and the Worker woman with multiple hands raised up and one large hand. The largest hand belonged to Stalin the – leader. But in reality this was the hand of Klutsis taken for this poster. With his photo technique he changed the size of the had making a impressive poster.

Worker and the Worker woman all to elections! 1930

Worker and the Worker woman all to elections! 1933

Collage of the Klutsis posters

Collage of the Klutsis posters

On October 26 1932 Stalin attended the writers meeting at the  Maxim Gorky residence. He said one of his well known phrases that “the artists are the engineers of the human soul”. It was a signal to increase the propaganda towards the peoples minds to convert them completely to the new Stalinist order. Stalin was no longer a mere shadow of the Lenin in the Klutsis posters, he was the grand figure of everything. Stalin was walking with the workers a thing he would never do in reality. The USSR was called as the strike brigade of the worldwide proletariat. Red banner raised above the red globe was the ambition of Klutsis and Stalin himself. A grandiose poster showing gigantic serious Stalin overseeing the factories with the slogan “The Victory of Socialism in our country is achieved! The Fundament of the Socialist Economy has been made!” The god like figure of Stalin filled with strife and anger showed him just as the way he wanted to look like. Other poster sketch showing Stalin smiling with the pipe in his mouth was never released. Stalin was to be feared not loved. As the Stalin’s favorite author Machiavelli had once formulated – leader should be feared in order to be loved. But the Stalin was not the only communist god. In the Soviet Holy Trinity there is three gods – Lenin, Stalin and Karl Marx the prophet of the socialist revolution. And in the poster of 1933 Karl Marx is overlooking the entire planet with a masses of proletarians. Behind a landscape of broken factories the slogan says “The goal of the Union is the destruction of the Bourgeois” It was indeed the Stalin’s policy after the socialism in one county was achieved the Soviet Union will bring the socialism worldwide. In other 1933 poster the armed proletarians are united under red flags of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Klutsis was still romanticized by the October revolution his scenes with fighting workers were still in line with the Lenin and Trotsky ideas. But it was not according with Stalin’s conception – the worldwide socialist revolution was to be achieved with tanks and bombers.

1935 Klutsis poster- Glory to Red Army

1935 Klutsis poster- Glory to Red Army

On 1935 Klutsis made one his most famous posters- Glory to the Red Army! Gigantic Stalin and Commander in Chief General Voroshilov overlooks the  parade of tanks in the Red Square. Together with bombers the might of the Red Army was shown in scale. The intention to start a new world war was clearly seen. Another 1932 picture shows the Soviet youth with guns behind the masses of marching army towards the victory. Two young soviet boys showing concrete faces, but girl in the middle smiles. A rather naive smile, these people few years later will fight in the front lines. But there is one thing we should notice in the 1935 poster. It no longer features photo-montage, instead all the figures are drawn. Drawn realistically. Onward from 1935 the new soviet art style was the “socialist realism”. It had no place for the expresionism, avant-guarde, and especially formalism. The formalists were condemned. The new realist was actually a neoclassicism. A kind of art enjoyed by Adolf Hitler who himself once made realistic paintings. Nazis condemned the modernist art. Their posters were grandiose but realistic. Stalin in many ways impressed by the Nazi Germany also followed suit. It is no wonder many soviet posters have so much in common with the Nazi posters. It was the same reactionary conservative art style calling for complete unification of the society and the world domination. It was the art of complete totalitarianism a totalitarianism that will destroy Klutsis.

Klutsis again remembered his Latvian roots.  Before his relations with the Latvian Soviet diaspora was rather awkward. Now the socialist realism demanded to show the life’s of the ordinary soviet citizens, also nationalities. He joined Latvian cultural society “Prometejs” (Prometheus). By their orders he to the Latvian settlements in Russia and Ukraine and depict the Latvian soviet citizens. The shock workers or stahanovians as they were called and the landscapes. All of them were painted in the realistic way. His photo-montage posters were no longer needed. On 1936 he also tasked to research the Latvian signs and traditional arts. However, there was no good sources for this task. In order to create ethnographic album for the Latvians in the Soviet Union, Klutsis used the ladies journal Zeltene (Lass) from Latvia. Klutsis was not interested in the national value of the Latvian signs of symbols he was interested in their form and precision. He however, made a large research work.  In his free time he made paintings of buildings and landscapes.

On 1937 he was in Paris, France for a few weeks. He attended the International Contemporary Art and Technic Exhibition. His task was to guide to creation of the photo exhibit in one of the Soviet pavilion halls. All the best Soviet artists were gathered there to show the might of the Soviet art. He was still needed, but not for long. Stalin was directing his country towards the great war. Massive repressions towards the old elite of communists from the days of the October revolution were issued in full scale. Latvians were considered as spies of the capitalist Latvia, in his war against the capitalist world they could no longer be trusted. Stalin ordered the extermination of the Latvian communists and public personalities – like Klutsis. He was too well known and no longer regarded as a genius artist. On January 17 1938 he was arrested as a member of a fascist Latvian nationalists. A accusation unimaginable for still passionate communist Klutsis. On February 26 by the protocol No. 128 of the February 11 issued by the Peoples Commissar of the Interior Affairs he shot at the Butovo polygon near Moscow. Butovo became the graveyard of thousands of Latvians killed by the Great Purge.

Gustavs Klutsis arrest picture January 1938

Gustavs Klutsis arrest picture January 1938

His wife Valentina Kulagina and son Edvards were spared. Only in 1989 Edvards found out what happened with his father. He was erased from the Soviet history for decades. Then on 1959 in Riga the deputy director of the Latvian and Russian Art Museum (now Latvian National Art Museum) Artūrs Eglītis wanted to bring Klutsis paintings to Latvia. It was the time when the Red Latvian Riflemen were again included in the Soviet propaganda. Without  mentioning what happened to them in 1937-1938 it was accepted to display the Soviet Latvian art. Together with Klutsis, the works of Aleksandrs Drēviņs, Kārlis Veidemanis, Voldemārs Andersons,  Vilhelm Jabub and Paul Irbītis were displayed for the first time in decades. After the end of the exhibit the Klutsis wife Valentina Kulagina presented the museum with of more than 350 Klutsis works. Also the Latvian SSR Ministry of Culture bought tens of more of his works and his personal archive. The Latvian and Russian Arts Museum and the Revolution Museum (now War Museum) got hold of enormous collection of Klutsis work. He was again remembered in other parts of the world and after 1991 Latvian National Art Museum displayed his works at the guest exhibits.    His works were also displayed in Soviet Union. Novadays Klutsis works are popular object of the Soviet art and history.  The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony featured references to Klutsis propaganda works.

Gustavs Klutsis was one of the best artists in the Soviet Union. A true example in the constructivism and photo-montage. Unfortunately his communist beliefs did not live up the politics of Joseph Stalin. No doubt Klutsis would follow Stalin’s change of politics with greatest enthusiasm if the chance have been given. Instead he was shot along with other common minded Latvians betrayed by their beloved leader. But, his art has outlived his short life and preserved a never ending legacy of one of the most known Latvian born artists.

Selected Sources:

Derkusova, Iveta, Tsantsanoglou, Maria, Yates, Steve. (2014) Gustavs, Klutsis. Anatomy of an Experiment. Riga. Latvian National Arts Museum.

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Latvians in the Soviet Political Elite 1920-1937

Latvian nation has suffered from the soviet repressions like no other. However, among ranks of communist supporters and top officials Latvians took a high position. It happened because of the nature of the times before the Russian revolution and after. On the beginning of the 20th century the New Current (Jaunā Strāva) was most strongest Latvian leftist movement from whom many Latvian future social democrats and communists emerged. The revolution of 1905 was directed by Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party. Before World War I some Latvians moved to Russia to look for new farmland, while intellectuals like Krišjānis Valdemārs, Krišjānis Barons, Baumaņu Kārlis and others established carriers in Petersburg and Moscow. The German invasion in 1915 made hundreds of thousand Latvians go on refuge to Russia. Locals in Moscow begun to notice that city is full with Latvians and Jews, who were forced to leave Lithuania and Latvia. The fall of Russian invasion made many previously mistreated minorities including Latvians to believe  its their time to take power for themselves. And since Bolshevism an international movement in its roots seemed the most popular and strongest choice many Latvians chose the soviet way. In future it turned out an ill fated tragic choice, but in 1917 the perspective of independent Latvian state seemed far from reality.

The story about the Red Latvian Rifleman is told here.  This is story about top Latvian communist members during first twenty years of the Soviet Union. After peace agreement with Latvia on August 11 1920 more than 200 Latvians refugees moved back to Latvia. But many stayed either because of problems making impossible to return or because of ideological convictions. According to Soviet census of 1926 151 410 Latvians lived in Soviet Union along with them 9707 Latgalians who were counted separately. 12 thousand lived in Leningrad and 10 thousand in Moscow.  The census of 1939 counted 128 345 Latvians and  13 869 Latgalians. Official data showed the loss of 23 065 Latvians that was just blank reminder of repressions made towards people once loyal to the Soviet system.

After the end of the Russian Civil War, the percentage of Latvians within communist party was rather high. Latvians were second to Russians in numbers of pre revolutionary members. Some Latvians moved back to Latvia and continued to work as communist party members in underground. On 1927 there was 11  680 Latvian communist party members and 1656 party member candidates. From Latvia either being  deported or emigrated 1301 Latvian communists. Latvians were in better situation than other party members especially Russians because of their education already acquired before World war, while there was 5% or non reading members. Readability among Latvians were 79% in Soviet Union. Latvians also knew more than one foreign language mostly German. So it was no wonder that Latvians took posts in many soviet ministries and state enterprises.

Pēteris Stučka

Pēteris Stučka

The patriarch of Latvian   communists was Pēteris Stučka the veteran of the Latvian Social democrats and leader of the Latvian Soviet government on 1918-1920. After 1920 he no longer took any important post, but was regarded as a symbol for Latvian communists. From 1923 he was a chairman of the Supreme Court of Russian Soviet Federal Soviet Republic. He also lead the Latvian Communist Party and its Central Committee Foreign Bureau. Stučka was a a gifted jurist and academician. Stučka often questioned the legal side of the actions of the Emergency Commission (Cheka), however allowed red terror in Latvia during his rule on 1919-1920. Stučka was genuine follower of Lenin and his ideas and after his death his influence started to crumble. On 1925-1927 he edited the first Soviet Encyclopedia of State and Law. On 1927 after reforming the court system he became deputy of the RSFSR Commissar of Justice. On 1929 he was elected as professor of  the civil rights in Moscow 1st University. 1930 was the last good year for Stučka as his 65 anniversary was celebrated in party Moscow committee Red Hall and awarded with Order of Red Banner of Labor. Stučka still hopped that Latvia will be one day again with Soviets.

On 1931 he became director of the Soviet faculty of justice. He was not found of Stalinist brutal policies against farmers and peasants during collectivization campaign. He was known for his radical agricultural reforms that lead to breakdown of the communist order on 1918-1919 in Latvia. Stučka was aware of coming Stalin’s repressions against his party members. The criticism on his past actions and academic views grew stronger on 1931 and 1932. On January 24 1932 the Latvian Communist party made plenum insisting on  investigating the mistakes of old social democratic elite and its inability to follow Bolshevik way. It was also hint on Stučka himself. He died next day from natural causes, escaping the fate of his comrades. Stučka was taken out of history after Stalin’s purge, but later was taken out of the closet a city was named after him known today as Aizkraukle.  His monuments were installed in Rīga and Aizkraukle. Some Russian tourists mistaken his monument for Stalin were delighted that “Latvians still honor Stalin”.

Jānis Rudzutaks

Jānis Rudzutaks

Most prominent Latvian within party ranks was Jānis Rudzutaks.  Born in August 15 1887 Rudzutaks started as member of the Latvian Social democrats in Ventspils. He was arrested in 1907 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was sent to Butirki prison in Moscow and released on 1917. Together with Felix Dzerzhinsky he was released by the revolting workers. Soon he was elected as the chairman of the Moscow Textile trade union and organized resistance against the Provisional government.  After the coup of October he was elected in All-Russia Trade Union Central Soviet Executive Committee and after that in presidium. He took over important posts in economical sector  in All Russia National Economy soviet, Moscow Economical Soviet and Workers and peasant defense soviet. On 1918 he became personally involved with Lenin who regarded him as his right hand man. He was responsible for supply routes trough Volga river after the main railroads were cut.

On 1919 he was sent to install soviet power in Turkestan (Turkmenistan) where he took hostile action against the will of the local Turkmenian communists to create a united Turkic Soviet republic. Rudzutaks was respected for his work helping Bolsheviks taking over all Central Asia. On 1920 Lenin made him a member of National economy Supreme Soviet council. On 1921 in  Russian Communist Party IX congress he was elected for the first time as the member of the Central Committee. Rudzutaks established a trade union policy that was approved by Lenin. Trade Unions with his help were brought under the state control.

Rudzutaks prominence grew as he was sent to soviet diplomatic delegation at Genoa  where he staunchly defended the Soviet foreign claims and backed down any western calls to return the old tsarists debts. Rudzutaks continued to work on fulfilling the  soviet power in Central Asia and took part in making the new borders of the Central Asian republics. The borders still used today by the independent Central Asian countries. On 1923 he was elected as secretary of the Communist Party and worked along with Stalin and Molotov. At 1923 Rudzutaks grew ill and Lenin had ordered him to take time of for recovery, however Rudzutaks fanatically resisted and continued his work.

There were rumors than in his last days Lenin had wanted Rudzutaks to replace Stalin as the General Secretary. Rudzutaks took important role in his funeral, carried is coffin to Red Square making him one of the closest man next to deceased leader. However, despite postmortem Lenin call to replace Stalin as General Secretary, Stalin kept his place. Lenin did not name the replacement for  Stalin. Rudzutaks was criticized among his members for indecision. Also in line for power struggle between Trotsky and Stalin Rudzutaks was caught in the middle. Rudzutaks was Central Committee candidate. Rudzutaks played between Stalin, Trotsky, Buharin making historians struggling on which side he was cause he also praised Stalin. However, Stalin on 1925 suspected him together with Zinoyev and Kamenev in plot to replace him as General Secretary. On 1927 Rudzutaks insisted that Stalin should be re-elected as General Secretary.

On 1931 Rudzutaks became the head  of the Central control commission and Worker-peasant inspection commissariat that was responsible for enforcing stalinist collectivization policies . On 1932 Rudzutaks sided with Stalin on his campaign against Zinoyev and Kamenev. Stalin entrusted Rudzutaks to lead the “party cleansing” within his lead Central Control Commission. On 1934 the commission was liquidated to empower Stalin Rudzutaks was elected as candidate of the Politburo. Rudzutaks was also responsible for restoring railroad tracks as commissar of the roads. By his lead the railroads were restored, new locomotives were built . Also river and sea routes were improved his economic management skills were recognized the most.

Amateur film maker Rudzutaks stayed in power until 1937. Stalin has recognized him as rival and part of old “October guard” that he wanted to replace with his loyal Stalinist nomenklatura. Stalin required a loyal party that would fulfill his  every order without questioning. On May 18 Stalin sent poll letter to Central Committee where he asked to exclude the Rudzutaks from the party together with marchall Mikhail Tukhachevsky for taking part in trotskyst conspiracy and espionage on behalf of the Nazi Germany. With Stalin abstaining the vote was “for”. On May 24 Rudzutaks was arrested along with his brother Voldemārs. After trial which received low publicity Rudzutaks was executed on July 29 1938. Rudzutaks was convinced communist, a potential Stalin’s rival for power but if not executed would follow Stalin until the end. He had lost his connection with Latvia  since 1907 and despite contacts with Latvians in Russia never displayed any sign of national affection, always stayed true to his internationalist convictions.

Kārlis Baumanis who graduated the Kiev commercial institute and took part in Civil War in Ukraine on 1923 made it to Communist Party Central Committee. He was assigned as the head of the Moscow organizational and cadre assignment committee.  On 1928 he became the its first secretary and then on 1929 as secretary of CK and candidate of the politburo. His success however was short-lived next year he was discharged from Moscow committee for difficulties during collectivization. He was chosen as a scapegoat for Stalin’s fallacies during collectivization. He however kept the CK secretary and was sent to Central Asia as the first secretary of Central Asian bureau. As others he ended his life shot in 1937.

Ivars Smilga  on the right side of the Leon Trotsky

Ivars Smilga on the left side of the Leon Trotsky

Ivars Smilga was a revolutionary old-timer from 1905. He was in prison in Russia before 1917 and after revolution was member of Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic War Soviet. He took part in the organizing the October coup on 1917 and moved the Bolshevik forces from Finland to Petrograd. From 1919 to 1921 he was the head of the Red Army Political Department. Along with Mikhail Tukhachevsky, he led the Seventh Army during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920. After the end of the war he moved to economical work in National Economical Supreme Soviet and in State Plan Commission. A friend of Stalin at first who lived with his family for a while Smilga on 1927 became convinced anti-Stalinist. On October 7 the day of October revolution Smilga openly displayed large banner from his flat with slogan”Without Lenin, along the Leninist way” with portraits of Lenin and Trotsky. Soviet militsiya stormed his apartment to remove it. Smilga lead the opposition rallies against Stalin, but was deported to Siberia. His deportation was followed by opposition protest at the train station. On 1929 his party membership was restored, but he kept his anti-Stalinist beliefs even when meeting Stalin face to face. After Kirov was assassinated on 1935 Smilga was again arrested and on 1938 shot.

Vilhelms Knoriņš took many posts. He was head of the Central Committee Agitation and Propaganda, and was member of editorial board of the newspaper Pravda and journal Bolshevik. Also lead the Party History Institute. He was convinced Stalinist who followed Stalin’s view that historians who research history in archives are the “archive rats”. History and science as whole should only be according to Marxist – Leninist principles.  That means history could be faked. As others he was erased from history on 1938.

Roberts Eihe

Roberts Eihe

Roberts Eihe born in Dobele on 1890 begun his carrier at the age of 15 during 1905 revolution. He was arrested many times, and then went to England. He returned on 1911 and while doing work in factory he became top member of the Latvian Social democrats. Eihe was moved towards Bolsheviks and supported Lenin. On 1914 he was arrested again and sent to Siberia. He escaped his imprisonment and returned to Latvia on 1917 took part in the Bolshevik took over of the Latvian Social democrats. After Germans captured Riga he stayed there underground was arrested, but escaped again and later moved to Moscow. During the Soviet Rule in Latvia on 1919 he was the Commissar of Provisions and imposed heavy food rations. After Soviets were forced to leave Riga he moved to Russia and took care of provisions on other front sectors.

On 1922 he arrived at Novosibirsk. As man known for his fierce loyalty to the party orders and ruthless way of carrying out them he was the man needed for the job of the chief deputy of the Siberian Revolutionary Committee. In Siberia Eihe to keep low food prices made heavy repressions against the local farmers and dealers. Following the shift from the Lenins New Economic Policy to Stalin’s Gulag Economy Eihe showed how it should be done. Repressions against so-called Kulaks were the Eihe’s preoperative and used “troijka” type tribunals were  three party officials in fast pace made trials and sentences. On 1929 Stalin visited Siberia and was impressed with Eihe’s work. He became the first Secretary of the Western Siberian district. With full power over Siberia Eihe reported to Stalin that he will turn Siberia into industrial and collectivized Siberia. He was fully dependent on Moscow  and had to fulfill every Stalin’s order. But he did them all with ruthless precision. Eihes camps for kulaks were regarded as the best in the Soviet Union by the party leaders. Eihe started to develop concentration camp system in far Northern Siberia that later turned out in Gulag system. 17 525 kulak families were repressed on 1931 39 788 families. Local party functionaries stood against the harsh methods of Eihe and sent letter to Stalin asking to replace him. Instead Stalin punished those who accused his most trusted comrade.

After that Eihe was unquestioned “ruler of Siberia”. Eihe provided camps for deported kulaks and forced peasants to join collective farms. Last great deportation in Western Siberia took place on 1936. He also managed the deportation of the ethnic Germans from European part of Russia.  Eihe was awarded with the Order of Lenin and promoted as candidate of the  Central Committee member of Politburo.

The “Old Guard” of the October coup did all the best for Stalin to reach absolute power. He no longer needed them. Eihe, Rudzutaks and other Latvians were driven to same fanaticism as Stalin. But megalomaniac Stalin after consolidating his  power now was preparing for the next step. Despite the slogan “socialism in one state”, Stalin wanted Worldwide Socialist Revolution to happen and now was preparing for future war. In so he needed the most loyal party cadres who would follow his plan. And he distrusted many of his most loyal old guard comrades like Eihe. In the war where the Baltic States should be annexed, Poland attacked and Germany fought with, Latvian, German, Polish communists were considered as foreign spies a dangerous national element that had to be dealt with. Eihe was arrested on April 1938 and was accused of state treason. On October 1 1939 Eihe wrote the letter to Stalin and denied the accusations: “There is no greater torment, than siting in prison of a country that I had fought for all my life”. Eihe stood strong against all accusations wrote another long strong worded letter to Stalin. He was tortured and   lost his eye from beating but still denied of being a foreign spy. On February 2 1940 Eihe was executed after three years of prison and constant torture.

That was the end of the Latvian communist political elite. These are just few of the many persons who served the Soviet power that turned against them and their homeland in quest for global supremacy. A separate articles about Latvians in Cheka, the Red Army and Latvian Soviet cultural elite that also was doomed by Stalin will follow in the future.

Sources:

Goldmanis,Juris (Editor) 2013 Latvieši PSRS varas virsotnēs : ilūzijas un traģēdija: 20. gadsimta 20.-30. gadi.  Rīga : Zvaigzne ABC.

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The Three War Plans of the Comrade Stalin

This site, has discussed the Soviet foreign policy from 1939 to June 22 1941 in past. One of the reasons for this is to question and to break the one-sided explanation of Germany as the main perpetrator of the World War II and Soviet Union country striving to preserve peace. After the fall of the Soviet Union the dark shade over the Soviet history was lifted uncovering many  facts that showed the Soviet Union as no better than Nazi Germany. In terms of repressions, genocidal policy towards its own people and nations in Baltic states and Eastern Europe. What was almost impossible some 15 years before now is possible in western historiography to compare Stalinism to Hitlerism  and adequately judge the Soviet history of the WW2, without the “victorious side” guise.  What also begun 20 years ago and slowly starting to gain acceptance in the western and eastern historian cycles is the new understanding of the Soviet foreign policy. The Soviet propaganda showing the Soviet Union as nation struggling to preserve peace, Stalin afraid of Hitler with a weak army is not working anymore. The Soviet foreign policy was aggressive not defensive, despite the  slogan “Socialism within one state”. Stalin had not abandoned the Lenin’s quest for Worldwide Socialist Revolution and dragging Europe into a new global war was his personally defined quest. With so Stalin shares great responsibility of helping Hitler to stir up war in Europe and later holds even greater responsibility to his own people of dragging the Soviet Union in disastrous war with Germany. This article is a small summary based on the works of the Russian historians mainly Mark Solonin who created the theory of the Three Stalin’s War Plans. This topic is important for Latvian history as the Stalin’s aggressive policy affected Latvia directly.

The German attack on Soviet Union on June 22 1941 was completely unexpected turn of events for Stalin. It took some hours for Stalin to react and issue the first orders.  There were many foreign intelligence reports that were ignored by Stalin. The British diplomats in Moscow could not make contact with Soviet foreign commissar Vyacheslav Molotov for many hours. Why the Soviet leadership was so sure that Germany will not attack was a puzzle for many historians. Another puzzle for many is the fact that in May and June 1941 the Red Army was making a major strategical deployment – mobilization of reserves, strategical regroup and operative relocation of the army units. All this happened in depth secrecy.

The Soviet troops deployed near border only moved during the night-time, at daylight they took cover in the woods. The command staffs were moved to close border areas, in sealed trains and the even the commanders did not know where they will be taken and why. The reserves were gathered in covert ways, without no major announcements. Most were called personally for “practice muster”. Soviets gave no official complaints to Germany despite the quite uneasy mutual relations during the last months and military suspicion. Soviet Union on June 1941 was preparing for a major war, but tried to it secretly as possible. This all lead to one question – if Stalin was not expecting the German invasion, why he needed to deploy massive echelons of  troops and establish field front command posts nearby already at June 19?

This question was first answered by KGB defector Victor Suvorov. In his book the Icebreaker that is more a publicist work then an academic research, he explained that Stalin was preparing for war from the very first day. The massive centralization of economy, industrialization and collectivization that destroyed the successful Lenin’s NEP semi-capitalist economy was needed to create  a large war machine. The Great Purge was not just Stalin’s paranoia, but a needed action to gather his party and army for the coming war.   A nation unified by brutal force under the order of one man was set to face the whole capitalist world in final war that would realize the dream of the Socialist world order. On August 1939 Stalin made final decision to support Hitler in same matter as the table supports the hanged man. By dragging UK and France into destructive war with Germany, he then would pick an advantageous moment to strike from behind and finish the war as the victorious liberator. However, nor Stalin, nor UK and France did not expect such a swift German military success, that made him to fasten up the preparations for war. However, the German invasion was a heavy blow to his megalomania.

The Suvorov theory survived and was improved by historians such as V Kisilev, T Busheva, M Meltjukov, V Nevezhin and M Solonin and many others. For the theory was based on hundreds of facts and documents. Suvorov himself has given up on writing new books on his theory since other historians have done more work than him. No other alternative explanation was given, except the Rudolf Hess flight to UK conspiracy theories. Mostly its the traditional soviet explanation that is put against the so-called revisionist side   with lesser success every time.  Also an old arguments that revisionists have no documented evidence are no more relevant, for instance the latest Mark Solonin book “June 1941. The Final Diagnosis” is almost completely based on hundreds of documents from Soviet war archives. At the end the traditionalist side in Russia is showing signs of argumentative defeat by simply trying to punish historians, writers and even TV channels for falsely displaying the history of the Great Patriotic war and “insulting veterans”.

There is a little argument now that Stalin’s policy was aggressive. The date  of possible attack remains a question. For, the Stalin’s aggressive plan was not constant and changed three whole plans. Because the theory never works in practice in strategical political affairs. Neither Hitler was ever able to fulfill his foreign policy according to his Mein Kamph and his Second Book, because of real strategical situation and neither Stalin who also published many books and speeches about the coming war.

First Stalin’s war plan was quite simple based on his understanding of the Socialist Worldwide Revolution doctrine. It was nothing new as Lenin also predicted the next capitalist global conflict that would cause Socialist ultimate victory. According to Stalin’s speech on August 19 1939 that has now been recognized as true fact by historians such as Simon Sebag Montefiore a Stalins biographer who included this speech in his collection of the most important speeches of the XX century (his interpretation of this speech however serves the traditional soviet explanation), the pact with Germany would cause war within the capitalist states that would be long and destructive. And then Soviet Union would regain the lost territories of the Russian empire and play the decisive role in the end of the war. Stalin had real chance to sign a deal with UK and France to make a united front against Germany. It would possibly prevent Hitler from attacking Poland and place him into isolation. The Baltic States would  possibly still lose their independence or at least sovereignty.  But Stalin had clearly stated that such outcome would be disadvantageous  for the interests of the Soviet Union.

The plan brought its “fruits” – Eastern Poland was occupied, Baltic States and Bessarabia was taken without a force. The war in Finland although disastrous for the Red Army, allowed to gain many important industrial regions from Finland that she had to give up. Some documents like the note by executive of the Special Chamber of the NKVD Main Administration major Osterov in March 5 1940 claims that global conflict in the summer of 1940 will fought between USSR allied with Japan and Germany against the UK and France. The war will take a long time. However another document states when the British were considering sending a military support to Finland, the Soviet navy received directly that their main enemies are not British but Germany and Italy. Its shows a nature of double speak and deception within the official soviet communications.

Weather fighting the capitalists or the Nazis, Soviets made active preparations for the war right from 1939. The large strategical PE-8 (TB-7) bombers with bomb storage of 1 tons and maximal flight distance 3300 km (German HE-111 could reach 2700 km at that time), and that was not enough – a bomber with 5000 km was issued by Stalin. Such flight distance was not needed for defending Soviet Union, or even bombing Germany. Reaching London or Paris with them was more appropriate. Also a large paratrooper force was organized and PE-8 bombers were also meant as air landing party planes. A diving four motor heavy PB-4 bomber was in the works. Soviet war fleet was in the making. Soviets had 267 submarines, while Germany 57, Italy -68 and Japan 63. A such a large submarine force for country with less war ports on June 1941 showed a sign of weapons mania. On 1940-1941 the Soviet Air Force main Naval headquarters marked the Mediterranean ports as the main bombing targets. That were controlled by UK and France.

However, for many including Stalin, Nevil Chamberlain and French leaders was an unbelievable sight when weakened by the Versailles treaty and arms restrictions the German Wehrmacht managed to enter Paris no less than two weeks. Stalin had complained on April 17 1940 a month before the invasion in France that imperialist forces are not really fighting, but rather are playing cards. The German army on 1940 in technical sense was less advanced than France and UK. However, the France and UK soldiers and commanders had very less will to fight, while Germans had great discipline and high attack morale. In following months Germany had seized the control over the Eastern Europe and showed dissatisfaction with Soviets occupying and annexing the Baltic States and Romanian province of Bessarabia. The first Stalin’s plan had failed.

The Second War plan is more concrete and known to historians. The plan is preserved in documents and published. The two-volume “Russia XX Century.Documents of the 1941” published on 1998 in Russian, holds important documents about Soviet strategical deployment and plan to fight against Germany on May 15 1940. The documents show that the plan for the major war existed and all of this plans were based only on major attack outside the Soviet borders. As on August 23 1939 Stalin had said to Ribbentrop that is important that Soviet Union establishes a common border with Germany – and on 1941 this was realized – the only two countries that would face such attack was Germany, Romania and Finland. The documents indicate targets like Lublin, Krakov, Vistula river and Warsaw all within German control. Two possible attack routes were made- the Northern path trough East Prussia and Northern Poland and the South path trough Lviv. At the end of the Lviv path was chosen. A war games was played out on both variants and contrary to self praising deceitful Zhukov memoirs no defensive games took place. It was Zhukov himself who was playing German side in the war games and lost to general Pavlov who was later shot after German invasion. One can say that this has no real significance – all major military powers conduct an attack plans just in case. However, Soviets were really trying to fulfill this plan and started to gather troops for the battle in masses. And that lead to disastrous events in June-July 1941 when millions of Soviet soldiers were killed and captured without a fight and massive stockpiles of tanks, airplanes and guns abandoned. The army was prepared for massive attack, of which the common soldiers and officers knew very less and were caught in disastrous rout after they were unexpectedly attacked.

At first soviet planners were still optimistic about the attack date. One document on March 11 1941 in bold text notes to “attack on 12.6.” Was this June 12 1941, or more likely June 1942. As some of the Red Army units mentioned in the document were still far from being fully deployed. The full tank deployment of KV and T-34 were still underway and could only happen on 1942 or later. Soviets had already a fast mobile tanks like BT-7 and T-26 and many heavy KV tanks. If used correctly in fast attack tactics even the small T-26 and heavy T-35 was a destructive force. There is some truth in Soviet propaganda saying that Stalin expected attack on 1942, because he was still doubtful about the German military capabilities and wanted to improve his already enormous army.

However, because of rapidly changing situation Stalin came to conclusion that there is no time, and the attack must take place on Summer 1941. Was the worsening relations with Germany or the intelligence reports that made him think so remains a question. Or it was growing impatience to realize his grand plan. The Third War plan had begun. The pro allied coup on March 26-27 1941 in Yugoslavia  and mutual assistance pact with Belgrade and Moscow on April 6 protested by Germany was a major trigger for it. In just few hours Germany invaded Yugoslavia. Soviet Union was supposed to help its new allies. Instead the Moltov told the German ambassador Shulenburg that he is sad that it all turned out this way.

Was the coup in Belgrade supported by Soviet or UK secret service. If by the first, the Stalin was surprised by this and could not react adequately, if the second – Soviets had managed to stir up Hitler against them even more. On April 13 1941 Soviets signed non aggression pact with Japan. The Eastern front was now secured, and Japan had fulfilled this pact right t0 very end of 1945, when Soviets broke it. Soviet and German relations had reached the lowest point. Both sides understood that and started to prepare for war. The German Plan Barbarossa was issued January 31 1941, but as noted to be realized only in the case of need. On April 30 Hitler realized that there is such need and made final decision.

On May 15 1941 Soviet command made final instructions on deployment of the Red Army forces. It was noted in the text that Germany is capable of strike  the Soviets first and made a surprise attack. The attack must took place when German army is having strategical deployment to gain first strike initiative. On May 24 1941 Stalin gathered all the main commanders, and Molotov and Beria a head of NKVD. There is no transcript or concrete info of what was said in the war conference. Possibly Stalin had possibly ordered to finish the deployment and start the war no earlier than middle June or late August 1941. If Stalin still wanted to attack on 1942, then holding a top secret meeting with all main officers in May 1941 would be irresponsible. It would be early and may result a leak of information. If during this meeting the general attack plan was laid out as indicated by the supreme secrecy the attack was meant to be on Summer of 1941. On the same time Germans wanted to attack too.

A large but secretive troop deployment took place. The troops were expected to be moved  to border areas at least to July 10. If so then the real attack must took place on 15-20 July when troops were deployed and ready. And that was too late for defensive actions. Hitler missed the chance to attack on May 15 because of the Balkan front. Hitler could only attack on no later than late July because of the climate conditions.

Both Stalin and Hitler were gambling on massive operation. German army despite well-trained and equipped was not greater in size and weapons power than Red Army and was tasked to reach Moscow in three-month time. Red Army had poor discipline and  morale, but large in numbers and heavy machinery. It was supposed to break trough Poland, then to Czechoslovakia, Balkans and to Berlin at the end. Both were short on time. If the Soviet attack was expected at the end of June or July, no later than September – then they also needed to face the winters of the Eastern Europe more harsher then now.

Was the attack intended on July or no less than August, or maybe even on June 23 as some claim, it was too late. Stalin had lost his Great game of 1939-1941. The outcome was horrific not fully deployed masses of the Red Army was running away, surrendering and leaving the whole airfields and tanks to enemy hands. It was not just the effectiveness of the German Blitzkrieg that made Germans reach Moscow in four months. It was again the inability to resist enemy invasion by the soviet troops who pushed the enemy more inwards in their land.  Red Army lost 900-1000 thousand man in summer while Germans 25-30 thousand men. 1 German to 35 Soviet soldiers. 3 million were captured. Large size of soldiers count in as Missing in Action. A great numbers of Soviet civilians perished. Stalin had sacrificed millions of his country men for the sake of megalomaniac insane dream of the Worldwide Socialist Revolution. Also blame of starting  World War II lays on Stalin’s just as Hitlers hands for the both dictators were genocidal megalomaniacs who  turned the whole Europe into bloodland. The lesson from this is to not allow the return of such people who holds control of such destructive forces in their hands.

Selected Sources:

Марк Солонин. (2013) Запретная правда о Великой Отечественной. Нет блага на войне! M. Яуза-Пресс

Марк Солонин. (2013) Июнь 41-го. Окончательный диагноз. – М.: Яуза, Эксмо

М. И. Мельтюхов (2000) Упущенный шанс Сталина. Советский Союз и борьба за Европу: 1939-1941 (Документы, факты, суждения). – М.: Вече, 200

Raack, R. (1995) Stalin’s drive to the west 1938-1945. The origins of the cold war. – Stanford.

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If War Comes Tomorrow 1938 Soviet Movie that predicted the World War II

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On 1938 whole Europe was worried about possible second full scale war. Hitlers troops had already marched into Austria and later Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile in Soviet Union the saw again the possibility to trigger new Worldwide Socialist revolution. According to Stalin’s understanding there were two ways of how do it – first drag the capitalist countries against each other in a full scale war, but don’t take part in it until the most favorable moment.  Other way was to provoke the enemy to attack USSR and then defeat the enemy in their own territory. And that is how it was shown movie made in 1938 called If the War Comes Tomorrow (Если завтра война). The movie quickly became long forgotten after Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and later after the war. However, the movie has been fully preserved and available to us all in here

The movie was directed by Efim Dzigan. He made Stalinist style propaganda movies like We from Kronstatd (1936) and the First Cavalry (1941). However, If the War Comes tomorrow was his most famous work of propaganda art. One of the main features of this movie was the main theme song of the same name composed by Vasily Lebedev-Kumach. Later he wrote the legendary song “The Holy War”.

It the War comes tomorrow lacked same artistic and dramatic depth as Sergei Eisenstein movie “Alexander Nevsky” that also had very similar message- he who comes to Russia with spear dies from spear. Dzigan movie characters were shown as simple and brave soviet citizens fully loyal to the Soviet power and the leader Stalin. In fact the movie had no in depth characters in whole. Dramatic dialogs were only needed to illustrate the massive battle scenes that took great part in this movie.

The movie plot starts in the New Year anniversary in Moscow. Since the Christmas was officially removed from the holiday list, the New Yer celebrations became widely popular. A dialog between two retired males about their children in the Red Army is shown. One brags about his four sons who are in the Red Army tank force and forms a family tank crew, other talks about his daughter in the army, who is also a wife of the border guards commander. Occasionally the propaganda voice talks about the great Soviet achievements and  large tall structure that proves the Soviet greatness. It could be that this large structure was the intended Palace of Soviets a gigantic 415 m structure that would became the tallest building in the world. The construction was begun on 1937, but the war canceled this grandiose plans. Right now its foundations have been turned in to worlds largest swimming pool.  But, then the propaganda voice alarms everyone about the uneasy situation in the border areas caused by foreign powers and the growing fascist threat”.

Movie then switches to USSR border areas in the night before the dawn. A enemy troops speaking in German gathers up the forces for the attack. Their symbol is swastika however its displayed different than official Nazi Germany symbol. One of their officers have a mustache just like Adolf Hitler, although the toothbrush mustache was quite popular among many before the WWII the occasional movie viewer would understand what the movie is trying to show. However, the “Fascist’ soldiers whose country and nationality is not shown, but speaks in German looks more like WWI British or French soldiers. A another message – the Soviet enemy is not just “Fascists” but also capitalists. Enemy uses an outdated TS-18 (MC-1) tank that was also the very first Soviet built tank.

The "Fascist" invader symbol

The “Fascist” invader symbol

On 1938 the Soviet Union had no border with Germany or any other “Fascist” country. So according to this movie at least Poland was no longer existent in this war. For many Soviet citizens who were unaware of the European geography or political situation this might be a missed spot. But, from our perspective this detail is pretty important. The fate of Poland was long decided in the Kremlin.

Enemy soldier with peculiar mustache

Enemy soldier with peculiar mustache

The enemy is striving for a surprise attack however, Soviets aware of the alarming situation have sent reinforcements. And so the first attempt of the border crossing fails – the Fascist infantry lead by Hitler like captain is forced to retreat. The enemy attempt on crossing the border is shown in pretty vague WWI tactic style in heavy contrast to later massive Soviet attack shown in the movie. When the land attack fails, Fascists sends bombers to Minsk and Kiev. According to research made by historian Mark Solonin Stalin had planned to make fake bombing raids on his own cities, to justify his attack on Germany. To fight the enemy aircraft, Soviets sends their fighters. After the enemy bombers are destroyed, S0viet Pe-8 bombers takes flight to bomb the enemy airfields. Pe-8 was one of the heaviest long range bombers of those times. It could reach Berlin and even London. Interesting that the leading pilot of the bomber squad is called “Gromov” Interesting that the Soviet plan for aggression against Germany made in May 15 1941 is also called “Grom” (Thunder).  Actually this name went well with the people of those times, since the idea of fast and decisive strike was very popular both in Germany and USSR. The Soviet concept of the “deep operations” was published in book by N Shpanov “First Strike”.

Soviet bomber squad leader Gromov

Soviet bomber squad leader Gromov

Soviets issue a full mobilization. A grandiose parade is gathered in the Red Square. This parade actually took place on May 1 1938 with the presence of Stalin and the chief commander Voroshilov Millions are rushing to join the Red Army including 12 old boy and the old man seen in the movie opening. He wants to support his four sons who are already in the army. Many woman joins too. Then movie switches to Uzbekistan, Georgia, Ukraine and other Soviet republics that also joins the  fight. And then the most interesting thing happens: a large movie comment appears declaring that “From the Black Sea, to the Arctic  from the Baltics to the Pacific Ocean millions of sons joins the fight”. The Baltic States were still independent from USSR on 1938. So we suppose that the fate of the Baltic States was also decided in this movie.

From the Black Sea to

“From the Black Sea, to the Arctic  from the Baltics to the Pacific Ocean millions of sons joins the fight

Movie then goes back to battlefield showing grandiose scenes of the Fascist attack and the Soviet counter attack. The enemy uses a French Renault FT-1 tanks. They get easily beaten. In return Soviets sends a horde of the BT-7 tanks. BT-7 was one of the fastest tanks of those times. According to some authors, this tanks were only good for the Western roads and therefore were  only used for aggressive purposes.  After the German invasion on 1941 large part of these tanks were made useless, destroyed and abandoned. Here the tanks are shown in their best – in fast speed they escape the enemy cannon fire and break their lines. In one of those tanks all four brothers mentioned earlier attacks. Its quite true that until 1941 the German tanks were quite lighter than the Soviet tanks. After meeting heavier Soviet counterparts Germans switched to more heavier models.

Soviet main battle tank BT-7 attacks

Soviet main battle tank BT-7 attacks

The desperate enemy uses chemical weapons to stop the Soviets. Chemical weapons were never used by the Nazi Germany at least in the battlefields. This movie still was in the spirit of the WWI when chemical weapons were occasionally used. However, Soviets have gas masks and all the necessary equipment to survive a gas attack. Under the white smoke they gather up their attack fore.

Enemy gas attack

Enemy gas attack

Fascists sends reinforcements and that is where the Soviet paratroopers comes in. With the help of the Pe-8 bombers they land behind the enemy lines and ambushes the fascist reinforcements.   The enemy staff is alarmed that the paratroopers are near their positions. The Soviet paratroopers were not just an empty brag. Actually the Soviet Union had a force of 1 million of them. Since the paratroopers were almost impossible to use in the defensive actions it was obvious that their sole purpose was  to penetrate the enemy from behind. In the movie showed how it should be done.

Soviet paratroopers takes of from Pe-8 bomber

Soviet paratroopers takes of from Pe-8 bomber

Soviets accompanied by tanks, aircraft and even  cavalry starts a massive attack. Enemy is routing in panic. Cavalry lead by Marshal Budyonni chases them, Fascists sends they own cavalry resulting a bloody battle. Already after the Polish campaign it was clear that the cavalry is useless in this new kind of warfare.

Then something that the Soviets had long desired happens in the main Fascist capital. The “proletariat” the workers starts marching under the red banner. Police and army (interesting that soldiers shown there have a Nazi style helmets while soldiers shown in the front line have a British style helmets) fires at the crowd a desperate battle for red flag erupts. In the end the crowds march in the streets with the Soviet flag. That was according to long time Soviet belief made by Lenin, that the world war will cause a socialist uprising in the capitalist centers before the Soviet tanks reach them.

Proletarians takes over the streets

Proletarians takes over the streets

And the Soviet tanks are marching in masses accompanied by grandiose hordes of bombers. Captured Fascist generals are watching this with the fear and disbelief. In the end the massive hordes of the Red Army is shown. The slogan reads “The First attack of the enemy has been beaten. In such way the war might start that would lead to the destruction of the capitalist world” And the song plays warning that there is no such force to destroy the Soviet Union.

The movie failed to prove its point. Despite the enormous resources gathered by the Red Army, on 1941 Germans managed to advance all the way to Moscow. Red Army needed not two days to beat of the enemy aggression, but four years. But in therms of destruction of Poland and the Baltic States the movie was right. Poland and the Baltic states were in between Germany and USSR. Only way to attack Soviet Union or Soviet Union to attack Germany was to remove these buffer states. And that was done by signing the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact on August 23 1939. But, the main movie slogan the destruction of the capitalist order left unfulfilled.

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The Soviet attack on Latvian border station Maslenki 1940

Burned down Maslenki guard house

Burned down Maslenki guard house

One of the usual interpretations by Russian historians that in the events of 1940 no military force was involved and Latvia was annexed voluntary.   However they tend to forget the events on the June 15 1940 when Soviet special forces raided the Latvian border guard station Maslenki, killing and capturing many borderguards and their wives. With all known rules of military warfare this can be seen as act of aggression and invasion, as the Latvian border was crossed and its soldiers and civilians attacked. It was intended as a provocation to force Latvia submit to Soviet demands and allow unrestricted entry into Latvian soil. Also it was a clear warning of what would happen if the Latvian government would not accept the Soviet demands.

Maslenki today is a  part of Russian Federation as it was located in Abrene district that was part of the Latvian Republic from 1920 to 1944, after it was included in the Russian Soviet Socialist Federative Republic. After the fall of the Soviet Union it remained as part of the Russian Federation with no great chances of ever returning it to Latvia.

The border between Latvia and Soviet Russia was established in 1920 according to peace treaty. The Abrene district was mostly populated by Russian nationals, however Latvia saw this territory as important for its railway routes and special geographical situation making easier to defend the eastern border. Also it was earned in blood as Latvian army chased the Soviets away to this point. The Soviet government was forced to sign a peace treaty and give away this district. In next two decades Abrene became important part of the Latvian state. Latvians moved there to establish farms and towns and army fortifications and border bases.

The border protection law was issued in 1928 and the task was entrusted to Border Guard (Robežapsardzība), in 1935 it was renamed as the Border Guard Brigade that was split in three battalions. The third was the Abrene battalion. Battalion worked in guard stations that overlooked every kilometer. Later cordons were established. The border guarding was a tough work, as the Soviet spies and illegal immigrants  and also criminals tended to cross the border.

The Latvian Eastern border with highlighted district of Abrene

The Latvian Eastern border with highlighted district of Abrene

After October 1939 when Latvia signed mutual assistance pact with Soviet Union a greater importance was put on the border protection as every incident could mean accusation of breaking the pact. Latvia was already in undesirable situation as Poland was occupied both by Germany and Soviet Union and sizable Red Army garrison already stationed in Courland. In the summer of 1940 Germany opened the Western front and Stalin was sure that is the right time to “fix the Baltic problem”. For this a small provocation was required.

The 14 June 1940 was a peaceful day for Latvian border guards and civilians of the Abrene district. Many came to Latgalian song and dance festival at Daugavpils. 24 choirs with 1101 singers and 55 instrument players went there forming the second largest delegation. With the presence of the president Kārlis Ulmanis the song and dance festival marked the last normal day for Latvia for many years to come. Meanwhile the border guards organized the sport instructor courses. In the same time in Paris the German army marched on the main streets, but in Estonia two Soviet bombers shot down the Finnish civil airplane Kaleva (Junkers -52) over the Strait of Finland. Soviet submarine prevented the rescue or search of the crash site and collected all the remains. Estonian government made no protest to USSR. Meanwhile  the Soviet documents falsely stated that the plane was shot in June 23 meaning that it was done after the occupation of Estonia and therefore not an act of international piracy  but a defense move by Soviets. At 23:30 in Moscow the Lithuanian ambassador was summoned to Kremlin to meet Molotov, where he gave the ultimatum that Lithuania had to accept until 10:00 at morning.

The Maslenki or Lejnieki border station was one of the first border stations since 1920. The guardhouse was a wooden building built in 1929/1930. The commander in charge was senior officer Frīdrihs Puriņš who was notorious for his drinking and brawls with Russian locals. Soviet border guards often tried to provoke him because of it. Despite that his experience in the war of freedom brought a great respect from his senior colleges.

At Midnight a border guard brass band rehearsal took place. The night unusually cold, on guard post were Jānis Macītis and Pēteris Cimoška, one was patrolling other was hidden post. Kārlis Beizaks was resting on wait his shift to replace Cimoška.

On 2:30 25 special soldiers of the NKVD the Soviet secret service managed to cross the border at river Ludza. NKVD had surrounded the border cordon from all sides. Around the guard-house a bags of grenades were placed excluding the main doors meaning that NKVD men intended to capture the border guards without a single shot. The attackers were discovered by patrolling Jānis Macītis. He followed the instructions that if the stranger is spotted, he must let him closer for 20-30 meters and only then call him to stop, so he will be surprised and wont use arms. However, this instruction did not bear the fact that stranger may have an automatic weapon. And precisely at this moment the NKVD men opened automatic fire at the Latvian border guard. Latvians only had shotguns that were useless in thick fog and bad visibility.

NKVD realized that they were spotted and turned to burn down the guard-house and kill all the border guards. Macītis was badly wounded and tried to reach the guard-house and stepped on the hand grenade and lost his left foot. Border guard on the disguised post Pēteris Cimoška opened fire, enemy tried to locate his position to surround him. Cimoška retreated back to guard-house cause he heard other border guard Valdis Grīnvalds resisting. But he stepped on bag of grenades and were torn in pieces.

In the guard-house Valdis Grīnvalds was desperately trying to hide from Soviet bullets that fired trough the walls. As the visibility was bad he fired back without no aiming. Kārlis Beizaks also in the house decided to flee and jumped out of the window. He managed to run 199 meters passing house of Žanis Krieviņš that also was surrounded by NKVD men who killed Beizaks. They even threw grenades at him. Since some resistance was shown from  guard house the NKVD threw inside burning liquid and house went on flames.

In the apartment room of the guard-house the commanders Frīdrihs Puriņš wife Hermīne and his 14-year-old son Voldemārs were caught up in the middle of the firefight. Hermīne jumped out of the window with pillow in his hand to protect herself from the bullets. She was shot dead and later found in strawberry plants. Voldemārs run out of the doors and escaped and hided in nearby pile of firewood. Soviet attacker had been under cover there and shot Voldemārs in stomach and foot. Valdis Grīnvalds left the house on the same moment and made way to river where he was captured by the soviets.

The body of killed Hermīne Puriņa

The body of killed Hermīne Puriņa

NKVD also assaulted the border guards Žanis Krieviņš house. He was there with his wife Lida, son Artūrs and five year old Rita. Two grenades were thrown in. Lida was wounded as Soviets broke in  took away his husband and children.

As the resistance was put down, the Soviets started to evacuate their killed and wounded men. However, because of the poor visibility they left many of their displaced war equipment. Soviets also abducted two civilians Olga and Dimitry Maslov. As Latvian reinforcements arrived at the scene the Soviets had left with guard-house burned down, three guard men killed, commanders wife shot, his son wounded and many people abducted.

At the same time Soviets attacked other guard post at Šmaiļi. Here Soviets managed to capture the border guards without a fight. Also local civilians were taken as hostages. Also another attack was planned at Žuguru station. However, the plans were thwarted because the border guards wife Marianna turned 25 and border guards threw a big party. This became known by commander Voldemārs Gailītis and he came there with his men to inspect. At the night the border guard Kronis fired the signal pistol alarming the guards on duty and the guests. In 16 June they found a Soviet camouflage suit and wire breaking scissors nearby. It could be that Soviets were scared away by the sudden arrival of the commander himself and his men. The guard Kronis who spotted the Soviet intruder fired a signal rocket and loud talking by alarmed guests confused the NKVD men and made them turn back.

Soviets had taken away 37 men and women and children. Latvian border guards were put on alarm. But, Latvian government made no direct action or even protest against USSR. In 15 June Lithuania submitted to Soviet demands and allowed entry of the Soviet forces. Lithuanian president Antan Smetona fled to Germany. Worlds eyes were on France it seemed hopeless to make any significant move. Latvia made investigation commission on the incident but that was it.  In 17 June Soviet forces entered Latvia. Border guards were told not to resist, they had plans for it, but now the border became open to the enemy. At the night between 16 and 17 June all main roads to Latvia were cleared of mines. If Latvian border guards showed some resistance there would be no myth of peaceful occupation of Latvia and the removed district of Abrene.

In 7 July 1940 Soviets sent back to Latvia their 37 hostages. The captured guards were submitted to interrogation. The later events, the occupation and war put them on the extremes again.  The only one who did not return was Dimitry Maslov who was agent of the Latvian Secret Service. He was executed in  1942 at Astrakhan prison.

The attack on Maslenki was intended to force Latvian government to accept the Soviet demands. Soviets blamed Latvia for this tragedy and interpreted as a breach of mutual agreement pact, that was one of the reasons why Soviets demanded the full entry of the Red Army. Also it was a revenge by NKVD to Latvians for the actions of their secret service on the Soviet border. The attack was also made to test the Latvian army leadership, fearing it may order full resistance, instead Latvian leaders showed confusion and weakness. However, the attack on Latvian border station must be seen as act of aggression and treachery that shows that the occupation of Latvia was brutal and bloody not peaceful.

The border guards of the Maslenki and their families before the tragedy

The border guards of the Maslenki and their families before the tragedy

 

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Soviet Plans for Worldwide Socialist Revolution 1917-1939

Soviet propaganda poster showing the unification of the world under the Red Flag

Soviet propaganda poster showing the unification of the world under the Red Flag

Already after the Bolshevik coup in October 1917 the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin made clear that this is the only the beginning and the Soviet fight will only end when the World Soviet Socialist Republic will be established. Everything needed to be done to lighten up the proletarian revolution in other countries. The Bolsheviks hoped for postwar troubles in and revolutionary sentiments in western countries. Moscow supported the revolution attempts in Bavaria, Germany and in Hungary in 1919. These bloody revolutions were crushed and the one in Munich was witnessed by Adolf Hitler then a discharged soldier who saw the need for his own revolution. In March 1919 in Moscow the Communist Internationale (Comintern) was established with goal to weaken the social democratic movements in Europe and to take complete control over all communist movements outside Russia. The beginning of the Comintern was very prudent as only 34 delegates took part in the founding congress with only 4 of them from abroad. However, the organization became immensely powerful over the next two decades and Lenin was sure that soon the Worldwide Soviet Federate Republic will be established.

The Comintern was an international communist party that used its sections based on iron discipline to bring down the capitalist order in a violent way. The sections were financed mainly by Moscow. In the twenties Moscow gave large sums of money to Czechoslovakian, Hungarian, German, US, British, Sweden and Finland sections. The money was raised by selling the Czarist time valuables and robing the churches. Only French section of the Comintern was able to finance itself.

To transfer the money Soviets used illegal means mainly supported by the Soviet intelligence agencies. The Baltic states were used as the window to Europe to transit these sums of money. Tallinn and Riga were used as the main gateways. In short time Soviets sent 451 million golden rubles trough Tallinn. In 1921 Soviets already spent 2/3 of their gold reserves to finance the worldwide socialist revolution.

In 1920 the Red Army started the offensive against Poland. It was clearly seen in the propaganda at that time that the Poland was not the sole enemy in this offensive. After the fall of Warsaw the Soviets would take Berlin and move to the west. However, at the river of Vistula the Red Army was crushed and the ideas for world takeover had to canceled. In next decades Soviets viewed Poland as a grave enemy and the defeat at 1920 made the next Soviet leader Stalin hate the Polish country. Also the independent Baltic States and Finland were seen as  a great dissatisfaction. The Russian Empire was fallen but its imperialism remained now in the clothes of idea of the world socialist revolution.

Despite the calls for revolutions, the Soviet Union made agreements with the Western powers that was seen as a temporary coexistence until the final fight and the victory of the communism. In 1922 the Soviet Union made Rapallo agreement with Germany that brought many means for two state cooperation especially the military. The Western powers had delusive assumptions that the Soviet Union is just as the other countries and can normally cooperate with them. By that from 1924 to 1933 the Soviet Union was recognized by most democratic countries in the world.

While western countries no longer viewed the Soviet Union as a bridgehead for revolution the idea of worldwide revolution was an integral part in the Soviet ideology. In first Soviet Constitution accepted in 1924 the Soviet Union was called as the Fatherland of the World proletariat from which the Worldwide Socialist Republic would arise. From 1918 to 1936 in Soviet calendars the anniversary of the October coup was not mentioned, instead the 7 – 8 November was celebrated as the beginning of the worldwide proletarian revolution. In the documents of the Comintern it was undoubtedly written that the proletarian revolution cannot rise in one state only it was possible only in the international level. The anthem of the Soviet Union was Internationale until it was changed by more nationalistic anthem in 1943. The first state radio program was called the Comintern Radio.

The ideas of worldwide socialist revolution was deeply affected by the Hitler’s rise to power. This was also partially “success” by the Comintern because Moscow ordered to weaken the German social democrats that made Nazis much easier to defeat them. The rise of national socialism was direct answer to the growing influence of communism in Europe caused by the Great Depression and the actions of the Comintern.

By that Moscow has got itself in unusual situation while the all plans of the world revolution backfired they caused the rise of Nazism and Fascism and rise of Authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. All of them were hostile to communism. National socialism was common to communism in many ways – use of terms of revolution and socialism, single obligatory ideology, state wide terror, single party rule, the centralization of the economy and the cult of personality. The main difference  that the Soviets were internationalists while Nazis- nationalists.

Before Hitler Soviets had a few attempts of lighting up the communist revolutions in Europe the Hamburg Uprising in 1923 and the communist coup attempt in Estonia 1924. Now Stalin changed the state ideology from Soviet internationalism to the Soviet Nationalism or Patriotism as it was called. The Soviet Union was now called Motherland and the last Comintern congress in 1935 now forbid to scare the world about the worldwide socialist revolution and called to make peoples front in the fight against the fascism.

After 1933 the main goal to reach the worldwide socialist revolution trough military power of the Red Army.

After 1933 the main goal to reach the worldwide socialist revolution trough the military power of the Red Army.

The idea of exporting the worldwide socialist revolution  with arms was abandoned. Instead, Stalin now focused on Socialism in Sole State. That would be achieved by enforcing collectivization and industrialization. But, that would be achieved only by strengthening the state outer security by building the mighty Red army. The very goal of worldwide socialist revolution was not completely abandoned instead it was intended to be achieved by the Soviet military potential. Stalin was convinced that the World War II is imminent so his army should be ready to defend the Soviet Union and take offensive part in the world war when necessary.

By that a complete reorganization of Soviet military forces was underway.  The Great Purges in 1937 was made to get rid of all the military staff that Stalin distrusted and replace them with people that would carry his plan in every single way. The Red Army witnessed great modernization and in 1939 it was already one of the strongest armies in the wor by the means of the equipment and weapons. The military training and discipline however was much worse.

Stalin not just waited for the world war to begin he took an active part to instigate it. Lenin already stated that the main goal for the Soviet foreign policy is to use the disagreements of the capitalist states to drive them into war. Stalin too in 1925 said that Soviet Union must be the last one to join the conflict to say the conclusive word.

And Stalin put his words into actions in 1938 when he allowed Hitler to occupy Czechoslovakia and allow the Munich Agreement. The goal of Adolf Hitler was to unite all territories inhabited by ethnic Germans under Germany and so his next target was Danzig and Polish corridor. When at first Hitler intended to gain these lands by the means of talks with the Polish government he was turned down and by his disappointment he issued a plan for war with Poland. Allies this time choose to support Poland in case of war.

That put the Soviet Union in an important role to decide the fate of Poland. Stalin could do nothing and allow Hitler to attack that would bring German troops to Soviet borders and witness the war in the west. Or Stalin had a chance to unite with allies against Germany. Poland would be spared as Hitler would not fight a two front war and Germany would become isolated between two powers. But that was not according to expansionist plans of the Soviet Union. So Stalin had the third possibility to make an agreement with Germany. By that Soviet Union could take important parts in war affairs and make means for unexpected attack at the same time. So the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed on 1939 August 23. Stalin was convinced that the war between the west will be for a long time that will make the German hands tied until Soviet Union have a chance to join the war as the main force and take over the world.

The Comintern was no longer needed for this. Stalin did not bother to inform the leaders of the Comintern about his plans for changes in relations between the Soviet Union and Germany. The Comintern was confused and made statements that despite the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact Soviet Union is still able to cooperate with Great Britain and France. The main goal in an international communists scene was proclaimed as the fight against fascism.

Stalin was dissatisfied with this Comintern approach. It was also understood by the leader of Comintern Georgi Dimitrov who on 5 September sent a letter to secretary of the communist party Andrey Zdanov where he state that the formulation of the new goals of the communist movement has become extremely difficult within the new international situation. In 7 September 1939 he met Stalin together with Andrey Zdanov and Vyacheslav Molotov. Stalin described the new war as the fight between two groups of the capitalist states. He demanded to turn down for calls for people’s fronts and called the possible destruction of Poland as just disappearance of another capitalist country from the map. Moreover Stalin was convinced that the downfall of Poland must be used to conquer new territories and peoples.

At the end of the conversation Stalin proposed Dimitrov to make a short thesis with the new goals of the communist movement in the light of the new international situation. These theses were published in the September 9 and they made a complete change in the Comintern tactics. The document stated that the working class must never support the war, but must ready to fight against social democrats. The Comintern and its sections had to postpone all the anti-fascist propaganda and the classification of the capitalist states. The word fascism was gone from Comintern propaganda instead the fight was forwarded to France and Great Britain. The Comintern had to support new friendship with Germany.

The Comintern was now used for Stalin’s offensive plans towards the Baltic States and Finland. Comintern made an agreement of cooperation with the puppet government of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Finland. The leader of Finnish communists Avro Tuominen declined the offer the lead the government and resisted the orders of the new Comintern. Confusion was high in all Comintern sections and Georgi Dimitrov published a theoretical writing to promote the new policy. It was called “The War and the working class of the capitalist countries” that was completely based on a Stalinist view of the world events.

At the end of the 1939, Comintern became unnecessary for Stalin. Stalin was ready to please Hitler by firing the Comintern already in 1941. The German invasion changed this for a short time until Comintern was liquidated in 1943.

The Stalin’s plan of worldwide revolution by joining the World War II with an unexpected attack backfired. In 1940 Germany quickly defeated France and isolated Great Britain. Stalin was able to seize the Baltic States and steal land from Finland and Romania, but was unable to attack Germany when it was caught up with the allies. But still Stalin planned to attack Germany and was nearly ready for it before 22 June 1941. The victory over Germany in 1945 the  sovietization of the Eastern Europe was still a small success to Stalin, comparing to what he wished to achieve in 1939.

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Soviet Antisemitism 1945-1991

Antisemitic caricature published in Soviet Satirical magazine “Krokodi” in 1952 during the “Doctors case”.

Undoubtedly Nazi Germany was the biggest enemy of the Jewish people. Organized, systematic attempt of destruction of whole nation should never be forgiven and always must be remembered to prevent from it happening again. But, Jewish oppression continued even after the holocaust.  However, there was another totalitarian regime that for many decades tried to assimilate, hinder and oppress Jewish community. It was Soviet Union who is largely responsible for constant abuse of national rights of all nations that lived in Soviet Union. It was not only Jews; Latvians, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Fino-Ungrian peoples also were subjects of Russification  and suppression of the national culture. The constant abuse of national rights and culture have done great damage to Jewish community in former Soviet Union. The result is almost complete extinction of Eastern European Jewish language the Yiddish, the decline of Jewish Ashkenazi  culture and Jewish religious life.  Latvian Jews have also greatly suffered from this Soviet policy. In last 20 years in former Soviet Union there have been Jewish cultural awakening, the revival of old culture and independent historical study of Jewish nation. However, the aging Jewish population is running out of time to pass their legacy to younger population. Why this has happened will be discussed further in this post.

After the World War II there were 12 million Jews in the World. 3, 2 million Jews lived in Europe, 2 million lived in Soviet Union. There were only 225 thousand Jews remaining in Poland, mostly refugees from Soviet Union that returned. Also many Polish Jews were deported to Soviet camps. 700 Jewish officers of the Polish army were murdered in the Katyn massacre. In war affected parts of Europe only 1,6 million Jews had survived.

Therefore Soviet Union was potential place for new cultural center for Eastern European Jewish Diaspora. It could replace the Poland and the Baltic states. The Jews had every rights for it as the 500 thousand of them had fought in the Red Army and were awarded with Orders and Medals. The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and his government decided to use the Jewish factor in his foreign policy. In 1942. the USSR Jewish Anti-Fascist committee was founded. Its leader was Daugavpils born artist Solomon Mikhoels the director of Moscow Jewish Theater. The JAC issued a call to whole world to support the  Soviet Union in fight against the Nazi Germany. On 1943. Mikhoels and his deputy Izick Fefer went to United States and acquired greater support from American society and businessman for more funding for Soviets. Even after the war JAC continued to call for greater friendship between USSR and US. Stalin wanted to use the contacts between Soviet Jews and American Jews to gain support from American financiers for rebuilding of the war-torn economy. A scheme was made to promote the Soviet and other countries Jews emigration to Crimea where the Jewish Autonomous Republic was to be founded. Mikhoels was intended as the chairman of the republics higher council. According to KGB official Pavel Sudoplatov the idea of Crimea Jewish Autonomous republic was made by Soviet foreign minister Molotov and supported by Stalin, who wanted to use this to get 10 billion dollars from the US. The JAC only had to submit the proposal.

However, the Stalin’s scheme to use Jews for his foreign policy failed. It was because Stalin wanted the new state of Israel to be under the Soviet influence. The American support for right-wing Zionists angered him. Therefore the KGB now issued a report that JAC is against the Soviet foreign policy in Middle East and spreads Jewish nationalism. KGB concluded that JAC has fallen to Zionist – nationalist positions and poses danger to Soviet Union. However, Stalin still hoped that he can influence the founding of the Jewish state in Palestine and spared JAC. Mikhoels even received the Stalin’s price.

It soon turned out that Soviet Union cannot influence the Zionist movement. The new State of Israel was founded as western democracy and American ally. Stalin’s gamble had failed. The Kremlin blamed Mikhoels for it. The KGB was alarmed by the JAC proposal for making not Autonomous, but united Jewish republic in Crimea that could secede from USSR according to constitution. KGB ordered the assassination of Mikhoels. He was killed January 1948, by poisonous injection at his summer cottage in Belarus. After that his body driven over by a truck to fake his death reason. KGB arrested all members of JAC and the organization was closed. The repression  campaign was hidden from public as the antisemitism was still officially condemned.

In same time the communist party started campaign against “cosmopolitanism” – the unpatriotic bowing to western ideas, works of art and western lifestyle. From Autumn 1948, Soviet newspapers begun to uncover the “spreaders of cosmopolitanism” placing emphasis on their Jewish names and surnames and disclosing their pseudonyms.  After that these persons were fired from their workplaces. Every Jew who was working intellectual job was fired, Jewish officers and generals were fired, professors, academics, members of writers unions even top communist party members became victims of anti-Jewish action. Even Molotov’s wife P. Zhemchuzina was arrested for having links with Zionists in US, where his brother lived and for her friendship with Israeli Ambassador Golda Meir the future prime minister of Israel.

On July 1952. after long painful interrogation the 15 members of JAC were sentenced to death. Along with them the deputy of Foreign minister Solomon Lozovsky, writer Izik Fefer were shot but academic biologist Liza Stern was deported.

From 1951 to 1952 almost all Jewish artistic collectives across Soviet Union were banned. The theaters, troupes, writers groups and studies were closed. That was the beginning of the decline of the Jewish cultural life and shift in to Russian culture. Jewish songs could only be sung in private apartments or closed restaurants the Jewish language was replaced by Russian.

The Stalinist antisemitism was beginning of the new ideological takeover in Soviet Union. The 19. century Marxist ideas was to be replaced with new imperialistic Russian nationalist government model. Stalin considered Jews as the enemies of this model that had to be dealt with at the very beginning in the time of new changes.

The culmination of the Stalinist Antisemitism was the so called doctors plot. After party veteran and Stalin’s personal friend Andrei Zhdanov died in rehabilitation center, the KGB presented Stalin a fabricated information about the plot by nine Kremlin doctors six of them Jews against him personally and the whole Soviet government. The named leader of the conspirators  was Mikhoels cousin Miron Vovsi (also from Daugavpils) who has secret contacts with Jewish organizations in US. In November 1952, the doctors were arrested. The case was discussed by the politburo and the Soviet main newspaper begun a series of antisemitic publications about the “Jewish, Zionist murderer conspiracy. Jews were fired from medical institutions on February 1953. 37 people were arrested. Jews suffered from insults and verbal attacks in public places, in Jurmala a leaflets were found with slogan “Beat the Yidds!”. Stalin was planing to initiate Jewish pogroms in major Soviet cities that would result of mass deportations of Jews to Siberia and Far East. Barracks for captives were already under construction. According to documents found in early nighties also the Latvian Jews were intended to deported. The culprits of the doctors case was to be hanged in Red Square. All these actions were halted by Stalin’s death in 5. March 1953.

According to some historians and publishers Stalin was killed by his closest aides, who were afraid that they will become the victims of the new purge. Beria, Malenkov and Khrushchev either killed Stalin or did everything to prevent his recovery from stroke that he suffered. There are even wilder theories that Stalin was preparing for new war with Western powers. In all possible scenarios, his successors brought halt to doctors case and all anti-Jewish repressions.

During the Khrushchev era the state antisemitism did not disappear, it was under the guise of anti-Zionism and condemnation of Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel.  Soviet Union considered Israel as its enemy and did much to finance its enemies, supply them with weapons. Any support for Israel was considered a national treason, Jews were forced to publicly denounce Israel and support the pro-arab coalition. After the Six Day war in 1967, the campaign against Israel was getting stronger.

The economical pressure by the Western powers made Soviet Union to allow emigration to Israel. The military victories by Israel sparked national awakening of the Soviet Jews. Soviets were against it since many important leading specialists in science and technology were Jews. Soviet attempts to block the emigration sparked resistance as in 1970 a group of Jews some of them from Latvia, tried to hijack a plane in Leningrad to escape to Israel.  They were sentenced to long years in prison.

But, the wave of emigration was unstoppable in 1967. 1416 Jews left Soviet Union, but on 1971 already 13 033, 1972 – 31 681 and in 1973 34 733. After the another Israeli victory in 1973 Yom Kipur war, the emigration quota was downsized, but later again increased. It was decreased again after the Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan 1979.

The growing Jewish resistance sparked even more Soviet Antisemitism.  It was banned to commemorate holocaust or to write about it. Attempts of doing so were met with repressions. Also Moscow became main center of antisemitic publications. Soviet Union mastered the anti-Zionist ideology and exported it to Western world and the Middle East. Most Israeli enemies – Syria, Lebanon, Iran and the terrorist groups received support from Moscow.

The Gorbachev perestroika and glasnost lifted the barriers of Soviet antisemitism. Large waves of Jews left Soviet Union. However, the political reforms also sparked the rise of Russian nationalism, extremism and neo-czarism that was aggressive towards the Jews.

Today’s  Russia is not officially practicing  state antisemitism. Jewish cultural and religious life has returned. Jewish national and cultural organizations are working again. Famous cultural workers, artists and singers no longer hide their Jewish nationality. However, many aspects of the Russian Jewish culture has become long forgotten as the Yiddish language is rarely spoken today. In Latvia and Russia a hard work has been done to educate Jewish history and culture to younger generation.

The remnants of the Soviet antisemitism has not completely disappeared, it’s still down in Russian society and affects the Latvian society also. Russian internet is full of antisemitic sites, and antisemitic books are still published and exported. Russian anti-Zionist ideology has largely influenced the Western antisemitism. Local Latvian antisemites take many of their ideas straight from Russian antisemite propaganda. The reason for this is to hide Russian aggressive foreign policy by blaming the US and Israel in the worlds troubles. Russia is a creative center of the various conspiracy theories headed against the west. Its part of Russian policy of deception that seems to never end no matter of what kind a political order is in Russia.

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