В historical For a long time, the literature was promoting the version that Stalin was afraid to go to the front and never was there, and at the suggestion of the "strategist" Khrushchev, the leader allegedly led the troops "on a globe" and was afraid to leave Moscow. In fact, this is not so: during the defense of Moscow in 1941, Stalin visited the front three times and in August 1943 traveled for four days to the front-line zone in the area of Gzhatsk and Rzhev.
Plus, Stalin really didn't like flying. The fact of his trip to the Tehran conference in November 1943 is reliably known. From Moscow to Baku through Stalingrad, he took a special train in an armored car, and from Baku he flew by plane to Tehran and so secretly that everyone wondered how Stalin got to the conference. Before this trip, Stalin secretly visited the Western and Kalinin Fronts.
Travel to the front in 1941
The first time Stalin went to the Western Front in July 1941, where a powerful Mozhaisk line of defense was created in the Maloyaroslavl direction. He examined the first belt of the defense line, which ran along the line of Serpukhov, Solnechnogorsk, Zvenigorod, to which the Stavka reserves were to be advanced for the defense of Moscow. Having met with the command of the front and the armies, he discussed in detail with them the deployment of troops and the plan for the defense of Moscow. According to the recollections of Tukov, attached to Stalin, the trip lasted one day, they moved in a Ford accompanied by guards along country roads, in the villages they recognized Stalin and greeted him.
In early October 1941, Stalin and Bulganin, accompanied by guards, went to the Maloyaroslavskaya and Volokolamskaya defense lines at night, inspected its fortifications in some places. According to the recollections of the head of the guard, General Vlasik, in one place a battle between Soviet and German fighters began over their heads. Stalin got out of the car and watched the battle, when hot fragments fell and hissed like snakes around in the wet grass. Stalin looked at them coolly and with interest, and then remarked with a laugh: "They are hissing, here is a fascist brat."
Also, a couple of weeks before the counteroffensive, Stalin traveled to the village of Lupikha on the Volokolamsk highway, where the front-line hospital was located. There he met with the wounded who had just withdrawn from the battle. Sitting on a stool, he asked them what the German was strong and what his weakness was.
In mid-November 1941, Stalin traveled to Rokossovsky's 16th Army to see the Katyusha installation in action. This trip by Stalin was indeed dangerous, as the Germans hunted for these multiple launch rocket launchers and took measures to capture them.
The Katyusha division on November 13, 1941, under the command of Captain Kirsanov, whose actions were watched by Stalin, struck fire at the enemy troops near the village of Skirmanovo, as a result of which a large number of enemy equipment and manpower were destroyed. After the fire strike, the Katyusha, as was prescribed, quickly left the battlefield, and everyone forgot about Stalin in the confusion. Return shelling began, and then flew aviation... Stalin traveled in an armored Packard, accompanied by an EMK, the bus with security was not taken with them for reasons of disguise.
There was a lot of snow and the heavy "Packard" quickly sat down on the bottom, Stalin got over to the "Emka", but she soon got stuck. Everyone, including Stalin, began to push the car, but they moved very slowly, and there were about four kilometers to the highway. By chance, three tank T-34 of the legendary lieutenant Dmitry Lavrinenko. One tank hooked up the "Emka" in tug, and the other rushed after the stuck "Packard".
At that moment, a division of the German cavalry of the SS troops approached this place, they could not use tanks and motorcycles because of the deep snow. Seeing Soviet tanks, the SS did not dare to contact them and watched the evacuation of the vehicles from a distance. Stalin returned safely to the headquarters of the 16th Army, where he expressed gratitude to Captain Kirsanov, without mentioning a word about the incident. After the defeat of the Germans near Moscow, we received documents confirming that after the fire strike of Captain Kirsanov, the Germans threw an airborne group into the area from the air and there was a real danger for Stalin.
Travel to the front in August 1943
Stalin's trip on August 2-5, 1943, to the front-line zone in the areas of Gzhatsk, Yukhnov, Rzhev, which had been liberated from the Germans back in March 1943, was not entirely understandable. The front line from them was from 130 to 160 km. At this time, Soviet troops were successfully advancing after the defeat of the Germans at the Kursk Bulge, and Stalin went the other way to the Western Front to get acquainted with the situation at the front, where Operation Suvorov was being prepared to liberate Smolensk and defeat the left wing of Army Group Center.
Stalin instructed the trip to be prepared by the Deputy People's Commissar of the NKVD, General Serov, who described it in detail in his diary. This description is also interesting because it shows how Stalin behaves in everyday life, with the employees and generals around him, as well as with people he met by chance.
On the night of August 2, Stalin summoned Serov to his office and ordered to prepare his trip to the Western and Kalinin Fronts in the morning. He said that the leadership of the security and organization of the trip is entrusted to Serov, although he had never done this before, and the level of secrecy should be such that no one should know about this trip, including the head of Stalin's security, General Vlasik. Serov later noted in his diary how suspicious Stalin was, he trusted few people, and it must have been very difficult for him to live like that, and when he left Moscow, he did not even tell the Politburo members about it. The leader did not report the full route to Serov, although he trusted him and entrusted the most important operations. He did it "in parts": first a trip to Gzhatsk (130 km north of Yukhnov), then to Yukhnov (210 km southwest of Moscow), from there through Vyazma to Rzhev (230 km northwest of Moscow) and in the evening of August 5, return to Moscow.
Serov went to Gzhatsk to prepare accommodation in civilian clothes by car, and Stalin - by special train. Beria accompanied him to the train station, Stalin was in a gray civilian coat and a cap with a red star, and all those accompanying him were also in civilian clothes. The special train consisted of an ancient steam locomotive, old carriages, platforms with firewood, hay and sand. The soft armored carriage was carefully camouflaged in tsarist times, and one of the carriages contained an armored Packard. The composition as a whole had a harmless and unsightly appearance.
In spite of Stalin's will (most likely, at Beria's command), a carriage was attached to the train, where 75 guards were in the uniform of railroad workers. The heads of security were following the train on the bus along the highway. Serious security measures were taken, along the entire route of movement, the NKVD regiment provided security.
When Serov arrived in Gzhatsk, the city looked empty and in ruins, occasionally there were women, children, old people: after the liberation of the city, all men were drafted into the army. Serov looked at a small house on the outskirts, put things in order in it and brought HF communication. Then he went to meet Stalin at a small station, from which only a few skeletons of houses remained. The Packard was unloaded from the train and Stalin rode it to Gzhatsk, where he was placed in a house. Around were placed guard posts from those who arrived by train. Stalin left the house and saw a badly disguised guard, then another one, and asked Serov: "Who is this?" He replied that it was the guard who had arrived with him. Stalin was indignant and ordered them to be removed, since there are practically no men in the city, and such protection only attracts attention. Serov had to send guards to Moscow, but several people from his entourage remained next to Stalin.
According to the plan, they were supposed to spend the night in Gzhatsk, but Stalin got in touch with the commander of the Western Front Sokolovsky, introduced himself as "Ivanov", talked with him and unexpectedly told Serov to leave for the Yukhnov area, find several houses there in the forest, of which the front headquarters moved forward , and there they will spend the night.
Serov moved along the broken field roads to the area, called a detachment of border guards to guard, found houses that the front headquarters had already left and took all the furniture from there. The female signalmen cleaned the house and made a bed with a straw mattress and a similar pillow. Stalin drove up in a Packard and, when Serov said that there was only one bed with a straw mattress in the house, he said: “Why am I a prince, or what? I don’t need a palace ”. He was pleased with the improvement.
Stalin immediately contacted Sokolovsky and demanded that he come and report on the situation at the front. He told Serov to put a bottle of wine and fruit in the next room. There was wine in the car, but the car with food did not come. Later it became known that bandits attacked her and plundered all Stalin's delicacies.
Stalin, heard the sound of German bombers flying by, drew attention to the "Packard" standing in an open place and, angry, ordered it to be removed immediately. The car overheated from driving on broken roads and the engine stalled, it had to be urgently thrown with branches.
Soon Sokolovsky and Bulganin arrived. Serov asked if they had any food, since there was nothing to feed Stalin. They had everything, and Serov gave the command to cook dinner for Stalin. The meeting was short-lived, Stalin hurried everyone to prepare for the offensive. All, having drunk a bottle of "Tsinandali", came out drunk. Sokolovsky in his report noted the good support of the front by long-range aviation under the command of General Golovanov. Stalin called Malenkov in Moscow. He asked where he was calling from. Stalin replied: "It doesn't matter" (Malenkov did not know where Stalin was). And he said to publish tomorrow a decree on awarding Golovanov with the rank of Air Marshal, then he phoned the Marshal and congratulated him.
After the front command left, Stalin rested and asked Serov: “What, will we have some stew today?” Because he knew that the car with the groceries had not arrived. Serov showed him behind the house how his assistants prepare a gorgeous dinner from Sokolovsky's products, the leader appreciated the general's resourcefulness. After lunch, Stalin said that he had been informed that Serov had not slept for the third day, insisted and checked that he fell asleep. In the evening, Stalin told Serov that tomorrow morning he was going by train to the Kalinin front to Eremenko in the Rzhev region, and the general was flying there by plane and preparing a meeting. In the morning, Stalin left by train, and Serov flew to the small village of Horoshevo near Rzhev, which was not much destroyed by the Germans.
In the village he found a decent house and told the hostess that the general would stay in the house for a couple of days. She began to be indignant that during the time of the Germans she had a colonel in her quarters, ours came and settled the general. When will she live? Serov barked at her so that in half an hour she would not be here. I called the NKVD soldiers, they cleaned the house and provided security. I met Stalin, who liked the placement, but there was an incident. An HF telephone was installed in the house, in which one had to turn a pen before speaking. Stalin was not warned about this. He contacted Eremenko, but the conversation did not work out, and he began to get angry, especially since Stalin was dissatisfied with Eremenko's actions. He began to scream obscenities at the front commander that he was marking time and the front was not moving.
Then he ordered Serov to find a person to meet Eremenko, who invited General Zabarev and explained that Stalin should be addressed without titles, just "Comrade Stalin." At the sight of Stalin, Zubarev turned pale, stretched out, clicked his heels and uttered a tirade: "Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Marshal of the Soviet Union." Stalin greeted him, he answered him: "I wish you good health, Comrade Marshal of the Soviet Union," and clicked his heels again. Stalin looked at Zubarev and Serov in amazement. When Zabarev left, Stalin asked Serov: "Why does he jump like a ballerina?"
Soon Eremenko drove up, followed by a pickup truck with cameramen. Eremenko began to ask Serov to leave the "film crew" for filming with Stalin in "front-line conditions." Serov said: "Only with Stalin's permission." The meeting was held for about half an hour in a raised voice. When everyone left, Stalin said to serve wine and fruit. Everyone drank a glass for success at the front, Eremenko grew bolder and asked to be photographed. Stalin said: "Well, that's not a bad idea." Eremenko blossomed, but Stalin offered to be photographed only when Eremenko liberated Smolensk. By this, the leader ironically put the man in his place.
Serov was informed that the radio had announced the capture of Belgorod and the end of the battles for Orel. Serov reported to Stalin and he, smiling, said: “In old Russia, the victory of the troops was celebrated under Ivan the Terrible with the ringing of bells, under Peter I — with fireworks, and we must also celebrate such victories. I think it is necessary to give salutes from guns in honor of the victorious troops. " On the same day, a salute was fired for the first time to commemorate the liberation of Belgorod and Orel.
When it was getting dark, Stalin entered the house and Serov decided to get some sleep. They woke him up and said that Stalin was calling. He stood in the yard and held his hand behind his back, Serov was in civilian clothes and put his hand to the peak of his cap. Stalin said that he should be fined for breaking his uniform, then he took out a bottle of cognac from behind his back and poured him a glass, and said: "Be healthy, Comrade Serov, you did a good job, thank you." Serov flatly refused, as he was responsible for the safety of the leader and could not afford to relax. Stalin insisted and then Serov, seeing not far from the security colonel Khrustalev, suggested: "Here Khrustalev can drink great." Stalin called the colonel, he drank to the bottom, grunted and the incident was over. When Stalin went to bed, Khrustalev began to be transported, and Serov replaced him at his post.
The next morning Serov went to wake up Stalin, he was lying on the bed without undressing. Stalin went out into the courtyard and asked Serov what he would give the mistress of the house for living? Serov said that he was not going to give her anything, as she did not want to let them into the house. Then he agreed to give her one hundred rubles, since he didn't have any more. Stalin noted that this was not enough and ordered to give food, fruit and wine. Stalin was taken to the station, and he left for Moscow by special train. After that, Serov went to "pay" the owner. She herself approached him and said that she did not know about Comrade Stalin's living in her house, and let him live with her as long as he wanted. Serov paid her off as promised to Stalin.
These diary entries of Serov show Stalin's attitude (perhaps sometimes not entirely fair) to the generals and completely different - to ordinary people and his entourage.