The role of commissars during the Great Patriotic War



The Bolsheviks, having begun to create the Red Army in 1918, were compelled to recruit royal officers and generals to the command of its units, since there were simply no trained military personnel in the Red Army. The military experts, who at that time made up about 75% of the commanders of the Red Army, were far from reliable and betrayed the Soviets, turning to the White Guard during the Civil War. Therefore, almost immediately commissioners appeared in the Red Army - people loyal to the Soviet government. The main function of the commissioners was to oversee the command, the second function was political educational work, i.e. Commissars had to convince commanders and Red Army men that the Red Army was given the goals and objectives that were just and necessary for the people. The activity of the commissars was carried out by the All-Russian Bureau of Military Commissars, in 1919 it was renamed to the political department (then - management) of the Revolutionary Military Council, and in 1922 - to the political department of the Red Army (PURCCA).


The creator in the Red Army of the institute of commissioners - representatives of the political leadership of the state - was Trotsky LD, at that time the people's commissar for military and naval affairs. It should be noted that the Red Army was not the first to establish the institution of military commissars, for example, commissars appeared in the French army after the French Revolution, at the beginning of the 19th century the commissars were in the US Army: "The commissar is an official appointed to the military unit, whose responsibilities include follow the moral and political spirit of the military. "

With 1919, “political leaders” appeared in the Red Army — political leaders; commissioners in military units began to be called this way: a company, a platoon. A political leader is a junior commander, deputy commander for political affairs. In battalions, regiments, divisions, political workers were called commissars (battalion commissar, regimental commissar, etc.). The military commissar or deputy politician was a party representative in the unit entrusted to him, vested with enormous confidence and bearing full responsibility on a par with the commander for military unit, political and moral education of fighters and commanders.

The creation of the institute of commissars at the stage of the Civil War was a necessary measure, and on the whole it justified itself, moreover, it played a decisive role in strengthening the combat capability of the army and its discipline. As the regimental commissar L. Mehlis said, a Lenin-Stalin-type commissar is the father and the soul of the unit. 2 March 1925 was based on the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) in those units commanded by the Communist commanders who had experience of party political leadership, unity of command was introduced, i.e. the commissioner's position was canceled. The commander became fully accountable for all aspects of the activities of the troops, fulfilling the functions of a commissioner, but received an assistant for political affairs. In other cases, the post of commissioner was maintained.

In 1935, the system of military ranks was restored in the Red Army, and special ranks were introduced for political workers: “junior political instructor”, “political instructor” and “senior political instructor”, corresponding to military ranks, respectively, “lieutenant”, “senior lieutenant” and “captain” . The title “battalion commissar” corresponded to the general military rank of a major, “regimental commissar” - colonel, “divisional commissar” - division commander. 10 May 1937 The institute of military commissars was reintroduced in all military units, starting with a regiment and up, headquarters, directorates and institutions.

To create unity of command in the army 12 August 1940, the commissars were abolished. Two commanders — one commander, and the second supervising him — blurred responsibility for the performance of a combat task — did it become unclear which of them was specifically responsible for the defeat? True, there remained deputy commanders for political affairs. Thus, the function of supervision of the command and commanding staff of the Red Army was abolished in the army and only the function of educational work was left. It is interesting that at the beginning of June 1941 the German command sent to the troops "Instructions on the treatment of political commissioners" at the moment when they no longer existed in the Red Army. This order prescribed not to take commissars and political commanders into captivity and shoot them on the spot. However, the order was issued even before the war, the Germans did not know the combat significance of the commissars and assumed to destroy them purely as political opponents.

In the difficult conditions of the initial period of the Great Patriotic War, when there was a massive surrender of commanders, 16 July 1941 returned to the system of military commissioners in the Red Army, which were given the same control functions as in 1918-1925. Now they are subordinate to the main political management of the Red Army. The massive heroism of the soldiers on the battlefield in the first difficult year of the war is largely explained by the presence of political workers alongside the soldiers. Of course, political workers, like the Soviet commanders, were different. And the commissioner could show cowardice, weakness and cowardice. However, there are many examples of the heroic behavior of political workers in battles.

25 June 1941. The aircraft of the 48 th Bomber Aviation Regiment returned to its airfield after completing its combat mission. Near Izyaslav, in the area of ​​its airfield, a Soviet plane was attacked by five enemy fighters. Having taken an unequal battle, our pilots with machine-gun fire shot down three enemy fighters. During the battle, the Germans managed to set fire to the Soviet aircraft. The courageous crew is the deputy commander of the squadron for political purposes, senior political officer Turin I.A., navigator lieutenant Afonichev N.K. and the air gunner-radio operator sergeant Derevyanenko — a fourth enemy fighter rammed the plane with a burning plane. German aircraft crashed to the ground. Soviet pilots died.

For example, captain Zubachev I.N., deputy commander of the regimental commissar EM Fomin, led the defense of the Brest fortress. and Chief of Staff Senior Lieutenant A. I. Semenenko Commissioner Fomin was always seen where it was more dangerous. He led the fighters into attacks, encouraged the wounded, took care of the Red Army men, tried to raise the fighting spirit of the fighters. Commissar Fomin fascists shot in a fortress at the Kholm gates.

Of course, that the commissar posts, as well as the generals, people got different: someone went to defend the Motherland, and someone tried to get a better job. Someone was hiding in the rear, and someone led the soldiers in the attack - everything is exactly the same as the other officers of the Red Army. No special privileges commissioner post did not give. From the point of view of its profitability, it is no different from the commander’s salary - the same salary, the same pension, the same benefits and uniform, rations and respect for society.

Here are a few lines about political instructor, in the future, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Khokhryakov S.V. “The Nazis rush to Ryazan, bypassing Moscow from the south. There was a threat to the capital. Politruk for days on their feet. He does his best for the success of the units in battle, leaned over and seems to have aged. No one will say that he is 25 years old. Sunken eyes burn with unhealthy shine, but he is always on the front line. A political worker talks to warriors, supports, calms and encourages. Subordinate warriors listened and asked one question: “Will there be soon“ a holiday on our street? ”And yet the faith and confidence in our victory of the political instructor was transferred to the fighters. The October and November 1941 battles of the year were no longer like the August and September battles. More of our troops became persistence, perseverance. " (V. Zhilin "Hero Tankers 1943-1945 years", M., "Yauza" "Eksmo", 2008 g., P. 455).

Another example, “a few phrases from the submission for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union Nikolai Vasilyevich Terekhin from 20 June 1942:“ He participated in the Patriotic War from the first days. 10 July 1941 shot down an enemy aircraft “Heinkel-111” in one of the air battles "And having spent all the ammunition, he knocked down the 2 th Heinkel-111. And the second ram damaged by his car shot down the 3 th Heinkel-111. On 30 in May, 1942 had the 15 aircraft of the enemy personally shot down.
N.V. Terekhin began the war as commissar of the 161 th Fighter Aviation Regiment, and on November 30 of the year 1942, already a regiment commander, died in battle, accompanying the Il-2 attack aircraft. The title of Hero was not conferred on him. "(Y. Mukhin" Lessons of the Great Patriotic War "M., Yauza-Press, 2010, p. 380).

Commissioners in the Red Army existed for a little more than a year - until October 9 1942, when the institute of commissioners was finally abolished by a decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet "On the establishment of complete unity of command and the abolition of the institute of military commissioners in the Red Army". But at the same time, the post of deputy commander for political affairs (deputy political officer) was introduced, whose functions were limited only to propaganda. The decree determined what to do with the military commissioners: “To organize military councils of the fronts by October 20. Two-month front-line command courses, numbering 150-250 people to train company commanders of the most political workers capable of teamwork. coordination with the Main Political Directorate of the Red Army. " Political workers who underwent appropriate retraining were to join the ranks of the commanders of battalions and regiments.


The experience of the Red Army and the armies of other countries showed that in the case when the supreme political power did not trust the commanding staff of the army, the institute of commissars was introduced. The commissars performed the functions of supervising the commanders; in addition, they also had the task of political propaganda among the personnel of the units. In this case, the commissioners did not have the necessary military education and skills, otherwise it would be much more logical to appoint them to the post of commander.

"Obershurtmbahnführer SS Schmidt, who became a German military historian after the war under the pseudonym Paul Carel (Carell), in his work" Eastern Front "interpreted the role of commissars:" Although at the beginning of the war the role of commissioner may have been uncertain, since Kursk of the battle, he was more and more perceived by fighters and commanders as a support in the fight against short-sighted commanders, confused bureaucrats and the spirit of cowardly defeatism ... In fact, the commissioners were politically active and reliable soldiers, whose common the level of education was higher than that of most Soviet officers ... He must be able to solve purely combat tasks on his own ... a company political instructor to become a company commander, a division commissioner - a division commander. To meet this level of demand, the corps of political workers must naturally consist of tough people , loyal to the authorities, and in the first half of the war, these people, as a rule, constituted the main driving force of the Soviet resistance and firmly ensured that the troops fought to the last drop of blood. They could be ruthless, but in most cases they did not spare themselves either. "(Ibid p. 381).

In 1929-1937 The head of PURKKA was Ya.B. Gamarnik, who served as commissar of the 58 division during the civil war. In 1937, during the period of repression in the Red Army, it turned out that “traitors” had dug in the army, one of the ringleaders of the “traitors” was the main commissioner of the Red Army Gamarnik Ya.B. Speaking in defense of Tukhachevsky M.N., Gamarnik himself was recognized as a member of the military-fascist conspiracy and dismissed from the ranks of the Red Army. But on the eve of the inevitable arrest, he shot himself.

At the end of 1937, LZ Mehlis was appointed the head of the Political Directorate of the Red Army, who was also a commissar in the Civil War, but the 46 division. After the abolition of the institution of commissars in the Red Army in 1940, the city of Mehlis was appointed to the post of people's commissar of the People's Commissariat of State Control. But in June, 1941 was reappointed as head of the Main Political Department and Deputy Commissar of Defense, assigning him the rank of Commissioner of the 1 rank (corresponding to the rank of army general).

Even before the war, Mehlis tried to find ways to foster the courage of the Red Army, ways to arouse her courage and resilience in battle. In 1940, at a meeting on military ideology, he demanded from commissars and commanders: "The army, of course, needs to be educated so that it is self-confident. The army must be instilled in a spirit of confidence in its power. But this is how heaven differs from boastfulness from heaven about the invincibility of the Red Army ".

Deputy People's Commissar of Defense Mehlis LZ fought for discipline in the army. He wrote: “A commander ... must be trained to be demanding of subordinates, to be powerful. A rag-commander will not keep discipline.” “But a commander ... must be the just father of a fighter. Avoid illegal reprisals, assault, self-defense and solid mat ... to subject people without humiliating them. " Mehlis believed that at the front, in the presence of commissioners, the soldiers feel more confident.

He began his work to strengthen the troops with the saturation of their volunteers, communists and political workers, while strengthening discipline, following the instructions of Suvorov AV: "Discipline is the mother of victory." Panties and alarmists, especially if they are communists and Komsomol members, he demanded that a military tribunal be brought to justice. In the understanding of Mehlis, if a political worker is in the rear during a battle, then he does not deserve anything except a bullet. Lev Zakharovich himself was distinguished by exceptional courage, and this quality of him was with him all his life.

In June, at the request of Mehlis, 1941 was put on trial and shot by regimental commissar Shlensky AB, who fled from the front in the Baltic States. September 11 1941 in the village of Zaborovye by decision of the Commissioner of the Army Commissioner 1 of the rank of Mehlis L.Z. and Army General Meretskov K.A. for disorganization in managing the artillery of the army and personal cowardice without trial and investigation on the basis of the order of the Supreme Command Headquarters Order No. 270, Major General Goncharov VS was shot before the formation of the 34 Army Artillery Chief. And 29 September 1941 by the verdict of the military tribunal of the North-Western Front, approved by Army Commissioner 1 rank Mehlis, the former commander of the same 34 army, Major General Kachanov K.M. was shot.

The court found Kachanov guilty of non-execution of the 8 order received by 1941 on September of the North-Western Front with the task of striking the flank and rear of the advancing enemy, destroying him and reaching a new frontier. Contrary to this order, he withdrew three divisions from the defensive line, which gave the enemy an opportunity to step up the offensive on the front sector and break through to the rear of the army. However, given the complexity of the situation at the front in 1941, the shooting of two experienced generals could hardly simplify the combat situation and improve the situation with the personnel of the top officers of the Red Army. In 1957, both generals were rehabilitated.

The arbitrariness allowed by Mehlis L.Z. in deciding the fate of the command of the 34 Army, was only a continuation of the general practice of repression of the Soviet party-state system. Which actions were aimed not at analyzing the reasons for the unpreparedness of the Soviet defense, the lack of necessary technical equipment of the Red Army, the causes of the encirclement and mass capture of servicemen captured during the initial period of the war, but to search for victims from among its own advocates and supporters.

It must be said that Lev Zakharovich Mekhlis enjoyed the special favor and trust of Stalin, and, of course, not the last place was occupied by his “Bolshevik intransigence”, and not the desire to objectively and carefully understand the situation of the people who depended on him. Generals Goncharov and Kachanov became just new victims with the “continued identification of traitors and cowards” and the immediate execution of the sentence. Conducting such "effective processes" Mehlis used even in the Finnish War. These actions of his were calculated rather on the external effect, intimidation, than on the conduct of educational work, which he stated in his agitation and propaganda speeches.

We are all well aware of another political commissar of the highest rank, NS Khrushchev, who from 1939 was a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b). Khrushchev, of course, knew about the mass accusations of political crimes, it is also obvious that he played, at least by appointment, not the last role in the repressive policies in Moscow and Ukraine. It is not known whether he made bloody decisions himself, but he definitely did not speak out in defense of the repressed, including those with whom he had worked together for a long time. Until the end of his life, Khrushchev was sure that the enemies in the country really were, only the authorities treated them too harshly and unwarranted methods.

If during the civil war Khrushchev was an ordinary Red Army soldier, then during the Great Patriotic War he was a member of the Military Councils of the South-Western Direction, the South-Western, Stalingrad, Southern, Voronezh, 1 of the Ukrainian Fronts. He undoubtedly shares responsibility with the front commanders for the disastrous surroundings of the Red Army units near Kiev in 1941 and near Kharkov in 1942. However, this did not prevent him to receive the rank of lieutenant general around the middle of the war. Khrushchev N.S. He was not a military leader and did not play a significant role at the front, but during the discussion of front-line issues in the interests of the cause and the preservation of life, soldiers sometimes defended an independent position in disputes with Stalin.

Khrushchev N.S. participated in the Battle of Stalingrad, led the partisan movement in Ukraine. Nikita Sergeevich was convinced of the indisputability of the socialist gains, which everyone was called to defend in the Great Patriotic War, and he himself was not a timid man. According to the memoirs, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel-General Petrov VS Khrushchev N.S. on the Kursk Bulge under artillery shelling on the front line, he rewarded the soldiers with orders and medals, thanked them for their service. With this assignment, he could send any subordinate, but found it necessary to show the soldiers that the generals are also here on the front line, that they do not shy away from this mortal combat.

In May, 1938, with the consent of Khrushchev, N.S. - First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine, another future commissar - Brezhnev L.I. He headed one of the regional departments. Seven months later, he became secretary of propaganda, and a year later, to this high nomenclature position, he was appointed head of a new, prestigious for that time department of the defense industry. About a month after the start of the war (and not on the first day, as stated in the book “The Little Land”), Brezhnev donned a military uniform to the brigade commissar and became deputy chief political director of the Southern Front. Since the fall of 1942, he is deputy. the head of the political department of the Black Sea Group of Forces of the Transcaucasian Front, from the spring of 1943 - the head of the political department of the 18 army with the rank of colonel, from the end of 1944 - (finally in the long-awaited rank of major general) the head of the political department of the 4 of the Ukrainian front.

Volkogonov D.A. and Medvedev R.A. They give far from flattering characteristics, which the principal representative of PURKKA regimental commissar Verkhorubov, who inspected political work in the 18 Army, gave the brigade commissar Brezhnev: “Shuns the rough work. Brezhnev’s military knowledge is very weak. He solves many questions as a business manager, not as a political worker. To people is not the same exactly. Inclined to have pets. " So, it can be said in a Leninist way — directly, honestly and openly — wrote what he saw. As they say, there were different commissioners ...

"I’ll still fall on one
On that single Civic,
And commissioners in dusty helmets
Silently bow over me. "


B. Okudzhava
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