Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson
#9 - JRL 7036
January 27, 2003
The Correct Way of Stalins Terror 
There are a lot of people in Russia, who consider Joseph Stalin most respectable politician 

Kamchatka regional governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev said in one of his recent interviews on television that Stalin was his most respectable politician and statesman. As far as Stalins terror is concerned, he said that there was no way to avoid innocent victims. The governor added that the victims of the recent hostage crisis in Moscow was an example of innocent victims. Speaking about other victims of Stalins terror, Mashkovstev said that it served them right. The governor explained his statement with Marshals Tukhachevsky and Blucher. The Kamchatka region governor believes that the first one of them became too much presumptuous, whereas the second one was dreaming to separate the Far-Eastern republic from the USSR and to become its leader. 

It is an open secret that there are always two points of view a point of view of someones own and an incorrect point of view. We will not argue about that, we would simply like to present another viewpoint to our readers. We would like to offer your attention an excerpt from the chapter about Vasily Bluchers life. The chapter is taken from the book Big Terror by English historian Robert Conkwist. 

The Red Banner Army of the Far East took a special position in that-era Soviet Armed Forces. That army unit was organized as a separate, almost independent organization for strategic reasons. It was the only army unit that was commanded by experienced army figure, Marshal Blucher. The intensive terror was going on for five weeks, and ended up with the fact that Blucher returned to the Far East and started executing his obligations there. There was a skirmish between Soviet and Japanese troops on June 30, 1937 on the Amur river. The Japanese occupied the Island of Bolshoi on July 6th. There were protests, but the Soviet troops did not attempt to oust the invaders. It stands the reason that it was just a test of forces for the Japanese, for they came to conclusion that the combat efficiency of the Soviet troops in the Far East was paralyzed with the cleansing at the Red Banner Army of the Far East. 

When Vasily Blucher returned to the Far East, he immediately took measures against the organizational mess in the army. Admiral Kuznetsov said that Blucher was very depressed with Marshal Tuchachevskys execution as well as with arrests amid the army leadership. However, Stalin left Blucher alone for a while on account of a military danger. Yet, the arrests of army commanders resumed next winter. They were seized, beaten and taken to jails. Stalins emissaries were going to arrange an outburst of terror for that army. All political and police forces were ready for the terror strike. Bluchers headquarters were arrested in groups. NKVD (internal affairs department) vans took away 40% of sub-regimental level, 70% of division and corps level and over 80% of top commanders. By the end of June Blucher found himself on the ruins of what he commanded just a short time ago. He was lucky again that time: Stalin had mercy on the marshal for the same reason as before. The Japanese thought that it was a good opportunity for them. 

Japan started the offensive on July 6th, 1938 with a goal to sound out the power of the Soviet troops near Hasan Lake. Fortunately, some experienced commanders survived the terror and several military specialists were sent to the Far East to deal with the situation there. Commander Stern was one of those people. He served as a military advisor in Spain before. He became the head of one of Bluchers reorganized armies of the Far Eastern front. Stern conducted military operations against the Japanese troops and even reported on that in 1939 at the XVIII Congress of the Communist Party. He disappeared forever after that. Japan was stopped near Hasan Lake after five weeks of battles. They were forced to retreat soon. Everything was over by August 11th of 1938. 

Marshal Blucher was called to go to Moscow a week ago, on August 18th. The marshal thought that he was going to be arrested, so he contacted his wife and saved some money for her. Vasily Blucher was arrested on October 22, 1938 on Stalins personal order. Four NKVD agents wearing dark suits came to Bluchers house and arrested his entire family. Marshals 16-year-old son Vsevolod was first sent to an isolation camp, but then the boy was released in 1941. When the war started, Vsevolod enrolled a military school, having changed his name. He proved to be a very brave soldier during the war. Marshal Blucher was taken to the town of Lefortovo, where he was questioned by NKVD head Lavrenty Beria. Lots of other interrogations were following one after another later. The marshal was charged with longstanding spying for Japan. He was also charged with preparing an escape to Japan with the help of his brother, an air force commander. Those charges were not totally insane for marshals brother escaped to Japan indeed. In addition to his family members, NKVD arrested marshals first wife Galina. Investigators intimidated Blucher with his family members fate. However, they offered an agreement to the marshal: special agents told him that he would spend only ten years in jail, if he agreed to sign an indictment. Blucher refused. The heroes of recent battles in the Far East were awarded with decorations on October 28th 1938. Marshal Blucher, the true hero of those battles, was questioned and brutally tortured at NKVD. Three weeks of those tortures killed him: Vasily Blucher died on November 9th. 

Marshal Blucher fell victim of the Stalin terror without any reasons. There was no investigation, not even a trial, like it was with Marshal Tuchachevskys group in 1937. Constant questions and tortures undermined the health of that strong man. All those facts show that Marshal Blucher died over tortures. 

There are a lot of rumors that say that Blucher or someone from his milieu was going to arrange a mutiny. There is no true evidence of that, although Blucher's brother informed the Japanese about some sort of opposition groups in Siberia. Blucher brothers testimony became known in Moscow owing to the efforts of Soviet intelligence officers in Japan. It is not known if they were facts or just a fantasy. However, the coincidence of dates showed that the information could be used against Blucher. Most likely, Blucher suffered from Stalins terror, because he was a brilliant independent army figure, who took an influential position in the country. Bluchers death implied the end of even meager hopes for any actions that might be taken against Stalin. Stalins official list of terror included such outstanding figures as Voroshilov, Shaposhnikov, Budenny, Kulik, Timoshenko. 
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