Tukhachevskiy, Mikhail Nikolayevich

(1893–1937)
   Tukhachevskiy was the wunderkind of the Red Army. Atsarist guards officer, he was captured in World War I and spent time in the same prisoner of war camp as Charles de Gaulle. He joined the Bolshevik Party and commanded armies in the early 1920s, and from 1925 to 1928 he was chief of staff of the Soviet armed forces. In 1935 he was one of five men promoted to the rank of marshal of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, Tukhachevskiy had made a mortal enemy in Joseph Stalin in 1921 when they served in the war against Poland. Tukhachevskiy had blamed Stalin for malfeasance and publicly rebuked Stalin for gross strategic incompetence. Stalin did not forget the insults.
   In the spring of 1937, Stalin decided to move against what he saw as dissent in the army. This was not, as many intelligence historians maintain, a result of secret information provided by the Czechs; it resulted from Stalin’s decision to purge the military. People close to Tukhachevskiy were arrested and tortured into confessing that Tukhachevskiy and other senior officials were Nazi agents. On 22 May 1937, Tukhachevskiy and other senior officers were arrested, tortured by the NKVD, and confessed. Tukhachenskiy’s dossier was splattered with his blood, according to witnesses. On 11 June, Tukhachevskiy and other senior officers were tried by a special military court, convicted, and immediately shot.
   Following Tukhachevskiy’s execution, the NKVD fell upon the army, arresting between 30,000 and 40,000 officers. Several thousand general officers and colonels were shot in 1937–1940, including three of five marshals, 15 of 16 army commanders, 50 of 57 corps commanders, and more than half of the division and brigade commanders. In the Soviet navy, eight of nine four-star admirals were shot. Party commissars in the army and navy staff suffered the same fate: all 16 army commissars were shot, as were 25 of 28 army corps commissars. All were loyal to Stalin, the state, and the army. Tukhachevskiy and almost all his colleagues were formally rehabilitated in 1956 by Nikita Khrushchev. The real cost of the Tukhachevskiy affair was the abysmal performance of the Red Army in the Winter War against Finland in 1939–1940 and the opening battles of World War II. Incompetent staff officers and commanders were incapable of fighting the German Wehrmacht, and millions of Soviet soldiers died or went into prison camps. Some of the Red Army commanders responsible for defeats on the Eastern Front were arrested and shot in the fall of 1941—the final casualties of the Tukhachevskiy affair.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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