Uborevich On Trial – Part I

Dear Readers:

We are not quite done with Comrade Hieronymus Uborevich. In recent posts we skimmed through some very interesting and touching memoirs, penned by his friends, comrades, and family, all part of the Commander’s process of Rehabilitation.

But now it is time to return to that ugly document of the actual Trial Transcript, to see how the man was forced to disgrace and humiliate himself in front of the Yezhovites. Here is the link again, these full trial transcripts only recently (in the last couple of years) de-classified and made public by the Russian government. Uborevich’s testimony starts on page 72, which is actually page 74, so you should go by the page numbers in the PDF file, it is page 74/172. Tukhachevsky has just finished his long-winded ramblings, as he tried desperately to salvage a shred of dignity from this catastrophe.

Uborevich, on the other hand, is more laconic, as we have come to expect from his personality, from reading the accounts of others. Personally, I think he just knew that the gig was up, the frame-up was complete, his loved ones had been threatened, all that remained for him to do in life was make these false confessions in the faint hope of saving as much of his family as he could. Unlike Tukhachevsky, whose mind had been clouded by the madness of total defeat, Uborevich kept his sanity and sense of cold logic. At least, that’s my impression. But along the way, which makes this interesting to read and decode, he did try to toss in a few zingers whenever he could. One has the impression of a hostage held at gunpoint, trying to blink in Morse code to the TV cameras.

Vasily Ulrikh

Once again, Ulrikh is the Presiding Judge and NKVD Prosecutor in charge:

Ulrikh: Defendant Uborevich, the statements that you gave at the preliminary hearing, do you confirm them?

Uborevich: I do.

Ulrikh: What is the time frame of your enlistment into the anti-Soviet military organization?

Uborevich: It was Tukhachevsky who led me into the anti-Soviet military organization. He initially started feeling me out towards the end of 1934, but factually, I remember this well, gave me some assignments, and I endeavored to fulfill them, in March of 1935. There were certain circumstances that preceded this. If I may, I will tell you about them.

Ulrikh: Please do.

Uborevich: Towards the end of 1933 Tukhachevsky and Yakir got close to me, and we started to conduct an unprincipled struggle against the unified leadership of the army, against VOROSHILOV. [yalensis interruption: There was probably a grain of truth in this. Tukhachevsky had hoped to be appointed Narkom of the Army, and Uborevich, Yakir and the others would have rooted for him to get the job. They were all probably disappointed when Voroshilov, whom they all despised, got the job instead. I can imagine that they may have sat around bitching about this among themselves, typical Office Politics. Please excuse the interruption.] This conspiracy corrupted me and placed me on the very edge of of the next step, which was to fulfill the assignments of the Center. At the start of 1934 I was not [yet] in the anti-Soviet position and, unaware that Tukhachevsky was conducting that kind of work, I particularly came out against his wrecking plan of organizing brigades in the army instead of rifle divisions. [yalensis: apparently that was one of the key points of contention between Tukhachevsky and Voroshilov.] I remember well, that in March of 1935, he [Tukh] in essence placed before me his plan of political and military activities, his first variant. It was at that same time that he first started proving to me the inevitability of our defeat in a war against Japan, Germany and Poland, and also the inevitability of the ensuing internal difficulties. He started to tell me, how he is the head of an organization, and that he has ties with the Rightists and with the Trotskyites. But later he didn’t return to that theme. I understood then that he was conducting a policy of his own personal, Thermidorian risk, and this was why he was posing these questions, and I started to carry out these ideas and the practical issues connected with defeatism.

The “Ieronim Uborevich” – Soviet fishing vessel, Sea of Okhotsk, 1971

[yalensis: I think this is the moment Uborevich starts to try the Tukhachevsky “swan-song” approach of laying out some of his military theory, partly to justify himself, and partly to lay down a final warning and legacy to the army:]

The first task that he placed before me was the question of the wrecking invading armies. This was not in 1936, after the war games, I remember clearly that it was in March, or maybe April, of 1935. Initially, not really understanding what was going on, I was trying to demonstrate that the cavalry, engaging with artillery, without rear support, with only a small number of tanks, dispersed to the enforced regions, would be defeated on the second day.

There were two [possible] strategic variants for the Germans to adopt. The first variant consisted of the fact that the Red Army could be defeated by…

Ulrikh: Defendant Uborevich, you do not read us lectures and you are not making a report. You, as the member of a conspiratorial organization, must narrate to us about your counter-revolutionary activities.

Uborevich: I, as a member of a conspiratorial organization, accepted these assignments from Tukhachevsky, I received the assignment of very carefully selecting people for wrecking activities, and of conducting very specific types of wrecking activities. All of these types of wrecking I will, if the Court permits, lay out to you.

Ulrikh: Just tell us concretely what was done, by whose orders, yours or other members of the Center, and in whose name were these activities carried out?

Uborevich: Issue #1 – concerned the placement of artillery caches in the area closest to the front lines. He [Tukh] said that this would be a target very easily accessible to enemy aviation, and the destruction of these caches would deprive the units of these supplies, thus I gave the command to the Construction Directorate of the Okrug, and later to Martynov and Abramov, to build caches in the swath closest to the front, so that these supplies would be accessible to enemy aviation. [yalensis: Again a grain of truth twisted into something completedly different. Recall in the “Memoirs” how Uborevich and Gikalo foresaw the need for partisans operating behind enemy lines, once the enemy had breached the front; and therefore undertook plans to bury caches in advance, for the future use of those partisans.]

Wreckers set everything up for the German Stukas to take down.

Issue #2 – the construction of fuel bases open and accessible to [enemy] aviation. This particular assignment came from Moscow (I don’t know through which intermediary] and was delivered to our Okrug, and was clearly wrecking in nature, but I didn’t object to it. [yalensis: Methinks Uborevich is trying to be cunning here. I am guessing this dumb assignment actually came from Voroshilov.]

Issue #3 – This was along the lines of construction activities. In general there were quite a lot of individual wrecking initiatives in the sphere of construction, for example delays in the construction of hangars and other objectgs in Shaikovka; the fact that an automobile repair base was not built, and so on, all of this wrecking activity led to the weakening of the army. [yalensis: Again, Uborevich is being coy here, we learned in the “Memoirs” how he had written articles for the army newspaper railing against the bureaucratic ineptitude on the construction side, lack of preparedness, etc. Covertly, the criticism was directed at Voroshilov’s ineptitude, so I see this as Uborevich getting in an extra dig at Voroshilov while he had the opportunity.]

Wrecking activities also took place in the fortified regions….

[to be continued]

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