Voroshilov versus Tukhachevsky – Part IV

Dear Readers:

Where we left off, this movie took an interesting turn, discussing the fashion statements of Russian revolutionaries. Military commanders of the Civil War had to look a certain part, with the tunic and belt, the pointy helmet, leather boots and Mauser, and so on. Klim Voroshilov, who began life as a factory welder from Luhansk, represented the successful proletarian revolutionary. Ordinary folks saw in him an example how a simple worker with certain talents (good organizer, great orator) and armed with a powerful political ideology, could rise to a position of authority. From the factory floor, being bullied by the foreman, to a big shot who rode around the countryside in his own armored train, Voroshilov embodied the endless opportunities that awaited the proletariat. And these opportunities were to come to fruition in the ensuing years and decades: The healthy core of Marxist ideology — the notion that ordinary people could accomplish literally anything once freed of the capitalist boot off their necks and allowed to pursue their dreams — was so powerful and so real. This ideal, plus the grueling hard work of millions of people, transformed Soviet society literally in the course of a couple of decades. The very next generation — the sons and daughters of ordinary workers and peasants — went to school and became engineers, doctors, scientists, mathematicians, professors, of a calibre such as the world has never seen.

Voroshilov’s little Hitler moustache was considered cool, at the time.

Not Voroshilov himself, unfortunately. He was not allowed to go back to school, even though he very badly wanted to, and was thirsty for knowledge. No, he was too important a chess piece in Stalin’s masterful long-play 3-D chess game. Stalin could not spare this Knight of the Horse Cavalry, he needed his own man at the head of the army, somebody on whose unquestioning loyalty he could count.

12:45 minutes in: A spotlight shows off Voroshilov’s wife, Ekaterina Davidova. The blonde male historian explains how female revolutonaries were all the rage. Women like Alexandra Kollontai and Inessa Armand, for example. They were strong-willed and pretty, they took good care of themselves and their looks, and everybody was interested in how they dressed and what kind of hairstyle, etc. Ekaterina Davidova was the same type of core revolutionary and feminist. In the days [during Civil War] when Trotsky and Voroshilov were trading barbs, Trotsky made the acerbic comment that 50% of Voroshilov’s influence consisted of his wife’s appeal, the way she was able to wow the officers with her good looks and great personality, whenever she appeared in camp.

yalensis sidebar: Well, we know that Trotsky was a dog with the women, so he was probably jealous that Voroshilov snagged such a babe. From the wiki: Voroshilov’s wife was born (1887, in the Odessa region) an attractive Jewess named Gitlya aka Golda Gorbman. Golda finished school in 1902 and went to work as a seamstress at the age of 15. By 17 she was already a revolutionary and had joined the SR Party. She was arrested and exiled to Archangelsk, where she met Avel Yenukidze, fell in love with him, and got pregnant. They broke up, she got an abortion, and this left her infertile, which is why she and Kliment never had any children together, after they got married. They did adopt some kids, however.

She and Kliment met in 1908. She loved him so much that even after her own term of exile had expired, she returned to Archangelsk just to be with him. She had to convert to Christianity in order for their marriage to be permitted by the police. Golda didn’t just change her religion, she also changed her ideology: From anarchist to Marxist. Joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917. She followed Kliment again, this time to the front lines, and worked hard as the commander’s wife and companion. She was well-liked and respected by the Red Army soldiers and officers. When Golda married Klim, she also sort of “married” Klim’s best friend, Djugashvili. The two men had been friends since 1906. After the Civil War ended and the major faction fights began, the two couples (Stalin and his wife, and the Voroshilov couple) were even neighbors for a while, living in flats inside the Kremlin. In the late 1920’s, already in her forties, Golda withdrew from public life and became just another faceless Kremlin wife.

Voroshilov and his pretty wife, while in exile.

Back to the movie at 13:00 minutes in: To a certain degree, Voroshilov’s fame and glory as a Civil War commander, was a bit of a deception. In reality, his troops, many of whom were untrained anarchists and had no idea what they were doing, just kept retreating from the Whites, also suffering big casualties in the process. For example, the 10th Army commanded by Voroshilov, lost the astronomical number of 60,000 men.

White-haired historian: This was a catastrophe. For example, he commanded a Red Ukrainian unit; the Germans and Cossacks ate them for lunch.

Narrator: But as a Bolshevik honcho, Voroshilov not once ever had to pay a price for his failures.

Tukhachevsky, during the Civil War was almost the opposite: He practically never experienced a defeat. And made sure to communicate his victories on the Eastern Front directly to Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin). The Leader of the Proletariat was still recuperating after the attempted assassination against him, carried out by Fanya Kaplan (August, 1918).

Brown-haired historian: We have [in the archives] a goodly number of telegrams sent by Tukhachevsky and addressed directly to Lenin. The most famous of these is when Tukhachevsky bragged about re-taking the city of Simbirsk, Lenin’s hometown; and vowed that the next target would be the city of Samara.

14:30 minutes in: Lenin’s telegram in response, thanked the commander: “The re-taking of Simbirsk, my native town, this was the best medicine for me, the very best bandage on my wounds.” Lenin was very taken with this young and unique personality, he very much liked this nice-looking young commander, the symbol of the youthful revolution.

[to be continued]

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