Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Benes in the 1930s

By Igor Lukes | Go to book overview

mid- January 1937? He must have been relieved when he learned in June 1937 that the traitor Tukhachevsky had been shot. Soviet secret initiatives in the Third Reich gave the executions of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and the forty thousand Red Army officers a new dimension: these men were killed for alleged policies that Stalin himself had tried to pursue.

With all potential rivals shot, Stalin felt satisfied. 75 When the dispirited and poorly led units of the Red Army found themselves consistently outmaneuvered by the German onslaught during the summer of 1941, however, the Kremlin tyrant must have realized that his purge might well have been one of the most notorious Pyrrhic victories in modern history.


Notes
1.
NA 861.20/376, Loy W. Henderson, the U.S. Embassy, Moscow, to the Secretary of State, 21 September 1936. See also Pravda, 10 September 1936.
2.
MHA-MOP. The Czechoslovak delegation included the talented General Vojtěch Luža and other high-ranking officers. On 19 September 1936, at a reception for foreign observers hosted by the Commissar of Defense Kliment Voroshilov, General Luža sat next to Marshal Tukhachevsky. Lula personally briefed President Beneš upon returning from the maneuvers. See MHA-MOP, 1936, no. 4460. In attending the Soviet maneuvers, the Czechoslovaks reciprocated a previous visit by a Soviet delegation, led by Generals Shaposhnikov, Ragovski, and Kutiakov. It had attended the Czechoslovak army maneuvers in the summer of 1935. The Soviet guests were received by President Beneš on 13 August 1935. See MHA-MOP, 1935, no. 3743. Not all observers were unconditionally impressed with the Soviet airborne deployment. One Czechoslovak officer, Lt. Colonel A. R. Hartman, expressed his doubts regarding the real military value of the troops dropped to the enemy's rear in Důstojnické listy, 24 October 1935. What would happen to them in a real war? he asked. "In Russia, however, nobody is unnecessarily sentimental about such questions. On the contrary. Heroic self-sacrifice is supposed to be automatic duty for all citizens of new Russia." Nevertheless, the Red Army seemed very impressive to Czechoslovak officers. General Ludvík Krejčí wrote a highly complimentary article on the topic in 1935, after his return from the first official visit. See Důstojnické listy, 19 September 1935.
3.
See F. O. Miksche, Paratroops ( New York: Random House, 1943), 9.
4.
The purge devoured 3 out of 5 Soviet marshals, 15 out of 16 army commanders, 60 out of 67 corps commanders, and 136 out of 199 divisional commanders. All but 5 of the 80 members of the Soviet Supreme Military Council were shot. Executed were also all 11 vice- commissars of war, 90 percent of Red Army generals, and 80 percent of colonels. Within only sixteen months, 36,761 officers were purged from the army and more than 3,000 from the navy. On the eve of the war with Hitler, only about 7 percent of the Red Army officers had received any higher military education.
5.
D. A. Volkoganov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy ( New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991), 318-29.
6.
The Wallenstein tale had all the ingredients of the Tukhachevsky drama: power, secrecy, immodest ambition, intrigue, betrayal, and the hero's death. Albrecht Wallenstein was a Bohemian soldier who rose through the ranks to become in 1623 the generalissimo of the imperial forces in the Holy Roman Empire and the Low Countries. After many military successes, the Emperor Ferdinand II rewarded his talented commanding general with titles and wealth. Suddenly, in August 1630, at the first indication that Wallenstein had become too independent, the emperor dismissed him. Within three months, Wallenstein was engaged in secret talks with the king of Sweden, one of the emperor's sworn enemies. During negotia-

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