Inside the Soviet Army (VII) by Victor Suvorov (1982)
Inside the Soviet Army (VII) by Victor Suvorov (1982)
At present there are 154 Higher Military Training Colleges in the
Soviet Union. Their courses last for between four and five years. Each
College has about 1,000 students and each therefore turns out between 200
and 250 lieutenants a year. Each has a Major-General, a Lieutenant-General
or even a Colonel-General as Commandant.
In selecting a College one is, of course, completely ignorant of the
choices which are available. Once a year the Army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda
publishes a long list of Colleges, together with their addresses and very
brief explanatory notes on each.
You study this, scratch your head and plump for one of the Colleges
which seems to cater for your interests. However, there are usually several
which specialise in each field of study--thus, for instance, there are seven
tank colleges. Some people choose the one closest to their homes but others
may select one which is far away, in Central Asia or the Far Eastern
Military District, because it is easier to get into.
However, there is so little information in the newspaper that you
cannot even form the vaguest idea of what lies ahead of you. For instance,
in the Tashkent Tank Officers Training College, in addition to the normal
faculties, there is another faculty which trains tank officer cadets for
service with the Airborne Forces. When you pass your examinations, you
receive your officer's shoulder-boards and swear your oath of allegiance and
then you suddenly find, to your great surprise, that you are to begin
parachute training very shortly and that you are going to spend all your
life jumping out of aircraft, until you break your neck.
The Moscow Officers Training College has no faculties at all, the one
in Kiev, although it is in exactly the same category, has both general and
reconnaissance faculties, and in Baku there is a marine infantry faculty. In
Blagoveshchensk there is a specialist faculty which trains officers for work
in Fortified Areas, and in Ryazan, besides a normal faculty, the Airborne
Officers Training College contains a faculty which trains officers for
The young entrant, of course, knows none of this, so he may therefore
end up, quite unintentionally, in a diversionary unit, in the marine
infantry--or, indeed, anywhere else at all.
The situation is the same in the Air Force Officers Training
Colleges--one trains fighter pilots, another pilots for transport aircraft
and a third those who will fly long-range bombers for the Navy. But, of
course, no one will explain this to you before you enter that particular
This is, perhaps, not so bad, but there are many Colleges about which
nothing at all is said. For instance, the Serpukhov Engineer Officers
Training College. If you look at the papers set for its entrance
examinations, you will realise that they are unusually difficult. Some
people are put off by this but it attracts others. If you succeed in gaining
a place there, you will discover, during your second year, that you are
being trained for service with the Strategic Rocket Forces.
Having chosen a College which appears to cater for your interests, even
though you have no real idea what it offers, you should immediately apply to
its commandant, saying that you want to become an officer and explaining
what you want to do, attach your school-leaving certificate, references from
your school and from the Komsomol and send everything off as quickly as
possible to the College. In due course you will be summoned to sit the
My own choice was straightforward--the Kharkov Guards Tank Officers
Training College. I scribbled my way through four exams, without particular
difficulty. They tested me to find out what level I had reached at school,
but it was clear that the standard of my knowledge was not particularly
important and that they were more interested in my speed of reaction, in my
general level of development and in the range of my interests. More
important than the written tests were the medical examinations and the tests
of physical development. Secretly, before candidates were summoned to the
examinations, of course, enquiries about them had been made with the local
KGB offices; nothing was done until these were completed. The decisive part
of the selection process, however, was a discussion which lasted for several
hours, during which one's suitability--or lack of it--for commissioned rank
in the Soviet Army was explored. The assembly line moves fast. Three or four
applications are usually received for each vacancy. Every evening there is a
parade, at which one of the officers reads out the names of those who have
been given a place and of those who have been rejected. Every morning, a new
batch of hopefuls arrives and every evening, after a week spent at the
College, groups of disappointed would-be entrants leave. If they have not
done their military service they will be called up before long.
I was successful and joined a battalion--300 strong of young,
shaven-headed new cadets. We were divided into three companies, each of
three platoons. We were commanded by a lieutenant-colonel, who had a major
as his deputy and political officer. The companies were commanded by majors,
the platoons by captains and senior lieutenants. At that point we had no
sergeants. In my own platoon of 33, only one had done his military service.
All the rest had come straight from school. Evidently, not many of those who
had already had the opportunity to see how an officer lived wished to take
up the army as a career. The first night after the battalion had been formed
we found ourselves on a troop train, in goods wagons. No one knew where we
were going. We travelled for three whole days and then we arrived at a
training division. Most of us had only the vaguest idea what this meant, but
one cadet, who had already served in the army for two years, became quite
agitated. He had certainly not expected this. During his army service with a
tank unit, he had been a loader and he had therefore escaped service with a
training division, but he had heard a lot about such units. And now he found
himself in one, with a contingent of scum.
The battalion now acquired sergeants--of the type who run training
divisions--and life began to gather speed. Reveille, PT, training exercises,
disgusting food, cold, night alerts. And together with this, came orders
such as `Take a matchstick, measure the corridor with it, and then come and
tell me how long the corridor is'. Or, `Take your toothbrush and clean out
the latrine. Report to me on the progress you've made by dawn'.
No higher education for you for the present, my friends; first we must
make good soldiers out of you!
A training division knocks all the independence and insubordination out
of you. You learn a lot while you are there. You are taught to understand
others and to represent them. You learn how to recognise scoundrels and how
to find friends.
The first lesson which you learn is that soldiers and future officers
must not be afraid of tanks. During each of the first few days you spend
several hours getting used to them. At first it is easy--you lie at the
bottom of a concrete-lined trench while a tank roars round and round above
your head, crushing the concrete with its tracks as it does so. Then things
get a bit more complicated--you are told that you are to take shelter in an
unlined slit trench, which you are to dig. You are told that, provided you
make the trench narrow enough, you will be safe. However, you are also told
to cover your head with your tunic, so that if the trench should cave in,
you will have a few lungfuls of air, which should be enough to enable you to
dig yourself out. Next, you are told that you will be given one and a half
minutes to dig your trench--and to jump into it, curled up like a hedgehog.
You can see the tank, waiting not far away. Both of you are given the signal
to start at the same moment. You start digging like a mole, as the tank
bears down on you...
And so you carry on, day after day, sweating your guts out, until you
have spots in front of your eyes, until you vomit from fatigue, until you
collapse with exhaustion.
There is a lot more fun to be had during the training, besides your
introduction to tanks--napalm, gas, rubber protective clothing worn in the
blazing sun, barbed-wire obstacles
`Accursed barbed wire obstacle
Creation of the 20th century
By the time a man has climbed across you
He is no more than half a man'
--and the eternal pressure to save seconds. And the constant uncertainty...
After six months we finish the training course and the time for
assessment irrives. Hitherto, we have worn ordinary soldiers'
shoulder-boards, but now, after the course, we are given black velvet ones
with the gold stitching and the red piping of the cadets of a Tank Officers
Training College. But not all of us get these. Forty out of our 300 received
the shoulder-boards of junior sergeants and were sent off to become tank
commanders and tank gunners. Our College did not ever want to see them
darken its doors again.
The battalion was re-formed. Now it had only two companies, each of 130
cadets. We were sent back to the College for the next three and a half
The life of a cadet at a College is very little different from the one
he led in the training division. The shoulder-boards are different, it is
true, and he receives 10 rubles a month instead of 3. (In his third year he
receives 15 and in his fourth 20.) And the food is better. But every College
has a training centre. A cadet spends one or two weeks at the College
studying theory--both military and civil. Then he goes to the training
centre for the next one or two weeks. There he spends his time driving,
shooting, doing night exercises, platoon engagements, encounter battles with
tank companies, more driving, more familiarisation exercises with tanks and
with napalm. More pressure to save seconds. More uncertainty.
You are constantly driven out of the College. The time you spend there
only counts towards your army service if you are there for medical reasons.
But since everyone is robustly healthy, this really does not apply.
One night, my friend Pashka Kovalev, who was already in his fourth
year, with three months to go before he graduated, broke out of barracks. He
had a girl-friend in Kharkov. He was away for three hours. He managed to get
through the barbed-wire and other obstacles on his way back in without being
spotted and he slipped quietly into bed. Before leaving, he had put his
rolled greatcoat into the bed, and had laid out his dress uniform and boots
beside it, in accordance with regulations. As a rule, anyone carrying out a
kit inspection during the night would be sure to check that all footwear was
properly displayed. But Pashka was clever--he made his unauthorised trip in
Reveille, PT, and breakfast went by without incident. Then came the
review period. There were about a thousand of us on parade. We stood,
freezing, and listened to a string of orders issued by different
authorities. These were read out in order of seniority: first came those
from the Minister of Defence, then others from the Commander of the Military
District, more from his director of training and, finally, those issued by
the College Commandant. Suddenly, and without warning, Pashka was called out
of the ranks and an order for his expulsion was read. His velvet
shoulder-boards were ripped off and replaced with those worn by a private
soldier. His absence had been detected by a surprise check during the night.
The cadets who had been on guard duty that night were immediately arrested
and thrown in the cells for ten days. Others were being woken up to take
their place, as the commission which had made the check departed. They were
told nothing of what had occurred. Pashka returned towards morning, crept in
through a window in the latrines and got back into his bed. He did not
realise that the guard had been changed and assumed he had got away with it.
But, while he was breaking in, the order for his expulsion was being already
drafted by the staff. It took no account of the four years he had spent at
the College--four years which had made him feel that he was already almost
an officer. He was sent to the training division at which we began our
Long afterwards, I heard that he had not been able to endure life in
the training division, that he had finally refused to obey orders and had
hit a sergeant. For this he was sent to a penal battalion for two
years--which did not, of course, count as part of his military service.
After this he would have been returned to the unit which had sent him to the
penal battalion--the training division. Whether he ever did go back I do not
know--I never heard anything more about him.
Duties and Military Ranks
I knocked on the door, waited for permission to enter and went in. The
regimental commander, Colonel Dontsov, was standing. Despite this, a major,
whom I did not recognise, was sitting by his side. I saluted smartly,
clicking my heels as I did so.
`Comrade Colonel, may I have permission to make my report?'
`Ask the Major for permission.'
I turned quickly to the Major.
`Excuse me, Comrade Major, I am Senior Lieutenant Suvorov. May I report
to Colonel Dontsov?'
The major nodded, expressionlessly. I report to the colonel on a duty
trip I had just finished. He asked a few questions and then nodded, showing
that he had no more to say. I again turned to the major.
`Comrade Major, may I have permission to leave?'
He said that I might go. I turned and went out.
The situation had been clear to me from the moment I entered. While I
had been away from the unit, an officer of greater importance than our
regimental commander had arrived, as his superior (and therefore also mine).
If this major was more important than the commander of a regiment, he must
be the equivalent of at least a deputy divisional commander.
In the corridor I met one of the orderly room clerks and I asked him,
`Who's this new major, who is lording it over the boss?'
`He's an important man,' said the clerk, with some awe. `He is the new
divisional chief of staff, Major Oganskiy.'
I whistled: from now on I knew whom to salute, whom to click my heels
The system of awarding military ranks in the Soviet Army is a fairly
simple one, but it is different from those used elsewhere and therefore
needs to be explained.
The system came into use during the war--effectively at the time of the
battle for Stalingrad. In other words, it dates from the time when the
Soviet Union first began to aspire to become a super-power. It is designed
to take maximum advantage of the rivalry between the officers on each rung
of the promotion ladder and to ensure that advancement comes as quickly as
possible to the staunchest supporters of the regime--the hardest, most
callous, most masterful and most competent.
To achieve this, the Soviet system applies the following simple rules:
1. Seniority depends, not on rank but on appointment. Only when two
officers have no professional connection with one another, is seniority
determined by rank.
2. An officer's eligibility for a higher appointment depends, not on
his rank or length of service, but on his ability to command.
3. The time spent in a particular appointment is not limited in any
way. Thus, an officer may command a platoon for the whole of his service or
he may be given greater responsibility within a few months.
4. The appointment held by an officer makes him eligible for a
particular rank. However, he is not given this rank unless he occupies an
adequately responsible place on the ladder of service and has served for a
given number of years.
The system for the advancement and promotion of officers in peacetime
works in exactly the same way as it did during the war. We will therefore
illustrate it with wartime examples.
Imagine that the deputy commander of a battalion is killed in action. A
replacement is needed without delay. The battalion commander has only a
limited choice. There are three companies in his battalion and the commander
of one of these companies must take his deputy's place. In making his
choice, the battalion commander will ignore an individual's expectations,
his length of service and the number of stars on his shoulderboards. What he
needs, quickly, is the man who, in his opinion, will measure up best to new
responsibilities. Of the three candidates one is, let us say, a captain, the
second a senior lieutenant and the third a lieutenant who arrived recently
from his military training school and who has been in command of his company
for two weeks. The battalion commander knows that the captain is a heavy
drinker, the senior lieutenant is a coward but that the lieutenant is
neither of these. He therefore appoints the lieutenant as his deputy. The
lieutenant will be promoted to a higher rank later, but the two other
officers, with whom he was on equal terms until this moment, are now his
subordinates. Shortly afterwards, the battalion commander is killed, at
which point our lieutenant automatically takes his place, leaving the post
of deputy battalion commander vacant once again. The new battalion commander
must now decide--very quickly--who should fill the vacancy. He could select
the alcoholic captain, although almost anyone else would be better, or he
might choose a lieutenant who is even younger than him, who finished his
training even more recently than he did, but who received better marks at
the training school than he did himself.
Here are some examples from real-life. The first is from 1944, when the
29th Guards Rifle Division found itself in urgent need of a commanding
officer for one of its regiments. Captain I. M. Tretyak was chosen. He was
only twenty-one, but he had three and a half years of continuous service in
action behind him. During these years he had worked his way steadily up the
promotion ladder, having held every rank, one after the other.
Understandably, he tended to be chosen whenever an officer was needed for a
more responsible post. He was promoted later on but for the time being he
commanded the regiment while still a captain. Under his command were eight
lieutenant-colonels, and dozens of majors and captains. Subsequently he
continued up the ladder with the same speed. Today he is a Marshal.
In 1942 the 51st Army was left without a commanding officer. The senior
command decided that the best candidate for this post was Colonel A. M.
Kuznetsov. The brigades and divisions in the army were commanded by
generals, a general commanded each of the corps and, in four cases, had
another general as deputy, the Army's administrative and staff departments
bulged with still more generals, but Colonel Kuznetsov suddenly ascended,
through their midst, to lead them all. He became the commander--he was the
one you had to click your heels to.
The 58th Army, too, was commanded by a Colonel--N. A. Moskvin--in spite
of the fact that there were generals galore on the Army's strength. But it
was Colonel Moskvin to whom they and all their men became answerable, for he
was the man whom the higher command selected as the best officer available.
The situation in peacetime remains exactly as it was during the war. The
time an officer spends doing a particular job is not limited by any rules or
regulations. Young officers arrive from their colleges and are given
platoons. The regimental commander has the right to take one of them and put
him in command of a company--and he can do this after the officer has been
in charge of a platoon for only one day. In his own interests, a regimental
commander will always select the harshest, the most demanding, and the most
dependable of the officers at his disposal for the post.
A divisional commander appoints his deputy battalion commanders and all
officers holding equivalent appointments under him. However, he may only
make his choice from officers who have reached the immediately preceding
grade--that is from among his company commanders but not from the latter's
platoon commanders. In order to rise to the post of deputy battalion
commander, a young officer must first please his regimental commander
sufficiently to be put in charge of a company and then he must find favour
with the divisional commander--without, however, falling out with his
regimental commander, who has enough power to ruin the career of any officer
who is under his command.
An Army Commander can choose his battalion commanders, but these must
come from those who have done the job of deputy battalion commander. The
Commander of a Military District can select and appoint deputies for his
regimental commanders from any of his battalion commanders. Regimental
commanders are appointed by the Minister of Defence.
The same procedure is followed at other levels. The chief of staff of a
Military District appoints battalion chiefs of staff, the Chief of the
General Staff chooses the chiefs of staff for regiments.
All officers higher than regimental commander are appointed by the
Administrative Department of the Central Committee. Appointments senior to
that of divisional commander must also be ratified by the Politburo.
However, the Politburo follows the principle used throughout--seniority is
determined not by rank but by the appointment held--for it was the Politburo
itself which devised this principle.
Each appointment in the Soviet Army is open only to officers of not
more than a certain rank. Thus, a platoon commander may not be more than a
senior lieutenant. Similarly, as regards command appointments:
A company commander may not be more than a captain. A deputy battalion
commander may not be more than a major.
A battalion commander/deputy regimental commander may not be more than
A regimental commander/deputy divisional commander may not be more than
A divisional commander/deputy Army commander may not be more than a
An Army Commander may not be more than a lieutenant-general.
A Front or Military District Commander may not be more than a general
of the Army.
Minister of Defence, Chief of the General Staff, Chief of a Strategic
Direction, Chief of an Armed Service may not be more than a Marshal of the
The Supreme Commander during wartime ranks as Generalissimo of the
The same applies to non-command appointments. Thus:
The chief of staff of a battalion must not be more than a major.
The chief of staff of a regiment must not be more than a
The chief of staff of a division must not be more than a colonel.
The chief of staff of a Army must not be more than a major-general. The
chief of staff of a Front must not be more than a lieutenant-general. The
chief of staff of a Strategic Direction must not be more than a
colonel-general. The chief of the General Staff is a Marshal of the Soviet
In the financial branch, to take a further example, the financial
section of a regiment will be headed by a captain, of a division by a major,
of an Army by a lieutenant-colonel, of a Front or Military District by a
major-general. The senior officer of the entire branch is a colonel-general.
An officer is given an appointment without reference to his rank: he
will receive any promotion due to him subsequently. The following are the
minimum times for which an officer must remain at each rank:
Junior lieutenant1 ... 2 years
Lieutenant ... 3 years
Senior lieutenant ... 3 years
Captain ... 4 years
Major ... 4 years
Lieutentant-colonel ... 5 years
Above this rank there are no fixed terms.
Normally, the graduate of a Higher Military Training College (at which
he has spent 4 years) becomes a lieutenant at 21. In theory, he will reach
the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 19 years. However, in order to receive
each promotion, he must not only serve for the requisite number of years but
he must also be acceptable for an appointment which carries this rank.
If you are a platoon commander, provided that your platoon's
performance is satisfactory, you will automatically become a senior
lieutenant after three years. After three more years you become eligible for
the next rank, that of captain. However, if you are still with your platoon,
not having succeeded in being chosen to command a company, you will not be
promoted. If you are already in charge of a company, or have progressed
still further up the ladder, you will receive your captain's star
immediately. Four years later, the time comes when you can be promoted to
major; provided that you are by now deputy commander of a battalion your
progress will not be held up. If you are still a company commander, you will
have to wait for promotion. If you are never able to show that you are
better than the other company commanders and that you should be promoted
before them, you will never become a major.
In principle, therefore, an officer's appointment opens the way for his
promotion, but promotion only follows after the completion of a certain
number of years' service spent in the preceding rank. If you have ever been
held back, and have lost some years in one particular rank, you will never
catch up. When you are eventually promoted, you will still have to serve for
the prescribed number of years in your new rank before you become eligible
for the next one.
1 This rank is given only to those who have undergone a shorter course
Here is another example from life. In August 1941, General Major A. M.
Vasilyevskiy was appointed to head the Operational Directorate of the
General Staff. At the same time he also became deputy to the Chief of the
General Staff. The Operational (or First) Directorate of the General Staff
is responsible for producing war plans.
This post is one of enormous importance by any standards, not only
those of the Red Army. It is enough to say that it is in this Directorate
that the Soviet Union's 5-year economic plans originate; thereafter, the
Council of Ministers and the State Planning Commission decide how the
requirements of the General Staffs are to be met, before proceeding, with
the highly secret military plan as a basis, to draw up the All-Union Plan,
in both its secret and open variants.
The German intelligence services concluded that the appointment of a
mere colonel to such an august position was an indication that the role of
the General Staff was being reduced in importance. The reason that they made
this mistake was that the Germans did not understand the Red Army's simple
principle--seniority is not determined by rank, but by appointment. Rank
follows appointment, slowly but surely, just as infantry follows tanks which
have suddenly and forcefully broken through into the rear of the enemy.
In fact there was nothing particularly astonishing about the
appointment of the General Major to such a high post: the explanation was,
quite simply, that the Supreme Commander decided that this particular
officer would meet the demands of the job better than anyone else. This
Vasilyevskiy did--within eights months he had become Chief of the General
Since he had risen to so high an appointment, the way to considerable
further promotion was open to him. Stars rained down on his shoulderboards.
He passed quickly through the hierarchy of generals, wearing the four stars
of a General of the Army for a mere twenty-nine days before being promoted
to the rank of Marshal. After the end of the war with Germany he carried out
a brilliant operation in Manchuria, becoming Commander-in-Chief of the Far
Eastern Strategic Direction.
But we must not be misled. The Red Army is an enormous organisation and
not everyone can succeed as Vasilyevskiy did. I have met hundreds of senior
lieutenants who will stay at this rank for the rest of their lives.
In order to achieve high rank you need an appropriately senior
appointment: in order to be considered for such an appointment you must have
completed a course of studies at a Military Academy.
It will be recalled that Higher Military Training Colleges provide a
higher general education but only a medium-level military one. Higher
military education is the province of the Military Academies, of which there
are 13 at present. Among these are the Frunze All-Arms, Armoured, Artillery,
Engineering, Military-Political, Naval, two Air Force, two Rocket, Air
Defence, and Chemical Warfare Academies. Officers spend three years at an
Academy, which may be headed by a Colonel-General, a General of the Army, a
Marshal of one of the arms of service or even the Chief Marshal of a
The road to an Academy is a hard one. First, one must have commanded at
least a company. Secondly, the sub-units under your command must achieve
excellent ratings for two years (which means that you must lay in enough
vodka and proceed to pour it into the commissions which come to check you
until they are afloat with it--assuming, of course, that they consent to
drink with you at all). Thirdly, approval for your application for entry is
required from all your superior officers up to and including your divisional
commander. Any of these officers has the right to stop your application from
going on to his immediate superior. If one of them does so you will have to
wait until the following year and your battalion or company will have to
maintain its excellent record. Finally, you will have to pass examinations,
a medical commission, and interviews and, thereafter, succeed against the
competition within the Academy itself.
Unless an officer manages to secure a place at an Academy, he will
never command more than a battalion. If he is successful, he has three years
of intensive work on a very wide-ranging and detailed curriculum. After
graduation, wide horizons stretch before him. Quite young majors are
frequently made regimental commanders, or, failing that, deputy regimental
commanders, as soon as they have completed the course. Whatever happens the
path upwards is now open.
Towering above all the Academies is the General Staff Academy. Entry to
this is tree of all the competition, examinations, applications and other
problems involved in admission to the others. Everything is done for you by
the Administrative Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU. The
Central Committee selects those who will head the Red Army in the immediate
future from among all the colonels who show promise and who are truly
dedicated to the regime.
Of course, all the entrants to the General Staff Academy have already
studied at a Higher Military Training College and then at the Frunze
Armoured or Air Academies, or at one of the others.
The lowest rank held by entrants is colonel and there are often several
colonel-generals on the current list of those attending. Commanders of
Armies, Military Districts, Groups of Tank Armies, Flotillas and Fleets are
often invited to visit the Academy by the Central Committee.
Having completed his studies at this Academy, a general will rise
higher and higher, leaving his former rivals far behind.
`How fine to be a General' runs a line from a popular song. And,
indeed, seen from below, the life led by a general does seem to be a quite
A Soviet general enjoys a great many privileges. If he wishes, he can
acquire his own harem. Soviet ideology will not stand in his way. Every
divisional commander, every Army, Front and Military District commander has
signal units, communications centres and telephone switchboards under his
command, staffed by attractive girls who have been security-vetted. The
general is their absolute master. He guards them jealously against the
attentions of others.
While I was with the 24th Division, a senior lieutenant who was a
friend of mine, became friendly with an attractive girl from the divisional
communications battalion. He was hauled before an Officer's Court of Honour
which sentenced him to revert to the rank of lieutenant. The girl was
dismissed from the army, immediately. He had to face a charge of having
attempted to penetrate the divisional communications centre, in which there
were secret command channels and she was accused of complicity. Both were
enormously relieved when these accusations were dropped and delighted to
have escaped as lightly as they did. This episode served as a lesson to the
whole division. During the same period, the divisional commander, in order
to ensure that he kept in touch with the girls under his command, organised
a number of them into a shooting team. On their days off, he would pack his
`markswomen' into his car, take them off to the divisional firing range and
train them, personally, there. Imagine the scene--a vast, empty stretch of
country in the Carpathian mountains, a huge area, carefully guarded and
completely shut off from the world. Thickly wooded mountains, rocky slopes
intersected by streams rushing downhill over rapids--without a living soul
for miles around. On Sundays, our general was joined at the range by the
local Party bosses, who used to bring their own girls from Lvov. He trained
them, too. He was quite a man...
On a rather higher level, the entertainment of generals in the Soviet
Army is catered for by professionals. Every Military District, Group of
Forces and Fleet has its own troupe of singers and dancers. These are made
up of professional performers, who are under contract to the Armed Services.
They are subject to military discipline, for they are employees of the Armed
Services just like the Army's doctors, nurses, typists and so forth. The
Army is a more generous employer than any others. The girls in these
ensembles--singers and dancers--are kept continuously and intensively at
work entertaining the command staff. Generals' dachas have long since been
transformed into temples dedicated to the worship not of Marx and Lenin but
of Bacchus and Venus.
Athletically inclined young girls, especially gymnasts, are in special
demand among our military leaders. The Army's Central Sports Club is one of
the largest and richest in the USSR. Girls who have no connection whatsoever
with the Armed Services can join this organisation and have all their living
expenses paid. Sport in the USSR is an entirely professional affair.
Sportsmen or sportswomen are paid, fed, clothed, and given decorations,
accommodation and cars for their services--and the better they are the more
they are paid. But their free and easy life must still be paid for by the
athletes themselves. The girls pay in kind, becoming involved in
prostitution while they are still very young. Those who are most amenable,
as well as those who are most talented, are led by their coaches to the
highest realms of professional sport.
What more can the generals want from life? Their dachas are huge and
luxurious. Marshal Chuykov's dacha, for example, was built for him by two
brigades of engineers, each of four battalions. More than 2,500 men were
involved and they had the use of the best military engineering equipment.
Our military leaders fly off on hunting trips in helicopters, which
they then use to drive game through nature reserves. They are given
everything they need--quarters, cars, and all the cognac and caviare they
want. Surely theirs must be a perfect existence? And yet the number of
senior military leaders who commit suicide is exceptionally high. Of course,
they do not shoot themselves when they become too fat or sated to go on but
when rivals seize them by the throat and wrest their power from them.
During the Great Purge, 33,000 officers with the rank of brigade
commander or above were executed in a single year. `But that was in Stalin's
day' I shall be told--as if the very name of Stalin explains everything. But
even since Stalin's day, generals have not been able to sleep peacefully at
night. They are constantly plagued by uncertainty. Although Stalin is dead
and gone, generals are still being offered up as sacrifices. The first
victim was Lieutenant-General Vasiliy Stalin. He was thrown into a mental
asylum immediately after Stalin's death and there he died, quietly and
quickly. While his father was still alive, no one had diagnosed any
abnormality. He was as strong as a bull; he was the only general of his rank
in the whole Soviet Army who flew jet-planes.
After Stalin's death, Marshal of the Soviet Union Konev shot Marshal of
the Soviet Union Beriya during a session of the Politburo itself. Next,
Marshal of the Soviet Union Bulganin lost his rank and was driven in
disgrace from his position at the head of the Soviet government. There was
also the case of Marshal of the Soviet Union Kulik, demoted to major-general
by Stalin, who had then sent him to prison and announced that he was dead.
After Stalin, Kulik was released from prison and restored to his rank of
lieutenant-general. He was promised promotion to Marshal if he could
organise the design and production of the first Soviet intercontinental
ballistic missile. He succeeded and in 1957 he again became a Marshal of the
Soviet Union, although no explanation of his return from the dead was ever
made public. When he received a telegram from the government announcing this
and congratulating him, Kulik collapsed and died, from a heart attack, at
the rocket range at Kapustin Yar. According to one story, when he received
the telegram he shot himself.
Such has been the fate of various Marshals. The generals fare worse.
They are plagued, endlessly, by uncertainty. In one day, in February 1960,
Khrushchev sacked 500 generals from the Soviet Army.
No Soviet general, and for that matter no Soviet officer or soldier--no
single member of this enormous organisation--has any guarantee that he will
be allowed to retain his privileges, his rank or even his life. They may
drive him out, like an old dog, at any moment: they may stand him against a
wall and shoot him.
Why don't they protest? Why don't they rebel? Can they really enjoy
living like this? Why are they silent?
An excursion guide once showed me an area in a large Western city which
he said was entirely controlled by the Mafia. Prostitutes, drug-peddlers,
shoeblacks, shopkeepers, owners of restaurants, cafes and hotels--all of
them controlled, and protected by the Mafia.
Once we had emerged, unscathed, from this unhappy district, in our
large tourist bus, and felt that we were back in safety, I put these same
questions to our apprehensive guide. Why the hell didn't they protest?
Everyone living there had grown up in freedom and democracy; behind them lay
centuries of freedom of speech, of the press and of assembly. Yet, despite
these centuries-old traditions, the inhabitants were silent. They had a free
press on their side, the population of the entire country, running into many
millions, the police, political parties, parliament, the government itself.
And yet they said nothing. They made no protest.
The society from which I fled is not simply a spacious well-lit prison,
providing free medical care and full employment. It, too, is under the
control of a Mafia. The difference between Soviet society and the Western
city which I visited, is that those who live where I used to live are unable
to turn to the police for help, because the police themselves represent the
mailed fist of our Mafia. The army is another section--the most aggressive
one--of the Soviet Mafia. The government is the ruling body of the Mafia:
parliament is the old people's home in which the aged leaders of the Mafia
are cared for. Press, television, the judges, the prosecutors--these are not
influenced by the Mafia--they are the Mafia.
Smart tourist buses pass through our unhappy capital. The drivers and
guides belong to the Mafia. `Intourist' works for the KGB. `Aeroflot', is
controlled by the military intelligence service, the GRU. Foreign tourists
sit listening to the patter of the guides and wondering with amazement--why
don't they protest? Can they really enjoy living like this? In their place,
they think, I would write to the papers, or organise a demonstration. But
clearly the KGB has stifled inhabitants so that they are unable to protest.
The KGB has driven them to their knees and made them slaves.
My friend, you are right. We are slaves: we are on our knees: we are
silent: we do not protest.
According to the estimates of demographers, based on official Soviet
statistics, the population of my country should have reached 315 million in
1959. Instead, the census showed only 209 million. Only our own government
knows what happened to the missing hundred million. Hitler is said to have
executed 20 million. But where are the others? You must agree that no
criminal organisation in your own country has shown such activity as our
Having brought my countrymen to their knees, the Mafia triumvirate of
the KGB, Party and Army moved on to conquer neighbouring countries. Today
they are busy in your country, in your home town. They have stated openly
that it is their dearest wish to do to the world what they have done to my
country. They make no secret of it.
I spent thirty years of my life on my knees. Then I got up and ran.
This was the only way I could protest against the system. Are you surprised,
my dear Western friend, that I did not demonstrate against the KGB while I
was living there? Well, there is something which surprises me, too. In your
own beautiful country, the KGB, that monstrous organisation, is hard at work
at this very moment, the Soviet Communist Party is subsidising a horde of
paid hacks and crackpots. Soviet Military Intelligence is sending members of
its diversionary units to visit your country, so that they can practise
parachuting on to your native soil. The aim of all this activity is, quite
simply, to bring you to your knees. Why don't you protest?
Protest today. Tomorrow it will be too late.