Tuesday, March 9, 2010
A grim tale on a gray day. Mikhael Nikolaevich Tukhachevsky, Red Army commander who led the campaign to retake Siberia from the Whites (Kolchak). Then the Kuban (against Denniken), then Kronstadt. He soon became chief general on the Western Front--advancing almost to Warsaw, where the Bolshevik forces were ultimately defeated by Josef Piłsudski. Historians offer many reasons for this defeat--the Poles were fighting for their own land, their sage French military adviser--the Russian's over-extended supply lines, their errors in strategy (Stalin's attacking Lvov instead of the Polish capital, as Tukhachevsky had ordered). One sees all of this on Tukhachevsky's face, even in an official portrait, wearing a simple rubashka, and standing alone in front of what appears to be an armored train. A predictive painting as well, for in 1935 Stalin accused Tukhachvsky of treason. (It now appears that there was a German plot to implicate him). Soon after this Marshall of the Soviet Union was peremptorily shot.
For many years a story circulated that Tukhachevsky's 12-year old daughter--after her father had disappeared and none in the family knew where or why--was taunted by her classmates about her father's being a "fascist traitor." She was said to have hanged herself. It was later claimed that this was untrue--and that she had been sent instead to a special orphanage for the children of the enemies of the people.
The Red Napoleon...