Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
22nd February, 2016
A solemn meeting on 6th November and the parade on Red Square on November 7th, 1941.
All of the country, with bated breath, was worried about the Moscow Battle. The most difficult was the month of October. The harsh face of our capital city in the fall of 1941 evoked love and pride of the majority of the Russian people. Moscow was closed with sandbagged shop windows of the buildings, balloons in the sky, sirens howling, columns of military and militias walking to the front, the harsh Red Square and the Kremlin simply will forever remain in the memory and in the heart of every person who has seen documentary footage of Moscow in autumn 1941.
Stalin decided to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the great October socialist revolution as it was adopted in 1918 – the ceremonial meeting on November 6th and the parade on Red Square on 7th November. During these days Stalin often appeared on the streets of Moscow. He said: “It will be our street festival!” And the head of security, Vlasick, who was concerned about possible bombings, was told: “Vlasick, don’t worry. Our bombs will not pass us”.
At that time Moscow was the largest industrial and cultural center of not only the USSR but also around the world. It was a city-worker, producing a huge number of products – both high-tech products and products of light and food industries. Products of the Moscow enterprises were characterised by high quality and sold in all the cities of the Soviet Union.
Today Moscow is perhaps even more hard working, but for such a huge city it almost does not produce anything. On 15th October the decision was taken on the departure of Moscow People’s Commissariats (Ministries). People from Moscow continued to be evacuated (2 million people), as well as art and other valuables, and even the sarcophagus with the body of Vladimir Lenin was sent to the distant Tomsk.
In this regard, there is one interesting fact that shows the difference between the Soviet, national and liberal States. When Stalin, at a meeting, asked the remaining People’s Commissars and Politburo members “How are things in Moscow?”, A.I Shakhurin said that in one company, workers resented the non-payment of wages, which the plant manager took. But actually because of the evacuation there was not enough money in the state bank. “Where is Zverev?” – Stalin asked Molotov. “In Kazan,” said Molotov. “Immediately bring money by plane,” Stalin ordered. And it was, when the enemy was near Moscow.
At that time there were cases of the detention of the heads of state authorities for illegally traveling from Moscow, stealing products from stores and other offences that indicated a panic, but there was no big panic in Moscow. Despite the evacuation of a significant number of people, work was quickly established in all spheres of urban life even when the enemy hordes were near the city.
In Moscow there was the GKO supreme command and the minimum necessary administration for operation of the country and the army party, government and military apparatuses. The evacuation was caused by the fact that, according to Stalin, the Germans were ahead of us and brought reserves to break through the front near Moscow. The threat to Moscow was real, but I think that still the Germans would have been defeated in street battles.
But they were prepared just in case, adopting a decision to build a defensive line of three strips: on the District railway, on the garden district and the Boulevard district. Stalin allowed Zhukov to move the headquarters of the Western front from Perkhushkovo away from the front line in Moscow to Belarusian station or to Arzamas, and the military said: “The headquarters will remain in Perkhushkovo, and I’ll stay in Moscow. Goodbye.”
On October 17th the urban radio network appealed to Muscovites Secretary of the Central Committee and Moscow city Committee (MGK) of VKP(b), A.S Shcherbakov, who reported on the situation at the front near Moscow and declared that Moscow will fight stubbornly, fiercely, until the last drop of blood. He also brought to the attention of the Muscovites the very significant fact that contributed to the stabilization of the situation in the city: Stalin in Moscow.
After this message the Muscovites were not so fearful of the Panzer divisions of Guderian and Hoth, located near Moscow, and went to fight as volunteers in the militia, working day and night to protect the capital. Whoever says that Moscow could have handed it over to the enemy does not understand that in 1941 Moscow was the capital of the USSR, which, in the event of capture, Hitler promised to wipe off the earth together with the people inhabiting it.
In 1812 the capital of Russian Empire was St. Petersburg, and references to the decision to move it to Moscow, adopted in the 19th century, do not correspond to the realities that existed in different times.
Stalin, as always, was seasoned, calm and demanding. After receiving the report of Zhukov that the Germans suffered heavy casualties, were forced to regroup and replenish their forces, to pull back, and so could not advance any further, Stalin took the decision on holding a solemn meeting and a parade. The adoption of this decision was facilitated by the fact that by this time, near Moscow, our aircraft were not inferior to the Germans and together with the air defenses could guarantee that no German plane will attack Red Square.
The proposal of Stalin to hold a parade shocked many officials; Commander of the Moscow military district Lieutenant-General P.A Artemyev spoke out against holding the parade, but the GKO was supported by Stalin, and a final decision was taken for its implementation.
For the solemn meeting on 6th November 1941, in the metro station “Mayakovskaya”, a room was prepared for two thousand seats. Members of the State Defense Committee (GKO) came by train via the subway. The radio all over the country declared: “Moscow speaking! Spread the word of the solemn meeting of the Moscow Soviets…” The country heard that Moscow was still standing and is fighting the enemy.
A presentation was made by Stalin; he talked about the huge losses of people and territory and that the German plan of blitzkrieg, meaning lightning war, torn, about the intention of Hitler and Goering to destroy the Russian people and other Slavic people, about the appeal of the German command to the soldiers to exercise extreme violence against the people of the USSR.
Stalin said: “These people, devoid of conscience and honour, people with the morals of animals, have the audacity to call for the destruction of the great Russian nation, the nation of Plekhanov and Lenin, Belinsky and Chernyshevsky, Pushkin and Tolstoy, Glinka and Tchaikovsky, Gorky and Chekhov, Sechenov and Pavlov, Surikov, Suvorov and Kutuzov! The German invaders want a war of extermination with the people of the USSR. Well, if the Germans want to have a war of extermination, they’ll get it. Now our task… will be to exterminate every single Germans man who made his way to the territory of our Motherland as an occupier. No mercy to the German invaders! Death to the German invaders! Our cause is just – victory will be ours!”
On November 7th, 1941, at 8 o’clock in the morning, Stalin, the party and the government climbed onto the Mausoleum for the historical parade on Red Square in Moscow. The parade started two hours earlier than usual. On the square were Marines, Cadets of the artillery school, the Navy, NKVD troops, militia units, cavalry, artillery, and tanks all lined up. The parade was directed by the Commander of the Moscow military district, General P.A Artemyev, who headed the Moscow defense zone simultaneously.
On the morning of 7th November, Stalin got up early, before dawn. Because of the blackout lights were not burning, and you couldn’t see the snowflakes rushing along the street, but only hear the howling wind and feel the breath of the cold outside the window. Stalin thought about the soldiers that carry all the hardships in the frozen trenches. The day dawned, the wind died down. Stalin and Vlasik went to Red Square. It was snowing. It covered the Spasskaya tower, Kremlin wall, Red Square cobblestones, and in that white outfit it was even more beautiful.
They didn’t want to believe that there is a war at that moment and that very close to Moscow guns were firing on the advancing German tanks, and a young dashing Lieutenant wearing a fur cap commands: “Fire!” Only a cuckoo knows how long this lieutenant had left to live, but it is speechless in this stone-deaf and frozen forest, and we’ll never know the fate of the lieutenant.
At this time in the snowy fields near Moscow, machine and assault guns fired bitingly, artillery guns. It was the sacred battle for our Homeland, for our children, for our wives and mothers, brothers and sisters, for the life of future generations.
The fighting had killed the good Russian people, men, many of which had not yet become fathers, had never known the happiness of being loved, the light of joy to touch the delicate little hands of a child and hearing the word “daddy”. And the people living on the land who defended it, never, in a thousand years, should we forget their sacrifice, of their heroism. If we forget about them, they will die. That is the law of life.
In my poem “Ninth of May” are these lines: “And Russia without them was empty, and the earth groaned with tears, and prayer from the Church flew past gentle Russian birches. They lived to reach Berlin and to take revenge on Germany in the battle for their deceased brothers and sons, and their grief in their eyes.”
Only the people standing in a fight to the death have the right to live on the territory of Russia. Such people will never forget their compatriots who died for freedom and independence of their country. And if you forget, you lose the right to life, and would be weak and helpless in the face of the advancing enemy. It is because the Soviet soldiers fired the machine guns, poured out gunfire on the enemy with rifles, that Moscow lived.
At eight o’clock in the morning the striking of the Kremlin’s chimes were heard. With the last kick of the gates of the Spasskaya tower, Marshal of the Soviet Union S.M Budyonny left on horseback. That parade, as in the past before the war, with Semyon Mikhailovich Budyonny, strengthened faith in the power of the Soviet Union.
Lieutenant-General P.A Artemyev, who, as was mentioned above, commanded the parade, reported on the readiness of troops for parade in honor of the 24th anniversary of the great October socialist revolution. Budyonny was inspecting the troops and congratulating the officers and soldiers on the holiday. Our soldiers in unison answered and dearly shouted: “Hurrah!” To show their determination and willingness to fight and sacrifice for the Motherland they spoke the Russian word for Hurrah.
The morale of the soldiers, their sincerity, youthfulness, generosity and belief in their power had passed onto Muscovites, guests of the capital, members of the party and the government. Then a fanfare played the cue “Listen up!” According to tradition, Budyonny was supposed to speak at the parade, but the floor was taken by Stalin. At first, for security reasons, they planned to broadcast the parade only on radio Moscow, but at the last minute Stalin changed his mind and asked to broadcast the parade throughout the Soviet Union, and the world.
He spoke from the rostrum of the Mausoleum, referring to the inhabitants of the country: “Comrades, Red Army and Red Navy men, Commanders and political instructors, working men and women, collective farmers, workers, intellectuals, brothers and sisters in the rear of our enemy, temporarily fallen under the yoke of the German brigands, our glorious partisans and guerrillas are destroying the rear of the German invaders!
In his speech, Stalin remembered the Civil war and said: “Our country’s industry, food and raw materials are many times richer now than 23 years ago… the Enemy is not as strong as some portray them as frightened intellectuals. They are not the devil they are painted as… the German invaders are straining their last forces. There is no doubt that Germany cannot withstand this strain for long. Several months, six months, maybe a year, and Hitlerite Germany must burst under the weight of their crimes” – (exactly one year later, in November 1942, the victorious offensive of the Red Army began at Stalingrad and ended in Berlin).
He confidently said that the Red Army would soon liberate Europe, the oppressed people of Europe and the whole world look at our soldiers, “As the force capable of destroying the predatory hordes of German invaders,” and continued, addressing the participants of demonstration: “The great liberation mission requires your part. Be worthy of this mission!
The war, which you lead, is the war of liberation, a just war. Let the brave image of our great ancestors inspire you in this war – Alexander Nevsky, Dmitry Donskoy, Dmitry Pozharsky, Kuzma Minin, Alexander Suvorov, Mikhail Kutuzov! Let the victorious banner of the great Lenin overshadow you!”
The parade began. The orchestral division named after Dzerzhinsky, under the baton of the conductor of the military intendant 1st rank A.V Agapkin, who wrote the famous March “Farewell of Slavianka”, played at the military marches. The sounds of those marches took place on Red Square with the 2nd Moscow rifle division, cavalry, artillery, tanks and other troops. Most participants of the parade departed from Red Square straight to the front.
The orchestra fell silent, and the most sincere, the most Russian march “Farewell of Slavianka” for a long time sounded in the hearts of those who were returning from a parade of citizens and members of the party and the government. Before their eyes were open, kind, courageous people leaving for the front of great sons and a great country. Mothers, wives, sisters, children performed the clean sounds of the march “Farewell of Slavianka” on the front, in a terrible battle with the hated enemy of their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers! Millions.
The airwaves of big stations and small stations were soaked in the sounds of the glorious Russian march. Thanks to him, Agapkin, we low bow to all whose hearts remember and honor those hard times of hard trials and great victories. Our whole country, the whole world knew that Moscow did not give up, that Russia was alive and determined to defeat the cruel and powerful enemy. The Soviet people ecstatically listened to the words of Stalin and the news about the parade and solemn meeting in Moscow! Hitler’s gang of criminals, listening to the celebrations on Red Square, went into a rage! The German conquerors were cringing in fear when they heard the words of Stalin: “Death to the German invaders!”.
To be continued…