Grigory Kulik : biography
Grigory Ivanovich Kulik () (November 9, 1890 - August 24, 1950) was a Soviet military commander and was born into a peasant family near Poltava in Ukraine.
A soldier in the army of the Russian Empire in World War I, he joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917 and the Red Army in 1918. During the Russian Civil War he become a commander in the Soviet artillery at Tsaritsyn and other battles.
In 1937 Kulik became head of the Red Army's Main Artillery Directorate, and remained commander of the Soviet artillery forces until 1941. He was both a sycophantic Stalinist and a radical military conservative, strongly opposed to the reforms proposed by Mikhail Tukhachevsky during the 1930s. For this reason he survived Stalin's Great Purge of the Red Army in 1937-38, and in 1939 he became Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, also taking part in the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland in September. He led the Soviet's artillery attack on Finland at the start of the Winter War, which quickly foundered under his poor leadership. He was awarded the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union" in recognition of "outstanding services to the country and personal courage," Current Biography 1942, pp474-75
On May 8, 1940, Kulik was named a Marshal of the Soviet Union, along with Semyon Timoshenko and Boris Shaposhnikov. He had a reputation as an incompetent officer, a "murderous buffoon", and a bully, but his closeness to Stalin put him beyond criticism. He could not protect his wife though, Kira Simonich, who two days before Kulik's promotion had been kidnapped on Stalin's orders. She was subsequently executed by Vasili Blokhin.Sebag-Montefiore 293-4, 332
One of Kulik's few positive historical anecdotes was his successful (and uncharacteristic) advocacy for the lives of over 150,000 enlisted Polish POWs, captured during the September 1939 Invasion of Poland. Stalin, concerned with invasion from Nazi Germany, had ordered all of the captured Poles to be summarily executed as potential fifth-columnists; his decision was supported by Lev Mekhlis, Polish Front Commissar, and Lavrenti Beria, chief of the NKVD. Kulik, commander of the Polish Front, twice strongly argued with Stalin for their release, eventually extracting the concession that only the officers—26,000—would be executed, with the over 150,000 common enlisted men being let go.
Despite Mekhlis and Beria's protests, the enlisted men were dutifully released. The 26,000 officers were executed less than a month later by Stalin's order (many at the hands of NKVD executioner Vasili Blokhin) in the Katyn Massacre.Sebag-Montefiore, 333.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Kulik took command of the 54th Army on the Leningrad front.John Erickson, Road to Stalingrad, 2003 Cassel Military Paperbacks edition, p.254 Here his incompetence caught up with him, and he presided over heavy Soviet defeats that resulted in the city of Leningrad being surrounded and necessitating that General Georgi Zhukov be rushed to the front in order to stabilize the defenses. In March 1942 he was court-martialed and demoted to the rank of Major-General. His status as one of Stalin's cronies saved him from the firing squad that was the fate of other defeated Soviet generals. In April 1943 he became commander of the 4th Guards Army. From 1944 to 1945 he was Deputy Head of the Directory of Mobilization, and Commander of the Volga Military District.
Artillery Directorate chief
Kulik's continued close ties to Voroshilov, one of only two of the original five Marshals to survive the Great Purge, led to him being appointed chief of the Main Artillery Directorate in 1935. Responsible for overseeing the development and production of new tanks, tank guns and artillery pieces, Kulik's fundamental ignorance in his field of expertise—coupled with his abusive, bumbling personality and tendency to condemn technological advancements as "bourgeois sabotage"—would prove a serious hindrance to the Red Army's ability to modernize itself prior to the war with Germany.
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