Kliment Voroshilov


Kliment Voroshilov : biography

4 February 1881 – 2 December 1969

He was the Head of Leningrad Police between 1917 and 1918.

Political career

Voroshilov was elected to the Central Committee in 1921 and remained a member until 1961. In 1925, after the death of Mikhail Frunze, Voroshilov was appointed People’s Commissar for Military and Navy Affairs and Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR, a post he held until 1934. His main accomplishment in this period was to move key Soviet war industries east of the Urals, so that the Soviet Union could give up vast amounts of land to an invader but still keep its war-making capability intact. Frunze’s position was compatible with the Troika (Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Stalin), but Stalin preferred to have a close ally in charge (as opposed to Frunze, a "Zinovievite"). Frunze was urged to have surgery to treat an old stomach ulcer. He died on the operating table of an overdose of chloroform, an anesthetic. Stalin’s critics charge that the surgery was used to disguise the assassination of Frunze. Voroshilov was made a full member of the newly formed Politburo in 1926, remaining a member until 1960.

Voroshilov was appointed People’s Commissar for Defence in 1934 and a Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1935. Voroshilov played a central role in Stalin’s Great Purge of the 1930s, denouncing many of his own military colleagues and subordinates when asked to do so by Stalin. He went so far as to write personal letters to exiled former Soviet officers and diplomats such as Mikhail Ostrovsky to return voluntarily to the Soviet Union, reassuring them that they would not face retribution from authorities (they did). Voroshilov personally signed 185 documented execution lists, fourth among the Soviet leadership after Molotov, Stalin and Kaganovich.http://stalin.memo.ru/images/intro1.htm

During World War II, Voroshilov was a member of the State Defense Committee. Voroshilov commanded Soviet troops during the Winter War from November 1939 to January 1940, but, due to his poor planning and overall incompetence, the Red Army suffered about 185,000 casualties. When the leadership gathered at Stalin’s dacha at Kuntsevo Stalin shouted at Voroshilov who replied in kind, blaming the failure on Stalin for killing the Red Army’s best generals in his purges. Voroshilov followed this by smashing a platter of roast suckling pig on the table. Nikita Khrushchev said it was the only time he ever witnessed such an outburst.Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev Remembers, London, 1971, p.137 Voroshilov still became the scapegoat for the initial failures in Finland. He was later replaced as Defence Commissar by Semyon Timoshenko. Voroshilov was then made Deputy Premier responsible for cultural matters.Sebag Montefiore, Simon 2004 Stalin The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix London ISBN 0-7538-1766-7 pp340-1

Voroshilov initially argued that thousands of Polish army officers captured in September 1939 should be released but later signed the order for their execution Katyn massacre. Vasili Blokhin of the NKVD personally shot 7000 of them in 28 nights using German Walther pistols.Sebag Montefiore, Simon 2004 Stalin The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix London ISBN 0-7538-1766-7 pp337-9

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Voroshilov was made commander of the short-lived Northwestern Direction, controlling several fronts. In September 1941 he commanded Leningrad Front. Working alongside military commander Andrei Zhdanov as German advances threatened to cut off Leningrad he displayed considerable personal bravery in defiance of heavy shelling at Ivanovskoye; at one point he rallied retreating troops and personally led a counter-attack against German tanks armed only with a pistol.Stalin’s folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of WWII on the Eastern Front, Constantine Pleshakov, 2006, Failing to prevent the Germans from surrounding Leningrad however, he was dismissed from that post and replaced by the far abler Georgy Zhukov on 8 September 1941.Sebag Montefiore, Simon 2004 Stalin The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix London ISBN 0-7538-1766-7 pp391-95