Letter From Vasily Chuikov to Solzhenitsyn About the Book “GULAG Archipelago”

On February 2nd, 1943, at 16:00, the historic battle of Stalingrad ended. This was an outstanding victory for the Soviet people. Soldiers of the Red Army showed mass heroism, courage and high military skill. 127 people were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. The medal “for the defence of Stalingrad” was awarded to more than 760,000 soldiers and home front workers. Orders and medals were awarded to 17,550 soldiers and 373 Home Guard members.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, 5 enemy armies were defeated, including 2 German, 2 Romanian and 1 Italian. the total losses of the german-fascist troops killed, wounded and captured amounted to more than 1.5 million people, up to 3500 tanks and assault guns, 12 thousand guns and mortars, more than 4 thousand aircraft, 75 thousand cars and a large number of other equipment.

The cream of Hitler’s Wehrmacht found its grave near Stalingrad. The German army has never suffered such a catastrophe before…

Nine decades ago, on April 10th, 1925, Tsaritsyn was renamed Stalingrad by the decree of the presidium of the Central Election Commission of the USSR. Indeed, what kind of Tsar, if for the eighth year the people are building the world’s first state of workers and farmers? In fact, the name of the city was not so noble, it came from the Turkic “sary-chin”“yellow island”.

But during the civil war on the Volga, far from the capitals, the Red Army had to fight to the death for a new life. It was from here, from Tsaritsyn, that the “Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the South of Russia” Denikin intended to launch a “liberation offensive against Moscow”. But the victory remained with the Bolsheviks, with the common people. During all five defences of Tsaritsyn, the Chairman of the Military Council of the North Caucasus Military District was I. V. Stalin.

The new life of the country is the new life of the city on the Volga. Stalingrad is no longer Tsaritsyn. It had been an important transport hub before, but in general it was no different from dozens of county merchant towns. However, there were also the beginnings of a serious industry. Tsarist Russia had enough, but not Lenin’s and Stalin’s Soviet Union!

It is not surprising that during the first five-year plans, Stalin’s city was transformed. On July 12th, 1926, a solemn foundation laying of the Tractor Plant took place on the northern outskirts of Stalingrad.

The Krasny Oktyabr plant (a French-owned joint-stock company before the revolution) was radically reconstructed and turned into a base for the production of high-quality steel.

Stalingrad is a city of workers, students, and engineers. Tractor, pedagogical and medical institutes, as well as design bureaus for tracked vehicles are being created as soon as possible. By 1940, there were dozens of vocational schools and a one-of-a-kind river flotilla for children.

Very soon, the city-worker, the city-innovator will become an example for the world of an unprecedented feat in the fight against fascism.

“Stalingrad will never be restored,” the western allies said, after Germany was fatally defeated in the great battle of the Volga. However, a few years later, the city of Stalin literally rose from the ashes.

Leningrad and Stalingrad, named in honour of the outstanding builders of socialism, by no means accidentally became great symbols of Victory, inscribing their names in the history of Russia and mankind. However, in 1961, the forerunners of the future destroyers of the country of the Soviets tried to erase the name of Stalin from the map, renaming Stalingrad. After 30 years, they reached the renaming of Leningrad.

History, however, is measured not only by “periods of time”, but also by achievements. That is why it is so important – not only out of respect for the past, but also for the sake of future victories – to return the legendary names: not for a tick “for three days”, but for forever!

Tsaritsyn becomes Stalingrad. This was seen by the American Margaret White (one of the best photos of “Life” magazine)

Letter from Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov to Solzhenitsyn in connection with the publication of the book “GULAG Archipelago”

I’m the same age as the century, born in 1900. The son of a farmer of the village of Serebryanye Prudy in the Tula province. My ancestors were arable farmers.

It’s not because of a sweet life that I had to leave my parents’ home in St. Petersburg at the age of 12 to earn money and experience the exploitation of capitalists. My last specialty is as a spur fitter.

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I never thought of being a professional soldier. And if I had been drafted into the tsarist army, my highest rank ceiling would have been a soldier or a sailor, like my four older brothers. But at the beginning of 1918, at the call of Lenin’s party, I volunteered for the Red Army to defend my native Motherland of workers and farmers. I have been a member of the Soviet Army for 56 years. I have the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union.

A communist since 1919. A participant in the civil war and commanded a regiment from the age of 19. I participated in many battles against the white guards and interventionists on the southern and western fronts until the beginning of 1922. After the civil war and before the Great Patriotic War, I also fought against those who wanted to test the power of our Armed Forces with a bayonet. When I read in “Pravda” that today there was a man who attributed the victory at Stalingrad to penal battalions, I could not believe my eyes.

I know that Solzhenitsyn is a Nobel laureate. I do not delve into what circumstances contributed to the assignment of this title to him. But the title of Nobel laureate requires a lot. In my opinion, it is incompatible with ignorance and lies.

In front of me on the table is a book called “Gulag Archipelago”, by A. Solzhenitsyn. I am not familiar with Solzhenitsyn, who, using fictional “facts” (try to check them!), supplies the enemies of peace and progress with a stream of lies and slander against our Motherland and our people.

I can’t stand such slander. Slander against the army that saved humanity from the brown plague and that earned the gratitude of all the progressive people of the world.

Our army is the brainchild of its people. Insulting the army is the greatest crime against the people who created and raised it to protect it from enemies and foes.

On page 90 of “Gulag Archipelago”, Solzhenitsyn writes:

“This is how the Active army was cleansed. But there was also a huge army inactive in the Far East and Mongolia. To prevent this army from rusting was the noble task of the special departments. The heroes of Khalkhin Gol and Khasan began to loosen their tongues when they were inactive, especially since they were now allowed to study Degtyaryov machine guns and regimental mortars, which were still secret from their own soldiers. With such weapons in their hands, it was difficult for them to understand why we in the west were retreating.”

Do you, Solzhenitsyn, and your western friends and bosses not know that the Far Eastern Army, which you call “inactive”, after the civil war and intervention had to repel three times the attack of enemies who probed the power of our Red Army and the entire Soviet Union with bayonets? Have you forgotten the battles on the Far Eastern borders in 1929, 1938 and 1939?

Solzhenitsyn betrays the aspirations of such western and eastern figures as Chamberlain, Daladier, Hoover, Chiang Kai-shek and others, who in the 30s went out of their way to set the Japanese samurai against us and thereby satisfy the greedy appetites of imperialist Japan at the expense of the territories of the Soviet Union.

I know that in 1941 and 1942, the Japanese Kwantung Army deployed twice to our Far Eastern borders in full readiness for an attack. The Kwantung Army concentrated and deployed for an attack for the first time in the autumn of 1941 during the battle of Moscow. The defeat of the Nazis outside the walls of our capital cooled the war-like ardor of the samurai. They were forced to return their troops from the border to their winter quarters.

For the second time, the same, but more reinforced, army prepared for an attack in the autumn of 1942, when the battle of the Volga, near the walls of Stalingrad, was underway. The Kwantung Army was waiting for the signal to attack. The signal was to be the fall of Stalingrad.

Even in this case, Stalingrad held out, and the Japanese military, with our Far Eastern army before them and taught by the bitter experience of Khasan and Khalkhin-Gol, did not dare to attack us and thus open a second front against us in the east.

You, Solzhenitsyn, and your foreign bosses would probably very much like the Soviet government and people to protect their Far Eastern borders with the non-aggression pact concluded with Japan in March 1941, which was no more than a piece of paper in the hands of the aggressors.

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You are silent and deliberately do not want to say about the wisdom of the leadership of the soviet government and the supreme command, which, despite the machinations of the imperialist governments, smashed the enemies in turn. First of all, they defeated the hordes of Hitler, Mussolini, Antonescu and others in the west, and then, fulfilling their allied obligations, they dealt a crushing blow to the Kwantung Army in the Far East and thereby brought imperialist Japan to its knees.

I read further Solzhenitsyn’s narrative. On pages 91 and 92 I see:

“In the same year, after the failures at Kerch (120,000 prisoners), at Kharkov (even more), during a major southern retreat to the Caucasus and the Volga, a very important stream of officers and soldiers who did not want to stand to the death and retreated without permission – those whose shame, according to the immortal Stalin’s order No. 227, the Motherland cannot forgive – was pumped through. This stream, however, did not reach the Gulag: hastily processed by the tribunals of divisions, it was all chased into penal units and disappeared without a trace in the red sand of the front line. This was the foundation cement of the Stalingrad victory. But it did not get into Russian national history, but remained in the private history of the sewage system”.

How could you, Solzhenitsyn, go so far as to slander those who stood to the death and conquered death?! How much poisonous bile must be in the heart and on the lips to attribute victory to penal units, which before and during the battle of Stalingrad did not exist in nature. You are viciously slandering the Soviet Army and people before history and before all mankind.

Do you and your chiefs really think that all the peoples of the world have forgotten how they watched the gigantic battle with bated breath because its outcome answered the question: will the Nazis go further in their quest for world domination, or will they be stopped and turned back?

We, the Stalingrad people, gave the answer to this question. The Nazis did not pass. Their striking forces were crushed because we were cemented by Lenin’s party.

You do not like Stalin’s order No. 227, which armed us, all fighters, to mercilessly exterminate the enemy. But you do not know about the two previous decisions and orders of the Supreme Command Headquarters. Now it is no secret: on July 6th, in order to withdraw the troops of the south-western front from the threat of encirclement, the HQ decided to withdraw these troops to new positions. And when there was a threat of troops on the southern front being encircled, the HQ on July 15th ordered to take them to the Don River.

Yes, we retreated, but we retreated at the command of the HQ and at the same time reinforced the most dangerous areas with our reserves. The withdrawal of our troops by order of the HQ to the Don so turned the head of Hitler, his field marshals and generals that they already considered the Soviet Army defeated and threw the main forces into the Caucasus. But when they came to their senses and began to strengthen the Stalingrad direction, it was too late. The Stalingraders repulsed more than 700 of Hitler’s elite troops’ attacks, crushed his men and equipment, and then inflicted a crushing defeat on all the troops on the southern wing of the Soviet-German front.

You don’t like order no. 227? I know this. You have many like-minded Wehrmacht generals on this issue. General Doerr in his work “The march to Stalingrad” on page 30 writes:

“Stalin’s order was characterised by a style of presentation: a fatherly tone of address to the soldiers and the people… No reproaches, no threats… no empty promises… It had an effect. From about August 10th, an increase in enemy resistance has been observed in all sectors of the front.”

In the same August, the commander of the 14th panzer corps, General von Wietersheim, reported to Paulus:

“Red Army units counterattack, relying on the support of the entire population of Stalingrad… On the battlefield, dead workers lie in their overalls, often clutching a rifle in their numb hands… The dead in work clothes are frozen, bending over the steering wheel of a broken tank. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

You, Solzhenitsyn, made a lie and inflicted a vile insult to those troops that the whole world, all progressive humanity applauded.

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I will remind you of the words of such people who are honoured by all of humanity.

“All-Russian Starosta”, as we affectionately called Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, in his address to the heroes of Stalingrad wrote:

“During this period, you have prevailed over a lot of enemy divisions and equipment. But this is not the only way to express your achievements. The courage of the soldiers and the ability of the commanders to repel the enemy made the enemy’s initiative largely paralysed in certain sections of the front. This is the historical merit of the defenders of Stalingrad.”

You deliberately forgot about the letter of US President Roosevelt, who wrote:

“On behalf of the people of the USA, I present this letter to the city of Stalingrad to mark our admiration for its valiant defenders, whose bravery, fortitude and dedication during the siege from September 13th 1942 to January 31st 1943 will forever inspire the hearts of all free people. Their glorious victory stopped the wave of invasion and became the turning point of the war of the union of nations against the forces of aggression.”

I confess that I feel painfully the insult you have inflicted on us, the Stalingraders. I tell you, because I lived through 200 fiery days and nights, all the time I was on the right bank of the Volga and in Stalingrad.

Perhaps, in your opinion, I, as a soldier sent to a penal unit, was appointed to command the 62nd army, the merits of which our newspaper “Pravda” wrote about on November 25th 1942:

“The petition, which mentions the armies defending Stalingrad, emphasises the special role of the 62nd army, which repelled the main German attacks on Stalingrad, its commander, Lieutenant-General comrade Chuikov V. I. and his main assistants, TT. Colonel Gorokhov, Major-General Rodimtsev, Major-General Guryev, Colonel Balvinov, Colonel Gurtyev, Colonel Saraev, Lieutenant-Colonel Skvortsov, etc., as well as gunners and pilots.”

In your opinion, Solzhenitsyn, it turns out that the guards divisions of Rodimtsev, Guryev, Zholudev and others, consisting of more than 50% of communists and Komsomol members, were “hardened” by penal units?!

Vasily Zaitsev, Stalingrad, 1942

Is it possible that the sniper fighter Vasily Zaitsev, who destroyed about 300 fascists and was the first to utter the words that inspired all the Stalingrad residents “There is no land for us beyond the Volga” was a soldier sent to a penal unit or “hardened” by the penal unit?

Is it possible that Sergeant Yakov Pavlov and a group of fighters of different nationalities led by him, who defended a house for 58 days and nights, which the Nazis never took and put more corpses around this house than when they took the French capital Paris, were good defenders of Stalingrad “hardened” by penal units?

On October 17th, 1917, Yakov Fedotovich Pavlov was born, the hero of the Battle of Stalingrad, the commander of the soldiers who defended Pavlov’s House

Did Lyuba Nesterenko, dying, bleeding from a chest wound – in her hands a bandage, she wanted to help her friend before she died, to bandage the wound, but did not have time – was she also “hardened” by a penalty unit or was she a soldier sent to a penal unit?

Was the glorious son of the Spanish people, Ruben Ibarruri, a soldier sent to a penal unit or “hardened” by the penal unit?

I could cite hundreds, thousands of examples of the heroism and devotion of all Stalingraders in relation to their people and the Leninist party. You, Solzhenitsyn, dared to mock these heroes, pouring out streams of lies and dirt on them.

I repeat again: during the Stalingrad epic, the Soviet Army did not have penal units or other penal sub-divisions. Among the Stalingrad fighters, there was not a single penal unit soldier. On behalf of the living and dead in the battle of Stalingrad, on behalf of their fathers and mothers, wives and children, I accuse you, A. Solzhenitsyn, of being a dishonest liar and slanderer of the heroes of Stalingrad, our army and our people. I am sure that this accusation will be supported by all Stalingrad residents. They will all call you a liar and a traitor.

If you want to make sure of this, then go to Stalingrad, climb Mamayev Kurgan and see the continuous flow of people, pilgrims from many countries, people of many nationalities, walking up the stairs to honour the memory of the heroes. And God forbid you to declare that you are A. Solzhenitsyn!


Oleg Artyushenko

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