The Front Commanders

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Lieutnant-General N. F. Vatutin
Commander of the South-West Front

Lieutnant-General W.N. Gordov
Commander of the Stalingrad Front.
Gordov became Deputy of the Stalingrad Front
when Yeremenko takes over the command of the 
Stalingrad Front and the South East front.
(August 13th, 1942).

Colonel General A.I. Yeremenko - South-East 
Front. He became Commander of the South
East and the Stalingrad Front August 13th, 1942.

Nikita Khrushchev (right) Politic Commissar at the 
Stalingrad Front.

Nikita Khrushchev

(b. April 17 [April 5, old style], 1894, Kalinovka, Ukraine, Russian Empire--d. Sept. 11, 1971, Moscow), first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1953-64) and premier of the Soviet Union  (1958-64) whose policy of destalinization had widespread repercussions
throughout the Communist world. In foreign policy he pursued a policy of "peaceful coexistence." (see also Index: de-Stalinization)

Unlike Lenin and many other Soviet leaders, who had generally
middle-class backgrounds, Khrushchev was the son of a miner; his grandfather had been a serf who served in the tsarist army. After a village  education, Khrushchev went with his family to Yuzovka (later named Stalino, now Donetsk), a mining and industrial centre in the Donets Basin, where he began work as a pipe fitter at the age of 15. Because of his factory employment, he was not conscripted in the tsarist army during
World War I. Even before the Russian Revolution of 1917, he had become active in workers' organizations, and in 1918--during the struggle between Reds, Whites, and Ukrainian nationalists for possession of the Ukraine--he became a member of the Russian Communist Party

 In January 1919 he joined the Red Army and served as a junior political commissar, ultimately in the campaigns against the Whites and invading Polish armies in 1920. Soon after he was demobilized his wife, Galina, died during a famine. In 1922 Khrushchev secured admission to a new Soviet worker's school in Yuzovka, where he received a secondary
education along with additional party instruction. He became a student political leader and was appointed secretary of the Communist Party Committee at the school. There he married his second wife, Nina Petrovna, a schoolteacher, in 1924.

 In 1925 Khrushchev went into full-time party work, as party secretary of the Petrovsko-Mariinsk district of Yuzovka. He distinguished himself by his hard work and knowledge of mine and factory conditions. He soon came to the notice of Stalin's close associate, Lazar M. Kaganovich, secretary general of the Ukrainian Party Central Committee, who asked Khrushchev to accompany him as a nonvoting delegate to the 14th Party
Congress in Moscow. For the next four years--in Yuzovka, then in  Kharkov and Kiev--Khrushchev was active as a party organizer. In 1929 he received permission to go to Moscow to study metallurgy at the Stalin Industrial Academy. There he was appointed secretary of the academy's Party Committee. In 1931 he went back to full-time party  work in Moscow. By 1933 he had become second secretary of the Moscow Regional Committee.

 During the early 1930s Khrushchev consolidated his hold on the Moscow party cadres. He supervised the completion of the Moscow subway, for which he received the Order of Lenin in 1935. That year he became first secretary of the Moscow party organization--in effect, the mayor of Moscow. In the preceding year, at the 17th Party Congress, he had been elected a full member of the 70-man Central Committee of the Soviet Party.

Khrushchev was a zealous supporter of Stalin in those years and participated in the purges of party leadership. He was one of three provincial secretaries who survived the executions of the Yezhovshchina, a period that took its name from the head of the Soviet security forces. He became an alternate member of the ruling Presidium in 1935, a member of the Constitutional Committee in 1936, and a member of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Supreme Soviet in 1937. A year later
 Khrushchev was made a candidate member of the Central Committee's Politburo and sent to Kiev as first secretary of the Ukrainian party  organization, and in the following year he was made a full member of the  Politburo.

 In 1940, after Soviet forces had occupied eastern Poland, Khrushchev presided over the "integration" of this area into the Soviet Union. His principal objective was to liquidate both Polish and Ukrainian separatist  movements, as well as to restore the Communist Party organization, which had been shattered in the purge. This work was disrupted by the
 German invasion in June 1941. Khrushchev's first wartime assignment was to evacuate as much of the Ukraine's industry as possible to the east. Thereafter, he was attached to the Soviet Army with the rank of lieutenant general; his principal task was to stimulate the resistance of the civilian population and maintain liaison with Stalin and other members of
the Politburo. He was political adviser to Marshal Andrey I.
Yeryomenko during the defense of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and to Lieut. Gen. Nikolay F. Vatutin during the huge tank battles at Kursk.

After the liberation of the Ukraine in 1944, Khrushchev worked to restore the civil administration and to bring that devastated country back to a subsistence level. A famine in 1946 was probably the worst in the Ukraine's history; Khrushchev fought to restore grain production and to
distribute food supplies, against Stalin's insistence on greater production from the Ukraine for use in other areas. During this period Khrushchev made firsthand acquaintance with the problems of Soviet agricultural scarcity and planning. In 1949 Stalin called him back to Moscow, where he took over his old job as head of the Moscow City Party and concurrently was appointed secretary of the All-Union Central Committee.

The period 1949-53 was far from pleasant for Khrushchev and other members of the Soviet leadership, who found themselves pawns in Stalin's palace politics. Khrushchev moved more and more into agriculture, where he began his schemes for the agrogorod ("farming town") and larger state farms at the expense of the conventional collectives.

After Stalin's death and the execution of deputy prime minister and state security chief, Lavrenty Beria, Khrushchev engaged in a power struggle with Georgy Malenkov, Stalin's heir apparent, and gained the decisive margin by his control of the party machinery. In September 1953 he replaced Malenkov as first secretary and in 1955 removed Malenkov from the premiership in favour of his handpicked nominee, Marshal Nikolay A. Bulganin.

In May 1955, when Khrushchev made his first trip outside the Soviet Union--to Yugoslavia with Bulganin--he began to show his flexibility; he apologized to Tito for Stalin's denunciation of Yugoslav Communism in 1948. Later, in trips to Geneva, Afghanistan, and India, he began to  exhibit a brash, extroverted personal diplomacy that was to become his
trademark. Although his attacks on world capitalism were virulent and primitive, his outgoing personality and peasant humour were in sharp contrast to the picture earlier Soviet public figures had cultivated.

On Feb. 24-25, 1956, during the 20th Party Congress in Moscow, Khrushchev delivered his memorable secret speech about the excesses of Stalin's one-man rule, attacking the late Soviet ruler's "intolerance, his brutality, his abuse of power." The spectacle of the First Secretary of the Communist Party exposing the wrongful executions of the Great Purge of
the 1930s and the excesses of Soviet police repression, after years of  fearful silence, had far-reaching effects that Khrushchev himself could barely have foreseen. The resulting "thaw" in the Soviet Union saw the release of thousands of political prisoners and the "rehabilitation" of manythousands more who had perished.

The destalinization movement had repercussions in the Communist countries of eastern Europe. Poland revolted against its government in October 1956. Hungary followed shortly afterward. Faced with open revolution, Khrushchev flew to Warsaw on October 19 with other Soviet
leaders and ultimately acquiesced in the Polish leader Wladyslaw Gomulka's national Communist solution, which allowed the Poles a great deal of freedom. Khrushchev's shared decision to crush the Hungarian Revolution by force came largely because of the Hungarian premier Imre
 Nagy's decision to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. With this sanguinary exception, however, Khrushchev allowed a considerable amount of freedom to the European Communist parties.

The stresses in eastern Europe helped crystallize opposition to
Khrushchev within the Soviet Party. In June 1957 he was almost overthrown from his position, and, although a vote in the Presidium actually went against him, he managed to reverse this by appealing to the full membership of the party Central Committee. In the end he secured the permanent disgrace of Malenkov, Vyacheslav M. Molotov, and others, who were labelled members of the antiparty group. In October he
dismissed Marshal Georgy Zhukov from his post as minister of defense, and in March 1958 he assumed the premiership of the Soviet Union.

Confirmed in power, Khrushchev widely asserted his doctrine of peaceful coexistence, which he had first enunciated in a public speech at the 20th Party Congress. In opposition to old Communist writ, he stated that "war is not fatalistically inevitable." At the 21st Party Congress in 1959 he said: "We offer the capitalist countries peaceful competition."
His visit to the United States in 1959, where he toured cities and farms with the ebullience of a politician running for office, was a decided success, and the "spirit of Camp David," in Maryland, where he  conferred with Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, brought Soviet-American relations to a new high. A long-planned summit conference with Eisenhower in Paris in 1960 broke up, however, with Khrushchev's announcement that a U.S. plane (a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft) had
been shot down over the Soviet Union and its pilot captured. In 1961 his Vienna conference with the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, led to no agreement on the pressing German question; the Berlin Wall was built shortly thereafter.

Soviet success in lofting the world's first space satellite in 1957 had been followed by increased missile buildups. In 1962 Khrushchev attempted to emplace Soviet medium-range missiles in Cuba. During a tense confrontation in October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union apparently stood on the brink of war, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles on the promise that the United States would make no
further attempt to overthrow Cuba's Communist government. The Soviet Union was attacked by the Chinese Communists for this settlement. The Sino-Soviet split, which began in 1959, reached the stage of public denunciations in 1960. China's ideological insistence on all-out "war against the imperialists" and Mao Tse-tung's annoyance with Khrushchev's coexistence policies were exacerbated by Soviet refusal to assist the Chinese nuclear weapon buildup and to rectify the
 Russo-Chinese border. The Soviet Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with the United States in 1963, although generally welcomed throughout the world, intensified Chinese denunciations of Soviet "revisionism." 

 During Khrushchev's time in office, he had to rudder constantly between popular pressures toward a consumer-oriented society and agitation by intellectuals for greater freedom of expression; these were offset by the growing fear of the Soviet bureaucracy that reform would get out of hand. Khrushchev himself was uneasy with intellectuals, and he sanctioned the repression of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago (1957)
within the Soviet Union, culminating in the refusal to allow Pasternak to accept the Nobel Prize in 1958. On the other hand, Khrushchev  permitted the 1962 publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, with its sweeping denunciation of Stalinist
repression. Meanwhile, for the first time, Soviet tourists were permitted to go overseas, and Khrushchev often seemed amenable to widening exchanges with both Socialist and capitalist countries. 

Khrushchev's desire to reduce conventional armaments in favour of nuclear missiles was bitterly resisted by the Soviet military. His often high-handed methods of leadership and his attempted decentralization of the party structure antagonized many of those who had supported his rise to power. The central crisis of Khrushchev's administration, however,
was agriculture. An optimist, he based many plans on the bumper crops  in 1956 and 1958, which fuelled his repeated promises to overtake the United States in agricultural as well as in industrial production. He  opened up more than 70,000,000 acres of virgin land in Siberia and sent thousands of labourers to till them; but his plan was unsuccessful, and the
Soviet Union soon again had to import wheat from Canada and the United States.

The failures in agriculture and the China quarrel, added to his arbitrary administrative methods, were the major factors in Khrushchev's downfall.
 On Oct. 14, 1964, the Central Committee accepted Khrushchev's request to retire from his position as the party's first secretary and chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union because of "advanced age and poor health."

For almost seven years thereafter, Khrushchev lived quietly in Moscow and at his country dacha as a special pensioner of the Soviet government.
He was mentioned in the Soviet press occasionally and appeared in public only to vote in Soviet elections. The one break in this ordered obscurity came in 1970 with the publication of his memoirs in the United States and Europe, although not in the Soviet Union.

Almost 48 hours elapsed after his death before it was announced to the Soviet public. He was denied a state funeral and interment in the Kremlin  wall, although he was allowed a quiet burial at Novodevichy Convent Cemetery in Moscow.

For the Soviet Union and indeed for the entire world Communist movement, Nikita Khrushchev was the great catalyzer of political and social change. In his seven years of power as first secretary and premier, he broke both the fact and the tradition of the Stalin dictatorship and established a basis for liberalizing tendencies within Soviet Communism.
 Khrushchev was a thoroughgoing political pragmatist who had learned his Marxism by rote, but he never hesitated to adapt his beliefs to the political urgencies of the moment. His experience with international realities confirmed him in his doctrine of peaceful coexistence with the non-Communist world--in itself a drastic break with established Soviet Communist teaching. He publicly recognized the limitations as well as the power of nuclear weapons, and his decision to negotiate with the United
States for some form of nuclear-testing control was of vast importance. At the same time, Khrushchev's rough empathy with the Soviet people resulted in concessions to a consumer economy and in a general  relaxation of security controls, which had equally far-reaching effects. Despite his repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, his acceptance of "different roads to Socialism" led to growing independence among
 European Communist parties, but his Russian nationalism and his suspicion of Mao Tse-tung's Communism helped create an unexpectedly deep fissure between China and the Soviet Union. By the time he was removed from office, he had set up guidelines for and limitations to Soviet policy that his successors were hard put to alter.

The cautious handling of his death announcement reflected his increasingp opularity in his last years, both in the Soviet Union and the outside world, as many contrasted his consistent, if occasionally stormy, peaceful-coexistence diplomacy with the more restricted and conservative policy of his successors. At the time of his death it was widely felt that the basic changes in Soviet life made under his regime would be hard to uproot and might indeed result in ultimate changes in the pattern of Soviet society and world power relationships. Whatever the view of his personal eccentricities, his boisterousness, his vulgarity,
 and his bewildering shifts, he was accounted a man of stature. As his son Sergey pronounced in a short eulogy at the cemetery, "There were those who loved him, there were those who hated him, but there were few who would pass him by without looking in his direction."



Colonel-General K.K. Rokossovsky
Commander of the Don Front

Rokossovsky also spelled ROKOSSOVSKII (b. Dec. 21 [Dec. 9, old  style], 1896, Velikiye Luki, Russia--d. Aug. 3, 1968, Moscow), Soviet  military commander noted for his role in the Battle of Stalingrad (1942-43).

 The son of a railroad engineer, Rokossovsky served in the imperial army as a noncommissioned officer in World War I. In 1917 he joined the Red Army and served in the Civil War, rising through the ranks to various Far Eastern commands. In 1938 during the Stalinist purges he was  imprisoned but was released upon the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 because his military talents were needed. During World War II Rokossovsky had major roles in the battles at Moscow (1941),
 Stalingrad, and Kursk (1943), as well as in the Soviet drives into Byelorussia (1944), east Prussia, and Pomerania (1945). He won his greatest renown at Stalingrad when he directed six Soviet armies of the Don River front that, along with other Soviet forces, first trapped and  then annihilated the 22 divisions of the German 6th Army.  In 1949 he was named Soviet defense minister and deputy chairman of  the Council of Ministers of Soviet-dominated Poland and was accorded
 the title marshal of Poland. He held these positions until the return to  power of former Communist Polish Workers' Party secretary Wladyslaw Gomulka, who had been imprisoned in 1948. Upon his expulsion by  Gomulka (Oct. 28, 1956, on charges of attempting to stage a pro-Soviet coup), Rokossovsky returned to the U.S.S.R., where he was deputy
minister of defense (1956-62) and held various other military posts.