861.00 Party, All Union Communist/215: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

111. The text of Voroshilov’s speech delivered on March 13 to the Party Congress was published in the Soviet newspapers on March 15 which appeared late in the afternoon.

Voroshilov began by stating that “bourgeois governments” were attempting to direct Fascist aggression against the Soviet Union. He then cited figures showing the armed strength of other countries, the progress of their rearmament and the increase of the military budgets largely taken from German sources. Voroshilov discussed in detail exclusively on the basis of the comparative percentages the growth and development of the Red Army during the past 5 years. He asserted that the numerical strength of the army as a whole had slightly more than doubled during this period; that the fire power of the Soviet Army corps was superior to that of the army corps of any European army and that the size of the Soviet division had been increased from 13,000 to 18,000 men. He claimed that the number of tanks had increased by 191% light artillery by 34%, medium artillery by 26%, heavy artillery by 85% and anti-aircraft artillery by 169%. (In a subsequent portion of his speech Voroshilov puts the increase in anti-aircraft artillery at 288%). In respect of aviation service, Voroshilov claimed that the number of airplanes had increased by 130% during the last 5 years and that during this period the compositions of the Soviet Air Force had altered considerably; that the proportion of heavy bombers to the total had increased from 10.6% to 20.6%; that of pursuit planes from 12.3% to 30%; the light bombers, combat and scout planes had decreased from 50.2% to 7%. He asserted that in 1934 the bomb load capacity of Soviet aviation in one flight had been 2000 tons of bombs and that at the present time this capacity was slightly more than three times that amount. This fact, he added, should act as a restraining influence on any aggressor who had the intention of attacking the Soviet Union. Voroshilov claimed that in Soviet military airdromes not only pursuit but also bombing planes capable of speed far in excess of 500 kilometres an hour were not a rarity.

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In discussing the personnel of the Red Army, Voroshilov said that the opinions expressed abroad as to the weakening of the Red Army as the result of the elimination of traitors,25 such as Tukhachevski, Egorov, Orlov, and others, had been given the lie by the success of the Soviet Army in the engagement at Lake Khasan26 and added that the Red Army was prepared at any time to repeat in intensified form this lesson. Voroshilov discussed at length the successes of the Soviet military schools; the rise in the material standard of the Red Army; and the program of civil defense against air attack which he characterized as not entirely satisfactory.

In discussing the system of political commissars27 in the army Voroshilov stated that although the most important task of these commissars was the political education of the army along the Marxist lines he added that at the present time they are jointly responsible with the commander for the combat efficiency, administration and morale of the army and that “both the commander and the military commissar will lead their units into action”. He stated in this connection that the number of political workers in the Red Army had increased from 15,000 in 1934 to 34,000 at the present time.

Voroshilov concluded his speech with special emphasis on the military, political, and moral preparedness of the Red Army and asserted that it was fully equipped and prepared to defend the Soviet Union against any attack.

  1. Regarding the trial and execution of eight high Army officers, June 11–12, 1937, see the Chargé’s telegrams No. 113, June 11, 1937, 2 p.m., and No. 117, June 13, 1937, 11 p.m., pp. 378 and 383, respectively.
  2. Engagements with Japanese troops in the area around Lake Khasan and Changkufeng hill near the Manchurian border in late July and early August 1938.
  3. Political, or military commissars were reintroduced into the armed forces by resolution of May 11, 1937, and approved by regulations of May 17, 1937. See telegram No. 105, June 8, 1937, 2 p.m., from the Chargé in the Soviet Union, p. 376.