861.20/502: Telegram

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

508. Reference Embassy’s 499, May 8, 11 a.m.51 Pravda today announces the formation of a Government commission “to recommend candidates for the titles of General and Admiral”. The president of the commission is Voroshilov.52

In a leading editorial devoted to the reintroduction of these military titles Pravda states that the measure is designed “to raise still further the authority of our commanding personnel”. The customary references to military commissars53 are omitted.

One editorial continues:

“The necessity for introducing the titles of Soviet General and Admiral has long been under consideration. Their introduction at the time (it has even been somewhat overdue) represents the completion in a link of the chain of measures for the organizational strengthening of the armed forces of the Soviet Union.”54

[Page 201]

Despite protestations that the titles cannot be compared to those of the old Tsarist army because of the new character of the Red forces, it is believed that their introduction is a further step toward the removal of some of the less practical revolutionary characteristics of the Red army. The Military Attaché55 is inclined to the view that the move foreshadows the curtailment of the system of military commissars.56 If so, the measure is of far reaching significance in restoring unity of command within the fighting forces.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov, Marshal, relieved as People’s Commissar for Defense and appointed a vice president of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union on May 7, 1940.
  3. Political, or military commissars were reintroduced into the armed forces of the Soviet Union by resolution of May 11, 1937, and approved regulations of May 17, 1937. The statutes of the military commissars of the Red army were approved by the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union on August 15, 1937. In part their duty was to control the military commander, and to supervise the greater political study and education in the training of the Red army.
  4. the Chargé in the Soviet Union reported in his telegram No. 680, June 15, 1 p.m., that in all 948 generals and 108 admirals of different ranks had been newly appointed to date (861.221/27).
  5. Maj. Ivan D. Yeaton.
  6. See telegram No. 1011, August 13, 11 a.m., from the Chargé in the Soviet. Union, p. 211.