This extremely rare complete edition comes from the Civil War period and is notable for its wide coverage of international stories – the front page refers to political unrest in Germany and offers its solution – ‘Either a bourgeois possession or Soviet. There is no middle way’. However the most eye-catching feature is in the centre of the lower part of the front page – an announcement by Lev Trotsky: When we compare this version with other evidence, there is an interesting difference – perhaps showing that some ‘received’ history is in question:
Decoration of Division
(Order of the president of the Republic Revolutionary Military Soviet for the Red Army)
The commander of the army ordered a special cavalry division to attack in the region of Dubovka and destroy the enemy, concentrated there in significant force, at any cost. The division superbly carried out its task in one month with a series of successful manoeuvers. During this time it marched 400 versts* and smashed 23 enemy regiments, of which four infantry were entirely taken prisoner. As trophies, the division seized 48 canon, over one hundred machine guns, an armoured car and a great deal of other military resources.
In recognition of this exceptional service the division is to be awarded distinguished decorations. The leader of the division, Dumenko and the brigade commanders Budyonny and Bulatkin are awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
President of the Republic Revolutionary Military Soviet, Peoples’ Commisar for Military and Naval affairs,
*a verst is an obsolete Russian measurement of length, 1.06km.
Trotsky was a highly capable and ruthless organiser and administrator. He also strongly believed in bringing about socialist revolution everywhere in the world, particularly in the countries where Marx had predicted it would happen (but never did). It was a case of making history fit the theory, rather than the other way around. The desire to export revolution is seen clearly in this edition of ‘Krasnaya Gazeta’. There is much historical interest in Trotsky’s split with Stalin over political and personal matters, but this paper is a living and real relic of Trotskyism ‘in action’, propagandising his (and Lenin’s) interpretation of Marxism, whilst at the same time commanding the Red Army in the civil war.
The ‘Brigade Commander’, Budyonny, referred to in Trotsky’s article is Semyon Budyonny, who became one one of Stalin’s close associates, commanding a front against the Germans in 1941 and losing around 1.5 million men in massive encirclements. He was dismissed from this command by Stalin and given various honorary posts. Budyonny had earlier given evidence against Marshal Tukachevski at the latter’s show trial in 1937, claiming that Tukachevski’s desire to organise independent tank forces was tantamount to sabotage. Tukachevski was shot. Lack of appreciation of the use of tanks in battle cost countless Soviet casualties in WW2.
We have a wonderful formal photograph of Budyonny commemorating his 70th. birthday in 1953 from our copy of the popular socio-political magazine, Ogonek. It is available to purchase as original.
Boris Mokiyovich Dumenko
Trotsky confers a medal to the ‘Commander of the division, Dumenko’. A year later, Dumenko shot a commissar (a political military officer) and Trotsky had Dumenko shot for ‘anti-semitism’, although the real reason was Dumenko’s opposition to the terrorising of the civilian population by the Red Army and Dzerzhinsky’s secret police.
In Trotsky’s original order and citation for the awards of the Red Banner, (Order number 80, dated March 2nd. 1919), the name of Divisional Commander Maslakov is included along with the others as a recipient. Strangely, in the next three days that name was somehow dropped from the list and does not appear in this newspaper announcement of the order. Perhaps Trotsky had reconsidered for some reason and decided not to confer the decoration on him. It is possible that Maslakov, for reasons now unknown, refused the medal and thus showed his opposition to the Soviet leadership. Whatever happened over the medal, Maslakov’s non-appearance in the newspaper was a portent of things to come. When Trotsky refused to allow the cavalry to head to fertile ground to feed themselves and their horses during the Ukrainian famine of 1921, Maslakov went on to lead one of the largest mutinies of the civil war, joining his anarchist opponents and persuading his men to change sides. The new rebel force raised manpower among locals and quadrupled in size to over 4000 men. Bloody fighting ensued with the Red Army. Maslakov was killed in late 1921 or 1922, possibly by the Cheka. This newspaper is the only evidence I have seen that shows Maslakov as being at least ‘under question’ in 1919 already. It points to the reason for his subsequently fatal opposition being not army intransigence over the Ukrainian Famine, but something that happened at least two years before.
On page 2 of the paper is an article by Strumilin, the well-known Bolshevik economist about the differences in the amounts of money spent by workers on religious matters and on books to read at home.
It contains the contention: ‘Religion and culture are mutually exclusive concepts. The more of one, the less of the other. From this point of view one may say in the literal sense that religious requirements are anti-cultural.’