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The heart of his book, the middle third, is a detailed recounting of the extended session of the Military Council from 1-4 June 1937, at which the Red Army’s high command was acquainted with the case against Mikhail Tukhachevskii and seven other high-ranking commanders.Presented with the ostensible confessions of these men to participation in a long-standing conspiracy to overthrow Soviet power, the high command spent four days in Joseph Stalin’s presence discussing the nature and implications of these findings.
Since that time, however, ROSSPEN has published at least six volumes of documents and stenograms from the Military Council, including a volume of over 600 pages dealing specifically with the 1-4 June session.2 Since Pechenkin quotes extensively more than he summarizes, researchers really ought to read the stenogram of the session for themselves.
His summaries are generally accurate, though he suggests that Stalin’s primary motivation for attacking his first eight victims was their connection the German before 1933 (71).
This appears to me to be a misreading of Stalin’s statement to the Military Council that the accused truly were spies, and truly had surrendered important information to foreign militaries.
The discussion of 1-4 June is really the core of Pechenkin’s story.
The introductory section leading into the Military Council’s discussion is an able summary of the existing secondary literature and published primary sources, but does not generally offer much new beyond that.
), a collective body of nearly one hundred of the Soviet military elite.
When in 1934 the Soviet Union reformed the People’s Commissariat of Military and Naval Affairs into the People’s Commissariat of Defense, it simultaneously abolished the Revolutionary-Military Council that had decided key questions of military policy in the early Soviet state.In place of the powerful but small Revolutionary-Military Council, this 1934 reform established a weaker, consultative body, the Military Council.The new Council was also much larger: in place of the dozen members of the Revolutionary-Military Council, the Military Council was created with 80 members.The overwhelming majority of those members did not survive the 1930s.Pechenkin promises a great deal: an exploration of the workings of the Military Council, an examination of the “factors which enabled the career advancement of military commanders, the positions they occupied, and who was repressed in 1937-38 and for what reasons.” In practice, however, he delivers much less.Though he has written extensively about the Red Army’s political dynamics elsewhere,1 this monograph is more narrowly focused than its title and claims would indicate.