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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Personalities

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Personalities From the leaders to the followers; this is about the people who made history.

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  #181  
Old 28 Mar 17, 23:39
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Originally Posted by ShAA View Post
Very weird. I've read quite a few soldiers' memoirs and it's the first time I see this nickname. I've just googled it and found out it was a nickname out of prison camp jargon.
Interesting.

These two quotes have the poet Joseph Brodsky using the nickname Gutalin and explaining that it was the slang term for Georgian shoe polishers:

Brodsky, A Personal Memoir

Conversations With Joseph Brodsky
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  #182  
Old 06 Apr 17, 08:30
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Radzinsky's biography, "Stalin", has this interesting observation:
"Stalin's great hero was Ivan the Terrible. One curious work in his personal library was A.N. Tolstoy's play, Ivan the Terrible, published in Moscow 1942, the most terrible year of the war, and read by Stalin while the Soviet Union was suffering one heavy defeat after another. He read it carefully, amending the style in bold handwriting, and crossing out expressions of grief. His favorite tsar's speech must be like his own, clipped and laconic. The cover of the book, with his pensive doodles, is particularly interesting."

Too bad Radzinsky did not describe the doodles. Maybe wolves came to mind while pondering Ivan the Terrible?
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  #183  
Old 05 May 17, 13:49
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While Stalin doodled with wolves, he also drew cartoons of his victims' fate. Boris Ilizarov, a historian and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, observes Stalin used to draw offensive sketches often using a blue pencil of some of his victims while attending long politburo meetings. One example was of his finance minister, Nikolai Bryukhanov, who was depicted naked, hanging from a rope by his genitals.

Another archivist with access to Stalin's files, Larissa Rogovaya, said "Stalin loved to scribble all over his books and papers. He also doodled in his books. And in his remarks he did not mind his language."
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  #184  
Old 01 Jun 17, 09:02
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Yale University is digitizing item's from Stalin's archive, about 28,000 documents, or over 400,000 pages. A leader of the project notes the wide range of comments Stalin marked in the margins. For example, in a book by his ideological nemesis Karl Kautsky the dictator might explode with rage and scrawl "Traitor!" next to the particularly objectionable section. Stalin also made detailed notes and comments demonstrating a good understanding of Marxist theory.

Project leader concluded "Yes he may have been brutal and paranoiac--but he was not stupid."
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  #185  
Old 19 Jun 17, 09:56
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Stalin doodled wolves and drew graphic sketches of his enemies. His wolves remind me of the Russian proverb, “If one is afraid of wolves stay out of the woods.”

To be invited to Stalin’s lair in the Kremlin was a daunting experience for commanders who were summoned during the war. I have highlighted some of these meetings in other threads. But as I re-read Yuri Bondarev’s war novel, “the Hot Snow”, his artful, fictional description of an army commander meeting with Stalin demonstrates his command of the many military memoir accounts of such meetings. Some snippets from Bondarev’s twelve-page description of the meeting between General Bessonov and Stalin:

“In the first few moments he [o] noted none of the details of this spacious room with its portraits of Suvorov and Kutuzov on the walls, its long conference table with its official green top, the topographical map on another huge table, the telephones and the long flex lying coiled on the carpet. As he entered the room, every nerve and muscle tensely alert, he saw only Stalin, a small man, who at first sight seemed to have little resemblance to his portraits. Stalin was coming towards him with soft, slightly rolling strides in supple, squeakless boots; he was wearing an army type tunic that fitted closely over his sloping shoulders. His thick moustache and heavy eyebrows gleamed with a barely discernible trace of grey, his narrow, yellowish eyes were calm, and Bessonov’s first thought was: What will he ask me now?”


To be continued
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  #186  
Old 19 Jun 17, 11:37
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I forget which inner party member said this, but it was something along the lines of Stalin putting a lot of stock into eye contact: too little and you were hiding something. Too much and you were a challenge. The trick was to find the middle ground if you wanted to keep your job, and maybe your life.

Now that might have been the paranoia of living close to the Tsar in a dystopian court, but considering how arbitrary the purges were I wouldn't discount it.
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  #187  
Old 20 Jun 17, 07:27
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There's a saying the eyes are a window to the soul.

In readings, an article pointed out a technique of Japanese negotiators have the visitors sit facing outward into the light through the conference room windows while the Japanese team facing into the room would be in shadow and harder to read the eyes and facial features.

In training for martial arts, interrogation, and debriefing agents, watching the eyes was an integral part of observation. In foot surveillance, to make eye contact with a subject would permanently "burn" you for the rest of the operation.

Among mammals, to stare is an aggressive act.
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  #188  
Old 23 Jun 17, 17:52
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Bondarev continued:

“Having greeted him without a handshake or any invitation to sit down, and without sitting down himself, Stalin began to pace soundlessly along the carpet beside the map table, holding his left, apparently not fully flexible arm over his stomach. After longish silence, he walked to the desk at the end of the room and standing sideways to Bessonov, asked without any clearly definable intonation, “what is your opinion of the latest events, Comrade Bessonov?”

Bessonov did not quite understand the question and wanted to clarify it by asking, “What events exactly, Comrade Stalin?” but, controlling his voice with an effort, he replied instead, “If we are speaking of the latest events at Stalingrad, Comrade Stalin, they could mark the beginning of a large-scale offensive and, so it seems to me, a new stage in the war, if we do not allow the Germans to break open the inner or outer fronts of encirclement---“

“Seems, or are you convinced, Comrade Bessonov?”

“I am convinced, Comrade Stalin. I think much will depend on how systematically we are able to split up and destroy the encircled enemy.”

“Bessnov paused; it had seemed to him that Stalin’s rather narrow, rounded back had stirred after this reply, stopping him and agreeing with him.”

“The study was cool and quiet. Stalin picked up a pipe from an ash tray, turned from the table, struck a match and, as he lighted the pipe, stared steadily over the match flame at Bessonov.

“If we appoint you to command an army at Stalingrad, will there be any objections on your part, Comrade Bessonov?” he asked deliberately, as though he had not heard his reply.

To be continued
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  #189  
Old 24 Jun 17, 07:40
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Bondarev cont'd.

Bessonov replies, “Comrade Stalin, I am a soldier and I regard an appointment to any post as an order.”

“Stalin waved the match out with a limp flick of the wrist. “Come over to the map.”

“Now he was standing so close to Stalin that he could feel the sweetish smell of rich tobacco from his clothes, and could see in the profile a broad, graying eyebrow and the sallow, pock-marked skin of the cheek; and when Stalin, after pausing over the map, slowly raised his yellowish eyes, they had a softer gleam of inward ironic satisfaction.
“I have nothing against your reasoning, Comrade Bessonov,” Stalin Stalin softly. “… Every general dreams of his Cannae, Comrade Bessonov. But we, Communists, believe in objective conditions. ….” Stalin paused. “So, it’s a Cannae, you say, Comrade Bessonov?” he repeated, although Bessonov had not used this word, and he sucked at his pipe, which had gone out. He made no attempt to relight it, however, and with its stem smoothly encircled the area of Stalingrad on the map. “Here the Nazi bandits have fallen into a cauldron, and this is our first Cannae, Comrade Bessonov. Do you agree?”

TBC
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  #190  
Old 28 Jun 17, 06:46
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Bessonov replies, “I should like to say, Comrade Stalin, that everything now hangs on the speed with which we eliminate this enormous German grouping. … I have been told that our operations for eliminating the encircled enemy forces have slowed down lately and the Germans are offering bitter resistance and even counterattacking.”

“He knows this better than I do and I am probably saying the wrong thing. Bessonov thought as soon as the last phrase was out his mouth, but Stalin put a lighted match to his pipe and nodded slightly.



“For this reason I should like the army to be sent to the front as quickly as possible, Comrade Stalin.”

“Apparently engrossed in some thought of his own, Stalin allowed his pipe-stem to rest on the think hair of his reddish moustache for a minute, then spoke with a particularly noticeable Georgian accent.

“Operation Ring for the breaking up and destruction of the surrounding grouping will be carried out with the forces of Rokkossovsky’s Front and mainly by your army, Comrade Bessonov. Not later than December 23rd. The point is that up to the time of Stalingrad our soldiers and even our commanders have not been used to surrounding an enemy and actually battering that surrounded enemy to death. The word ‘German’ has had a very active ring for a long time. It has become a psychological factor. And one that must be eradicated from people’s minds. Forever. Is that so, Comrade Bessonov? Or not quite?”


To be cont'd
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  #191  
Old 29 Jun 17, 10:38
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“With the frown of one who was not disposed to listen any further, Stalin walked to the desk at the end of the study and picked up the telephone but, after coughing and clearing his throat, slowly lowered it again. For a minute or two he stood sideways towards Bessonov, as though he had completely forgotten his presence; his small swarthy hand, covered with golden hairs, knocked the ash out of the pipe, then he opened a box of cigarettes on the desk and, squeezing the cigarettes between his fingers over an ash tray, crumbled the tobacco into his pipe.

“This is a sign that I must go. He must have called me in just to have a look at the new army commander and he does not seem very satisfied with me, Bessonov reflected. Probably my appointment to this command on Rokossovsky’s advice was purely accidental, just as I supposed.”
To be continued
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Old 29 Jun 17, 10:40
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At this point in the scene, Stalin probes what Bessonov about General Vlasov. [Vlasov was cdr of the 2nd Shock Army when encircled incurring high casualties and a large number taken prisoner.] Stalin talks about soldiers allowing themselves to be taken prisoner. This line strike concern a concern in the character Bessonov.

Stalin asks, “Why are you silent, Comrade Bessonov? Do you not agree?”

“Bessonov looked up …. And he managed to force out, “My son was in command of a company in the 2nd Shock Army. I don’t know what happened to him, but as his father I have no reason to suspect of treachery, Comrade Stalin, even if he was taken prisoner.”

“With a dry cough Stalin banged his pipe down on the table and thrust it away, as if it were a living creature that had irritated him. This was a sign of suppressed displeasure, though Bessonov could not have known it. Stalin paced across the study; he dark lids were half-closed.

“The fate of your son is not what I had in mind. ….”

[Stalin continues]
“At one time this Vlasov was in everybody’s good books. No one spotted the rotten core within. No one at the academy or in the army,” Stalin snapped, and the coldness of his glance seared Bessonov’s face, making him want to put his hand to his check to relieve the metallic chill. “Is that not true, Comrade Bessonov?”

Bessonov had noted that he previously thought Vlasov “was a man of average ability.” And in his response to Stalin’s last question, “… As far as I have been able to imagine the circumstances under which Vlasov was captured, I have put it down to the bestial side of human downfall. But actually serving the Germans—that I consider a political step.”

To be continued
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  #193  
Old 29 Jun 17, 12:08
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His name was Vlasov.
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Old 29 Jun 17, 13:16
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His name was Vlasov.
Thanks for the correction. Was typing too early in the morning.
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Old 01 Jul 17, 09:43
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“On hearing Bessonov’s reply, he [Stalin] by force of habit showed no direct dissatisfaction; with an almost apathetic lack of haste he walked from one end of the study to the other and spoke from there in a barely audible voice..

“A political step? Yes, it is politics…. They say, Comrade Bessonov, that you sometimes express your own special point of view on various events. As you have done about these prisoners of war, for instance. Does this opinion of yours accord with the facts?”

Bessonov was unprepared for this question, “Comrade Stalin, people probably say even worse things about me. I know that I am considered to have a very bad temper. No doubt there have been complaints about me.”

Stalin lifted his heavy lids, stared in surprise and lowered them again.

“Why don’t you answer the question directly?” he asked, and suddenly broke into silent laughter. Rubbing his pipe with his thumb and flexing his shoulders, he again strode to the desk at the end of the study.

At this point, Stalin observes, “Presumably your doubts had to do with certain military leaders whom we punished at one time.?” The conversation puts Stalin in a mood of unwelcome reminiscence, and after a slight fit of coughing, he walked with his soft tread, in boots that never emitted the slightest squeak to the map on the table, stared for a long time at the positions of the three fronts as they had been marked that morning and, trying to divert his thoughts by concentrating on the success of the three fronts at Stalingrad, said with a dismissive gesture, “All that is by the way! As regards your son, Comrade Bessonov, we shall not put him down on the list of prisoners. We shall consider him missing. …”

Stalin was about to add something else about his elder son but he hesitated, moved the magnifying glass across the map, and changed the subject. He tells to Bessonov to “bring his army into action without delay”. … “I believe in you after the resolute actions of your corps at Moscow, Comrade Bessonov. I remember that.”

Three hours later Bessonov takes off from a military airfield for a destination in the Stalingrad area.

This finishes the part on Stalin.

I would be interested in your thoughts on the portrayal of Stalin.
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