1943 - A A Vlasov

Why have I taken up the struggle against Bolshevism?

[Translator's note: Lt.-Gen. A A Vlasov, 1901 - 1946, was the most prominent defector from the Soviet side to the Nazis during World War II. As can be seen from this open letter, he served in several important capacities in the Red Army prior to his capture by the German forces on 11 July 1942. In captivity, he agreed to collaborate with the Wehrmacht, and proposed the creation of a Russian Liberation Army, composed mainly of Soviet POWs. The designation "Russian Liberation Army" was given to Russian prisoners who fought for the Nazis from 1942, although Hitler only consented to the establishment of the RLA as a separate formation in autumn 1944, when Germany's military position had already become very unfavourable. The RLA took part in fighting alongside the German armies in early 1945. It then tried to surrender to the Western allies. Part of the RLA, including Vlasov himself, was captured by the Red Army. Those who managed to surrender to American forces were handed over to the Soviet side. Vlasov and his confederates were tried, and sentenced to hang. - FK]

March 1943

In calling on all Russian people to rise up in struggle against Stalin and his clique, to build a new Russia without Bolsheviks or capitalists, I consider it my duty to explain my actions.

Soviet power has done nothing to offend me. I am the son of a peasant, born in Nizhniy Novgorod gubernia. I managed to get a higher education which cost next to nothing. I accepted the people's revolution, and enlisted in the Red Army to fight for land for the peasants, for a better life for the workers, for a bright future for the Russian people. From that day on my life was completely tied to the Red Army, I served in its ranks for 24 years without a break. I rose from being a rank-and-file soldier to an army commander and a deputy front commander. I commanded a company, a battalion, a regiment, a division, and a corps. I received the Orders of Lenin, the Red Flag, and 20 Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. From 1930 I belonged to the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks).

And now I am waging a struggle against Bolshevism, and call on the whole people, of which I am a son, to join me in this.

Why? Anyone who reads my appeal will surely ask this question, and so I am duty bound to give an honest answer. During the Civil War I fought in the ranks of the Red Army because I believed that the revolution would give the Russian people land, freedom and happiness.

As a Red Army commander, I lived among the men and the officers - Russian workers, peasants, intellectuals, all wearing the grey trench coats. I knew their thoughts, their concerns, and their problems. I did not lose contact with my village or my family, and knew how, and on what, the peasants lived.

And I came to realise that the victory of the Bolsheviks had brought the Russian people none of those things for which it had fought during the Civil War years. I could see how hard life was for the Russian worker, how the peasant had been driven by force into the collective farms, and how millions of Russian people simply disappeared, arrested without trial or investigation. I could see how everything Russian was trampled on, that the leading positions in the Red Army were given to lickspittles, to people who cared little for the interests of the Russian people.

The system of commissars destroyed the Red Army. Irresponsibility, shadowing and espionage made the army commander the plaything of party bureaucrats in civilian or military dress.

In 1938 and 1939 I was in China, as a military adviser to Chiang Kai-Shek. When I returned to the USSR, it turned out that during that time for no reason the entire command of the Red Army had been eliminated on Stalin's orders. Thousands upon thousands of the best commanders, including marshals, had been arrested and executed, or had been locked up in concentration camps to disappear forever. This terror extended not only to the army, but to the entire people. No family was able to avoid that fate entirely. The army was weakened, and the terrified people looked to the future with dread as they awaited the war Stalin had been preparing.

I could see that this war would necessarily mean enormous sacrifices for the Russian people. I tried to do everything within my power to strengthen the Red Army. The 99th division, which was under my command, was recognised as the best in the Red Army. Through work and constant attention to the military formations entrusted to me, I tried to suppress my feelings of indignation at the actions of Stalin and his clique.

Then the war broke out. At the time I was the commander of the 4th mechanised corps. As a soldier and a son of my motherland, I considered myself obliged to carry out my duty honestly. My corps in Przemysl and Lvov took a blow, survived it and was prepared to go onto the offensive, but my proposals were overruled. The front command - indecisive, corrupted by commissar control and confused - led the Red Army into a series of heavy defeats.

I withdrew my forces to Kiev. There I assumed command of the 37th army and the difficult post of head of the Kiev city garrison. I could see that the war was being lost for two reasons. Firstly, the Russian people did not want to defend Bolshevik power and the system of violence it had created, and secondly, the army is led irresponsibly, with interference in its actions by commissars great and small.

Under difficult circumstances my army coped with the defence of Kiev. For two months we managed to defend the Ukrainian capital successfully. However, the incurable diseases of the Red Army had their effect. The front was broken in the neighbouring armies' sectors. Kiev was surrounded. The supreme command ordered me to abandon our fortified area.

After breaking out of this encirclement I was appointed deputy commander of the South-Western line, and then subsequently commander of the 20th army. The 20th army was formed under difficult circumstances, when the fate of Moscow was in the balance. I did everything I could to defend the state capital. The 20th army halted the offensive against Moscow, and then itself went onto the offensive. It broke through the lines of the German army, took Solnechnogorsk, Volokolamsk, Shakhovskaya, Sereda and other places, and ensured that the entire Moscow sector of the front could go onto the offensive, getting as far as Gzhatsk.

During the decisive battles for Moscow, I saw how the rear helped the front. But, like the frontline soldiers, the workers and others living in the rear were only doing this because they believed they were defending the motherland. It was for the sake of the motherland that they endured incalculable suffering and sacrificed everything. More than once I had to drive away a question which kept raising itself: is the Russian people shedding its blood for Bolshevism, hiding behind the hallowed name of the motherland?

I was appointed deputy commander of the Volkhov front and commander of the 2nd shock army. The leadership of that army was centralised and concentrated in the hands of the General Staff. Nobody was aware of its actual position, and nobody was concerned about it. One order from the high command contradicted another. That army was doomed to certain death.

For weeks on end the officers and men received just 100 grams, or even 50 grams of dry biscuits a day. They swelled up from hunger, and many became incapable of moving through the swamps to which they had been sent on the direct orders of the high command. But they all carried on fighting selflessly. These Russian people died heroically. But what for? What were they sacrificing their lives for? What were they supposed to die for?

To the last minute I remained with the men and officers of my army. Only a small handful of us remained, but we carried out our duty as soldiers to the end. I broke out of encirclement into the forest and hid for about a month in the forests and swamps. But at this point the question returned to me in all its force: should the Russian people shed its blood any further? Is it in the Russian people's interests to continue the war? For what is the Russian people fighting?

I realised clearly that Bolshevism had dragged the Russian people into the war in the alien interests of Anglo-American capital. England has always been an enemy of the Russian people. It has always striven to weaken and harm our motherland. But Stalin saw a chance to realise his plans for world domination by following Anglo-American interests. In order to realise these plans he tied the fate of the Russian people to the fate of England, and plunged the Russian people into war, condemning it to countless disasters. These calamities of war crown all the other miseries which the peoples of our country have suffered under 25 years of Bolshevik rule.

Would it not therefore be criminal to continue shedding blood? Is not Bolshevism, and Stalin in particular, the main enemy of the Russian people? Is it not the primary and sacred duty of every honest Russian to fight against Stalin and his clique?

It was there, in the forests and swamps that I reached a conclusion. My duty is to call upon the Russian people to fight to overthrow Bolshevik rule, to fight for peace for the Russian people and to put an end to this bloody war, of no use to the Russian people...

[Taken from I Hoffmann, Istoriya vlasovskoy armii, Paris, 1990, pp. 351 - 356, quoted in A F Kiselev and E M Shagin (eds), Khrestomatiya po otechestvennoy istorii (1914 - 1945), Moscow, 1996. Source for this document: Khronos website - http://hronos.km.ru/dokum/1943vlasov.html. See also http://hronos.km.ru/biograf/vlasov_a.html. - FK.]