The myth of the “stupid cavalry” Voroshilov


Marshal K. E. Voroshilov receives a parade in Kuibyshev on November 7, 1941

Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov, statesman and military leader, Marshal of the Soviet Union, was born 140 years ago. A man who has come a long way from a simple worker to the People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR, always loyal to the Motherland.

A revolutionary

Born February 4, 1881 near Lugansk in the family of a poor worker. Clement knew hunger as a child and begged for alms with his younger sister. From a young age he worked as a shepherd and miner. I had no opportunity to get a good education – two years in a zemstvo school. Became a worker. Since 1903 he has been a member of the Bolshevik Party. Leader of the Lugansk Bolshevik Committee and the Lugansk Soviet.

The usual career of the then revolutionary: organizer of strikes, prison, training of fighting squads (during the First Revolution), underground activities, multiple arrests and exile. He spent several years in exile in the Arkhangelsk and Perm provinces. During the First World War, he worked at the Tsaritsyn artillery plant, was exempted from conscription. After the February Revolution he returned to Lugansk.

Member of the October Revolution, one of the organizers of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (VChK). In 1918, at the head of the red detachments, he defended the Donbass from the Germans, then became the commander of the 5th Army of the Red Army. After that, he commanded the Tsaritsyn group of troops, together with Stalin distinguished himself in the defense of Tsaritsyn. Here Voroshilov and Stalin repulsed the “attack” of Trotsky, who tried to oust them. Then Kliment Voroshilov was a member of the Military Council of the North Caucasus Military District, assistant commander and a member of the RVS of the Southern Front, commander of the 10th Army.

In 1919, the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the commander of the troops of the Kharkov District, the 14th Army and the Internal Ukrainian Front. From November 1919 to March 1921 he was a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the 1st Cavalry Army. During the Civil War, for the first time, he received a personalized revolutionary weapon – a golden saber with the emblem of the Republic. In 1921-1924. – Member of the South-Eastern Bureau of the Central Committee of the RCP (b) and the commander of the troops of the North Caucasian district. In 1924 – Commander of the Moscow Military District, member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR.


V. I. Lenin and K. E. Voroshilov among the delegates of the X Congress of the RCP (b) – participants in the liquidation of the counter-revolutionary insurrection in Kronstadt. 1921 g.

People’s Commissar of Defense and Marshal of the Union

From 1925 to 1934 – People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic. From 1934 to May 1940 – People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR. Since 1935 – Marshal of the USSR. Since 1938, Chairman of the Main Military Council. In August 1939, he headed the Soviet delegation at the negotiations of the USSR, England and France.

Under the leadership of Kliment Efremovich, a huge amount of work was carried out to reorganize and build the Armed Forces of the USSR. He carried out work on technical re-equipment, development and expansion of the military education system, training and education of troops. He took part in the pre-war “purge” of the army.

During the years of the dominance of liberal myths, repression in the Armed Forces was assessed only negatively. However, then detailed, factual materials appeared, which show that the “cleansing” of the army led to the improvement and strengthening of the USSR Armed Forces. The military opposition (part of the “fifth column”), which was supposed to revolt against Stalin during Hitler’s attack, was eliminated, and the cadres were rehabilitated.

The Soviet command made a number of mistakes in the training of troops, including in their technical readiness. This affected the course of the Finnish campaign of 1939-1940.

For his mistakes in May 1940, he was removed from the post of People’s Commissar of Defense. But he did not fall into disgrace, Stalin appreciated Voroshilov’s loyalty. Appointed Deputy Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (SNK) of the USSR and Chairman of the Defense Committee under the SNK.

During the Great Patriotic War, he was a member of the high command: a member of the State Defense Committee (GKO), Headquarters, led the troops in the northwest direction, the partisan movement.

He did a lot for the development of the partisan movement, improved the guerrilla control system. The central headquarters of the partisan movement, through the efforts of Kliment Voroshilov, became a powerful governing body. He solved many of the problems of supply, air transportation and training of partisans.

From April 1943 he headed the Trophy Committee. The trophy service played an important role in the collection of captured equipment, weapons, ammunition, fuel, scrap metal and other valuables, as well as in helping the population freed from the Nazis.

After the war, Voroshilov continued to be a member of the top leadership of the USSR.

He died on December 2, 1969.

He was buried in Red Square in Moscow near the Kremlin wall.

Even during the life of the Marshal, Lugansk – Voroshilovgrad was named after him, two Voroshilovsk and Voroshilov (Ussuriysk) appeared.

Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Hero of Socialist Labor, awarded 8 Orders of Lenin, 6 Orders of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov 1st degree, etc.


General Secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks I. V. Stalin with Marshal of the Soviet Union K. E. Voroshilov in 1935

Opinions of contemporaries about the marshal

Lenin met Voroshilov in 1906.

The leader of the revolution had a low opinion of

“Village head”

“Voroshilov-Balalaikine”.

Obviously, the difference in the social origin and living conditions of the two revolutionaries affected. Clement was a beggar in childhood, begged, then a proletarian, did not receive a good education. However, Lenin valued Voroshilov for his unwavering proletarian loyalty to the party, communist ideals and the people. It did not have a “double bottom” like many revolutionaries who came from abroad. In boots, a cap and a blouse under a cheap coat was a devoted man, a favorite of the workers and a bright orator from the people.

Stalin’s Foreign Minister Molotov was not a friend of Voroshilov, but he also noted the loyalty of the People’s Commissar of the Party and personally to Stalin. Although Kliment Efremovich could express a personal opinion, as it was in 1927 about the policy in China. He was distinguished by a bright and crushing peasant-proletarian simplicity in his speeches.

Marshal Zhukov believed Voroshilov

“Dilettante in military affairs.”

Stalin’s choice in favor of Voroshilov when he was appointed head of the USSR Armed Forces is quite understandable.

He followed Lenin’s logic. Joseph Vissarionovich knew Clement well and was disposed towards him. Unlike the same Frunze, Voroshilov did not have a political instinct, a talent for a commander and military erudition. But unlike Trotsky, he was devoted to Stalin, the party and the people. He helped to defeat the “fifth column” in the country, which became one of the main reasons for the Great Victory.

He made up for the shortcomings with great dedication, energy, efficiency and hard work. Having made his way from a simple worker to the People’s Commissar of Defense, he retained his simplicity and sincerity, and at the same time grew greatly intellectually. He created new Armed Forces of the country, traveled among the troops, conducted exercises and conferences. With all his might, he consistently and methodically built up the might of the Red Army. The troops respected and loved him.


Member of the USSR State Defense Council Kliment Voroshilov holds the Stalingrad sword after the presentation ceremony in the conference hall of the Soviet embassy during the Tehran conference

The cavalry myth

In perestroika and democratic Russia, a myth was created about

“Stupid cavalry”

Voroshilov and Budyonny, who allegedly clung to the outdated experience of the Civil War, fettered the development of the USSR Armed Forces, hindered their mechanization and put “outdated” cavalry in the first place. This was one of the reasons for the severe defeats of the Red Army in the initial period of the war.

In particular, Voroshilov was quoted at the 17th Party Congress in January 1934:

“It is necessary … once and for all to put an end to the wrecking ‘theories’ about replacing the horse with the machine.”

However, this is a phrase taken out of context.

In addition, the People’s Commissar spoke about the horse population in agriculture, and not about the army. It was about the fact that, despite the mechanization of agriculture, the need for which no one denied, a horse is still needed in the village.

And in the section on the Red Army, Kliment Efremovich said something else: not a word about cavalry. And a lot about

“War of motors”.

The People’s Commissar noted the need for forced motorization, mastering the production of new motors.

In 1940, there was a large reduction in cavalry in the army: in 1937 there were 7 cavalry directorates, 32 cavalry divisions (of which 5 mountain cavalry and 3 territorial), 2 separate cavalry brigades, 1 separate and 8 reserve cavalry regiments.

The number of red cavalry in the states of peacetime was 195 thousand people. In 1940, it was planned to leave 5 departments of cavalry corps, 15 cavalry divisions, 5 mountain cavalry divisions, 1 separate cavalry brigade and 5 spare cavalry regiments with a total number of 122 thousand sabers.

Instead of the disbanded cavalry divisions, tank and mechanized divisions were created.

In early 1941, the People’s Commissar of Defense Timoshenko and the chief of the General Staff Zhukov presented Stalin with a note outlining the scheme for the mobilization deployment of the Red Army. On its basis, on February 12, 1941, a draft mobilization plan was prepared. According to it, the army had 3 cavalry departments, 10 cavalry and 4 mountain cavalry divisions, as well as 6 reserve regiments.

The total number of cavalry was reduced to 116 thousand people.

This plan was even exceeded. And by the beginning of the attack of the Third Reich, only 13 cavalry divisions remained in the Red Army.

The war showed that they were in a hurry with the reduction of cavalry.

The importance of cavalry in the modern “war of motors” has been underestimated.

In Russia, with its vast expanses, lack of good roads and large forests, it was the cavalry that turned out to be a very effective branch of the army.

Horses were transport (horse-drawn) that perfectly suited Russian conditions. They had better cross-country ability than German cars and armored personnel carriers and did not require fuel. They could act in muddy roads and snowfalls.

The cavalry was used for reconnaissance, raids on the rear of the enemy, violations of communications in order to disorganize the control and supply of the enemy, and to strengthen the partisan forces.

Also, in the conditions of the weakening of armored forces in the first period of the war (heavy losses), mobile units were required to develop the first success of offensive operations, break into the deep rear of the enemy, create “cauldrons”.

Zhukov already on July 15, 1941 proposed to form light cavalry divisions (3 thousand sabers).

By the end of the year, there were already 82 light-type cavalry divisions (without tanks, divisional artillery, anti-tank and air defense, sappers and rear services).

In 1942, the cavalry divisions were reduced to corps, which (in the place with tank corps and armies) played a large role in the defeat of the Wehrmacht.

Tanks and cavalry complemented each other perfectly.

In addition, the cavalry corps, which did not require many tons of ammunition and fuel, could advance deeper than motorized formations.

And finally, they could easily do without good roads. Moreover, they even knew how to fight without them at all.

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