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The Iron Rule in the Red Army

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe' started by A-58, Aug 5, 2022.

  1. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    I lifted this from Quora. Never heard or read about this Iron Rule thing in the Roosky Army before. Not sure of the veracity of the contents of the article but if there's a shred of truth to it then that's a new item for the examples in the "War is Hell" definition. Dang.

    [​IMG]


    The man who really raised the victory banner that day was Guard Sergeant Alexei Kovalev - a Razvedchik (scout) attached to the 83rd Guards Reconnaissance Company, 82nd Guards Rifle Division, 8th Guards Army. He had fought bravely during the assault on the Reichstag the previous days and when Marshal Zhukov arrived, he insisted that Kovalev be shown raising the banner. He was the Red Army’s choice for the honour.

    But I guess many of you know this already.

    What most people don’t know is the heart-breaking, tear-inducing story that Kovalev himself told author Michael Jones. 'I have killed more people than I have hairs on my head,' Kovalev said in a matter-of-fact manner. But then his voice began to choke.

    ‘As a reconnaissance scout, I was always ahead of our army, and I needed to gather intelligence. I would use local people, I would take them and question them about the whereabouts of the Germans. They were Russian people, good people, and they wanted to help me. They told me all they knew.' Kovalev struggled to carry on. It was hard to say this, particularly to a Westerner. But Kovalev looked me straight in the eye and continued:

    Imagine this. I seize a young Russian woman, washing clothes by the river, a kid, playing in a village, or an old man sitting outside his house. I question them. They help me all they can. And then, the 'iron rule of our army': I have to kill my sources, without exception. I cannot take the risk that the Germans will take them, interrogate them and find out our troops are near by. I cannot endanger our army for the sake of an individual life.

    Kovalev made a sudden gesture with his hand. There were tears in his eyes. 'I cut their throats with a knife. I murdered hundreds of my own people, decent, kind, honest people. I murdered them - so that we could defeat Nazi Germany. This is the price I paid. I have to live with it every day of my life.'

    Sure was tough to be in the Red Army.
     
  2. Otto

    Otto Spambot Nemesis Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Shocking and sad if true.

    I hate the be the source? guy, but I'd be interested to see where Michael Jones published this. I don't have a lot of faith in quora.
     
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  3. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Yeah I'd kind of like to see some credible sources as well. Mostly to disprove the theory actually.

    Ouora does make for some interesting reading. And many of the comments are out of this world.
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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  5. Otto

    Otto Spambot Nemesis Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    So there it is, the quote direct from the book. Thanks Takao.

    I have to say I'd like to see another corroboration for the Iron Rule. It just seems too perfect that the hero hand selected by Zhukov to raise the flag over the Reichstag is also tragically the same person who killed scores of innocent Russian civilians. I don't think he is lying, but I would have thought such a thing would have been more well known, given the penchant for historians to highlight and exaggerate the most heartless features of the Red Army in WWII. Blocking detachments, human wave attacks, penal battalions, one rifle for two soldiers, etc.
     
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  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I'm a bit skeptical of this too. Given the large partisan movement in Russia, I can't see a scout killing a partisan for doing what partisans were supposed to do.
     
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  7. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Thanks for the find. Appreciate the effort. In the back of my mind I had a hunch that you’d come through. I just hate to know that something as terrible as this happened. And that Eastern Front thing was about as terrible as things could be imagined, even in a war.

    As with the others, hopefully another reference can be found to this terrible revelation. This is like solving a homicide investigation. You can’t have too many leads or too much evidence.
     
  8. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    So...

    Michael Jones seems to be the ONLY author to "uncover" a "rule of the thumb" that he says was prevalent throughout the entire army and encompassing every advance movement that the Red Army put into practice?

    If so, why hasn't this particular aspect of the Great Patriotic War surfaced before in major works?

    I mean, this is something that should have been noted right from the very emergence of written accounts of this conflict. Surely with his so called unprecedented access to "hidden" Soviet records, David Glantz would have "uncovered" a "rule" such as this one?
    Or a Russian author?

    Why is Michael Jones the only one to do so?

    I make the suggestion that this is a marketing method, a selling point that draws our attention and makes you put down your money.

    Surely, if this was standard practice, not only would other authors have already covered it, but the rumour mill would have gone in front of any advance that the Red Army made, with the result that at many points, Soviet citizens in occupied territory would have probably either gone into hiding until the main body of the Red Army had arrived, or flown the coop and followed the retreating Germans to avoid such treatment, and destroying any possibility of this method of intelligence gathering being anything that would have lasted all the way from Stalingrad to Berlin.
    As well, if this was such an Iron Rule and so mainstream as a regular basis for operational conduct, SURELY the German propaganda corps would have gotten wind of it, and trumpeted this factor as yet another example of the methods of "untermenschen Slavs", particularly in the Ukraine, the Crimea or the Baltic States, whose divided loyalties were well noted by German propaganda.

    In short, I think this policy might be just a story.

    A story that Jones himself "uncovered", but no one else ever has?

    I smell a RAT....

    Bolshevik
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2022
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  9. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    Can anybody find another source to this iron rule?

    Killing one's sources would work to the detriment of the Red Army once word went out that was a practice. There'd be (unknown) witnesses and word would spread.

    The Soviets can be brutal. While famous Stalingrad sniper Zaitsev doesn't mention it in his memoirs, some of the "kills" were Soviet women and children who were trapped in German lines and were offered bread by the Germans if they would fill canteens with water. They were shot down too.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2022
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  10. Otto

    Otto Spambot Nemesis Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I totally agree Riter, I'd like another source. I think a story like this requires some skepticism. In my mind this is mostly for the low utility of such a policy.

    There is only so much OpSec such a policy could provide. In general, I would suspect German soldiers in the field would probably have a good idea Russian forces were in the area, especially if these had any level of mechanization like tanks or trucks. Aerial reconnaissance, local attacks, as well as their own scouts would provide a constant flow of information. How could a single civilian mentioning the presence of a single scout compromise the presence of Russian troops in the area? Russian partisans were common, even if they informed local German troops of the scout, was this a regular army Russian or a local partisan? What if the scout made contact with a single person at a house, then eight more family members emerge from the home. Are all nine people killed? What if (as Riter suggested) the killing is witnessed by other members of the village, wouldn't this make them more likely to inform the Germans of the presence of a murderous Russian? The "Iron Rule" would have so much downside and so many necessary exceptions, I cannot imagine it being useful.

    I can certainly see much more utility in killing German civilians once they have given you information, as you are arguably preventing them from informing German soldiers about your presence, but friendly Russians?
     
  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I wonder if this "universal" rule might have been practiced only in Kovalev's unit, or a small number of units. Perhaps his CO or political officer was especially fanatical and told his troops that this was what everyone did. I agree it seems unlikely that a widespread practice like this could go unknown, at the time or since.
     
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  12. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Now there were some pretty serious rules about rank and such in the Red Army. Enlisted were not supposed to speak to officers unless spoken to, and then only to answer whatever the officer said. One's rank compared to someone else's was an absolute scale. It is possible a commanding officer could order something like this within their unit. The troops would have no choice but to obey.
    Officers had the authority to mete out whatever they thought was appropriate as punishment for an enlisted committing an offense, from physical beating to shooting them on the spot. Many NCO's both during and after WW 2 could be equally brutal to junior enlisted. So, it is entirely possible some officer in a unit tells his scouts to kill anyone that they encounter. That wouldn't be official Red Army regulations or policy, but given the brutality of the Eastern Front in general, certainly feasible.
     
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  13. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    It significant that even the Wikipedia page describing Russian military and political atrocities in WW2 among a host of crimes perpetrated does not mention anything at all about an "Iron Rule", either as a formal order on paper or an "understanding".

    I'm still very sceptical about this.

    Even such acknowledged critics of Soviet policy like Solzhenitsyn, who was also a serving officer in the Red Army of the period, completely fail to mention anything about an "Iron Rule".

    And I'm certain that Solzhenitsyn would have included this particular aspect of Communist atrocity in his literary work if it was standard practice.
     
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  14. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    Another thing.....

    Kovalev died in 1997.

    Jones book wasn't published until 2011. So Michael would have had to interview Comrade Kovalev fully 14 years before publishing it.
     
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