Stalin and Molotov were two of the cruelest individuals in the Soviet Union, but Kliment Voroshilov was equally as cruel, albeit much more understated in his work. Voroshilov played the role of “chief henchman” for Stalin, and supported many of his initiatives during the Great Purges. Trotsky famously said about him, “The life of Voroshilov illustrates the career of a worker-revolutionist, with its leadership in strikes, underground work, imprisonment, and exile…”(Spartacus-Educational). This is a great example of how he was viewed by outsiders who criticized his many executioner decisions and his support of Stalin’s vicious purges. Ironically, a short narrative was written in 1939 called “The Legend of Voroshilov”, which explains his greatness and can be considered quintessential Soviet propaganda.
This narrative portrays Voroshilov to be a god-like figure because everybody, with whom he comes into contact, later becomes famous or successful. The first person to attain greatness was a pregnant woman, who he first reprimanded for joining him on a labor-intensive journey, but later compassionately loads the woman into his cart to ride home. The next day, the woman gave birth to a very healthy child. Next, the narrative describes Voroshilov with the following: “He was always on his feet, clean-shaven and neat. He would call a meeting and report so clearly that everything he said is remembered even now. You fought with more courage because you knew what you were shedding your blood for in the steppes”(Geldern 320). Finally, the narrative explains a scene where he dangerously rode towards the enemy to save a child, then escapes unscathed and gives the child to a local woman for care. The child and locals were apparently saved from enemy harm because Voroshilov told the woman “try to get a goat”(321). While he may have been a valiant leader, he had many moral faults which led to the execution and exile for hundreds of his compatriots.
Voroshilov’s work in the execution of “insubordinate” military officials mirrored the exiled of over 175,000 citizens by Joseph Stalin in the late 1930s. While Voroshilov’s targets were much higher ranking than other political dissidents, they still were incorrectly accused of tyrannical charges. The Great Purges were characterized by obscure crimes and torn families, and this warlord under Stalin’s control assisted in its planning and execution.
Geldern, James Von, and Richard Stites. Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. Print.
8 thoughts on “Legend of a Demonic General”
“The Legend of Voroshilov” is so interesting as “folklore.” One of the things that’s striking about this excerpt is the way women (and an orphaned girl) are used to elevate a military leader. How did this kind of propaganda “work”? What did you think about it’s connection to the “Short Course” (next selection in MC).
Also – love the title!
I wonder how much of these executions were simply carrying out Stalin;s orders or a means to increase Voroshilov’s own power and prestige within the Party. He sounds just like many of the leaders of the Soviet Union but also seems like he enjoyed the cruelty he possessed.
This gave me good background on the narrative and on Voroshilov! It’s is interesting how he is painted in both good and bad light! Perhaps propaganda? especially if he ultimately exiled and executed many! Good Post!
The Soviet party was filled with many cruel men in the early years of the USSR. This just shows how Stalin let men like this rise into the system to create such a terrible leadership. This writing about this “legend” is nothing more than Chipiav in a way. As they create this god-like image of these people, it is almost impossible to disagree with these men, let alone fight against their actions. Great post!
I think that the topic you chose was extremely interesting and original, however I would of liked to hear more of his atrocities that he committed rather than the propaganda written in his favor.
I’ve never heard of Voroshiov, and he definitely sounds like a bad guy just for the fact that he relied on propaganda to make a name for himself. I agree though that I would have liked to hear more about what he did specifically so that I could get a better perspective.
This really makes you wonder how many people were there like him? how many people were made so powerful during this time. I’m sure there are many stories of others like this man who did some terrible and in some cases great things.