The Red Army on a Peace Footing

Orders, Circulars, Telegrams, etc.

The Case of Red Army Man Kozlov

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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Order by the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic to the Commander of the Train, September 5, 1921, No.256

During my conference today with Comrades Rakovsky and Frunze, Comrade Kozlov was on sentry duty at the door of my office. Comrade Kozlov allowed an unauthorised person to enter during the conference, without having asked for my instructions and without possessing any information whatsoever concerning the right of this person to participate in the conference. I order that Comrade Kozlov be at once placed under arrest and brought before the Military Revolutionary Tribunal.

Postal Telegram to the Chairman of the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Kiev Military District, Comrade Zabelsky

Being unable to be present at the investigation of the case of Comrade Kozlov, in order to submit the necessary evidence, I consider it necessary to convey to the Tribunal in writing the motives that led me to hand over Comrade Kozlov for trial.

On September 5, Comrade Kozlov was on sentry-duty at the door of the room in which I was conferring with certain persons. During the conference, Comrade Nikolayenko, chairman of the provincial executive committee, entered the room. Going up to Comrade Kozlov, I asked him on whose instructions he had admitted Comrade Nikolayenko. Kozlov replied more or less in these words: ‘He said that he was the chairman of the provincial executive committee and was needed in the office.’ This explanation of his behaviour was, of course, radically wrong. If Comrade Kozlov had any doubt as to whether or not he should let a person in, he ought to have opened the door and asked for my instructions.

Regarding Comrade Kozlov it must be said that he is an honourable and conscientious worker, devoted to the cause of the revolution, and I have seen him prove that devotion more than once, with my own eyes. But, at the same time he lacks seriousness in his attitude to his everyday duties. He would much sooner accomplish some heroic exploit than properly carry out a petty errand. This misfortune – insufficient inner discipline – is, alas, still rather widespread in our army, and not only in the army, either.

There is a very important aspect of principle in this matter, which was decisive for me in sending Comrade Kozlov before the Tribunal. The thing is that in the Soviet Republics, and even among their responsible workers, a correct attitude is not always observed towards sentries, their rights and duties. The garrison regulations state that a sentry’s person is inviolable. In fulfilling their responsible task, sentries too frequently find themselves in situations where they have to use their weapons. Why is this? Precisely because many responsible workers take no heed of the rules governing guard service, and, more often than not, demand that a sentry let them pass regardless of all the rules. The authority possessed by the person who demand that the sentry break the garrison regulations inevitably shakes the inner discipline of Red Army men on sentry-duty, and also that of their commanders and commissars. This situation is absolutely intolerable. It has already caused much harm and threatens to bring about more serious consequences in the future. Public opinion in the Soviet Republics, and, above all, among their leading circles, must get a firm grasp of the notion that a sentry is inviolable. I appeal to the Tribunal to lend its authoritative co-operation in achieving this purpose. [1]

September 13, 1921 Kiev


1. The Kiev Military Tribunal, taking into account the mitigating circumstances and the accused’s sincere repentance, inflicted a severe reprimand on Kozlov, and resolved to request the People’s Commissariat of Justice to issue a special provision for increasing the penalties for disobeying the garrison service regulations on the treatment of sentries. The sentence of the Revolutionary Military Tribunal of Kiev Military District was published in Order No.266, dated September 28, 1921, by the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic.

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Last updated on: 29.12.2006