J. V. Stalin

Report to V. I. Lenin

January 19, 1919

Source : Works, Vol. 4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

To Comrade Lenin.

We have received your ciphered telegram. We have already informed you of the reasons for the catastrophe as revealed by the investigation: 1 an army with fatigued units and with no reserves nor a firm command, and, moreover, occupying a flank position open to envelopment from the North—such an army could not but collapse in the face of a serious assault of superior and fresh enemy forces. In our opinion, the trouble lay not only in the weakness of the Third Army agencies and the immediate rear, but also

1) In the General Staff and the Area Military Commissariats, which formed and sent to the front units which were patently unreliable;

2) In the All-Russian Commissars Bureau, which supplied the units being formed in the rear with callow youths, not commissars;

3) In the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, whose so-called instructions and orders disorganized the control of the front and the armies. Unless the necessary changes are made at central headquarters, there can be no guarantee of success at the fronts.

Here are our replies to the military.

1. The two regiments. Two regiments surrendered: the 1st Soviet and a regiment of sailors from Petro-grad. They did not begin any hostile actions against us. It was the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the 10th Division stationed in the village of Ilyinskoye, which had been formed by the Ural Area Military Commissariat, that started hostile actions. Further, we managed to forestall a mutiny of the 10th Regiment of Engineers, stationed at Ochersky Zavod, which had also been formed by the Area Military Commissariat. The reason for the desertions to the enemy, as well as for the hostile actions, was the counter-revolutionary spirit of the regiments, which is to be attributed to the old methods of mobilization and formation, under which no preliminary sifting was made of the men called up for service, and also to the absence of even a minimum of political educational work in the regiments.

2. Motovilikha. The machinery of the plant and the equipment of the electrical shop were dismantled and inventorized in proper time and loaded on rail; but they were not moved out, nor were they destroyed. The responsibility lies with the Central Collegium, 2 the chief transportation officer and the Revolutionary Military Council of the army, which displayed incredible mismanagement. Five-sixths of Motovilikha's workers were left behind in Perm, as also were the entire technical staff of the plant and its raw materials. According to available information, the plant can be restarted in about a month and a half. Rumours of a revolt of the Motovilikha workers on the eve of the fall of Perm are not confirmed; there was only serious unrest due to bad food supply.

3. Demolition of the bridge and valuable installations. The bridge, etc., were not blown up owing to mismanagement on the part of the Revolutionary Military Council of the army and lack of liaison between the retreating units and army headquarters. It is asserted that the comrade whose duty it was to blow up the bridge could not accomplish his mission because he was killed by whiteguards a few minutes before the charge was to be fired. It has been impossible so far to verify this version because of the flight of the bridge guards and the departure of a whole number of "Soviet" officials "no one knows whereto."

4. Reserves at Perm. The reserves consisted of one still weak and unreliable "Soviet regiment," which upon its arrival at the front immediately went over to the enemy. There were no other reserves.

5. Losses of materiel and men. It is still impossible to construct a full picture of the losses because of the disappearance of a number of documents and the desertion to the enemy of a number of the "Soviet" specialists concerned.

According to the scanty data available, our losses were: 297 locomotives (of which, 86 in disrepair), about 3,000 railway wagons (probably more), 900,000 poods of oil and paraffin, several hundred thousand poods of caustic soda, two million poods of salt, five million rubles' worth of medical supplies, the storehouses of the Motovilikha plant and the Perm railwayshops with the vast amount of materials they contained, the machinery and parts of the Motovilikha plant, the machinery of the steamers of the Kama flotilla, 65 wagon-loads of leather, 150 wagon-loads of food belonging to the army supply division, the huge warehouse of the District- Water Transport Board containing cotton wool, textiles, mineral oil, etc., ten cars of wounded, the axle stores of the railways which included large stocks of American axles, 29 guns, 10,000 shells, 2,000 rifles, 8 million cartridges; over 8,000 men killed, wounded or missing in the period December 22 to 29. The railway specialists and practically all the supply specialists have remained in Perm. The counting of losses continues.

6. Present fighting strength of the army. The Third Army consists at present of two divisions (29th and 30th), with 14,000 bayonets and 3,000 sabres, 323 machine guns and 78 guns. Reserves: a brigade of the 7th Division sent from Russia which has not yet been sent into action because of its unreliability and need of thorough sifting. The three regiments promised by Vatsetis have not yet arrived (and will not, because yesterday, it appears, they were redirected to Narva). 3 The units in action are battered and worn out and are holding their positions with difficulty.

7. Control system of the Third Army. Outwardly, the system of control seems the usual one and "according to the manual." Actually, there is no system at all—the administration is utterly incompetent, has no liaison with the combat area, and the divisions are virtually autonomous.

8. Have adequate measures been taken to halt the retreat? Of the measures taken, the following may be considered of serious value: 1) advance of the Second Army towards Kungur, which is undoubtedly of great support to the Third Army, and 2) the dispatch to the front, thanks to the efforts of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, of 900 fresh and fully reliable bayonets with the object of raising the fallen morale of the Third Army. Within a couple of days we shall dispatch to the front two squadrons of cavalry and the 62nd Regiment of the 3rd Brigade (already sifted). Another regiment will be leaving in ten days. The front of the Third Army knows this and sees the solicitude of the rear, and its morale is stiffening. Without a doubt, the situation is better than it was a fortnight ago. In places the army is even assuming the offensive, and not without success. If the enemy allows us another couple of weeks' respite, that is, if he does not bring up fresh forces to the front, there is hope that a stable situation will be created in the Third Army's area.

We are at present engaged in liquidating a northern enveloping movement of several enemy detachments in the direction of Vyatka, along the road that runs through Kaigorod. One reason, incidentally, why we have come to Vyatka is to send a ski detachment to Kaigorod, which we shall do. As to other measures (for strengthening the rear), we are mobilizing personnel, rank-and-file and otherwise, and appointing them to the army units in the rear, and are purging the Glazov and Vyatka Soviets. But, of course, the results of this work will not make themselves felt for some time.

This exhausts the measures taken. They can by no means be considered adequate, because the weary units of the Third Army cannot hold on for long without at least partial replacement. It is therefore necessary to send us at least two regiments. Only then may the stability of the front be considered guaranteed. Apart from this, it is necessary:

1) To replace the army commander;

2) To send three efficient political workers;

3) To dissolve immediately the Regional Party Committee, Regional Soviet, etc., with a view to the speedy mobilization of the evacuated officials.

J. Stalin
F. Dzerzhinsky

Vyatka, January 19, 1919

P. S. We shall be returning to Glazov in a few days to complete the investigation.


1. On January 13, 1919, J. V. Stalin and F. E. Dzerzhinsky sent V. I. Lenin and the Party Central Committee a "Brief Preliminary Report" on the progress of the inquiry into the reasons for the Perm disaster. It also outlined the measures proposed by the commission for restoring the situation in the Third Army sector and to enable the army to pass to the offensive. In response to the report, V. I. Lenin, on January 14, sent the following telegram:

"To Stalin and Dzerzhinsky at their address in Glazov.

"Have received and read your first ciphered dispatch. Earnestly request both of you personally to supervise the carrying out of the proposed measures on the spot, otherwise there will be no guarantee of success.—Lenin."

2. Central Collegium—the local agency of the All-Russian Evacuation Commission.

3. This refers to the three regiments which were to be sent to the Third Army by the Commander-in-Chief in response to the request of J. V. Stalin and F. E. Dzerzhinsky. When for- warding this report to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, V. I. Lenin wrote in the margin: ". . . In my opinion it is simply outrageous that Vatsetis ordered the three regiments to Narva. Countermandit! !" (see Lenin Miscellany, XXXIV, p. 90).