Order No. 55
PeopleТs Commissar for Defence of the U.S.S.R.
February 23, 1942, Moscow
COMRADES, men of the Red Army and Red Navy, commanders and political workers, men and women guerillas!
The peoples of our country meet the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Red Army in the stern days of a patriotic war against fascist Germany, which is brazenly and despicably encroaching upon the life and freedom of our Motherland. Along the whole length of the huge front, which stretches from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea, the men of the Red Army and Navy are waging a bitter fight to drive the German-fascist invaders from our country and safeguard the honour and independence of our Motherland.
This is not the first time that the Red Army has had to defend our native land against enemy attack. The Red Army was created twenty-four years ago to combat the troops of the foreign interventionist invaders who were endeavouring to dismember our country and destroy her independence. Young detachments of the Red Army, which entered war for the first time, routed the German invaders at Pskov and Narva on February 23, 1918. For this very reason February 23, 1918, was proclaimed the day of the birth of the Red Army. Since then the Red Army grew and gained strength in the struggle with the foreign interventionist invaders. It successfully defended our country in the battles with the German invaders in 1918 and drove them beyond the confines of the Ukraine and Byelorussia. It successfully defended our country in the battles with the foreign troops of the Entente in 1919-1921 and drove them too beyond the confines of our country.
The rout of the foreign interventionist invaders during the Civil War secured the peoples of the Soviet Union lasting peace and the possibility of peaceful construction. During those two decades of peaceful construction there sprang up in our country socialist industry and collective farming; science and culture flourished and the bonds of friendship between the peoples of our country strengthened. But the Soviet people never forgot the possibility of a fresh enemy attack on our Motherland. Therefore, simultaneously with the development of industry and agriculture, science and culture, the military might of the Soviet Union was also growing. Certain lovers of foreign lands have already felt this might on their own hides. The much-vaunted German-fascist army is feeling it now.
Eight months ago fascist Germany perfidiously attacked our country, grossly and basely violating the non-aggression pact. The enemy figured that after the very first blow the Red Army would be routed and would lose its ability to resist. But the enemy gravely miscalculated. He did not take into consideration the strength of the Red Army, did not take into consideration the solidity of the Soviet rear, did not take into consideration the will of the peoples of our country to achieve victory, did not take into consideration the unreliability of the European rear of fascist Germany, did not take into consideration, finally, the internal weakness of fascist Germany and its army.
In the first months of the war, as a result of the unexpectedness and suddenness of the German-fascist attack, the Red Army was forced to retreat and evacuate part of Soviet territory. But while retreating the Red Army wore down the forces of the enemy and inflicted severe blows upon him. Neither the men of the Red Army nor the peoples of our country doubted that this retreat was but temporary, that the enemy would be halted and then defeated.
In the course of the war the Red Army accumulated fresh vital strength, was reinforced with men and equipment, and received fresh reserve divisions to aid it. And the time came when the Red Army was able to pass to the offensive in the main sectors of the huge front. Within a short time the Red Army dealt the German-fascist troops one blow after another, at Rostov-on-Don and Tikhvin, in the Crimea and at Moscow. In violent battles near Moscow the Red Army routed the German-fascist troops which had threatened to surround the Soviet capital. The Red Army threw back the enemy from Moscow and is still continuing to press him westward. The Moscow and Tula Regions as well as dozens of towns and hundreds of villages of other regions temporarily captured by the enemy have been completely freed from the German invaders.
The Germans now no longer have that military advantage which they possessed during the first months of the war as a result of their treacherous and sudden attack. The momentum of surprise and unexpectedness, as a reserve of the German-fascist troops, has been completely spent. This has put an end to that inequality in war conditions which was created by the suddenness of the German-fascist attack. From now on the outcome of the war will be decided, not by such an adventitious element as surprise, but by permanently operating factors: stability of the rear, morale of the army, quantity and quality of divisions, equipment of the army, organizing ability of the commanding personnel of the army. At this point one circumstance ought to be noted: no sooner had the momentum of suddenness disappeared from the German arsenal than the German-fascist army was confronted with catastrophe.
The German fascists consider their army invincible, asserting that in single combat it would unquestionably smash the Red Army. At the present time the Red Army and the German-fascist army are fighting in single combat. More than that, the German-fascist army has the direct support at the front of Italian, Rumanian and Finnish troops. The Red Army, so far, has no similar support.
And what do we find? The vaunted German army is suffering defeat while the Red Army has major successes to its credit. Under the powerful blows of the Red Army the German troops are reeling back to the West, sustaining huge losses in men and equipment. They hold on to every line of defence, trying to defer the day of their rout. But the enemyТs efforts are in vain. The initiative is now in our hands and the efforts of HitlerТs loose and rusty war machine cannot check the pressure of the Red Army. The day is not far distant when the Red Army, by its powerful blows, will thrust back the brutal enemy from Leningrad and sweep clear of him the towns and villages of Byelorussia and the Ukraine, of Lithuania and Latvia, Esthonia and Karelia, will free the Soviet Crimea, and the red banners will again fly victoriously over the entire Soviet land.
It would, however, be unpardonable shortsightedness to rest content with the successes achieved and to think that the German troops have already been done for. This would be empty boasting and conceit unworthy of Soviet people. It should not be forgotten that there are still many difficulties ahead. The enemy is suffering defeat, but he is not yet routed, still less is he finished off. The enemy is still strong. He will exert his last forces in order to attain success. And the more he suffers defeat, the more brutal he will become. Therefore it is essential that in our country the training of reserves in aid of the front should not be relaxed for a moment. It is essential that ever-new military units should go to the front to forge victory over the bestial enemy. It is essential that our industry, particularly our war industry, should work with redoubled energy. It is essential that with every day the front should receive ever more tanks, planes, guns, mortars, machine-guns, rifles, automatic rifles, and ammunition.
Herein lies one of the basic sources of the strength and power of the Red Army.
But the strength of the Red Army does not consist only in this. The strength of the Red Army rests, above all, in the fact that it is waging, not a predatory, not an imperialist war, but a patriotic war, a war of liberation, a just war. The Red ArmyТs task is to liberate our Soviet territory from the German invaders; to liberate from the yoke of the German invaders the citizens of our villages and towns who were free and lived like human beings before the war, but are now oppressed and suffer pillage, ruin and famine; and finally, to liberate our women from that disgrace and outrage to which they are subjected by the German-fascist monsters. What could be more noble, more lofty, than such a task? Not one German soldier can say that he is waging a just war, because he cannot fail to see that he is forced to fight for the despoliation and oppression of other peoples. The German soldier has no such lofty and noble aim in the war which could inspire him and of which he could be proud. But, in contrast, any Red Army man can sayТ with pride that he is waging a just war, a war for liberation, a war for the freedom and independence of his Motherland. The Red Army does have a noble and lofty aim in the war which inspires it to great exploits. It is precisely this that explains why the patriotic war brings forth among us thousands of heroes and heroines ready to go to their death for the sake of the liberty of their Motherland.
Herein lies the strength of the Red Army.
And herein lies the weakness of the German-fascist army.
The foreign Press sometimes carries such twaddle as that the Red Army pursues the aim of exterminating the German people and destroying the German state. This, of course, is a stupid lie, and a senseless slander against the Red Army. The Red Army has not and cannot have such idiotic aims. The Red ArmyТs aim is to drive the German occupants from our country and liberate Soviet soil from the German-fascist invaders. It is very likely that the war for the liberation of Soviet soil will lead to the exile or destruction of HitlerТs clique. We would welcome such an outcome. But it would be ludicrous to identify HitlerТs clique with the German people, with the German state. The experience of history indicates that Hitlers come and go, but the German people and the German state remain.
The strength of the Red Army lies, finally, in the fact that it does not and cannot feel racial hatred for other peoples, including the German people; that it has been trained in the spirit of equality of all peoples and races, in the spirit of respect for the rights of other peoples. The GermansТ racial theory and the practice of racial hatred have caused all freedom-loving peoples to become enemies of fascist Germany. The theory of race equality in the U.S.S.R. and practice of respect for the rights of other peoples have caused all freedom-loving peoples to become the friends of the Soviet Union.
Herein lies the strength of the Red Army.
And herein lies the weakness of the German-fascist army.
The foreign Press sometimes carries such twaddle as that the Soviet people hate the Germans just as Germans, that the Red Army exterminates German soldiers just as Germans out of hatred for everything German and that therefore the Red Army does not take German soldiers prisoner. That, of course is a similar stupid lie and senseless slander against the Red Army. The Red Army is devoid of all sentiments of racial hatred. It is devoid of such degrading sentiments because it has been trained in the spirit of racial equality and respect for the rights of other peoples. It should not be forgotten either that in our country any manifestation of racial hatred is punished by law.
Of course, the Red Army has to destroy the German-fascist occupationists inasmuch as they wish to enslave our Motherland; or when, on being surrounded by our troops, they refuse to lay down their arms and surrender. The Red Army annihilates them, not because of their German origin, but because they want to enslave our Motherland. The Red Army, like the army of any other people, has the right and is duty-bound to annihilate the enslavers of its Motherland, irrespective of their national origin. Not long ago the German garrisons in the towns of Kalinin, Klin, Sukhinichi, Andreapol and Toropets were surrounded by our troops, who offered them surrender and, in this case, promised to spare their lives. The German garrisons refused to lay down their arms and surrender. It is obvious that they had to be driven out by force and that not a few Germans were killed. War is war. The Red Army takes German soldiers and officers prisoner if they surrender, and spares their lives. The Red Army annihilates German soldiers and officers if they refuse to lay down their arms, and, arms in hand, attempt to enslave our Motherland. Remember the words of the great Russian writer, Maxim Gorky: УIf the enemy does not surrender he must be annihilated.Ф
Comrades! Red Army men and Red Navy men, commanders and political workers, men and women guerillas! I congratulate you on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Red Army! I wish you complete victory over the German-fascist invaders.
Long live the Red Army and Navy!
Long live the green and women guerillas!
Long live our glorious native land, its freedom and its independence!
Long live the great party of the Bolsheviks which is leading us to victory!
Long live the invincible banner of the great Lenin!
Under the banner of Lenin onward to the defeat of the German-fascist invaders!