On July 28, 1942, Order of the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR No. 227 was signed, which went down in history as the order "Not a step back!"
Many historians cite this document as an example as a vivid evidence of the bloodthirstiness of the Stalinist regime, its contempt for the lives of its own citizens. The negative attitude towards Order No. 227 among the inhabitants who draw their historical knowledge from journalism often arises due to the fact that they are simply unfamiliar with the text of this document itself.
Let's look at it from the other side. The spring and summer of 1942 were perhaps even more disastrous for the Soviet Union than the first weeks of the war. The attack on Kharkov not only failed, but turned out to be a complete defeat of the group of Soviet troops. In killed, wounded and captured, the Red Army lost about 500, 000 people. The Nazis managed to capture the Crimea, in early July 1942 Sevastopol fell.
It was about the very existence of our state. The decisive success of the Nazis was fraught with Japan and Turkey entering the war with the USSR, which turned an extremely difficult situation into an absolutely catastrophic one. Under these conditions, the situation could only be reversed by drastic measures. One of such measures was Order No. 227.
It is better to see (read) once than hear about it a hundred times. Here is its full text without cuts.
People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR No. 227
July 28, 1942
The enemy is throwing ever new forces to the front and, disregarding the great losses for him, climbs forward, rushes deep into the Soviet Union, seizes new areas, devastates and ravages our cities and villages, rapes, plunders and kills the Soviet population. The battles are taking place in the Voronezh region, on the Don, in the south at the gates of the North Caucasus. The German invaders are striving for Stalingrad, for the Volga and want to seize the Kuban and the North Caucasus with their oil and grain resources at any cost. The enemy has already captured Voroshilovgrad, Starobelsk, Rossosh, Kupyansk, Valuyki, Novocherkassk, Rostov-on-Don, half of Voronezh. Part of the troops of the Southern Front, following the alarmists, left Rostov and Novocherkassk without serious resistance and without orders from Moscow, covering their banners with shame.
The population of our country, who treats the Red Army with love and respect, begins to become disillusioned with it, loses faith in the Red Army, and many of them curse the Red Army for giving our people under the yoke of the German oppressors, and itself is leaking to the east.
Some stupid people at the front console themselves by talking about how we can continue to retreat to the east, since we have a lot of territory, a lot of land, a lot of population, and that we will always have an abundance of grain. By this they want to justify their shameful behavior at the front. But such conversations are thoroughly false and deceitful, beneficial only to our enemies.
Every commander, every Red Army soldier and political worker must understand that our means are not unlimited. The territory of the Soviet Union is not a desert, but people - workers, peasants, intellectuals, our fathers and mothers, wives, brothers, children. The territory of the USSR, which the enemy has seized and is striving to seize, is bread and other products for the army and rear, metal and fuel for industry, factories, factories supplying the army with weapons and ammunition, railways. After the loss of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, Donbass and other regions, we have less territory, which means that there are much fewer people, bread, metal, factories and factories. We have lost more than 70 million people, more than 80 million poods of grain per year and more than 10 million tons of metal per year. We no longer have a preponderance over the Germans either in human resources or in grain reserves. To retreat further means to ruin oneself and at the same time ruin our Motherland. Each new piece of territory we have left will strengthen the enemy in every possible way and weaken our defense and our Motherland in every possible way.
Therefore, it is necessary to radically suppress conversations that we have the opportunity to retreat endlessly, that we have a lot of territory, our country is large and rich, there is a lot of population, and there will always be an abundance of bread. Such conversations are deceitful and harmful, they weaken us and strengthen the enemy, for if we do not stop retreating, we will be left without bread, without fuel, without metal, without raw materials, without factories and plants, without railways.
It follows from this that it is time to end the retreat.
No step back! This should now be our main appeal.
We must stubbornly, to the last drop of blood, defend every position, every meter of Soviet territory, cling to every piece of Soviet land and defend it to the last possible extent.
Our Motherland is going through difficult days. We must stop and then push back and defeat the enemy, no matter what it takes. The Germans are not as strong as the alarmists think. They exert their last strength. To withstand their blow now means to ensure our victory.
Can we withstand the blow and then push the enemy westward? Yes, we can, because our factories and factories in the rear are now working perfectly and our front is receiving more and more aircraft, tanks, artillery and mortars.
What are we missing?
There is a lack of order and discipline in companies, regiments, divisions, in tank units, in air squadrons. This is now our main drawback. We must establish the strictest order and iron discipline in our army if we want to save the situation and defend our homeland.
We can no longer tolerate commanders, commissars, political workers, whose units and formations willfully leave their combat positions. It cannot be tolerated further when commanders, commissars, political workers allow several alarmists to determine the situation on the battlefield, so that they can drag other fighters into retreat and open the front to the enemy.
Alarmists and cowards should be exterminated on the spot.
From now on, a demand must appear as an iron law of discipline for every commander, Red Army soldier, and political worker - not a step back without an order from the high command.
The commanders of a company, battalion, regiment, division, the corresponding commissars and political workers retreating from a combat position without an order from above are traitors to the Motherland. Such commanders and political workers should be treated like traitors to the Motherland.
This is the call of our Motherland.
To carry out this order means to defend our land, save the Motherland, destroy and defeat the hated enemy.
After their winter retreat under the pressure of the Red Army, when discipline in the German troops was loosened, the Germans took some harsh measures to restore discipline, which led to good results. They formed 100 penal companies from fighters who were guilty of violating discipline through cowardice or instability, put them on dangerous sectors of the front and ordered them to atone for their sins with blood. They formed, further, about a dozen penal battalions of commanders who were guilty of violating discipline through cowardice or instability, deprived them of their orders, placed them on even more dangerous sectors of the front and ordered them to atone for their sins. They finally formed special barrage detachments, placed them behind unstable divisions and ordered them to shoot alarmists on the spot in case of an attempt to unauthorized abandonment of positions and in case of an attempt to surrender. As you know, these measures have had their effect, and now the German troops are fighting better than they fought in the winter. And so it turns out that the German troops have good discipline, although they do not have the lofty goal of defending their homeland, but there is only one predatory goal - to conquer a foreign country, and our troops, having the goal of defending their desecrated homeland, do not have such discipline and tolerate this defeat.
Shouldn't we learn from our enemies in this matter, as our ancestors learned from enemies in the past and then gained victory over them?
I think it should.
THE SUPREME COMMAND OF THE RED ARMY ORDERS:
1. The military councils of the fronts and, above all, the commanders of the fronts:
a) unconditionally eliminate the retreating sentiments in the troops and with an iron hand suppress the propaganda that we can and should allegedly retreat further to the east, that there will be no harm from such a retreat;
b) unconditionally remove from their posts and send them to Headquarters in order to bring to a military court the commanders of the armies who allowed the unauthorized withdrawal of troops from their positions, without an order from the front command;
c) to form within the front from 1 to 3 (depending on the situation) penal battalions (800 people each), where to send middle and senior commanders and relevant political workers of all branches of the army, guilty of violating discipline due to cowardice or instability, and put them on more difficult sectors of the front, to give them the opportunity to atone for their crimes against the Motherland with blood.
2. The military councils of the armies and, above all, the commanders of the armies:
a) unconditionally remove from their posts the commanders and commissars of corps and divisions who allowed the unauthorized withdrawal of troops from their positions without an order from the army command, and send them to the military council of the front to be brought to court-martial;
b) to form within the army 3-5 well-armed barrage detachments (200 people in each), put them in the immediate rear of unstable divisions and oblige them in the event of panic and indiscriminate withdrawal of divisional units to shoot alarmists and cowards on the spot and thus help honest fighters divisions to fulfill their duty to the Motherland;
c) form within the army from 5 to 10 (depending on the situation) penal companies (from 150 to 200 people in each), where to send ordinary soldiers and junior commanders guilty of violating discipline due to cowardice or instability, and put them in difficult areas army to give them the opportunity to atone for their crimes against the Motherland with blood.
3. Commanders and commissars of corps and divisions;
a) unconditionally remove from their posts the commanders and commissars of the regiments and battalions who allowed the unauthorized withdrawal of units without the order of the corps or division commander, take orders and medals from them and send them to the military councils of the front to be brought to court-martial:
b) provide all kinds of assistance and support to the barrage detachments of the army in strengthening order and discipline in the units.
Read the order in all companies, squadrons, batteries, squadrons, teams, headquarters.
People's Commissar for Defense