Vatutin, Makhno and the UPA subject logo: MILGAM
Posted by: badanov

Something I held on to through college to this day is my love for the War in the East, AKA the Eastern Front.

If you're a big enough geek you have from time to time named your favorite WWII general, German American, etc. Most of my favorites are Soviet generals, after the obvious Patton, and the most favorite is Colonel-General Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin. Although far less known than Georgi Zhukov, Vatutin played a far more important role in the Soviet victory in the east than Zhukov did.

My main hits against Zhukov was, most importantly, he was a hack; Zhukov rose in prominence in the Red Army because he was a crony of Stalin. He had a military background, to be sure, but he was an NCO in the Russian Imperial Army. He wound up undergoing training as a Soviet officer only later.

His other roles included planning the Uranus operation which sprung a trap for the German 6th Army. After than he was mainly a theatre commander, and an occaisional front commander for Stalin.

It is said Zhukov's staff work was weak and a major reason why he did not do well as a staff officer.

Not so Vatutin. Trained as an officer in the Red Army, Vatutin spent years in the Soviet staff system, eventually to rise as commander of the Voronezh Front, the main formation responsible for the defeat of Germany at Kursk.

His end came in March of 1944 in Ukraine, when his staff convoy was ambushed, it is said, by Ukrainian nationalists.

Not a lot of information about Vatutin exists online, which is sad given the contributions this man and his family made to the eventual Soviet victory in the east. What we do know is that in 1920, he was a staff officer in the newly formed Red Army tasked to defeat the army of Nestor Makhno, a popular Communist anarchist of the time who had unique, neo-Marxist views on Communism.

If you have ever heard the term Black Guards, that was the name of Makhno's military unit. For two years Makhno spent fighting the White and Red Armies, successfully resisting both until Makhno's staffs were tricked into a military conference with the Red Army, and Makhno's officers were murdered by the Red Army. Makhno escaped to France.

I have to wonder now about Vatutin. I read a brief account of the ambush of Vatutin, and I read about the claim that it was Ukrainian nationalist partisans which found this army level commander and tried to, and eventually killed him. I have to wonder if the partisans who murdered Vatutin were in fact NKVD operatives tasked with removing this potential threat to Stalin and his empire.

I know that Ukrainian nationalists tried to enlist to help the German General Government following Barbarossa, but many of them were murdered by the Germans. Few armed partisans were operating in the Ukraine unless they were Soviet partisans, most of which kept in close contact with the NKVD.

And I also know that NKVD military units were known to commit attacks against civilians dressed as Ukrainian nationalists. It certainly seems possible that the NKVD could have been tasked with asssasinating Vatutin to remove a competent military commander. Soviets had no qualms with beheading its defenders for political gains as they saw them.

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