Josef Stalin ordered the execution of more than 200 senior Red Army officers imprisoned in dungeons of the secret police as the Nazis advanced on Moscow during World War II, a Soviet magazine reported.
The article Sunday in the weekly magazine Ogonyok, based on previously unpublished interviews in the mid-1960s with World War II commander Georgy Zhukov, indicated that among those killed in late 1941 were army head Mikhail Tukhachevsky, who previously was thought to have died after a 1937 show trial.Zhukov got revenge for the officers' execution in 1953, when he personally arrested Lavrenti Beria, the head of the secret police who was executed after Stalin's death in the same year.
"When (the Nazis) attacked Moscow, 200 to 300 of the staff of the Supreme Command had been held in the cellars at the Lubjanka (prison) since 1937," Zhukov said. "There was nothing to transport them out on all were shot. What people died and at the front all that time lieutenants were commanding regiments."
The German armies drove in November 1941 nearly to the edge of Moscow but then lost the campaign after a severe winter.
Stalin's purge of the Red Army command in 1937, which destroyed the officer corps, is often blamed for the Nazis' success in the first two years of the war against the Soviet Union.
Tukhachevsky, commander-in-chief of the army, was regarded as a brilliant theoretician of tank warfare.
"I feel especially sorry for Tukhachevsky," Zhukov said. He said the marshal was "a person of immense military talent."
The revelations are part of an accelerating campaign to discredit Stalin, who created the country's centralized and largely inefficient economic system.