Mikhail Tukhachevsky saw it coming, really. Sometimes it’s rather sad to be right about certain things. Tukhachevsky had been nicknamed the “Red Napoleon,” meaning that he was a popular Soviet military leader in Stalin’s Red Army. Tukhachevsky had no idea just how much more important the ideology would be to Stalin, than loyalty, ability, or anything else.
After his service in World War I of 1914-1917 and in the Russian Civil War of 1917-1923, from 1920 to 1921 Tukhachevsky commanded the Soviet Western Front in the Polish–Soviet War. He was moving up the ranks, and with the Soviet forces under his command, he successfully repelled the Polish forces from Western Ukraine, driving them back into Poland. Nevertheless, the Red Army suffered defeat outside of Warsaw, and the war ended in a Soviet defeat.
Tukhachevsky went on to serve as chief of staff of the Red Army from 1925 through 1928, as assistant in the People’s Commissariat of Defense after 1934, and as commander of the Volga Military District in 1937. He achieved the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1935. Still, all of that did not protect him, in fact it put him in more danger, because he was just a little way under Stalin, and that was not going to bode well for him.
Tukhachevsky was arrested in 1936, suspected of being a German spy. The charges included Tukhachevsky’s supposed plot to overthrow Stalin. After he was arrested, the guards coerced a confession out of him. This was at the very beginning of The Great Terror, a term which historians have borrowed from the French Revolution. It refers to the paroxysm of state-organized bloodshed that overwhelmed the Communist Party and Soviet society during the years 1936-1938. It was also known as the Great Purges.
During this time, Stalin actually had over a million of his own soldiers killed for imagined wrongs. Stalin was, in reality, half crazy. He was known to pluck a live chicken, just to see the reaction from his men. It wasn’t a really big stretch to move to killing soldiers or civilians, so the Great Terror wasn’t too far out there for him. As for Tukhachevsky, Stalin sentenced him to death in March 1938. He was executed on June 12, 1937. Even the men who had to judge the soldiers in those “sham” trials, were not free from danger. One of them, Ivan Belov said, “Tomorrow, I shall be put in the same place.” Belov was right. He was arrested on January 7, 1938. He was later executed as well. I can’t imagine how insane Stalin must have been. When you think about it, most of the men and women who were under Stalin’s rule, were too terrified to be disloyal.
Imagine charging a horse with murder, reckless endangerment, or vandalism for things like bucking its rider off, causing death or injury, or kicking the neighbors fence down. Insane, right…wrong!! For centuries, animals, including insects faced criminal charges across many parts of Europe. Now, I personally think that most insects need to be executed…no trial necessary!! The earliest documented case was a pig, who after being found guilty, was executed at Fontenay-aux-Roses in 1266. At that time it was believed that animals knew right from wrong, like humans do. I don’t think they were far off, because animals do seem to know when they have done something wrong, but I’m not sure that they understand guilt over of an accidental death or injury.
Nevertheless, these trials went on as part of several legal systems until the 18th century. Animal defendants appeared before both church and secular courts, and the charges ranged from murder to criminal damage. Human witnesses were often heard and in Ecclesiastical courts the animals were routinely provided with lawyers. If convicted, the animal was usually executed or exiled. Several books were written about these trials. E.P. Evans’ The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, published in 1906, and Sadakat Kadri’s The Trial: Four Thousand Years of Courtroom Drama were two such books. Kadri shows that the trials were part of a broader phenomenon that saw corpses and inanimate objects also face prosecution…which takes weird to a completely new level. Some people think that modern day punishment of children and the mentally ill is rather an echo of those strange earlier rituals.
Several thoughts have come to my mind concerning these animal trials. For instance, animals can’t talk, so how were they supposed to testify or speak in their own defense? Also, were these trials held in a courtroom or a stable…for obvious reasons? And, if the offending animal belonged to someone, not the person who was the victim, how were they compensated for the loss of their animal? After all, they didn’t commit the “crime” that their animal was accused of. This is such a strange practice, that I have to wonder who came up with the idea originally anyway, and were they sane…or more likely insane.
As our children grow into adulthood, it can be difficult to look at them in this new light. Sometimes, it takes much longer to realize that they are grown adults than perhaps it should take. It isn’t that they are immature, its just that we can’t get past the picture of that child that has lived in our minds all these years. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be your own children either. Nieces and nephews can seem like they just shouldn’t be grown adults…and yet they are. That’s the way I feel about my niece, Jenny. As a girl, Jenny was a teeny little princess type with a cute little smile. She rarely took anything seriously, but rather just liked to have fun. I know, pretty typical of a little girl. Yes, she was typical of little girls, but Jenny was going to become something different…a faith filled woman.
Now, Jenny is grown and has a family of her own. Somehow, it has finally hit me I think, what a very special woman she is. She has been through so many things in her lifetime, and yet the woman I see before me is strong and charming at the same time. She doesn’t let the sadness or problems she faces, define who she is, but rather turns to God to lead her everywhere she goes. As a teenager, like most teenagers, she just didn’t seem like she would have become this strong faith-filled woman, but now, here she is. It is an amazing transformation.
I think that you can tell what a person is really made of as you watch them walk through the trials in this life. Some people are broken by the trials, and some stand firm in their beliefs, and strong in their faith. Nevertheless, you wish there was a way to keep them from going through any trials at all, because you love them. You can’t protect them from everything they will face in this world, but you can equip them with the necessary tools to see them through the trials of life…namely God. Now, as I see Jenny posting on Facebook about how happy she is to be going to church to worship the Lord, it makes me feel very proud of how much she has grown in the Lord.
The person Jenny is today is a direct result of the prayers of her mother. My sister, Cheryl, like the rest of my sisters, my parents, and I, have prayed over our children. I can’t imagine trying to walk through this world without prayers being said over the journey, nor can anyone in the rest of my family. Jenny too, has learned that life must be handled with prayer, and that while sorrows may come, God still has a plan for you, and that miracles still happen today. Those prayers brought Steve into her life, so they could walk the road of faith hand in hand. Jenny knows that God really does still answer prayer today, and when He heals your broken heart, it is in the most wonderful way. And she knows that while sorrows come, God will restore what is missing in their lives, back to them again. Today is Jenny’s birthday. While life has not always been easy for her…Jenny has come through it all, her faith intact and her joy complete, because she has her miracle. I’m very proud of her. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a blessed day!! We love you!!