One day in captivity - ten years in prison

Autor: Marek Čech / Panzer 🕔︎︎ 👁︎ 3.118

Childhood

Ivan Andreyevich Laskin was born on November 1, 1901 in the village of Vasilievka in what was then Belebeyevsky uyezd, Ufa gubernia, into a peasant family. His mother died when he was still a small child. In 1912, when he was 11 years old, his family moved to the district town of Belebey, where Ivan was enrolled in the third grade of the parish church school, later moving on to the town's elementary school. However, due to lack of money, he had to drop out of his studies. He then worked as a shop assistant, a construction worker and a messenger boy - a clerk at the town office.

 

After the Revolution

Reklama

After the Bolshevik Revolution, Ivan Laskin volunteered for the Red Army shortly after he turned eighteen, on 11 September 1919 to be precise. He first served in the guard company of the Belebeyev Military Commissariat. In June 1920 he was enrolled as a cadet in the command courses of the 28th Perm Infantry Regiment. In August he was sent to the Southern Front, where, as a cadet and squad leader in the 2nd Regiment of the 1st Kiev Cadet Brigade, he fought against the White troops of General P. N. Wrangel, the armed formations of N. I. Makhno and Y. Yutunnik. After the end of the Civil War in March 1921, I. A. Laskin returned to the 5th Kiev Infantry School to continue his studies, which he eventually completed in 1923. After completing his training, from September 1923 he commanded a squad in the training regiment of the Caucasian Army, which was located in the village of Manglisi in the Georgian SSR. From March 1924 to April 1931 he served in the 2nd Caucasian Rifle Regiment of the Caucasian Army as an assistant political officer, and from October 1924 he was the head of sapper training in this regiment. From April 1925 he was platoon commander of the regimental school, from November 1925 company commander. From April 1931 to May 1934 he studied at the Frunze Military Academy. After graduating from it, he was deputy chief of the 1st (operational) part of the 48th Rifle Division's staff from May 1934.

 

Stalin's terror narrowly missed him

In February 1935 he was transferred to the Ukrainian Military District, where he served as Chief of Staff and acting commander of the 132nd Rifle Regiment of the 44th Rifle Division. After the introduction of military ranks in the Red Army in 1935, Laskin was awarded the rank of major on 24 December 1935. From August 1937 major I. A. Laskin served as a special assignments officer with the Military District Council. Specifically, under Army Commander 1st Grade I. F. Fedyko and from April 1938 in the same capacity at the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR (the Deputy People's Commissar was the same I.F. Fedyko, transferred to this post from January 1938). Laskin's subsequent promotion to colonel on 12.04.1938 was apparently related to this high position. Which was a significant career advancement, since an officer in the Soviet army worked his way up to the rank of colonel in peacetime, usually after his fortieth year. And Laskin was only 36 years old at the time he attained that rank.

On Thursday, July 7, 1938, Laskin's superior I.F. Fedko was arrested by NKVD officers and subjected to beatings and torture. Although in previous interrogations and confrontations with alleged accomplices (I.A. Chalepsky, S.P. Uritsky, I.P. Belov - also forced to "confess" under torture) fundamentally denied his participation in the "military-fascist conspiracy in the Red Army", and after being arrested and several days of "interrogators' work" (meaning beatings and psychological coercion), he "confessed" to everything. He was convicted on 26.02.1939, and, as was the good custom in the Soviet Union at that time, he was executed on the same day.

Also, it was a good custom that together "with the enemy of the nation" his closest collaborators and family members were also persecuted. Colonel Laskin, however, miraculously escaped reprisals. But although none of his official biographies show it, one consequence seems to have been for him nonetheless. And that was a reduction in rank by one grade from colonel to major (at that time in the Red Army, the rank of lieutenant colonel did not yet exist). This is, admittedly, only a conjecture of the author, but one that is supported by wartime documents. In fact, from the operational staff scout of the 15th Rifle Division of 21 September 1941, it is clear that Chief of Staff Laskin is listed with the rank of major.

 

Reklama

Operational reconnaissance of the 15th Rifle Division dated 21.09.1941 with Major Laskin's signature

 

This is not an accidental scribal error, as he is listed with the same rank on all known documents from that period. And this is also suggested by the recollection of Laskin himself from his unpublished manuscript memoirs, according to which, when, after his arrest on 18 December 1943, he was brought before the all-powerful head of the General Administration of Counterintelligence of SMERSH, Beriyov's deputy colonel-general Abakumov, the latter shouted at him: "We wanted to arrest you in 1938 along with Feddy, and it's a pity we didn't. And you still tried to ignore our authorities. Now you recognize who we are!"

And although the relevant sources in his military career up to this point are almost to the dot, they differ on his subsequent service. According to one (wiki), he was appointed Chief of Staff in December 1938 85. Rifle Division of the Ural Military District (Chelabinsk), and from December 1939 he was Chief of Staff of the 15th Motorized Division. According to the second, more credible but nevertheless with many demonstrable errors (the book Komdivy. Voyennyj biograficheskij slovar, Vol. 4), he was appointed chief of staff of the 85th Rifle Division in December 1938, but in December 1939 he was transferred to the same position in the 151st Rifle Division. Both sources agree, however, that from at least May 1940 he served as chief of staff of the 15th Motorized Division, which was formed in September 1939 by the renaming of the 15th Rifle Division.

Early in the Great Patriotic War, the 15th Motorized Artillery Division fought heavy defensive battles in Bessarabia during the border battles, then, on the orders of the commander of the superior 2. Mechanized Corps withdrew in the direction of Rybnica, Uman and covered the retreat of the troops of the 12th Army and Southern Front. From 3 August 1941, the 2nd Mechanized Corps, as part of the 6th and 12th Army, together with the division, was surrounded in the area of Podvysokoje village, Uman district. On 6 August, the 15th Motorized Division (renamed on the same day as the 15th Rifle Division) crossed the border on the orders of the corps commander Lieutenant-General J. V. Novoselsky to the breach. During the breakthrough, a large number of enemy live forces and up to four enemy batteries were destroyed. After the death of the commander of the 15th Motorized Division, major-general N. N. Belov from 9 August, major Laskin commanded the rest of the division, and on the orders of the corps commander, the remnants of the division began to leave the enemy encirclement in separate groups.

According to the reference source (the book Komdivy. Voyennyj biograficheskij slovar, Vol. 4), Major Laskin was captured by the Germans while attempting to cross the Dnieper River on 25 August 1941. After interrogation with a group of prisoners, he was to be taken to the village of Trilesie, from where he was to escape. On 8 September, in the area of Dobinovka, Kremenchug district, in disguise, without weapons, documents and a party card, he was supposed to go to the place of deployment of Soviet troops of the 14th Cavalry Division. After returning to his he was vetted for some time by the counter-intelligence, which was referred to in his official biography as: "was at the disposal of the Personnel Department of the South-West Front and the Main Cadre Administration of the People's Commissariat of Defence". Subsequently, in October 1941, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the 172nd Rifle Division.

This information, however, does not entirely correspond with the contents of the documents found by the author of this article in the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. From the operational scout of the staff of the 15th Rifle Division dated September 11, 1941, it is clear that it lists Major Laskin as chief of staff under it. At that time he should have been either still being vetted by SMERS or should have already been at the disposal of the cadre administration.

Reklama

Operational reconnaissance of the 15th Rifle Division dated 21.09.1941 with Major Laskin's signature


From other documents, which are excerpts from the combat diary of the said division, it is clear that on 01.10.1941, the Chief of Staff Major Laskin was to fall (die) after getting surrounded. From the foregoing it is clear that it was apparently only on this date, i.e. Wednesday, 1 October 1941, that major Laskin was captured, although he was presumed dead in the unit he led. We anticipate events somewhat when we state that it was the fact that he concealed the above-mentioned capture from the counter-intelligence authorities (SMERSH) that led to his later arrest, long imprisonment and conviction.

excerpt from the combat log of the 15th Rifle Division, according to which on 01.10.1941, Chief of Staff Major Laskin was killed

 

Hence, Major Laskin successfully passed the first vetting after returning from behind the front and in October 1941 was appointed Chief of Staff of the 172nd Rifle Division 51st Army Southern Front. However, upon his arrival, he did not perform the designated function, but directly assumed command of this division. From 4 November 1941, the division was part of the Sevastopol Defense Area of the Crimean troops. Its units fought heavy battles for Sevastopol in the area of Verkhny Khorgun, Fedyushin Heights, Kolkhoz Zvezda Crimea, Belbek (on the Belbek River) and Mekenzie Mountains. After the evacuation from the Crimean Peninsula in July 1942, the division was disbanded and Colonel (it is not clear when he was reappointed to this rank) Laskin was placed at the disposal of the Main Administration of Cadres of the People's Commissariat of Defence.

In early August 1942, he was appointed deputy chief of staff of the Southeastern Front, then in September he was transferred to chief of staff of the 64th Army. As part of the Southeastern Front and from 28 September onwards, Stalingrad Front, he took part in the Stalingrad Defensive Operation, the defensive battles on the southwestern flank and in the southern part of Stalingrad. When the army went on the counter-offensive, it operated as part of the Stalingrad Front's main strike group in the direction of Sovetskiy, Kalach. By 23 November 1942, its formations reached the Chervlennaya River and subsequently fought on the inner front of the enemy encirclement. From 1 January 1943, the army became part of the Don Front and participated in the liquidation of the encircled group of German troops near Stalingrad. After the Battle of Stalingrad, it was part of the Group of Troops under the command of Lieutenant General K. P. Trubnikov (from 06 February 1943 - Stalingrad Troop Group) and from 1 March 1943 was moved to the Voronezh Front and fought in the defensive battles on the Seversky Donets River near Belgorod. For outstanding results in the fighting at Stalingrad, the 64th Army was renamed the 7th Guards Army on 16 April.

As Colonel Laskin advanced through the ranks, he was promoted to the rank of Major-General on 14 October 1942. In May 1943 he was general-major I. A. Laskin was appointed chief of staff of the North Caucasus Front. In this capacity, he participated in the planning and execution of the Novorossiysk-Taman Offensive (September 9-October 9, 1943) and in the Kerch-Eltigen Landing Operation in November. On the same day, i.e. 09.10.1943, Laskin was promoted to the second general rank - lieutenant-general. On 15 November, the front was transformed into the Seaside Army and general-lieutenant Laskin was appointed its chief of staff.

 

Field Marshal General Paulus surrenders to Lieutenant General Laskin

A stellar moment in the career of I.A. Laskin came on on Sundays, 31.01.1943. For on that day, the commander of the German 6th Army besieged in Stalingrad, Field Marshal General Friedrich Paulus, surrendered to him. Let us now give the floor to the author of "On the Road to the Breakthrough" (M., 1977) I. A. Laskin:

"On January 31, 1943, at 7.40 a.m., the commander of the army, General M.S. Shumilov, summoned me... and said that the Military Council attaches great importance to the question of the Germans' surrender, and therefore orders me, the Chief of Staff, as the official representative of the Soviet command, to go to the battle area and negotiate with Hitler's command on the cessation of fighting on the part of the Germans, on their surrender, as well as on the surrender of the commander of the 6th Army, Paulus, and his staff..."

Ivan Andreevich Laskin picked up a group of officers and at its head set out to accomplish the task: "...In the courtyard of the department store there were many soldiers and officers armed with automatic rifles. Some were standing, others were sitting on some things, others were jumping, trying to warm up. In front of them stood in a semicircle a chain of tall Hitlerites with automatic rifles at the ready and holsters unfastened on their belts - Paulus's bodyguard. At about 8.50 we were stopped by a wall of these burly machine-gunners who blocked our way. Lieutenant Latyushev, who was in front of me, had to give way. I called myself a general of the Red Army and with my hands I pushed aside the two machine-gunners who stood in our way. It was evident that the SS men were no longer what they had been before their defeat. Neither those whom we had pushed out of the way, nor their neighbours with submachine guns, nor those who stood in the depths and jumped, offered us any resistance. We asked where the entrance to the headquarters was, and the officer led us to a small stone staircase and showed us the cellar with his hand. We went down there... When we had ascertained that Paulus was there, that the entrance to it was under our protection, and when we agreed that it was really improper that the Field Marshal should have to surrender at once, we gave him time, and at once made a request to Generals Schmidt and Rosski to order all the troops surrounded at Stalingrad to cease fire and all resistance at once.

- Gut, ein moment, - General Rosske muttered helpfully, and immediately followed his order that the telephonists should convey to the troops the order to cease fire... Next we demanded:
- to hand over to the Soviet command in an orderly manner all personnel of the German units, armaments and all military equipment;
- to hand over all operational documents, especially those coming from the German High Command;
- stop all radio conversations with higher authorities;
- communicate the contents of the last orders of Hitler and the commander of Army Group "Don" Field Marshal Manstein to the 6th Army.
In short, we did not conduct bilateral negotiations on the terms of the Germans' surrender, but made categorical ultimatums of unconditional surrender, which were fully accepted by the German command.
- I would like to inform the General and the officers, - said Schmidt, - that the demand for the surrender of operational documents is impossible, because they are all burned. Radio conversations with the High Command are no longer possible, because all the radio stations have been destroyed by your artillery fire. - The general thought for a moment, apparently going over our demands in his mind, and added: - As for Hitler's last orders to the troops of the 6th Army, they all boiled down to a single demand - to continue the fight and hold the positions to the last possible chance. As for Hitler's orders to Manstein, we know nothing..... Then General Schmidt asked for an armistice from our side as well.

We sent an officer of the 38th Brigade to the nearest observation post to tell the army commander, General M. S. Shumilov, that negotiations had begun and that the Germans were demanding a cease-fire on the entire stretch of the front. The commander issued such an order. However, since the offensive was being conducted by troops of the 57th, 21st and 62nd Armies, the fighting, of course, continued. And the order did not reach the Red Army soldiers immediately. Therefore, the firing continued in the area of the department store. A little later, together with the commander of the 38th Brigade, we had to convey another request from Paulus's headquarters to the commander for a cease-fire by our troops... The twenty-minute time we had given ourselves was up. We reminded Schmidt and demanded a meeting with the field marshal, and Schmidt reluctantly went to see Paulus. In a minute or two he returned and reported that the Field Marshal was not feeling well and requested that we give him another twenty minutes. This request created confusion in us.

It is clear, however, that the time which the commander had previously been given to prepare to meet us was quite sufficient. We therefore refused his request and decided to enter Paulus's room immediately. Our officer noiselessly opened the door. The window in the oblong room was not covered with sandbags. We saw Paulus at once. Dressed in a cloak, he folded his arms and walked slowly from the door in the opposite direction. I entered the room. Paulus turned toward the door and stopped when he saw me. Behind me Colonels Lukin, Burmakov, Lieutenant-Colonels Mutovin, Vinokur, the interpreter, and the German General Schmidt entered the room. The fifty-three-year-old field marshal was taller than average, slender, perhaps too erect, well-groomed and well-groomed. His face was pale now. He looked at us with tired eyes. I introduced myself and pronounced him a prisoner. Paulus came up to me and, raising his right hand high above his head, said in bad Russian: - "Field Marshal Paulus of the German Army surrenders to the Red Army as a prisoner."

Arrest and imprisonment

The turning point in the career of the fresh-faced lieutenant-general came on Saturday, December 18, 1943. On that day, NKVD officers arrested him in his hotel room and an investigation was launched. He was accused of treason, espionage and sabotage in favour of the enemy. The General did not admit to these charges, but he did confirm the fact that he had been briefly imprisoned by the enemy in 1941. The investigation lasted nearly nine years. The intervals between interrogations lasted for several years. Which is unimaginable today, but common in Soviet times. He was imprisoned the entire time in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison. However, he did not admit guilt. He went on hunger strike several times, wrote petitions urging the investigation to be resolved, complained of delays, and was twice placed in solitary confinement. While the investigation was still under way, he was discharged from the army on 2 December 1946.

It was not until 1951 that the investigation into the Laskin case got under way again. A large number of documents were subpoenaed and attached to the general's case, dozens of his former colleagues were interviewed, and several confrontations were held. No evidence of treason and espionage could be obtained, so the investigation was dropped because of these crimes. As a result, I. A. Laskin was brought before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR on the charge that "in 1941, while under siege, he violated his official duties and military oath, destroyed his party ticket, abandoned his weapons, took off his uniform as a Red Army commander and changed into civilian clothes, was arrested and interrogated by the German command in the territory occupied by the Germans, and subsequently hid for a long time from the Soviet authorities."

The trial lasted intermittently from 5 June to 2 September 1952. As a result, although the court acquitted Laskin under Article 58-1 "b", it sentenced him under Article 193-17 p. "a" of the RSFSR Criminal Code to 10 years of correctional labor camps without loss of rights and simultaneous deprivation of the military rank of general-lieutenant. However, during the pronouncement of the sentence on 2 September 1952, at the same session of the court, he was read an amnesty decree in accordance with the Decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 7 June 1945 "On the Proclamation of Amnesty in Connection with the Victory over Nazi Germany". Since, in accordance with the amnesty decree, he had fully served his sentence, I. A. Laskin was released from custody on the following day, i.e. on 3 September 1952. However, he was not returned to the army and, moreover, by a decree of the USSR Council of Ministers of 2 October 1952 he was stripped of his military rank of general-lieutenant. He therefore went to live with his family in Tbilisi, where he took a job as a warehouse manager in a shoe factory and continued to fight for his rehabilitation.

 

Rehabilitation and return to the army

While Stalin was still alive, in February 1953, he requested a review of his case by Lavrentiy Beria, and in April and May 1953 he sent similar requests to the USSR Minister of Defense N.A. Bulganin and to F. F. Kuznetsov, chief of the Main Personnel Directorate of the USSR Ministry of Defense. This time the military leadership agreed with the arguments of I. A. Laskin and forwarded his application to the Prosecutor General of the USSR with a proposal for his rehabilitation. On May 16, 1953, Prosecutor General G. N. Safonov sent the court a protest against the previous court decision, after which, on 29 May 1953, the plenum of the Supreme Court of the USSR reversed the judgment of 2 September 1952, and Laskin was thus fully rehabilitated. In July 1953 Laskin was readmitted to the Communist Party with the fiction of uninterrupted membership in the Party. A decree of the USSR Council of Ministers of 13 August 1953 revoked the 1952 decree stripping him of his military rank.

The decree of the USSR Council of Ministers of 13 August 1953 revoked the 1952 decree stripping him of his military rank.

After his re-enlistment in the Soviet Army, he was educated at the K. E. Voroshilov Higher Military Academy from 28 August 1953 to January 1955. After graduating from it, he was appointed chief of staff of the Yukhourala Military District. In June 1957, he was posted to the General Staff for research work (with tenure), and from June 1958, he served as an associate professor at the Department of Operational Art of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Army. He was discharged from the Reserve on 30 November 1965.

He died on 1 July 1988 in Minsk, Belarus.

 

Sources:
Kolektiv avtorov: Velikaya otechestvennaya: Komdivy. Voyennyj biograficheskij slovar, Vol. 4, Kuchkovo pole, 2015, ISBN 978-5-9950-0602-2 (Kolektiv autorov. The Great Patriotic War: Komdivs. Military biographical dictionary / V. П. Goremykin. - M.: Kučkovo pole, 2015. - Vol. 4)
https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9B%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%BD,_%D0%98%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD_%D0%90%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87
https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=110756957
https://generals.dk/general/Laskin/Ivan_Andreevich/Soviet_Union.html
https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=156013851
https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=235982814
http://www.lit-crimea.narod.ru/164-167/rud17-20.html

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