The double parade of November 1941

If you have taken a cab from Moscow to Sheremetievo, you must have seen these giant anti-tank “hedgehogs” in Khimki. It is a monument to the defenders of Moscow in 1941. While regular Nazi troops probably did not advance as far as Khimki, the front line in November 1941 was a mile to the north of what is now the Sheremetievo runway. It is said that by early December, Rokossovsky’s 16th Army had stopped the Germans at the 41th kilometer of the Leningrad Highway: a 25-mile drive to the nearest metro station in Moscow, Sokol, opened in 1938.

Despite all this, the Soviets decided to hold the annual military parade on Red Square on November 7, as usual, in commemoration of the 1917 revolution. Oleg Khlevniuk writes, citing this article among others:

[The parade] was a risky undertaking since a few days earlier, on 29 October, German planes had dropped a large bomb right on the Kremlin. A total of 146 people were injured and 41 were killed.78 The Luftwaffe could certainly strike again. In anticipation of this possibility, a parallel parade was held in Kuibyshev (today’s Samara), the city chosen as the reserve capital should Moscow fall. In case of an attack during the Moscow parade, radio coverage of the celebration would switch to Kuibyshev.

A “just in case” military parade in Samara while the Germans were 25 miles from the capital. The bit below is also typical of the time and place.

Stalin addressed the parading troops with a short speech delivered from atop Lenin’s Mausoleum…

The military parade on Red Square was captured on film, but for some reason Stalin’s speech was not. It was decided to stage the speech in an improvised studio. A mockup of Lenin’s tomb was built in one of the halls of the Great Kremlin Palace, and Stalin repeated his speech for the cameras on 15 November.

In December, movie theaters began showing [the film]… including the reenactment of Stalin’s speech. Over seven days, beginning December 4, two hundred thousand viewers watched the film in Moscow alone.

Inspired by this discussion at LanguageHat.

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