In the movie Enemy at the Gates there is a moment when Nikita Khrushchev comes to take control over the Soviet forces defending Stalingrad, even making previous commander commit suicide (is this true?).

As I am not much interested in WW2, and I didn't know about his role in the battle. I did some research, and citing Wikipedia article about Khrushchev:

Khrushchev reached the Stalingrad Front in August 1942(...). His role in the Stalingrad defense was not major — General Vasily Chuikov, who led the city's defense, mentions Khrushchev only briefly in a memoir published while Khrushchev was premier — but to the end of his life, he was proud of his role. Though he visited Stalin in Moscow on occasion, he remained in Stalingrad for much of the battle, and was nearly killed at least once. He proposed a counterattack, only to find that Zhukov and other generals had already planned Operation Uranus, a plan to break out from Soviet positions and encircle and destroy the Germans; it was being kept secret. Before Uranus was launched, Khrushchev spent much time checking on troop readiness and morale, interrogating Nazi prisoners, and recruiting some for propaganda reasons.

his role seems to be rather minor.

In the Stalingrad battle article he is mentioned only once

Yeryomenko and Commissar Nikita Khrushchev were tasked with planning the defense of Stalingrad.

and "planning the defence of Stalingrad", well, it can mean everything.

The "Goofs" page of the IMDb does not say anything important about any false in depicted events.

The other sources I could find state that he was a commissar.

I would like to ask: are the events from the movie, depicting Khrushchev as in fact supreme commander of the defence of Stalingrad true? If I remember correctly, Vasily Chuikov, who is usually credited as winning commander of the defence, is not even mentioned in the movie.

  • 8
    Haven't seen the movie, but not surprised to learn they made a dog's breakfast out of the history. Jun 12, 2013 at 8:17
  • @FelixGoldberg well, I agree and I'm not expecting the movie to be correct. However, the goofs page of IMDb (usually a good source for such things) shows this production is rather correct (relatively, of course, comparing to other Hollywood "based on true story" pictures).
    – Voitcus
    Jun 12, 2013 at 8:21
  • 2
    @Voitcus the movie is far from anything close to history in each and every detail. It seems like a Western propaganda mockery.
    – Anixx
    Jun 12, 2013 at 10:35
  • 2
    @Anixx the movie is in fact a Hollywood interpretation of a Soviet propaganda rag with a good part of the propaganda removed.
    – jwenting
    Jun 12, 2013 at 13:40

3 Answers 3


According to General Vasili Chuikov in "The Battle For Stalingrad," Khruschev was the political commisar overseeing the generals for the critical Volga region. When Chuikov was appointed to the command at Stalingrad, Khruschev asked him, "How do you see your task?" Chuikov replied, "We cannot retreat across the Volga. We will defend the city or die in the attempt." Khruschev told him that was the correct answer and confirmed his appointment. Basically Khruschev was a senior Communist Party member making sure that the generals were on a sound political footing.

During the battle, Khruschev called Chuikov several times to "check up" on him, see how he was doing, and ask what was needed most (answer: ammunition, even more than food or vodka.) Contrary to the movie, Khruschev was not directly in charge of military operations, which, by 1942, were left to the experts.


Official position of Khrushchev was called the Member of the Military Council of the Stalingrad front (commander A. Eremenko (Yeremenko, Jeremenko)). The Stalingrad front was defending Stalingrad, and later took part in the offensive. This positon is somewhat similar to "comissar" but has nothing to do with NKVD/KGB. He was attached to the front as the member of the Central Committee of CPSU. Comissars were representing the Communist party, not the KGB.

Source: Andrei Eremenko, Stalingrad, second Russian edition, Veche, 2913.


as a Kommissar his main duty would have been enforcing morale and adherence to proper party doctrine. IOW he was a political officer, not too dissimilar (except he would have authority to shoot people for not being properly enthusiastic) to a chaplain in the US army.
As a KGB officer, he would also be involved (as you mention) in interrogation of POWs and "dissident elements" (iow, Soviets found to be improperly patriotic or suspected of other "crimes" like retreating in the face of enemy fire).
Not the kind of person you would want to make an enemy of, and precisely the kind of person a propagandist would want to see closely associated with a young, good looking, highly patriotic, and very successful soldier who is soon to be elevated to the status of national hero in a time that the country needs national heroes to keep its collective morale up in a war that isn't going exactly as planned.
Saying that he was tasked with planning the city's defense is probably technically correct, but in reality that task would be squarely on the head of Yeryomenko, Khruschev being his link to the Party and ensuring that the operation was executed according to proper Party doctrine and with the right amount of communist zeal.

The movie is based on a book, the book is is a fictional account of the events in Stalingrad written in large part as political propaganda for the USSR. IMDb probably doesn't care about the book being fiction so much as about how accurately the movie reflects the book, which is proper.

  • 7
    There was no KGB at the time. And he was never employed in NKVD either, this is ridiculous.
    – Anixx
    Jun 12, 2013 at 10:38
  • Thank you, @jwenting. Could the down-voters please explain what is wrong in the answer?
    – Voitcus
    Jun 12, 2013 at 11:44
  • 3
    Answer doesn't have any references. -1 specifically for factually incorrect As a KGB officer... claim. Jun 12, 2013 at 12:22
  • looks like Anixx has spawned a copycat
    – jwenting
    Jun 12, 2013 at 13:39
  • 11
    Anixx has a point here, you know - Khruschev was never a KGB/NKVD/whatever officer (he was a political general officer during the period under dicussion - yes, but that's not quite the same thing at all). The question was about factual correctness, so an answer that gets some of the facts wrong is not a very apposite one. Jun 12, 2013 at 13:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.