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A Little Salted Herring Goes a Long Way

Pictured: (L-R) 62nd Army Commissar, Major-General K. A. Gurov; 62nd Army Commander, Lieutenant-General V. I. Chuikov; 64th Army Commander, Colonel-General M. S. Shumilov; 13th Guards Rifle Division Commander, Major-General A. I. Rodimtsev in Stalingrad, 1943.

In the field of management sciences, Human Relations Theory addresses how improved conditions lead to higher productivity. Positive social bonds in organizations and an understanding that each employee is unique often mean greater employee productivity and motivation, which is also true of military personnel. During wartime, it also requires meeting basic needs such as food and warmth in addition to comradery (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). In his book titled Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed, Michael Jones shared the example of Chuikov’s efforts to improve conditions for his soldiers by setting the standard of officers sharing their meals with front-line soldiers. The effect of these actions lifted soldier morale significantly.

“Mereshko spoke of an immediate change in the atmosphere under Chuikov, which ultimately led to a unique spirit of equality and unity within the army. He gave an important practical example:

‘Officers received more butter, biscuits, and sugar in their rations, and also factory-made cigarettes. When Chuikov took command, something astonishing happened. Commanders of units were strongly encouraged to bring their rations into the dugout and share it with their soldiers. In fact, over time, it was considered almost a criminal offense if an officer ate or smoked without sharing with his soldiers.’

‘You could see it in the little things,’ said [Konstantin] Kazarin. ‘As an officer, I got extra rations, so I would take the food down and share it with my men. My gesture was really appreciated. Once I brought some salted herring. I was struck by the painstaking way that my soldiers divided that fish—counting for exactly the number of people they had. In the midst of all the horror and chaos, it was such loving care and attention to detail.’ Out of myriad moments like these arose real comradeship in battle.'

Mikhail Borchev, in charge of a Katyusha unit at Stalingrad, confirmed this: ‘Everything changed when Chuikov took command. Our army now had a new maxim: The regular soldier is all-important—it is he who defends the commander.’"


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