Stalin issues Order No. 227—outlawing cowards - HISTORY
Year
1943

Stalin issues Order No. 227—outlawing cowards

On this day in 1943, Joseph Stalin, premier and dictator of the Soviet Union, issues Order No. 227, what came to be known as the “Not one step backward” order, in light of German advances into Russian territory. The order declared, “Panic makers and cowards must be liquidated on the spot. Not one step backward without orders from higher headquarters! Commanders…who abandon a position without an order from higher headquarters are traitors to the Fatherland.”

Early German successes against Russia had emboldened Hitler in his goal of taking Leningrad and Stalingrad. But the German attack on Stalingrad, thought foolhardy by Hitler’s generals, because of Russia’s superior manpower and the enormous drain on German resources and troop strength, was repulsed by a fierce Soviet fighting force, which had been reinforced with greater numbers of men and materials. The Germans then turned their sights on Leningrad. Stalin needed to “motivate” both officers and civilians alike in their defense of Leningrad—hence, Order No. 227. But it was hardly necessary. On the same day the order was given, Russian peasants and partisans in the Leningrad region killed a German official, Adolf Beck, whose job was to send agricultural products from occupied Russia to Germany or German troops. The Russian patriots also set fire to the granaries and barns in which the stash of agricultural products was stored before transport. A partisan pamphlet issued an order of its own: “Russians! Destroy the German landowners. Drive the Germans from the land of the Soviets!”

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Ousted shah of Iran dies in exile

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the former shah of Iran, dies of cancer while in exile in Egypt.Mohammad Reza was enthroned as shah of Iran in 1941, after his father was forced to abdicate by British and Soviet troops. The new shah promised to act as a constitutional monarch but often ...read more

First jet makes test flight

On this day in 1949, the world’s first jet-propelled airliner, the British De Havilland Comet, makes its maiden test-flight in England. The jet engine would ultimately revolutionize the airline industry, shrinking air travel time in half by enabling planes to climb faster and fly ...read more

Robespierre overthrown in France

Maximilien Robespierre, the architect of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, is overthrown and arrested by the National Convention. As the leading member of the Committee of Public Safety from 1793, Robespierre encouraged the execution, mostly by guillotine, of more than ...read more

Insulin isolated in Toronto

At the University of Toronto, Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolate insulin–a hormone they believe could prevent diabetes–for the first time. Within a year, the first human sufferers of diabetes were receiving insulin treatments, and ...read more

Bombing at Centennial Olympic Park

In Atlanta, Georgia, the XXVI Summer Olympiad is disrupted by the explosion of a nail-laden pipe bomb in Centennial Olympic Park. The bombing, which occurred during a free concert, killed a mother who had brought her daughter to hear the rock music and injured more than 100 ...read more

House begins impeachment of Nixon

On this day in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommends that America’s 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, be impeached and removed from office. The impeachment proceedings resulted from a series of political scandals involving the Nixon administration that came to be ...read more

Reggie Lewis dies

On this day in 1993, Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis collapses after suffering cardiac arrest while shooting baskets at Brandeis University in Boston, Massachusetts. Two hours later, Lewis was pronounced dead at Waltham-Weston Hospital.Reggie Lewis grew up shooting baskets every ...read more

Meriwether Lewis shoots Blackfoot Indian

Attempting to stop a band of young Blackfoot Indians from stealing his horses, Meriwether Lewis shoots an Indian in the stomach.The voyage of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the West began in May 1804 when the two captains and 27 men headed up the Missouri River. ...read more

Elizabeth Hardwick is born

Novelist and essayist Elizabeth Hardwick is born on this day in 1916 in Lexington, Kentucky.Hardwick attended the University of Kentucky and later Columbia University in New York. New York’s liberal intellectual bent inspired her, and she began contributing perceptive, ...read more

Bob Hope dies at 100

On this day in 2003, the legendary actor-comedian Bob Hope dies at age 100 in Toluca Lake, California. Known for entertaining American servicemen and women for more than five decades, Hope had a career that spanned the whole range of 20th century entertainment, from vaudeville to ...read more

Fighter jet crashes into crowd at air show

During an air show in Ukraine, a fighter jet crashes into a crowd of spectators on this day in 2002, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds more. This was the worst air-show accident to that date. Thousands of spectators, including many children, were enjoying themselves on a ...read more

Adam Walsh is abducted

Adam John Walsh, age six, is abducted from a mall in Hollywood, Florida, and later found murdered. In the aftermath of the crime, Adam’s father, John Walsh, became a leading victims’ rights activist and host of the long-running television show America’s Most Wanted.Early in the ...read more

Armistice ends the Korean War

After three years of a bloody and frustrating war, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and South Korea agree to an armistice, bringing the Korean War to an end. The armistice ended America’s first experiment with the Cold War concept of “limited war.” ...read more