Order nr. 4 to the Forces of the Stalingrad and South-west Fronts




1 September 1942 
The Army in the Field 


Comrade fighters, commanders and political workers, heroic defenders of Stalingrad!

The bitter fighting for the city of Stalingrad has been raging for months. The Germans have
lost hundreds of tanks and planes. Hitler's brutalised hordes are advancing towards Stalingrad
and the Volga over mountains of dead bodies of their own men and officers.

Our Bolshevik Party, our nation, our great country, have given us the task not to let the
enemy reach the Volga, to defend the city of Stalingrad. The defence of Stalingrad is of
decisive importance for the whole Soviet front.

Without sparing our strength and with scorn for death, we shall defy the Germans the way
to the Volga and not give up Stalingrad. Each one of us must bear in mind that the capture
of Stalingrad by the Germans and their advance to the Volga will give our enemies new
strength and weaken our own forces.

Not one step back!

The War Council expects unlimited courage, tenacity and heroism in the fight with the
onrushing enemy from all the fighters, commanders and political workers, from all the
defenders of Stalingrad. The enemy must and will be smashed on the approaches to
Stalingrad. Forward against the enemy! Up into the unremitting battle, comrades,
for Stalingrad, for our great country !

Death to the German invader!


Commander-in-Chief of 
Stalingrad and South-west Front 
Signed :
Colonel General A. Yeremenko 


Member of the War Council of
Stalingrad- and South-west Front
Signed :
Lieutenant General N. Khrushchev


Order nr. 4 to the Forces of the Stalingrad and South-west Fronts was a copy of Order No. 227 of July 28, 1942 that was issued by Joseph Stalin acting as People's Commissar of Defence. It is famous for its line "Not a step back!", that became a slogan of Soviet antifascist resistance. No commander had the right to retreat without an order. Anyone who did so was subject to a military tribunal of the corresponding seniority level.

Order No. 227 established that each Front must create 1 to 3 penal battalions (штрафбат, штрафной батальон, shtrafbat, shtrafnoy battalion) of soldiers accused of disciplinary problems, which were sent to the most dangerous sections of the front lines.[1] Each Front had to create penal companies for privates and NCOs. From 1942 to 1945, 427,910 soldiers were assigned to penal battalions.[2]

The order also directed that each Army must create "blocking detachments" (barrier troops (заградотряд, заградительный отряд)) which would shoot "cowards" and fleeing panicked troops at the rear.

Both measures were cited in the preamble of the order as having been successfully used by the Germans during their winter retreat.

Russian war stamp "Not one step back!

The requirement for Armies to maintain companies of barrier troops was withdrawn after just three months, on October 29, 1942. Intended to galvanise the morale of the hard-pressed Soviet Army and emphasise patriotism, it had a generally detrimental effect and was not consistently implemented by commanders who viewed diverting troops to create barrier units as a waste of manpower, so by October 1942 the idea of regular blocking units was quietly dropped. By 20 November 1944 the blocking units were officially disbanded.