Soviet partisans were members of resistance movements that fought
a guerrilla war against the
Axis forces in the
Soviet Union and the
previously Soviet-occupied territories of interwar Poland in
1941–45. The activity emerged after the Nazi German Operation
Barbarossa during World War II, and according to Great Soviet
Encyclopedia it was coordinated and controlled by the Soviet
government and modelled on that of the Red Army. The primary objective
of the guerrilla warfare waged by the Soviet partisan units was the
disruption of the Eastern Front's German rear, especially road and
rail communications. There were also regular military formations
called partisans, that were used to conduct long-range reconnaissance
patrol missions behind Axis lines from the Soviet-held territory.
1 Formation of anti-German Soviet resistance
2 Areas of operations
Vitsyebsk gate and West Belarus
2.1.2 The 1943–44 buildup
Latvia and Lithuania
2.5 Finland and Karelia
2.6 Soviet-occupied Poland
3 List of operations
4 Intelligence activity
5 Psychological Warfare
6.1 Jews and partisans
6.2 Soviet Ukrainian partisans
7 Operations against independence movements
7.1 Relations with Ukrainian nationalists
7.2 Relations with the locals in Baltic States
8 Historical assessment
9 List of notable Soviet partisans
10 See also
Formation of anti-German Soviet resistance
After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the
beginning of World War II, the
Soviet Union invaded the eastern
regions of the
Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic (referred to as the Kresy) and
annexed the lands totalling 201,015 square kilometres
(77,612 sq mi) with a population of 13,299,000 inhabitants
including ethnic Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, Czechs and
The program of the partisan war was outlined in Moscow after the
German attack in 1941 against the USSR. Directives issued on July 29,
1941 and in further documents by the Soviet People's Commissaries
Council and Communist Party called for the formation of partisan
detachments and 'diversionist' groups in the German-occupied
Joseph Stalin iterated his commands and directives to the
people in his radio speech on 3 July 1941, and appointed himself
Commander-in-Chief of the
Red Army on 20 July 1941.
Execution of alleged partisans by German soldiers, September 1941
In 1941, the core of the partisan movement were the remains of the Red
Army units destroyed in the first phase of Operation Barbarossa,
personnel of destruction battalions, and the local Communist Party and
Komsomol activists who chose to remain in Soviet-occupied prewar
Poland. The most common unit of the period was a detachment. The first
detachments commanded by
Red Army officers and local Communist Party
activists were formed in the first days of the war between former
allies Germany and the Soviet Union, including the Starasyel'ski
detachment of Major Dorodnykh in the
Zhabinka district (June 23, 1941)
 and the
Pinsk detachment of
Vasily Korzh on June 26, 1941. The
first awards of the Hero of the
Soviet Union order occurred on August
6, 1941 (detachment commanders Pavlovskiy and Bumazhkov). Some
partisan detachments were parachuted into German-occupied territories
in the summer of 1941. Urban underground groups were formed as a force
complementing the activities of partisan units, operating in rural
areas. The network of underground structures developed and received a
steady influx of specially chosen party activists. By the end of 1941,
more than 2,000 partisan detachments (with more than 90,000 personnel)
operated in German-occupied territories.
However, the activity of partisan forces were not centrally
coordinated and supplied until spring of 1942. In order to coordinate
partisan operations the Central Headquarters of the Partisan
Movement (ru) under Stavka, headed by Panteleimon Ponomarenko
(Chief of Staff) and initially commanded by top Politburo member
Kliment Voroshilov, was organized on May 30, 1942. The Staff had its
liaison networks in the Military Councils of the Fronts and Armies.
The territorial Staffs were subsequently created, dealing with the
partisan movement in the respective
Soviet Republics and in the
occupied provinces of the Russian SFSR.
Areas of operations
Belarusian partisans and Occupation of
Belarus by Nazi
By Soviet estimates, in August 1941 about 231 detachments were
operating already. Units formed and inserted into
Belarus totaled 437
by the end of the 1941, comprising more than 7,200 personnel.
However, as the front line moved further away, conditions steadily
worsened for the partisan units, as resources ran out, and there was
no large-scale support from beyond the front until March 1942. One
particular difficulty was the lack of radio communication, which was
not addressed until April 1942. The partisan unit also lacked the
support of local people. For several months, partisan units in
Belarus were virtually left to their own devices; especially difficult
was the winter of 1941-1942, with severe shortages in ammunition,
medicine and supplies. The actions of partisans were generally
German pacification operations in the summer and autumn 1941 were able
to curb the partisan activity significantly. Many units went
underground, and generally, in late 1941 to early 1942, the partisan
units were not undertaking significant military operations, but
limiting themselves to sorting out organizational problems, building
up support and establishing an influence over the local people.
Although data is incomplete, at the end of 1941, 99 partisan
detachments and about 100 partisan groups are known to have operated
in Belarus. In Winter 1941-1942, 50 partisan detachments and about
50 underground organisations and groups operated in Belarus.
During December 1941, German guard forces in the Army Group Center
rear comprised 4 security divisions, 1 SS Infantry Brigade, 2 SS
Infantry Brigades, and 260 companies from different branches of
Vitsyebsk gate and West Belarus
The turning point in the development of the Soviet partisan movement
came with the opening of the Vitsyebsk gate, a
corridor connecting Soviet-controlled and German-occupied territories,
in February 1942. Soviet strategists started taking the partisan units
into account after that. The
Red Army organized centralized
administrative and logistical support, and the Gate proved an
important factor in assisting partisan detachments in occupied
territory with weapons. As a result, the partisans were able to
effectively undermine German troops and significantly hamper their
operations in the region from April 1942 until the end of the
year. Some Jews and lower-rank Soviet activists felt more secure
in the partisan ranks than in civilian life under Soviet rule.
In spring 1942 the concentration of smaller partisan units into
brigades began, prompted by the experience of the first year of war.
The coordination, numerical buildup, structural reworking and
established supply lines all translated into greatly increased
partisan capability, which showed in the increased instances of
sabotage on the railroads, with hundreds of engines and thousands of
cars destroyed by the end of the year.
In 1942 terror campaigns against the territorial administration
staffed by local "collaborators and traitors" received extra
emphasis. This resulted, however, in definite divisions within the
local civilian population, resulting in the beginning of the
organisation of anti-partisan units with native personnel in 1942. By
November 1942, Soviet partisan units in
Belarus numbered about 47,000
German photo showing alleged partisans hanged by the Germans in
In January 1943, out of 56,000 partisan personnel, 11,000 operated in
western Belarus, 3.5 fewer per 10,000 local people than in the east,
and even more so (up to a factor of 5 to 6) if one accounts for much
more efficient Soviet evacuation measures in the east during 1941.
Smallholders in the west showed "surprising" sympathies to the
partisans. There is strong evidence that the central Soviet
authorities deliberately refrained from a larger accumulation of
partisan forces in western
Belarus and let Polish underground military
structures grow in these lands during 1941-1942 in order to strengthen
Moscow's relations with the
Polish government-in-exile of Władysław
Sikorski. A certain level of military cooperation, imposed by the
command headquarters, was noted[by whom?] between
Soviet partisans and
the Polish Home Army,
Armia Krajowa (AK).
Soviet partisans avoided to
some extent attacking people of Polish nationality during the terror
campaigns in 1942. After the breakdown of diplomatic relations between
the USSR and the
Polish government-in-exile in April 1943 resulting
from the discovery of the
Katyn massacre (which the Katyn Commission
of April-May 1943 attributed to the Soviets), the situation changed
radically. From this moment on, Moscow treated the AK as a hostile
The 1943–44 buildup
The buildup of the Soviet partisan force in western
ordered and implemented during 1943, with nine brigades, 10
detachments and 15 operational groups transferred from east to west,
effectively tripling the partisan force there (reaching 36,000 troops
in December 1943). It is estimated that 10–12,000 personnel were
transferred, and about same number came from local volunteers. The
buildup of the military force was complemented by the intensification
of the underground Communist Party structures and propaganda
Soviet partisans on the road in Belarus, 1944 counter-offensive.
The Soviet victory at Stalingrad, a certain lessening of the terror
campaign (de facto from December 1942, formally permitted in February
1943) and an amnesty promised to collaborators who wished to return to
the Soviet camp were significant factors in the 1943 growth of Soviet
partisan forces. Desertions from the ranks of the German-controlled
police and military formations strengthened units, with sometimes
whole detachments coming over to the Soviet camp, including the Volga
Tatar battalion (900 personnel, February 1943), and Gil-Rodionov's 1st
Russian People's Brigade of the SS (2,500 personnel, August 1943). In
all, about 7,000 people of different anti-Soviet formations joined the
Soviet partisan force, while about 1,900 specialists and commanders
were dropped into occupied
Belarus in 1943. However, local people
mainly accounted for most increases in the Soviet partisan force.
The first year of the war was devastating for the
Soviet partisans of
Ukraine. Nevertheless, between August 1941 and the beginning of March
1942, 30,000 partisans had been organised into more than 1,800
detachments; by the beginning of May 1942, there were just 37
detachments, consisting of 1,918 individuals, that were operational
and communicating with the Soviet Union.
Let us assess the 'precision' of this partisan terror [against Stara
Rafalivka]: a large village was burned, 60 people were killed, and
hundreds of others lost blood and their livelihood. Of those killed,
only eight (13.3% per cent) were OUN members.
— Alexander Gogun
Partisan activities centred on sabotaging economic targets and
communications; engaging the Germans in combat; intelligence
gathering; and terrorist activities. The primary partisan targets
in 1941–42 were not the German invaders but rather the local police,
who were under German direction, and civilian collaborators. The
years 1943–44 were the peak of partisan activity within the
territory of present-day Ukraine, as the Soviets battled the
far-right, nationalistic OUN and the UPA, both of whom collaborated
with the Nazis. Reprisal measures for attacks on Soviet partisans
or support for Ukrainian nationalists included burning down villages
and executions. Whole families were killed, and children, even
babies, were sometimes bayoneted or burned alive.
The partisans dramatically overstated, by an order of magnitude, their
effectiveness in their reports. These inflated figures were passed
back up the chain of command to Stalin, even finding their way into
Soviet history books.
A medical camp in Torforazrabotki (vicinity of Deptovka, Dmitrievka
rayon, Chernigov oblast) was commanded by Naum Aronovich and
affiliated with Kovpak detachment in Putivl area. This camp was
accepting wounded partisans until they could be evacuated to Bolshaya
Zemlya by aircraft. The camp had one doctor (Natalia Buseva) and
In the Bryansk region,
Soviet partisans controlled large areas behind
the German lines. In the summer of 1942 they effectively held more
than 14,000 square kilometers (5,405 square miles) with a population
of over 200,000 people.
Soviet partisans in the region were led by
Alexander Saburov and others and numbered over 60,000
men. The Belgorod, Oryol, Kursk, Novgorod, Leningrad,
Pskov and Smolensk regions also had significant partisan activity
during the occupation period. In the Oryol and Smolensk regions
partisans were led by Dmitry Medvedev.
German propaganda photo: interrogation of a Soviet partisan by
Fallschirmjäger Paratroopers, Russia 1942
In 1943, after the
Red Army started to liberate western Russia and
north-east Ukraine, many partisans, including units led by Fedorov,
Medvedev and Saburov, were ordered to re-locate their operations into
central and western Ukraine still occupied by Nazis.
There was a large scale sign up by women to participate. S.V.
Grishin led in Smolensk the partisan brigade "Thirteen" which had an
all female reconnaissance including Evdokiya Karpechkina. Due to
lack of respect by men towards women, a rejection was made by nina
when a platoon made out of men was proposed to be put under the
leadership of Nina Zevrova in Leningrad.
Latvia and Lithuania
Soviet partisans in Latvia and
Soviet partisans in
While Soviet sources claim that thousands of partisans were operating
in the Baltic region, in fact they only operated in the
Latvia and the
Vilnius district. Thus Estonia remained partisan
free throughout most of the war, by 1944 only 234 partisans were
fighting in Estonia and none were native volunteers, all being either
Red Army personnel parachuted in from the Soviet-controlled
territories. In Latvia, they were first under Russian and
Belarusian command, and from January 1943, directly subordinated to
the central Headquarters in Moscow, under the leadership of Arturs
In 1941, the Soviet partisan movement in Lithuania began with the
actions of a small number of
Red Army soldiers left behind enemy
lines, much like the beginning of partisan movements in Ukraine and
Belarus. The movement grew throughout 1942, and in the summer of that
year the Lithuanian Soviet partisan movement began receiving material
aid as well as specialists and instructors in guerrilla warfare from
Soviet-held territory. On 26 November 1942, the Command of the
Lithuanian Partisan Movement (Lietuvos partizaninio judėjimo štabas)
was created in Moscow, headed by the First Secretary of the Lithuanian
Communist Party Antanas Sniečkus, who fled to Moscow in the wake of
the German invasion in 1941. Although the
Soviet partisans in
Lithuania were nominally under the control of the Command of the
Lithuanian Partisan Movement, the guerrilla warfare specialists and
instructors sent by it reported directly to the Central Command of the
Partisan Movement. Modern Lithuanian historians estimate that about
half of the
Soviet partisans in Lithuania were escapees from POW and
concentration camps, Soviet activists and
Red Army soldiers left
behind the quickly advancing front line, while the other half was made
up of airdropped special operations experts. It is estimated that in
total, about 5,000 people engaged in pro-Soviet underground activities
in Lithuania during the war. In general, the role of Soviet dissident
groups in Lithuania in Second World War was minimal.
Finland and Karelia
Village of Viianki after the Soviet partisan raid, July 7, 1943.
During the Finnish control of Eastern Karelia, many ethnic Russians
Karelians supported the partisan attacks.
Approximately 5,000 partisans altogether fought in the region,
although the typical strength of the force was 1,500–2,300.
Peculiarities of this front were that partisan units were not created
inside occupied territory, but their personnel came from all over the
Soviet Union and that they mainly operated from the Soviet side of the
The only major Soviet Partisan operation ended with failure when the
1st Partisan Brigade was destroyed at the beginning of August 1942 at
Lake Seesjärvi. Most operations at the southern part of the front
consisted only of a few individuals, but in the roadless northern
part, units of 40–100 partisans were not uncommon. Partisans
distributed propaganda newspapers, "Truth" in the
Finnish language and
"Lenin's Banner" in the Russian language. One of the more notable
leaders of the partisan movement in Finland and Karelia was the future
leader of the USSR, Yuri Andropov.
In East Karelia, most partisans attacked Finnish military supply and
communication targets, but inside Finland proper, almost two-thirds of
the attacks targeted civilians, killing 200 and injuring 50,
mostly women, children and elderly. On one occasion in the
small village the partisans murdered all civilians, leaving no
witnesses to the atrocities. One such incident was the attack of
Kuusamo on July 18, 1943, in which the partisans
attacked a lonely house and killed all of the seven civilians there,
including a six-month-old baby and a three-year-old child, before
Two Finnish boys killed by
Soviet partisans at Seitajärvi, July 1942.
Partisan operations against Finns were estimated as being highly
ineffectual. The partisans did not have sufficient strength to attack
military targets, and would often falsely report their raids to higher
command, claiming attacks on German or Finnish military targets even
if the victims were civilians. Already in the autumn of 1941 the
report of Komissariat of Interior Affairs was highly critical, and it
became only worse, as stated in the counter-intelligence agency's
report of April 1944. The main explanations given for the operations'
failures were the isolated headquarters at Belomorsk, which did not
know what operative units were doing, personnel who had no local
knowledge and were partly made up of criminals (10-20% of all
personnel were conscripted from prisons) without knowledge of how to
operate in harsh terrain and climate, efficient Finnish
counter-partisan patrolling (more than two-thirds of the infiltrating
small partisan groups were completely destroyed) and Finnish
internment of the ethnic Russian civilian population in concentration
camps from those regions with active partisan operations. Internees
were released to secure areas, preventing partisans from receiving
local supplies. In addition, many Soviet
Karelians reported to the
Finns the movements of the partisans and did not support the Soviet
Some formations calling themselves
Soviet partisans operated a long
way outside Soviet territory - usually organized by former Soviet
citizens who had escaped from Nazi camps. One such formation, Rodina
(Motherland), acted in France.
Soviet partisans provided "proletarian internationalist" help
to the people of German-occupied Central Europe, with seven united
formations and 26 larger detachments operating in Poland, and 20
united formations and detachments operating in Czechoslovakia.
Soviet partisans in Poland
1939-1945 border changes. The orange line depicts the extent of areas
Soviet Union in 1939-1941 when it was allied with Nazi
In the former eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic,
attached to the Ukrainian and Belarusian
Soviet Republics after the
Soviet invasion of Poland, the organization and operation of Soviet
partisans were similar to that in Ukrainian and Belarusian
territories. However, there were notable differences in the
interaction of partisans with Polish national forces and the local
After an initial period of wary collaboration with the Polish
resistance, the conflicts between these groups intensified, especially
as Poles were principally the victims of Soviet terror between 1939
and 1941, and Soviet diplomatic relations with the Polish exile
government in London continued to worsen and were broken off
completely by Soviet government in the aftermath of the discovery of
Katyn Massacre in 1943. In addition to sabotage aimed at the
German war machine,
Soviet partisans started extensive operations
against both the Polish underground and the civilian population of the
areas seized by the Soviets in 1939. The campaign of terror resulted
in reports to London of horrifying looting, rape and murder. This
made many local AK commanders consider the Soviets as just another
enemy and eventually on June 22, 1943 Soviets partisans were
ordered by Moscow to take on the Polish units as well. The study
by German-Polish historian 
Bogdan Musial states that Soviet
partisans, instead of engaging German military and police targets,
targeted the poorly armed and trained Belarusian and Polish
self-defense forces. In addition, the
Soviet partisans were
instructed to collaborate with the Nazis by providing the German
forces intelligence on Polish anti-Nazi resistance formation. The
Soviet partisans were involved in several massacres of Polish
civilians, including at Naliboki, on May 8, 1943.
List of operations
A map showing railroad traffic disruptions in the area of Army Group
Center, August 1943.
Vasily Korzh raid, Autumn 1941-March 23, 1942. 1,000 km
(620 mi) raid of a partisan formation in the
Minsk and Pinsk
Oblasts of Belarus.
Battle of Bryansk forests, May 1942. Partisan battle against the Nazi
punitive expedition that included five infantry divisions, military
police, 120 tanks and aviation.
Raid of Sydir Kovpak, October 26-November 29, 1942. Raid in Bryansk
forests and Eastern Ukraine.
Battle of Bryansk forests, May–June 1943. Partisan battle in the
Bryansk forests with German punitive expeditions.
Operation Rails War, August 3-September 15, 1943. A major operation of
partisan formations against the railroad communications intended to
disrupt the German reinforcements and supplies for the Battle of Kursk
and later the Battle of Smolensk. It involved concentrated
actions by more than 100,000 partisan fighters from Belarus, the
Leningrad Oblast, the Kalinin Oblast, the Smolensk Oblast, the Oryol
Oblast and Ukraine within an area 1,000 km (620 mi) along
the front and 750 km (470 mi) wide. Reportedly, more than
230,000 rails were destroyed, along with many bridges, trains and
other railroad infrastructure. The operation seriously incapacitated
German logistics and was instrumental in the Soviet victory in Kursk
Operation Concerto, September 19-November 1, 1943. "Concerto"
was a major operation of partisan formations against the railroad
communications intended to disrupt the German reinforcements and
supplies for the
Battle of the Dnieper
Battle of the Dnieper and on the direction of the
Soviet offensive in the Smolensk and
Gomel directions. Partisans from
Belarus, Karelia, the Kalinin Oblast, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and
Crimea participated in the operations. The area of the operation
was 900 km (560 mi) along the front (excluding Karelia and
Crimea) and 400 km (250 mi) wide. Despite bad weather that
only permitted the airlift of less than 50% of the planned supplies,
the operation lead to a 35-40% decrease in the railroad capacity in
the area of operations. This was critical for the success of Soviet
military operations in the autumn of 1943. In
Belarus alone, the
partisans claimed the destruction of more than 90,000 rails along with
1,061 trains, 72 railroad bridges and 58 Axis garrisons. According to
the Soviet historiography, Axis losses totalled more than 53,000
Battle of Polotsk-Leppel, April 1944. Major battle between Belarusian
partisans and German punitive expeditions.
Battle of Borisovsk-Begoml, April 22-May 15, 1944. Major battle
Belarusian partisans and German punitive expeditions.
Operation Bagration, June 22-August 19, 1944. Belarusian partisans
took major part in the Operation Bagration. They were often considered
the fifth front (along with the 1st Baltic Front, 1st Belorussian
2nd Belorussian Front
2nd Belorussian Front and 3rd Belorussian Front). Upwards of
300,000 partisans took part in the operation.
From the very beginning of its existence, the partisan intelligence
had been aimed chiefly at serving the
Red Army operational purposes.
It had frequently been asked to provide detailed information on
enemy’s whereabouts, strengths, armaments, movements and intentions.
Yet, the partisans’ ability to meet the expectations of military
consumers was limited. In 1941-1942, they relied chiefly on field
intelligence – foot patrols, observation and questioning of local
population – and only from late 1942 onwards succeeded in developing
human intelligence capabilities. Unfortunately, the majority of their
agents and collaborators were illiterate farmers and laborers
unprepared for intelligence work. Technological means of collection
such as communications interceptors and night vision devices were used
by the partisans only on rare occasions. Besides, the wide scale
deployment and high efficiency of the German security services limited
the partisans’ gathering capabilities in the military field to the
rural areas, almost completely preventing their access to the
Wehrmacht’s bases and decision making centers.
Russian anti-Soviet "partisan hunters", Novgorod Oblast, 1942
Partisan intelligence's contribution to the political leadership of
Soviet Union and its intelligence community appears to have been
more significant, especially in collecting information on conditions
in the occupied territories, as well as on the structure of the
occupation administration, its everyday behavior, local collaborators
and sympathizers. This contribution allowed the Soviet regime to
maintain its authority and control behind the German lines and
reinforced its anti-Nazi propaganda effort in the occupied territories
and in the West. The Soviet intelligence and security services used
the information obtained by the partisans for improving their
operational capabilities in the German-controlled territories and
preparing the measures for reoccupation of Eastern Poland and the
Partisans in the forest near Polotsk, Byelorussian SSR, September
The partisan propaganda means had developed over the occupation
period. In its early stage, the partisan messages were mainly short
and unsophisticated and used simple spreading channels, such as verbal
communication and leaflets. Consequently, some of the big-sized and
mighty partisan detachments succeeded in establishing their own print
houses that published periodic ‘partisan newspapers’ based on the
propaganda broadcasts from Moscow and local reality.
The effect of the partisan psychological warfare is hard to evaluate.
Nevertheless, it appears that at least a part of the defections from
the Wehrmacht and other Axis troops, that occurred on the Eastern
front in 1942-1944, might be attributed to the partisan propaganda
effort, as well as the relatively high number of the local volunteers
to the Soviet guerrilla detachments starting from the summer of 1943.
Furthermore, in many occupied areas the very presence of anti-German
irregulars emphasized the continued presence of ‘Kremlin’s
watchful eye’, unnerved occupying forces and their collaborators and
thus undermined the enemy’s attempt to ‘pacify’ the local
To survive, resistance fighters largely relied on the civilian
population. This included access to food, clothing and other supplies.
However, in the areas they controlled, there was limited opportunity
to operate their own farms. As is typical in guerrilla warfare, Soviet
partisans requisitioned food, livestock and clothes from local
peasants; in some cases the supply was voluntary, in others coerced.
The results of such requisitioning were made more severe by the fact
that Axis occupation forces had been already carrying out their own
requisitions. This led to conflicts with partisans in areas hostile to
Soviet power, mostly in territories annexed by the
Soviet Union during
Among the targets of
Soviet partisans were not only Axis military and
their collaboration units, but also civilians accused of being
collaborators or sometimes even those who were considered not to
support the partisans strongly enough.
Partisans are often accused of provoking brutal countermeasures from
the Nazi occupiers. Trying to limit partisan activities, German
command employed mass killings of hostages among the residents of
areas supporting partisan forces. In the case of partisan attack or
sabotage, a number of locals would be executed. Such hostage
operations happened in the form of preliminary arrests, post-attack
retaliation actions, and/or compulsory "watch-groups" deployed on
vulnerable sites and killed if they did not avert the attack. In
Belarus alone, according to historian Christian Gerlach, German
anti-partisan actions killed an estimated 345,000 people, mostly
Jews and partisans
See also: Jewish partisans
Able-bodied male Jews were usually welcomed by the partisans
(sometimes only if they brought their own weapons). More than 10% of
the Soviet partisan movement were Jews; in the Rowne Brigade,
Alexander Abugov, commander of the reconnaissance unit, and Dr
Ehrlich, commander of the medical services were Jews. Jewish
women, children, and the elderly were usually not welcome. Eventually,
however, separate Jewish groups, both guerrilla units and mixed family
groups of refugees (like the Bielski partisans), were subordinated to
the communist partisan leadership and considered as Soviet assets.
Soviet Ukrainian partisans
The Soviet Ukrainian partisans achieved some success only in Slovakia,
a nominally independent country under German tutelage. The Slovakian
countryside and mountains became a ‘hotbed’ for the Soviet
guerrillas in the second half of 1944. Dozens of the partisan
detachments that came from Soviet Ukraine and formerly Soviet-occupied
Poland conducted sabotage acts against German communication lines,
harassed the local German community and finally took an active part in
Slovak National Uprising
Slovak National Uprising that was launched by the Slovak
resistance movement on 29 August 1944. Initially, it seemed to have
been a successful enterprise. The insurgents established their
headquarters in the central-Slovakian town Banská Bystrica, conducted
contacts with the Allied powers, managed to hold out for two months
against the German and the Slovak collaborationist troops, and even
dispatched sabotage and intelligence units to Hungary and Moravia.
However, due to the Red Army's inability or possibly unwillingness to
support the rebels, many of whom were loyal to the pro-Western
Czechoslovakian government in exile, the
Slovak National Uprising
Slovak National Uprising was
brutally oppressed in late October 1944. The attempt of the Soviet
Ukrainian partisans to continue the guerrilla war in the Carpathian
Mountains during the winter of 1944-1945 had little effect on the
Germans but led to severe losses among the irregulars themselves. Most
of them returned to the Soviet-controlled territory without being able
to assist the
Red Army war effort. Nonetheless, the remnants of the
Soviet Ukrainian partisan networks remained active in Slovakia and
Moravia, mostly in the intelligence field, until early May 1945.
Operations against independence movements
Main article: Anti-Soviet partisans
In addition to fighting the Nazis,
Soviet partisans fought against
organizations which sought to establish independent non-communist
states of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia,
Belarus and Ukraine.
Most of the resistance groups in the Baltic States and Poland sought
to re-establish independent states free of Soviet domination.
Soviet partisans are therefore a controversial issue in those
countries. In Latvia, some former Soviet partisans, such as Vasiliy
Kononov, have been prosecuted for alleged war crimes against locals
during Soviet partisan activity.
Relations with Ukrainian nationalists
Ukrainian Insurgent Army
Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) formed in 1942 as a military arm of
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists engaged in armed conflicts
Soviet partisans and the Polish resistance. While the UPA
initially attempted to find a common anti-Soviet ground with Nazi
Germany against the USSR, it soon was driven underground as it became
apparent that the Germans' intentions for Ukraine were to establish a
German colony with a subjugated local population, not an independent
country as the UPA hoped for. As such, the UPA was driven underground
and fought both the Nazi occupiers and the Soviet forces (including
partisans) at the same time.
Later, the UPA and Soviet partisan leaders tried to negotiate a
temporary alliance, but Moscow's
NKVD Headquarters began harshly
suppressing such moves by its local commanders. With both sides
becoming established enemies, the Ukrainian civil population was
primarily concerned with their survival. Ukrainian nationalist
resistance to Soviet rule continued into the mid-late 1940s.
Relations with the locals in Baltic States
Soviet partisans had very little support from the Baltic countries'
populations. Their involvement in controversial actions that affected
the civilian population (for example, the killing of the Polish
civilians in Kaniūkai, in an event that has come to be called the
Koniuchy massacre, and the destruction of the village of
Bakaloriškės). The anti-Soviet resistance movements in the
Baltic states, known as the Latvian or Lithuanian partisans,
(established just before the Soviet re-occupation in 1944), and local
self-defence units often came into conflict with Soviet partisan
groups. In Estonia and Latvia, almost all the Soviet partisan units,
dropped by air, were either destroyed by the German forces or the
local self-defense units.
In eastern and south-eastern Lithuania,
Soviet partisans constantly
clashed with Polish
Armia Krajowa (Home Army) partisans; AK did not
recognise any territorial changes after 1939 and considered this
region as a legal part of Poland, while the Soviets planned to annex
it into the
Soviet Union after the war. Only in April 1944 did Polish
Soviet partisans start coordinating their actions against the
Some historians assert that the Soviet reactions to returning
partisans were not better than for Soviet POWs. However most of the
partisans were included in soviet regular forces. A lot of former POWs
avoided repressions because of joining the partisan units after the
escape. In 1955, a pardon was given to all returned prisoners of war
and Nazi collaborators.
With the German supply lines already over-extended, the partisan
operations in the rear of the front lines were able to severely
disrupt the flow of supplies to the army that acted deep into the
Soviet territory. In the second half of the war, major partisan
operations were coordinated with Soviet offensives. Upon liberation of
parts of the Soviet territory, the corresponding partisan detachments
usually joined the regular Army. According to Soviet sources, the
partisans were a vital force of the war. From 90,000 men and women by
the end of 1941 (including underground) they grew to 220,000 in 1942,
and to more than 550,000 in 1943. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia
Soviet partisans inflicted thousands of casualties on
Axis forces. In
Belarus alone, according to Soviet propaganda, the
partisans claimed to have killed, injured and taken prisoner some
500,000 German soldiers.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the previously unavailable
Soviet archives have been re-examined by independent scholars from
Poland, Germany, and elsewhere, and the conclusions drawn from them
were strikingly different from the official Soviet line, maintained
Cold War for several decades:
The Soviet-allied guerrillas routinely engaged in plundering peasants.
Documents show that partisan activity often amounted to banditry,
rape, pillage, and murder. Occasionally individual transgressors were
punished. On the whole, however, the leadership of the Soviet
irregular forces considered robbery to be a legitimate modus operandi.
Since they largely lacked popular support, the Soviet guerrillas
raided villages and manors for supplies. As a top Soviet commander put
it, “Most partisan units feed, clothe, and arm themselves at the
expense of the local population and not by capturing booty in the
struggle against fascism. That arouses in the people a feeling of
hostility, and they say, ‘The Germans take everything away and one
must also give something to the partisans’” (48). However, this
aspect of the Soviet partisan movement has been eliminated from the
standard Soviet narrative about them. 
List of notable Soviet partisans
Yuri Andropov – later the leader of Soviet Union
Matvey Kuzmin – "Susanin of Pskov District"
Petr Masherov – later the leader of Soviet Belarus
Dmitry Nikolaevich Medvedev
Erich Mielke (alleged)
Marytė Melnikaitė (Marija Melnik)
World War II
World War II portal
Come and See
Resistance during World War II
Soviet partisan brigade 1941–44
Soviet partisan detachment 1941–44
Soviet partisan group 1941–44
Soviet partisan regiment 1941–44
Soviet partisan united formation 1941–44
Young Guard (Soviet resistance)
^ Elżbieta Trela-Mazur (1997). Włodzimierz Bonusiak, Stanisław Jan
Ciesielski, Zygmunt Mańkowski, Mikołaj Iwanow, eds. Sowietyzacja
oświaty w Małopolsce Wschodniej pod radziecką okupacją 1939–1941
[Sovietization of eastern Poland during the Soviet occupation in
1939–1941]. Kielce: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna im. Jana
Kochanowskiego. p. 294. ISBN 83-7133-100-2. Among the
population of Eastern territories were circa 38% Poles, 37%
Ukrainians, 14,5% Belarusians, 8,4% Jews, 0,9% Russians and 0,6%
Germans. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
^ J.V. Stalin, Radio Broadcast, July 3, 1941. Marxists.org
^ (HistBel-5) Гісторыя Беларусі: У 6 т. Т. 5.
Беларусь у 1917–1945. – Мн.:
Экаперспектыва, 2006. – 613 с.; іл.
ISBN 985-469-149-7. p. 492.
^ Nik (2002). "ПИНСК В ГОДЫ ВЕЛИКОЙ
Pinsk during the Great Patriotic...)".
Istoria Pinska (History of Pinsk) (in Russian). Archived from the
original on 2006-06-21. Retrieved 2006-08-24.
^ Літвіноўскі І. А. (Litvinowski) Партызанскі
рух у Вялікую Айчынную вайну 1941–1945 //
Беларуская энцыклапедыя: У 18 т. Т. 12. –
Мінск: БелЭн, 2001. – 560 с. p. 134.
ISBN 985-11-0198-2 (т.12).
^ NB: usually the Soviet and post-Soviet writings on the Soviet
partisan movement borrow data directly or indirectly from the
Ponomarenko (Пономаренко П.К. Партизанское
движение в Великой Отечественной
войне. М., 1943.) and Volin (Волин Б.М.
Всенародная партизанская война. М.,
1942.) books, which could be intentionally exaggerating.
^ pp. 528-541,Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voina
^ (All-people struggle in
Belarus against the German-fascist invaders)
Всенародная борьба в Белоруссии
захватчиков. Т. 1. С. 84, 112., as cited in (HistB5)
Гісторыя Беларусі: У 6 т. Т. 5. Беларусь у
1917–1945. – Мн.: Экаперспектыва, 2006. – 613
с.; іл. ISBN 985-469-149-7. p. 491.
^ a b Jerzy Turonek, Białoruś pod okupacją niemiecką, Warsaw:
Książka i Wiedza, 1993; p. 76.
^ (All-people struggle...) V.1. p. 107., as cited in (HistB5) p. 493.
^ (HistB5) p. 493.
^ At the end of 1941, only in the
Minsk area were there were more than
50 partisan groups operational, including more than 2,000 troops.
^ a b c Turonek, p. 78.
^ Turonek, pp. 110-112.
^ By the German sources. Turonek, p. 79. Also noted is that this
result, while in itself impressive, was less relevant than expected,
as the German offensive in 1942 came further south.
^ Mentioned as primary in the report of the HQ of partisan movement on
1942-11-09. Turonek, p. 79.
^ Turonek, pp. 83, 86.
^ Turonek, p. 83.
^ Turonek, p. 84.
^ Turonek, p. 84.
^ Turonek, pp. 84, 85.
^ Gogun 2015, pp. 36–7.
^ Gogun 2015, p. 109.
^ Gogun 2015
^ Gogun 2015, p. 96.
^ Gogun 2015, p. 103.
^ Gogun 2015, p. 104.
^ Gogun 2015, pp. 106–9.
^ Gogun 2015, p. 90.
^ Gogun 2015, p. 93.
^ Krylova, Anna (2010). Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence
on the Eastern Front (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press.
p. 204. ISBN 0521197341.
^ Markwick, R.; Cardona, E. Charon; Cardona, Euridice Charon (2012).
Soviet Women on the Frontline in the Second World War (illustrated
ed.). Springer. ISBN 0230362540.
^ Slepyan, Kenneth (2006). Stalin's guerrillas:
Soviet partisans in
World War II
World War II (illustrated ed.). University Press of Kansas.
^ Prusin, Alexander V. (2010). The Lands Between: Conflict in the East
European Borderlands, 1870-1992. Oxford University Press. p. 179.
^ Statiev, Alexander (2010). The Soviet Counterinsurgency in the
Western Borderlands. Cambridge University Press. p. 75.
^ a b (in Lithuanian) Audronė Janavičienė. Soviet saboteurs in
Lithuania (1941-1944). Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos
tyrimo centras. Last accessed on 3 August 2006.
^ Laine, Antti: Suur-Suomen kahdet kasvot, 1982,
ISBN 951-1-06947-0, Otava
^ Karelian people and other Finnic people stayed in their position and
could continue their every day life. However, 24,000 of the local
ethnic Russians (almost half of them) were placed in internment and
labor camps and 4,000–7,000 of them died.
^ a b Stepakov, Victor and Frolov, Dmitry: Komandos, 2004, Moscow
^ "The occupiers set in Karelia the network of concentration, transfer
and labor camps where over 20,000 locals were placed. Thousands of
""Равнение на Победу" (Eyes toward Victory), the
Republic of Karelia" (in Russian). the Ministry of Education and
Science of the Russian Federation, National Delphi Council of Russia.
Archived from the original on November 2, 2005. Retrieved August 10,
^ a b Eino Viheriävaara, (1982). Partisaanien jäljet 1941-1944,
Oulun Kirjateollisuus Oy. ISBN 951-99396-6-0
^ Veikko Erkkilä, (1999). Vaiettu sota, Arator Oy.
^ Lauri Hannikainen, (1992). Implementing Humanitarian Law Applicable
in Armed Conflicts: The Case of Finland, Martinuss Nijoff Publishers,
Dordrecht. ISBN 0-7923-1611-8.
^ Tyyne Martikainen,(1988) "Neuvostoliiton partisaanien tuhoiskut
siviilikyliin 1941-1944, PS-paino Värisuora Oy
ISBN 951-97949-0-5, Tyyne Martikainen, (2002). Partisaanisodan
siviiliuhrit, PS-Paino Värisuora Oy. ISBN 952-91-4327-3, Tyyne
Martikaianen, (2002, 2004) "Rauha on ainoa mahdollisuutemme -
Partisaanisodan kansainvälinen sovitusseminaari", English summary,
Jatkosodan Siviiliveteraanit ry ISBN 951-98964-4-9.
^ a b http://www.a-z.ru/women_cd2/12/2/i80_181.htm
^ various authors; P.L. Bobylev (1985). "Великая
Отечественная война." Вопросы и
ответы. ["Great Patriotic War"; questions and answers] (in
Russian). Moscow: Politizdat.
^ Yohanan Cohen (1989). "The "London Government"". Small Nations in
Times of Crisis and Confrontation. New York: SUNY Press. p. 127.
^ Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust, McFarland & Company,
1997, ISBN 0-7864-0371-3. Google Print, p. 88, p. 89, p. 90
^ Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust, p. 98
^ Review of Sowjetische Partisanen in Weißrußland by Bogdan Musial,
by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, in Sarmatian Review, April 2006
^ Bogdan Musiał, Memorandum Pantelejmona Ponomarienki z 20 stycznia
1943 r. "O zachowaniu się Polaków i niektórych naszych zadaniach",
Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość, Pismo Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej,
Warszawa, 1.09.2006, ISSN 1427-7476, s. 379-380.
Операция "Рельсовая война".]
^ Yaacov Falkov, PhD Abstract, "The Use of Guerrilla Forces for the
Intelligence Purposes of the Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-1945",
Tel-Aviv University, 2013,
^ Yaacov Falkov, “Partisans Sovétiques” in Encyclopédye de la
Seconde guerre mondiale, eds. J.F. Muracciole and G. Piketty (Robert
Laffont, Paris 2015): 938-943.
^ Yaacov Falkov, Forest Spies. The Intelligence Activity of the Soviet
Partisans (Magnes Press and Yad Vashem Press: Jerusalem, 2017)
^ a b Yaacov Falkov, “Partisans Sovétiques” in Encyclopédye de
la Seconde guerre mondiale, eds. J.F. Muracciole and G. Piketty
(Robert Laffont, Paris 2015): 938-943.
^ a b c d Sowjetische Partisanen in Weißrußland
^ Martin Gilbert, 'The Holocaust' (1986), p. 515.
^ a b Yaacov Falkov, “Partisans Sovétiques” in Encyclopédye de
la Seconde guerre mondiale, eds. J.F. Muracciole and G. Piketty
(Robert Laffont, Paris 2015): 938-943.
^ a b Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: a history, p. 476, University of
Toronto Press (2000), ISBN 0802083900
^ (in Lithuanian) Rimantas Zizas. Bakaloriškių sunaikinimas.
[[Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras, 2004.
Last accessed on 3 August 2006.]
^ Marc Elie (2007). Les anciens détenus du Goulag: libérations
massives et réhabilitations dans l’URSS poststalinienne, 1953-1964
(in French). Paris: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences socilaes (PhD
^ Партизанское движение в Великой
Отечественной войне 1941-45.
^ a b News & Publications (1 May 2006). "The myth exposed by Marek
Jan Chodakiewicz". The
Sarmatian Review vol. 26, no. 2 (2006):
1217-1220. The Institute of World Politics. PAPERS &
STUDIES. [Also in:]
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz (21 April 2006).
"Sowjetische Partisanen in Weißrußland. Innenansichten aus dem
Gebiet Baranovici 1941-1944. Eine Dokumentation". The Sarmatian
Review. Russian documents translated into German by Tatjana Wanjat in
Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, vol. 88.
Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Soviet partisans.
Gogun, Alexander (2015). Stalin's Commandos: Ukrainian Partisan Forces
on the Eastern Front. London: I.B.Tauris.
Grenkevich, Leonid D., The Soviet partisan movement,
1941–1944 : a critical historiographical analysis, Frank Cass
Publishers, 1999 (hardcover ISBN 0-7146-4874-4, paperback
Hill, Alexander, The war behind the Eastern Front : the Soviet
partisan movement in North-West Russia, 1941–1944. Frank Cass, 2005
Jack Kagan, Dov Cohen: Surviving the Holocaust With the Russian Jewish
Partisans, 1998, ISBN 0-85303-336-6
Jerzy Turonek (1993). Białoruś pod okupacją niemiecką [Belarus
under the German occupation]. Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza.
Slepyan, Kenneth. Stalin's guerrillas :
Soviet partisans in World
War II. University Press of Kansas, 2006 (hardcover,
ISBN 0-7006-1480-X ).
Smilovitskii, Leonid: Antisemitism in the Soviet Partisan Movement,
1941–1944: The Case of Belorussia in: Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Biography of Braiko
Account of Partisan activity in Western Ukraine
(in English) (in Hebrew) :
Jewish partisans directory (searchable)
(in Russian) People with clear conscience – Memoires of Pyotr
(in Russian) It happened by Rovno – Memoires of Dmitry Nikolaevich
Fragment of the Review of Sowjetische Partisanen in Weißrußland, by
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, in Sarmatian Review, April 2006
Dear I.C.B. The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University
(in Russian) Partisan Movement during the Great Patriotic War – V.N.
Andrianov Soviet Encyclopaedia entry.
Partisan Resistance in
World War II
World War II – Virtual Guide
(in Russian) Partisan Movement in
Belarus – Republic of Belarus
(in Russian) Partisan Movement in Bryansk region 1941–1943 –
Bryansk regional government.
Rear Area Security in Russia: The Soviet Second Front Behind the
German Lines, U.S. Army Historical Study series, 1951
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