Destruction battalions

Destruction battalions,[nb 1] colloquially istrebitels (истребители, "destroyers", "exterminators") abbreviated: istrebki (Russian), strybki (Ukrainian)[1][2] were paramilitary units under the control of NKVD in the western Soviet Union, which performed tasks of internal security on the Eastern Front and after it. After the Fall of the Soviet Union the battalions were deemed to be a criminal organisation by Estonian government.

Destruction battalions
Activefrom 24 June 1941 to 1954
CountrySoviet Union Soviet Union
RoleInternal security
Sizeca 328,000
Part ofNKVD, Soviet Armed Forces
Motto(s)If the Enemy Does Not Surrender, He Will Be Annihilated.
MarchThe Internationale
Anniversaries24 June
EngagementsGerman-Soviet War
Dmitrii Kramarchuk
Mikhail Pasternak


As Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, a state of war was declared in the western regions of the country and in the annexed Baltic states.[3] Vladimir Tributs the Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic Fleet of the Soviet Union issued an order on 24 June 1941 warning of the paralysing actions of enemy paratrooper squads aided by the "capitalist-kulak" portions of the populations, which allegedly had a large number of weapons that had not been turned in. The officers ordered the strengthening of defences of headquarters, army units and communications.[3][4] Attacking "bandits" were to be shot on the spot. The struggle against saboteurs was the responsibility of the border guard units subordinate to the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union).[3]


The battalions were created in the territories near the front line during Operation Barbarossa, with the missions of securing the Red Army rear, assuring the operation of strategically important enterprises and destroying the valuable property that could not be evacuated.[3][5] The units received authority to summarily execute any suspicious person. Their tasks accounted for the implementation of a scorched earth policy.[3]

The destruction battalion have no mercy for our enemies – bandits and other fascist cankers. They shall be not just destroyed, but sent directly under the ground, where is their right place.

In every village and settlement, the destruction battalion has a number of tasks more besides of straight breaking the enemy. With the bolshevist grimness, everybody who imparts provocational rumours or generates panic, must be expiscated. Everybody, who directly or indirectly helps enemy, must be found out and exterminated.

— What is the Destruction battalion and what are its tasks.[6]


The destruction battalions were formally voluntary while actually a number of troops were forcibly recruited. They were augmented by personnel considered ideologically solid, like members of Komsomol and kolkhoz managers.[7] There were no other requirements, so the ranks were socially varied, including a significant proportion of felons.[3] The battalions were commanded by head managers of the regional committee level.[7] The Chief-of-Staff of Moscow was Dmitrii Kramarchuk.[8]

During July 1941, a total of 1,755 destruction battalions were created, across all territories near the frontline, comprising about 328,000 personnel.[9][10]

During July–August 1941 in the Belorussian SSR, chiefly in Vitebsk, Homel, Polesia, Mohylew oblasts, 78 such battalions were created, comprising more than 13,000 personnel. Part of these were later transformed into Belarusian partisans.[11][12]

The battalions were also formed in the newly annexed territories of Karelo-Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, East Poland, Galicia, and Bessarabia. Immediately after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, combat squads were formed.[13][14] Following the orders of the NKVD, night watch squads were created in areas with large concentrations of the Forest Brothers. As firearms were not provided the nightwatchmen equipped themselves with sticks. On June 25, 1941 the first squads received fire arms from the reserves of the former paramilitary organisations and through self-armament.[15][16][17][18]


The fight against Anti-Soviet partisans and the implementation of the scorched earth tactics were accompanied by terror against the civilian population, which was treated as supporters or shelterers of Forest Brothers. The destruction battalions burnt down farms and some small boroughs.[3] In turn, the members of the extermination battalions were at risk of repressions by the anti-Soviet partisans.[19][20]


Thousands of people including a large proportion of women and children were killed, while dozens of villages, schools and public buildings were burned to the ground. A school boy, Tullio Lindsaa, had all bones in his hands broken then was bayoneted for hoisting the flag of Estonia. Mauricius Parts, son of the Estonian War of Independence veteran Karl Parts, was doused in acid. In August 1941, all residents of the village of Viru-Kabala were killed including a two-year-old child and a six-day-old infant. A partisan war broke out in response to the atrocities of the destruction battalions, with tens of thousands of men forming the Forest Brothers to protect the local population from these battalions. Occasionally, the battalions burned people alive.[21] The destruction battalions murdered 1,850 people in Estonia. Almost all of them were partisans or unarmed civilians.[22]

Another example of the destruction battalions' actions is the Kautla massacre, where twenty civilians were murdered and tens of farms destroyed. Many of the people were killed after torture. The low toll of human deaths in comparison with the number of burned farms is due to the Erna long-range reconnaissance group breaking the Red Army blockade on the area, allowing many civilians to escape.[23][24]

Western Ukraine

In 1944-1945, in Western Ukraine, participation in the destruction of villages, were often sole of local Polish and Ukrainian population.


The destruction battalions were restored after the retreat of German forces in the newly annexed areas to the Soviet Union. In 1945–46 they were renamed to narodnaya zaschita (people's defence), because of the notoriety their old name had gained in 1941. They were formed from local volunteers, from the most variable layers of the rural communities. They were tasked to guard, secure and support with arms all activities, directives and orders of the Soviet power, which the population could have sabotaged, intentionally avoided or directly resisted.[25]

The primary task of the destruction battalions was the fight against the armed resistance movement. This included terrorising the actual or potential supporters of Forest Brothers among the civilian population, participation in active combat, organisation of ambush and secret guard posts, reconnaissance and search patrols. The passive operations included guard and watch-keeping duties, convoy of detainees and arrested individuals as well as guarding cargo.[25]

The destroyers guarded systematically institutions of power and economic objects in the rural areas. In a post-war situation where the factual state power in a rural municipality lay with the Soviet police, the Militsiya, the destroyers constituted a force which guaranteed the implementation of the Soviet policies. A typical task was to force the farmers to fulfil public forestry, peat extraction and road construction obligations. No measures of coercion policy were implemented in the rural communities, which were not carried out or supervised by armed destroyers. They also fought against crime, both independently and as an additional force to the Militsiya.[25]

The destruction battalions were great in size, but they never became the efficient and active armed force which they were expected to become in order to rapidly eradicate the Forest Brothers. Despite the primarily passive role of the destroyers in the fight against the resistance movement, they provided invaluable assistance to the active participants in this fight, state security institutions and internal troops. As local people the destroyers spoke the language, knew the people, landscape and circumstances, knowledge which was inadequate among the NKVD and internal troops. The destruction battalions were also very useful as an auxiliary force. The organisation was eventually dismissed in 1954.[25]

Legal appraisal

In 2002 the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) declared that the destruction battalions in the annexed Baltic states were a collaborators' organisation, which assisted the implementation of the criminal policy of the Soviet regime, and was thus a criminal organisation.[25][26] At the same time, the destroyers cannot be accused of crimes against humanity in corpore, because of the legal principles of the individual character of guilt and responsibility.[25]


  • Гісторыя Беларусі: У 6 т. Т. 5. Беларусь у 1917–1945. — Мн. : Экаперспектыва, 2006. — 613 с.; іл. ISBN 985-469-149-7. p. 482.
  • Мірановіч Яўген. Найноўшая гісторыя Беларусі. — СПб. : Неўскі прасцяг, 2003. — 243 с. ; іл. ISBN 5-94716-032-3. pp. 126–30.
  • Вялікая Айчынная вайна савецкага народа (у кантэксце Другой сусветнай вайны). — Мн. : Экаперспектыва, 2005. — 279 с. ISBN 985-469-150-0. p. 100.

See also

Footnotes and references

  1. ^ Russian: Истребительные батальоны, Ukrainian: Винищувальні батальйони, Belarusian: Zniszczalnyja batalëny, Знішчальныя батальёны, Estonian: hävituspataljonid, Lithuanian: Naikintojų batalionai
  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Indrek Paavle, Peeter Kaasik (2006). "Destruction battalions in Estonia in 1941". In Toomas Hiio; Meelis Maripuu; Indrek Paavle. Estonia 1940–1945: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity. Tallinn. pp. 469–493.
  4. ^ Karel Cornelis Berkhoff, Harvest of despair
  5. ^ Central Committee of the CP, CPC of the Soviet Union (29 June 1941). "Concerning the mobilisation of the entire people of the Soviet Union to fight against the enemy".
  6. ^ Tartu Kommunist, July 22, 1941.
  7. ^ a b ОРГАНИЗАЦИЯ ИСТРЕБИТЕЛЬНЫХ БАТАЛЬОНОВ И ИХ БОЕВАЯ ДЕЯТЕЛЬНОСТЬ. [Organisation of destruction battalions and their activities] In Russian. NKVD of Ukrainian SSR 1941.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Роль и задачи войск НКВД в годы Великой Отечественной войны.
  10. ^ Милиция в годы Великой Отечественной Войны.
  11. ^ Р. Барадулін, ВЯЛІКАЯ АЙЧЫННАЯ ВАЙНА.
  12. ^ Жыве імя легендарнага камбрыга.
  14. ^ A Documentary history of Communism in Russia.
  16. ^ Stalin, the Russians, and their war by M. J. Broekmeyer, Rosalind.
  17. ^ истребительные батальоны.
  18. ^ Estonia in 1939–1944.
  19. ^ 1940–1992. Soviet era and the restoration of independence.
  20. ^ Наталля Рыбак, Метады і сродкі ліквідацыі акаўскіх і постакаўскіх фарміраванняў у заходніх абласцях Беларусі ў 1944–1954 гг.
  21. ^ Mart Laar, War in the woods, The Compass Press, Washington, 1992, p. 10
  22. ^ Eesti rahva kannatuste aasta. Tallinn, 1996, p. 234.
  23. ^ Jüri Liim: Kautla lahingud
  24. ^ Mart Laar: Tavaline stalinism Archived 2009-08-27 at the Wayback Machine, printed in Postimees 16 August 2007
  25. ^ a b c d e f Tiit Noormets, Valdur Ohmann (2009). "Soviet destruction battalions in Estonia in 1944–1954". In: Hiio, T; Maripuu, M; Paavle, I. Estonia since 1944: Reports of the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity, pp. 265–68.
  26. ^ Okupatsioonirežiimi kuritegudest Eestis [On Crimes of the Occupational Regime in Estonia] Riigi Teataja from 18 June 2002
10th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 10th Rifle Division was a military formation of the Red Army. It existed by 1920, but was formally created on 20 June 1922, based on the 29th Infantry Brigade. It was then recreated at Vladimir in September 1939, and fought in the Second World War.

Battle of Kautla

The Battle of Kautla (Estonian: Kautla lahing, Kautla veresaun or Kautla veretöö) was a battle between Soviet destruction battalions and Estonian Forest Brothers in Kautla, Estonia in July 1941. It included series of murders of civilians committed by destruction battalions, known as Kautla massacre.

On 24 July 1941, an extermination battalion murdered Gustav and Rosalie Viljamaa of Simisalu farm and set the farm on fire. In the coming days, the extermination battalion undertook the systematic murder of all civilians in the region and burning their farms. The Kautla farm was burned down by the Red Army with the family and staff inside, thus constituting a murder of Johannes Lindemann, Oskar Mallene, Ida Hallorava, Arnold Kivipõld, Alfred Kukk and Johannes Ummus. In total, more than twenty people, all civilians, were murdered — many of them after torture — and tens of farms destroyed. The low toll of human deaths in comparison with the number of burned farms is due to the Erna long-range reconnaissance group breaking the Red Army blockade on the area, allowing many civilians to escape.

Battle of Kiauneliškis

The Battle of Kiauneliškis was fought on March 11–13, 1945 between the Lithuanian partisans and Soviet forces. The Lithuanians were entrenched in two large bunkers and refused to surrender. After three days of fighting, both bunkers were destroyed with heavy casualties on both sides.

As Red Army continued to advance towards Nazi Germany, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. The Lithuanians fled the forceful conscription into the Red Army and hid in the forests. A particularly large group, known as the Tiger Detachment (Lithuanian: Tigro rinktinė), organized themselves in the Labanoras Forest. A platoon, commanded by Antanas Krinickas, built a large Margis Bunker with trenches south of the Kiauneliškis village in fall 1944. Another bunker, named after Kaunas, was built by men commanded by Apolinaras Jurčys in winter 1945.In March 1945, Soviet NKVD sent troops and stribai (members of destruction battalions) from Švenčionys, Švenčionėliai, Saldutiškis to destroy the Kaunas Bunker. The partisans successfully held off initial Soviet attacks, but soon their camp and bunker was surrounded. Majority of the partisans from the Kaunas Bunker managed to break through the Soviet encirclement and escape leaving only seven men behind. When partisans from Margis Bunker came to assistance, the Soviets learned about the existence of the second camp and surrounded it as well. Partisans from Margis Bunker did not attempt to break through and escape the assault. Fierce exchange of fire continued into the second day, when Soviet forces were unexpectedly attacked by 300 men from the Tiger Detachment. Conflicting accounts claim the partisans inside the bunkers believed that it was a clever ruse intended to bring them out of hiding and into an ambush or that the reinforcements believed they were too late and thus did not press further. Either way, the men from the Tiger Detachment retreated leaving the partisans in the bunkers to defend themselves.

The seven men inside the Kaunas Bunker started running out of ammunition. Preferring death to being captured by the Soviets, they decided to use the last grenade to kill themselves. Six men were killed by the blast, while the seventh survived. The men inside Margis Bunker continued to resist. The Soviets would toss in grenades, but the partisans would grab them and toss them back to the Russians. The Soviets then brought anti-tank grenades and mortars. The heavy fire effectively buried the bunker preventing ventilation and suffocating everyone inside.On March 14, NKVD brought residents of nearby villages to deal with the bodies. Witnesses counted 300 Soviet bodies. It is known that four Russian officers, including a colonel, were buried in Švenčionys. The dead partisans were loaded onto a train and brought to Švenčionys where they were publicly displayed for a day. The bodies were later buried in a mass grave near Cirkliškis Manor.


Chișinău (; Romanian: [kiʃiˈnəw] (listen)), also known as Kishinev (Russian: Кишинёв, tr. Kishinyov), is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Moldova. The city is Moldova's main industrial and commercial center, and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bâc. According to the results of the 2014 census, the city proper had a population of 532,513, while the number of population in the Municipality of Chișinău (which includes the city itself and other nearby communities) was 662,836. Chișinău is the most economically prosperous locality in Moldova and its largest transportation hub.

Eastern Front (World War II)

The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War (Russian: ru:Великая Отечественная война, Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna) in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front (German: die Ostfront), or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.The battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War constituted the largest military confrontation in history. They were characterized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, and immense loss of life due to combat, starvation, exposure, disease, and massacres. The Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches, ghettos, and the majority of pogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Of the estimated 70-85 million deaths attributed to World War II, over 30 million, the majority of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern Front. The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome in the European theatre of operations in World War II, eventually serving as the main reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis nations.The two principal belligerent powers were Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. Though never engaged in military action in the Eastern Front, the United States and the United Kingdom both provided substantial material aid in the form of the Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union. The joint German–Finnish operations across the northernmost Finnish–Soviet border and in the Murmansk region are considered part of the Eastern Front. In addition, the Soviet–Finnish Continuation War may also be considered the northern flank of the Eastern Front.

Erna long-range reconnaissance group

The Erna long-range reconnaissance group (Estonian: Erna luuregrupp) was a Finnish Army formation, of Estonian volunteers, that fulfilled reconnaissance duties in Estonia behind the Red Army lines during World War II. The unit was formed by Finnish military intelligence with the assistance of German military intelligence for reconnaissance operations.


Estonia (Estonian: Eesti [ˈeːsʲti] (listen)), officially the Republic of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Vabariik), is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the other side, to the west by the Baltic Sea with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second most spoken Finnic language.

The territory of Estonia has been inhabited since at least 9,000 B.C. Ancient Estonians were some of the last European pagans to be Christianized, following the Livonian Crusade in the 13th century. After centuries of successive rule by Germans, Danes, Swedes, Poles and Russians, a distinct Estonian national identity began to emerge in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This culminated in independence from Russia in 1920 after a brief War of Independence at the end of World War I. Initially democratic, after the Great Depression Estonia was governed by authoritarian rule since 1934 during the Era of Silence. During World War II (1939–1945), Estonia was repeatedly contested and occupied by the Soviet Union and Germany, ultimately being incorporated into the former as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. After the loss of its de facto independence, Estonia's de jure state continuity was preserved by diplomatic representatives and the government-in-exile. In 1987 the peaceful Singing Revolution began against Soviet rule, resulting in the restoration of de facto independence on 20 August 1991.

The sovereign state of Estonia is a democratic unitary parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties. Its capital and largest city is Tallinn. With a population of 1.3 million, it is one of the least-populous member states of the European Union since joining in 2004, the economic monetary Eurozone, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Schengen Area, and of the Western military alliance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy that has been among the fastest-growing in the EU. Estonia ranks very high in the Human Development Index, and performs favourably in measurements of economic freedom, civil liberties, education, and press freedom (third in the world in 2012 and 2007). Estonian citizens are provided with universal health care, free education, and the longest-paid maternity leave in the OECD. One of the world's most digitally advanced societies, in 2005 Estonia became the first state to hold elections over the Internet, and in 2014 the first state to provide e-residency.

Estonia in World War II

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, concerning the partition and disposition of sovereign states, including Estonia, and in particular its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939.The Republic of Estonia declared neutrality in the war but fell under the Soviet sphere of influence due to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. Mass political arrests, deportations, and executions followed. In the Summer War during the German Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the pro-independence Forest Brothers captured South Estonia from the NKVD and the 8th Army before the arrival of the German 18th Army. At the same time, Soviet paramilitary destruction battalions carried out punitive operations, including looting and killing, based on the tactics of scorched earth proclaimed by Joseph Stalin. Estonia was occupied by Germany and incorporated into Reichskommissariat Ostland.

In 1941, Estonians were conscripted into the 8th Estonian Rifle Corps and in 1941–1944 to the Nazi German forces. Men who avoided these mobilisations fled to Finland to be formed into the Finnish Infantry Regiment 200. About 40% of the Estonian pre-war fleet was requisitioned by British authorities and used in Atlantic convoys. Approximately 1000 Estonian sailors served in the British Merchant Navy, 200 of them as officers. A small number of Estonians served in the Royal Air Force, in the British Army and in the U.S. Army.From February to September 1944, the German army detachment "Narwa" held back the Soviet Estonian Operation. After breaching the defence of II Army Corps across the Emajõgi river and clashing with the pro-independence Estonian troops, Soviet forces reoccupied mainland Estonia in September 1944. After the war, Estonia remained incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR until 1991, although the Atlantic Charter stated that no territorial arrangements would be made.

World War II losses in Estonia, estimated at around 25% of the population, were among the highest proportion in Europe. War and occupation deaths listed in the current reports total at 81,000. These include deaths in Soviet deportations in 1941, Soviet executions, German deportations, and victims of the Holocaust in Estonia.

Forest Brothers

The Forest Brothers (also Brothers of the Forest, Forest Brethren, or Forest Brotherhood; Estonian: metsavennad, Latvian: mežabrāļi, Lithuanian: miško broliai) were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II. Similar anti-Soviet Eastern European resistance groups fought against Soviet and communist rule in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and western Ukraine.

The Red Army occupied the independent Baltic states in 1940–1941 and, after a period of German occupation, again in 1944–1945. As Stalinist repression intensified over the following years, 50,000 residents of these countries used the heavily forested countryside as a natural refuge and base for armed anti-Soviet resistance.

Resistance units varied in size and composition, ranging from individually operating guerrillas, armed primarily for self-defense, to large and well-organized groups able to engage significant Soviet forces in battle.

Friedrich Issak

Friedrich Issak (20 November 1915 – 11 May 1991) was an Estonian sportsman and journalist. As a javelin thrower, he won gold and bronze medals at the International University Games and was national champion of Estonia and later the Soviet Union. In addition, he played basketball and volleyball, winning national championship medals in both. He later became editor-in-chief of the culture magazine Kultuur ja Elu.

Harju County

Harju County (Estonian: Harju maakond), or Harjumaa (German: Harrien or Rugel, Latin: Harria) is one of the fifteen counties of Estonia. It is situated in Northern Estonia, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, and borders Lääne-Viru County to the east, Järva County to the southeast, Rapla County to the south, and Lääne County to the southwest. The capital and largest city of Estonia, Tallinn, is situated in Harju County.

Latvian Riflemen Soviet Divisions

Latvian Riflemen Soviet Divisions were military formations of the Red Army during World War II created in 1941 and consisting primarily of ethnic Latvians.

Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic

The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (Lithuanian SSR; Lithuanian: Lietuvos Tarybų Socialistinė Respublika; Russian: Литовская Советская Социалистическая Республика, Litovskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika), one of the USSR republics that existed in 1940–1941 and 1944–1990, was formed on the basis of the Soviet occupation rule. It was also known as Soviet Lithuania. After 1946, its territory and borders mirrored those of today's Republic of Lithuania (with the exception of minor adjustments at the Belarusian border).

During World War II, it was established on 21 July 1940 as a puppet state in the territory of the previously independent Republic of Lithuania. Previously, it had been occupied by the Soviet army on 16 June 1940, in conformity with the terms of the 23 August 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Between 1941 and 1944, the German invasion of the Soviet Union caused its de facto dissolution. However, with the retreat of the Germans in 1944–1945, Soviet hegemony was re-established, and continued for fifty years. As a result, many western countries continued to recognize Lithuania as an independent, sovereign de jure state subject to international law, represented by the legations appointed by the pre-1940 Baltic states, which functioned in various places through the Lithuanian Diplomatic Service.

On 18 May 1989, the Lithuanian SSR declared state sovereignty within its borders during perestroika. On 11 March 1990, the Republic of Lithuania was declared to be re-established as an independent state; the declaration, considered illegal by the Soviet authorities, was recognized by Western powers immediately prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union itself recognized Lithuanian independence on 6 September 1991.

Lithuanian partisans

The Lithuanian partisans (Lithuanian: Lietuvos partizanai) were partisans who waged a guerrilla warfare in Lithuania against the Soviet Union in 1944–1953. Similar anti-Soviet resistance groups, also known as Forest Brothers and cursed soldiers, fought against Soviet rule in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Galicia. It is estimated that a total of 30,000 Lithuanian partisans and their supporters were killed.At the end of World War II, the Red Army pushed the Eastern Front towards Lithuania. The Soviets invaded and occupied Lithuania by the end of 1944 and liberated it from Fascism. As forced conscription into Red Army and Stalinist repressions intensified, thousands of Lithuanians used forests in the countryside as a natural refuge. These spontaneous groups became more organized and centralized culminating in the establishment of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters in February 1948. In their documents, the partisans emphasized that their ultimate goal is recreation of independent Lithuania. As the partisan war continued, it became clear that the West would not interfere in Eastern Europe (see Western betrayal) and that the partisans had no chance of success against the far stronger opponent. Eventually, the partisans made an explicit and conscious decision not to accept any new members. The leadership of the partisans was destroyed in 1953 thus effectively ending the partisan war, though individual fighters held out until the 1960s.

Occupation of the Baltic states

The occupation of the Baltic states involved the military occupation of the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—by the Soviet Union under the auspices of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1940. They were then incorporated into the Soviet Union as constituent republics in August 1940, though most Western powers never recognised their incorporation. On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and within weeks occupied the Baltic territories. In July 1941, the Third Reich incorporated the Baltic territory into its Reichskommissariat Ostland. As a result of the Red Army's Baltic Offensive of 1944, the Soviet Union recaptured most of the Baltic states and trapped the remaining German forces in the Courland pocket until their formal surrender in May 1945. The Soviet "annexation occupation" (German: Annexionsbesetzung) or occupation sui generis of the Baltic states lasted until August 1991, when the three countries regained their independence.

The Baltic states themselves, the United States and its courts of law, the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council have all stated that these three countries were invaded, occupied and illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union under provisions of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. There followed occupation by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944 and then again occupation by the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1991. This policy of non-recognition has given rise to the principle of legal continuity of the Baltic states, which holds that de jure, or as a matter of law, the Baltic states had remained independent states under illegal occupation throughout the period from 1940 to 1991.In its reassessment of Soviet history that began during perestroika in 1989, the Soviet Union condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Germany and itself. However, the Soviet Union never formally acknowledged its presence in the Baltics as an occupation or that it annexed these states and considered the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics as three of its constituent republics. On the other hand, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic recognized in 1991 the events of 1940 as "annexation". Nationalist-patriotic Russian historiography and school textbooks continue to maintain that the Baltic states voluntarily joined the Soviet Union after their peoples all carried out socialist revolutions independent of Soviet influence. The post-Soviet government of the Russian Federation and its state officials insist that incorporation of the Baltic states was in accordance with international law and gained de jure recognition by the agreements made in the February 1945 Yalta and the July–August 1945 Potsdam conferences and by the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which declared the inviolability of existing frontiers). However, Russia agreed to Europe's demand to "assist persons deported from the occupied Baltic states" upon joining the Council of Europe in 1996. Additionally, when the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed a separate treaty with Lithuania in 1991, it acknowledged that the 1940 annexation as a violation of Lithuanian sovereignty and recognised the de jure continuity of the Lithuanian state.Most Western governments maintained that Baltic sovereignty had not been legitimately overridden and thus continued to recognise the Baltic states as sovereign political entities represented by the legations—appointed by the pre-1940 Baltic states—which functioned in Washington and elsewhere. The Baltic states recovered de facto independence in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia started to withdraw its troops from the Baltics (starting from Lithuania) in August 1993. The full withdrawal of troops deployed by Moscow ended in August 1994. Russia officially ended its military presence in the Baltics in August 1998 by decommissioning the Skrunda-1 radar station in Latvia. The dismantled installations were repatriated to Russia and the site returned to Latvian control, with the last Russian soldier leaving Baltic soil in October 1999.


The Omakaitse ('home guard') was a militia organisation in Estonia. It was founded in 1917 following the Russian Revolution. On the eve of the Occupation of Estonia by the German Empire the Omakaitse units took over major towns in the country allowing the Salvation Committee of the Estonian Provincial Assembly to proclaim the independence of Estonia. After the German Occupation the Omakaitse became outlawed.

The Estonian Defence League was dissolved in 1940 after the Soviet occupation of Estonia.The Omakaitse was reestablished during the German Operation Barbarossa in 1941 by the Forest brothers who took control of the country before the German troops arrived allowing Jüri Uluots establish a co-ordinating council in Tartu to proclaim the provisional government of Estonia. The Germans disbanded the provisional government but allowed the armed units in the Omakaitse after Estonia became a part of the German-occupied Reichskommissariat Ostland. During World War II Omakaitse existed from 3 July 1941 – 17 September 1944 at the Eastern Front (World War II).

Operation Osen

Operation Osen ("Fall"; Russian: Операция «Осень», Lithuanian: Operacija „Ruduo“) was a mass deportation carried out by the Ministry of State Security (MGB) in the territory of the Lithuanian SSR in the autumn of 1951. During the operation, more than 5,000 families (over 20,000 people) were transported to remote regions of the Soviet Union. It was the last large deportation in the series of Soviet deportations from Lithuania. The operation was a dekulakization campaign specifically targeting peasants who resisted collectivisation and refused to join the kolkhozes (collective farms).

Severity Order

The Severity Order or Reichenau Order was the name given to an order promulgated within the German Sixth Army on the Eastern Front during World War II by Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Reichenau on 10 October 1941.

Soviet war crimes

War crimes perpetrated by the Soviet Union and its armed forces from 1919 to 1991 include acts committed by the Red Army (later called the Soviet Army) as well as the NKVD, including the NKVD's Internal Troops. In some cases, these acts were committed upon the orders of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in pursuance of the early Soviet Government's policy of Red Terror, in other instances they were committed without orders by Soviet troops against prisoners of war or civilians of countries that had been in armed conflict with the USSR, or they were committed during partisan warfare.A significant number of these incidents occurred in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe before, during and in the aftermath of World War II, involving summary executions and the mass murder of prisoners of war, such as in the Katyn massacre and mass rape by troops of the Red Army in territories they occupied.

When the Allied Powers of World War II founded the post-war International Military Tribunal to examine war crimes committed during the conflict by Nazi Germany, with officials from the Soviet Union taking an active part in the judicial processes, there was no examination of Soviet Forces' actions and no charges were ever brought against its troops, because they were also an undefeated power which then held Eastern Europe under military occupation, marring the historical authority of the Tribunal's activity as being, in part, victor's justice.Today, the Russian government regularly dismisses the war crimes as "Western myth". In Russian history textbooks, the atrocities are either altered to portray the Soviets positively or omitted entirely. In a June 2017 interview, Russian president Vladimir Putin acknowledged the "horrors of Stalinism", but he also criticized the "excessive demonization of Stalin" by "Russia's enemies".

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