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TITLE: [Molodaia Gvardiia]
SOURCE: Kritika 6 no3 657-64 Summ
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1. A. loffe and N. K. Petrova, eds., "Molodaia
Gvardiia" (g. Krasnodon): Khudozhestvennyi obraz i istoricheskaia real'nost'. Sbornik dokumentov i materialov [The
"Young Guard" (Krasnodon): Artistic Image and Historical Reality. A Collection of Documents and Materials], 368 pp.
Moscow: Veche, 2003. ISBN 595330160X.
The city of
Krasnodon is a former workers' settlement located on the easternmost side of Ukraine, bordering Russia (Lugansk
oblast' in Russian, Luhans'k in Ukrainian). (FN1) It is a small city (in 1939, its population was 22,220), one of many
that dot the Donbas coal-and-steel industrial region. Krasnodon has no special claim to fame, except that it has
become well known as a result of the celebrated case of the youth partisan group Molodaia Gvardiia (Young Guard)
under the German occupation. Soon after the liberation of Krasnodon in 1943, the Young Guard was made famous
by Soviet authorities and the publication in 1945 of the namesake novel by the writer A. A. Fadeev. The case of the
Young Guard, one of the most famous in the Soviet partisan movement, is all the more remarkable given that the
steppe land of the Donbas-unlike, say, the thickly wooded areas of the western borderlands - was not a stronghold of
the partisan movement, and the partisan group was largely massacred by the occupation forces without scoring any
major military success. Without the intervention of the highest Soviet authorities, the Young Guard would have
acquired only local notoriety. There were political reasons for the Soviet authorities to promote this case. Fadeev
himself may have had a professional or personal incentive to take up the story of the Young Guard, (FN2) but he
adopted an official Soviet version of its history more or less loyally and published his novel, only to be forced by
pressures from the highest political authorities to rewrite it extensively for the sake of political propaganda and
political education. (FN3) Generations of Soviet youth were educated by Fadeev's work. What is generally known
about the Young Guard comes from Fadeev's Molodaia Gvardiia, but the book, like the official Soviet history of the
Young Guard, is replete with fiction. The present collection of documents helps distinguish fiction and fact and
understand the mechanisms behind the political manipulation of
Krasnodon was occupied by German, Italian, and
Romanian forces on 20 July 1942 and liberated on 15 February 1943. The Young Guard may have consisted of well
over 100 partisans, far from all of whom have been identified, but many of whom are known to have been Komsomol
members; some leading members had been trained in special intelligence schools of the People's Commissariat of
Internal Affairs (NKVD). During the relatively short period of occupation, the group staged a number of operations, the
most successful of which, it is claimed, included the hoisting of red flags atop several buildings to celebrate the 25th
anniversary of the October Revolution on 7 November 1942 and the burning of the Krasnodon labor bureau (birzha
truda) in December 1942 on the eve of a planned labor conscription. Yet by January-February 1943, the Young
Guard was decimated by Nazi counterintelligence, which arrested, savagely tortured (including the gouging of eyes),
and executed more than 70 of them by shooting or by throwing them alive down mine shafts. The heroic deaths of so
many youngsters (most of whom were teenagers) naturally attracted the attention of the Soviet authorities.
Immediately after the liberation of Krasnodon, the head of the Ukrainian NKVD outlined the reason for the decimation
of the Young Guard: treason by some of its members (17-19). By late July 1943, a special commission of the
Komsomol Central Committee, headed by A. V. Toritsyn, concluded its investigation and wrote a report on the Young
Guard affair (37-72), an outline of which was published in September. This report was influenced inordinately by E. N.
Koshevaia, the mother of one of the executed Young Guard members, 0. V. Koshevoi. Apparently unfamiliar with
Young Guard affairs, she collected numerous stories and testimonies from survivors and their families and, by
creating fiction about the Young Guard, strove to promote her son as one of the leaders at the expense of those
genuinely in charge. (Later it was disclosed, or alleged, that Koshevaia had had intimate relations with Nazi occupiers
and that she and some of her relatives had housed German officers-just as Koshevaia would house Toritsyn after the
liberation. Koshevaia herself acknowledged that it was one of her relatives who handed Koshevoi to the Germans
(26). Nevertheless, neither she nor her relatives were arrested by the Soviet authorities.)(FN4) Evidence that
contradicted Koshevaia's inventions was ignored or destroyed (128). In the meantime, Nikita Khrushchev, then the
head of the Ukrainian Communist Party, became interested in the Young Guard affair in the Donbas, the land of his
youth, and decided to ask Stalin to nominate the Young Guard for military decoration. Khrushchev's request of 3
September 1943 was met by Stalin within a week. (FN5) Intrigued by the Young Guard affair, Fadeev traveled to
Krasnodon in September and, like the German officers and Toritsyn, stayed with Koshevaia. (FN6) Fadeev
acquainted himself with the Komsomol Central Committee report and its material, talked to Soviet officials as well as
survivors and their families, and in record time (less than two years) completed his novel. (While in Krasnodon,
Fadeev may have witnessed the public execution of one of the alleged traitors, G. P Pocheptsov, on 19 September
1943.) Fadeev's novel generally followed the schemata propagated by the Soviet authorities, with literary fiction
liberally mixed in,
Fadeev's Young Guard became an instant
bestseller, and he received the Stalin Prize for the novel in 1946. It was published in numerous languages inside and
outside the Soviet Union. Yet Fadeev's story caused a furor in Krasnodon as soon as it was published. The town,
except for Koshevaia, was described as almost universally hostile to Fadeev's account, which elevated Koshevoi to a
leadership position, ignored or distorted the lives of many others, and turned a number of figures into traitors (most
notably the apparent leader and organizer, the commissar of the Young Guard, V. I. Tretiakevich, who appears in the
novel as Stakhovich, while others appear by their real names). His novel generated much agony and many family
tragedies. Those family members who collected proof of innocence of the alleged traitors were officially attacked and
silenced as slanderers. Some lost their jobs because of their family members' alleged treason. Koshevaia's conduct
(including her relations with Germans during the occupation) and her apparent protection by higher Soviet authorities
so frustrated the prosecutor of Krasnodon that he insulted her and on one occasion struck her in public (127). Already
in 1946 a member of the Komsomol Central Committee concerned with the preservation of historical documents on
the partisan group pointed out that someone had interfered with the historical documents, altering their contents by
adding new texts and deleting various parts of the originals (120). Investigations into some of those suspected of
collaboration with the Nazi forces were dropped because Fadeev (almost certainly erroneously) described them as
active "assistants" of the Young Guard (170). In response to a letter from the aggravated and aggrieved family of a
Young Guardist, Fadeev defended his story as a literary creation, not a work of history. However, he admitted that his
sources were the official Komsomol material (largely influenced by Koshevaia's inventions). He defended his use of
the official version by contending that while he was in Krasnodon no one contradicted the official story (134). Faced
with the anger of Krasnodon, the Soviet authorities, including the secret police in Moscow, worked hard to maintain
the official myth.(FN7) While supporting Fadeev's fictitious account, the Party criticized him for not emphasizing its
role in the youth partisan movement.(FN8) The collapse of the party organization in Krasnodon and elsewhere was
so complete that initially no one appeared to have thought about this matter, obviously of great import to the Party
even Khrushchev's September 1943 request to Stalin did not mention the Party's role in Young Guard activities. (The
party center sought to recreate underground party organizations in Krasnodon, but before they began their work the
Red Army expelled the occupiers, rendering them obsolete.) This "oversight" forced Fadeev to rewrite his novel
substantially; and the second edition was published in 1951, apparently to the satisfaction of
After Stalin's death, some elements of the Young Guard
myth were corrected, even though Fadeev's story remained
committed suicide in 1956.) Most notably, in 1959-60, Tretiakevich (said to be the traitor Stakhovich in Fadeev's
novel) was rehabilitated. Exonerated of the charges of treason, he, like his comrades, was posthumously decorated
as a war hero (186-87). Nevertheless, the Soviet authorities proved extremely reluctant to revise the entrenched
official version of the Young Guard's history. The contrast of heroes and villains was irresistible for political purposes.
The attraction of Krasnodon as a tourist site was also a factor: in 1965, its Young Guard museum attracted nearly
5,000 visitors every day (177). To refute Fadeev and the official fiction by restoring Tretiakevich to the position of
Young Guard commissar and downgrading Koshevoi proved impossible: both the party leaders of Voroshilovgrad
and its KGB security organ resisted any attempt to correct the distorted history of the Young Guard. They applied
pressure on survivors not to speak up and not to contradict Fadeev (and, in one case in 1964, removed the director
of the museum for his suspected bias in favor of Tretiakevich). The Voroshilovgrad obkom first secretary in the
1960s, V. V. Shevchenko, was alleged to have been left behind the front line to work underground against the
occupiers during the war as a local party leader, but he never exhibited any active role in that capacity (262). (FN9)
Archival documents collected in the present book show that the Soviet authorities, both provincial and central,
justified the Fadeev fiction on political and pedagogical
The state of affairs was such that in 1965 the
Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Moscow (attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party) dispatched a
special investigation commission to Krasnodon and other parts of Ukraine. After careful investigation, the commission
submitted to the institute a report that was critical of the local Soviet authorities and recommended that errors and
misrepresentations be corrected (182-94). This report was not widely circulated. What action, if any, was taken is not
known. Another group from Moscow (a member of the Komsomol Central Committee and G. A. Kumanev of the
Institute of History of the USSR Academy of Sciences) investigated the state of affairs in Krasnodon a few months
later. The group wrote a report to the Komsomol Central Committee that was more favorable toward the official line
It was only at the time of glasnost and
perestroika that opportunities arose to examine the history of the Young Guard without political interference. The
collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of independent Ukraine in 1991 improved the situation. Local
historians in Lugansk oblast have been active. A 1993 special inter-regional commission for the study of the history of
the Young Guard is of particular interest. One of the nine-member commission disagreed on some points with the
majority opinion (303-13), but a more reliable picture of the Young Guard emerged. Tretiakevich was the leader,
organizer, and commissar of the youth partisan group; the local party organization played little or no role in the work
of the Young Guard. The organization itself was not a party-Komsomol partisan group, as the Soviet authorities had
tried to show, but a youth-Komsomol detachment; the reasons for its decimation at the hands of the Nazis were both
many members' inexperience with underground and conspiratorial work and the careful work of German
counterintelligence (283-303). (FN10) This last point implies that the alleged traitor Pocheptsov, a Young Guardist
publicly executed in September 1943, may not have been a simple traitor. As expected, he was tortured during the
investigation and confessed to the crime, but at the trial he recanted his confession (320). These and other questions
may be further clarified by an examination of German sources. As of the summer of 2004, Pocheptsov had not been
Many issues remain to be resolved.
The question of treachery is the most thorny. To be sure, there were many traitors among the Soviet population who
collaborated with the Nazi forces and hunted the Soviet partisans actively. Among those traitors were some party and
partisan members. In one case, a collaborator in Dnepropetrovsk is said to have aided the arrest of a Young
Guardist. (FNH) To complicate the matter, some (if not many) Nazi collaborators were sent by Soviet intelligence
organs to identify and eliminate the actual traitors. These top-secret operations often ended as tragedies in which
Soviet agents were executed by mistake or on charges of suspected treachery. (FN12) Not all starosty under
German occupation were straightforward collaborators. Some of them were, in fact, Soviet patriots (255).(FN13) Two
Soviet agents, "Andrei" and "Danilo," frequently mentioned by Young Guardists as instructing the Young Guard from
Lugansk and Rostov-on-Don through 0. I. Ivantsov and Koshevoi, have not been identified at all despite extensive
inquiries. This sounds rather strange and even ominous.
editors rightly point out that the present book shows how the lives of individual Soviet citizens were remade for
political purposes (7). They also justifiably note that while the history of the Young Guard is now part of the history of
independent Ukraine, it is also part of the common history of the Soviet people (6). Unfortunately, however, the
Ukrainian part is almost completely absent from the book. Just as the Soviet authorities used the history of the Young
Guard for political purposes, so did the Ukrainian nationalists, levhen Stakhiv, who some historians suspect may
have been Stakhovich in Fadeev's novel, was never part of the Young Guard but did work in the Nazi-occupied
Donbas as an organizer of the Ukrainian nationalists. He may have converted some Donbas residents to the
Ukrainian nationalist cause, but no evidence (except for Stakhiv's account) has been found to show that he or the
Ukrainian nationalists had any influence on the Young Guard itself (298). Nevertheless, Stakhiv had long propagated
from abroad a tale portraying the Young Guardists as anti-Stalin Ukrainian fighters. In his memoir, Kriz' tiurmy,
pidpillia i kordony, published in Kyiv in 1995 (and not listed in the bibliography of the present book), Stakhiv chose not
to mention his long-standing account of the Young Guard and even noted that he had been converted from a narrow-minded nationalist to a democrat.(FN14) Even so, the propaganda has not stopped: although he implicitly
acknowledged in 1995 that he had not told the truth about the Young Guard, Stakhiv appears to be tempted by the
appeal of his account for many Ukrainians and still repeats his nationalist version (314-15).(FN15) In the view of the
Ukrainian nationalists, those Soviet citizens who fought for victory did so on behalf of Stalin, while those (particularly
western Ukrainian) veterans who fought against Stalin and for the independence of Ukraine have not been properly
decorated by independent Ukraine: for the nationalists, the war was no Great Patriotic War at all. For many Soviet
veterans of the war, in turn, the Ukrainian nationalists (who initially collaborated with Nazi Germany in hopes of
attaining independence for Ukraine and subsequently were driven underground because of their insistence on
independence) appear to have been simple Nazi collaborators who fought on the other side in the war. This complex
Ukrainian dimension to the history of the occupation is not depicted in this book at
Another problem with the present book is that it includes
few, if any, documents from the former KGB archives in Moscow, Lugansk, and elsewhere (none are listed in the
bibliography). These are difficult to access and even more difficult to analyze, yet they are vitally important sources.
Some discussion of these sources would have been very helpful, if only because even now irresponsible authors
publish irresponsible histories of the Young Guard, using and abusing the police records.(FN16) These shortcomings
notwithstanding, the present book should be of much interest not only to those studying the Young Guard but also to
those concerned with the political use and manipulation of history in
Dept. of History
Bloomington, IN 47405
be noted that the phrase "artistic fabrication" (khudozhestvennyi vymysel) is the subtitle used on the book's title page,
whereas "artistic image" (khudozhestvennyi obraz) appears everywhere else, including on the cover and in the front
matter. The editors and the publisher may have changed (tie subtitle to vymysel from obraz at the last moment,
affecting only the title page. Vymysel seems to the reviewer a better reflection of the book's
1) It was formerly called Sorokino in Russian, Sorokine in Ukrainian. In what follows, unless otherwise noted, proper names. geographical and personal, will be cited in Russian. This follows the practice of the book under review and the dominant language of the city, even though it is located in Ukraine.
2) Fadeev has been accused of not returning some historical documents which he obtained in Krasnodon. Access to his personal archive in the Russian State Institute of Literature and Art (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva, hereafter RGALI) is restricted, given with permission of his son M. A. Fadeev (329). The latest guide to RGALI does not list the Fadeev collection in its private collections (lichnye fondy). See T. M. Goriaeva et al, eds, Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury iskusstva: Putevoditel' (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2004).
3) A Ukrainian nationalist has recently recounted the strange story-based on a prison conversation with a Russian journalist claiming to have been sent to Krasnodon in 1943 with Fadeev-that Fadeev actually believed that the Young Guard was a Ukrainian nationalist group but was forced by the Party to toe its line. See Volodymyr Pokoltylo, "Fadieiev i pravda: Iz zapysok ukrains'koho natsionalista," Literaturna Ukraina, 5 February 2004, 7, 8. For a critique of this account based on Fadeev's archive, see Natalia Kostenko, "Shche raz pro 'Fadieieva i pravdu;" Literaturna Ukraina, 18 March 2004, 7.
4) For this point, see also N. Petrov and O. EdeI'man, "Novoe o sovetskikh geroiakh," Novyi mir, no. 6 (1997): 141 (a November 1947 report by V. S. Abakumov); and E. M. Samarina, Povest o bratiakh Tretiakevichakh (Ekaterinburg and Dzerzhinsk: Shtern, 1998), 93.
5) N. K. Petrova, "Vspomnim ... (eshche raz o molodezhnoi podpol'noi organizatsii oMolodaia Gvardiia')," Otechestvennaia istoriia, no. 3 (2000): 34-35.
6) It is alleged that Fadeev at the time was interested only in drinking and was pressed for money (in fact, he was always drunk), and therefore wanted to make quick money by writing a story on this tragic case. See Mykola larmoliuk, "Dovkola "Molodoi Hvartii,"' Literaturna Ukraina, 22 April 2004, 7. Another writer states that Fadeev was dispatched by Soviet authorities to Krasnodon (Pokotylo, "Fadieiev i pravda"). V. G. Boborykin, "Rabota A. A. Fadeeva nad romanom oMolodaia Gvardiia,'" Istoriia SSSR, no. 4 (1965): 66, states that the Komsomol Central Committee asked Fadeev to write about the Young Guard.
7) For the secret police involvement, see Petrov and EdeI'man, "Novoe o sovetskikh geroiakh," 140-41. larmoliuk, "Dovkola 'Molodoi Hvardii,'" quotes Stalin, without reference, to the effect that the distortion of facts meant nothing-only Krasnodon residents knew the facts, but they would die off in due course and all would be forgotten, while the book would serve the Party forever.
8) It is often noted in this book (for instance, 288) as in many other places (for instance, Petrov and EdeI'man, "Novoe o sovetskikh geroiakh," 141), that it was Stalin who criticized the novel. Yet it appears that Stalin's personal involvement here has not been properly documented. The present reviewer's examination of Stalin's personal archival found (including his personal library) in Moscow's Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsio-politicheskoi istorii, RGASPI) did not produce any new information. See, however, ll'ia Erenburg, Post-War Years, 1945-1954, trans. Tatiana Shebunina (London: MacGibben and Kee, 1966), 160; and Grigorii Mariamov, Kremlevskii tsenzor Stalin smotrit kino (Moscow: Kinotsentr, 1992), 100-1.
9) It was often the case that those who failed the test of war or who evacuated to the safe hinterland proved particularly inimical to those who stayed behind and fought heroically. See Hiroaki Kuromiya, Freedom and Terror in the Donbas: The Ukrainian-Russian Borderland, 1870s-1990s (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 289-90.
10) On the last point, even the one-person minority report concurred with the majority.
11) Volodymyr Semystiaha, '"Na zv'iazok ne vyishov': Novi dokumental'ni svidchennia pro molodohvardiitsia Volodymyra Zahoruika," Bakhmute'kyi shiiakh (Lugansk), no. 1-2 (1995): 33-36.
12) Kuromiya, Freedom and Terror in the Donbas, 289-90.
13) On the collaboration of Soviet citizens in the Donbas, see also Tanja Penter, "Die lokale Gesellschaft im Donbass unter deutscher Okkupation 1941-1943," in Kooperation und Verbrechen: Formen der Kollaboration in Sudost- und Osteuropa 1939-1945, ed. Babette Quinkert, Christoph Dieckmann, and Tatjana Tonsmeyer(Gottingen: Wallstein, 2003).
14) Kuromiya, Freedom and Terror in the Donbas, 291.
15) Puzzlingly, Stakhiv has entitled a new version of his memoir Ostannii Molodohvardiiets (The Last Young Guardist). While writing the present review this book was not available to me, but note the report "levhen Stakhiv: Ukraini potribni patrioty," in Dzerkalo tyzhnia (Kyiv), no. 29 (24-30 July 2004).
16) See, for example, Erik Shurm, "Molodaia Gvardiia: Podlinnaia istoriia ii ugolovnoe delo No. 20056," Sovershenno sekretno, no. 3 (1999): 6-7, based on 28 volumes related to the case in the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow.