Soviet partisans in Estonia

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This article is about Soviet partisans. For the anti-Soviet partisans, see Forest Brothers.

The Soviet partisans in Estonia were Communist partisans who attempted to wage guerrilla warfare against the German armed forces during the German occupation of Estonia. Partisan activity was singularly unsuccessful in Estonia due to the general resistance of the population to the Soviet regime that the partisans represented. The majority of partisans sent in by the Soviets were quickly picked up by the local Estonian militias.[1]

The war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out after one year of Soviet occupation in Estonia. From July to December 1941, Estonia was cleared of Soviet armed forces by Germans who were assisted by Estonian national partisans. The Germans refrained from looting and excessive murders as practiced by the Red Army in Estonia.[2]

Soviet partisans often robbed wealthier peasants and provoked German reprisals. The Baltic lands remained free of partisans throughout most of the war, by 1944 only 234 partisans were fighting in Estonia and none were native volunteers, all being either NKVD or Red Army personnel.[2] The partisans found it impossible to establish permanent bases in Estonia, one reporting "it is dangerous to visit a village where even one Estonian lives".[2] In effect, those groups were rather small in Estonia, often consisting of Soviet paratroopers brought from the USSR proper, and never even reaching the degree of pro-Soviet guerrilla warfare in Lithuania (which, in turn, was minor compared with Soviet resistance activities in neighbouring Belarus).

Background and origins[edit]

On July 5, 1941 Estonia was invaded from the South by the Army Group North. The invasion lasted one day more than five months, ending with the occupation of Osmussaar on December 6, 1941. Besides the Soviet destruction battalions being ill-equipped compared the Wehrmacht, they attempted to defend the borders but only managed to thinly spread the limited resources available. Also, many Estonian soldiers within the Soviet units refused to fight, welcoming the Germans as liberators from Soviet reign of terror. As has been ascertained, units of destruction battalions burned farms and terrorized the civilian population (for example Kautla massacre).

The guerrilla operations in Estonia had some basis in Joseph Stalin's authorisation of a full withdrawal from Estonia in mid-August 1941 — he allowed any soldiers of his Estonian forces, the 22nd Estonian Territorial Rifle Corps (22. Eesti Territoriaalne Laskurkorpus; future 8th Estonian Rifle Corps), who wished to 'stay and defend their homes' to do so — some Estonian soldiers, and a few Jews and Russians, evaded capture and continued fighting as partisans in the countryside for years during the war.[citation needed] Most however, like Nikolai Karotamm and Paul Stamm evacuated to the Soviet Union and notably participated in Soviet intelligence operations in aid of the partisans.

Soviet partisans were more active in Virumaa and border areas between Pärnumaa and Petserimaa, which had terrain more suitable for guerrilla warfare.

By 1942 the partisans were provided with supplies, liaison officers and logistical coordination by the Soviet NKGB.

Rudolf Lumi, in his 1963 book Rahvatasujad, pubslished in Soviet Estonia, claimed that the resistance was not orchestrated only by the Communist Party of Estonia and Soviet officials and argued that the partisans counted among their ranks anti-Stalinists and former Forest Brothers.[3]

The partisan warfare[edit]

The territory of German-occupied Estonia was incorporated into Reichskommissariat Ostland. In "Generalbezirk Estland" was established German civilian administration and German police force.

In 1941 Germans began to create Estonian Auxiliary Police on the basis of the Omakaitse squads. Also, Estnische Selbstverwaltung was established under German control.

During the summer and autumn of 1941 Soviet partisans attaсked German convoys in Estonia eight times, they destroyed 27 cargo trucks[4]

3 September 1941 - Karl Säre, one of the organisators of Soviet partisan movement in Estonia was captured by Germans. He became a traitor and forwarded information to the SiPo and SD, enabling to eliminate many Soviet partisan units in Estonia and cut others off from any further contact with Soviet intelligence operatives[citation needed]

Autumn 1941 - N.G. Karotamm became the leader of Soviet partisan movement in Estonia.[5]

April 1942 - members of N. Kochnev's underground organisation blew warehouse in Narva-Jõesuu[6]

May 1942 - Sicherheitspolizei und SD Estland was created by the Germans. During summer and autumn of 1942 Soviet partisans and their supporters suffered losses.

3 November 1942 - the Staff of Estonian Partisan Movement (Eesti Partisaniliikumise Staap) was established to organize and unite pro-Soviet factions and forces into the resistance.[7]

January 1943 - partisan group № 559 (seven Soviet partisans) crossed the front line and began its activity in Estonia. In October 1943 their camp was attacked by anti-guerrilla unit. At least 8 Nazi soldiers were killed. Only 12 out of 30 Soviet partisans survived.[8]

17 September 1943 - during Operation "Rail War" (Операция "Рельсовая война") partisan unit of Eduard Aartee attacked German railways and communications in the rear of "Heeresgruppe Nord". Partisans placed on rail tracks and blasted 96 explosive charges. This operation had a significant disruptive effect on German communications[9]

21 October 1943 - Soviet Estonian partisans Alexandr Suits (Александр Суйтс) and Bernhardt Kentem (Бернхардт Кентем) blasted explosive charge on rail tracks near Kiviõli. 22 October 1943 they blew another explosive charge on rail tracks. As a result of sabotage, one freight train was derailed[6]

26 October 1943 - Soviet Estonian partisans blew up a railway bridge between Pärnu and Kilingi-Nõmme[6]

In 1944 Soviet Estonian partisans provided direct assistance to the Soviet troops in battles for Estonia[5]

25 July 1944 - members of Tallinn underground organisation blew warehouse in the port of Tallinn[10]

Also, during Nazi occupation of Estonia, Estonian Soviet partisans produced and distributed illegal newspaper «Tasuja» («Avenger»)[11] and several leaflets.[12]


1500 Soviet partisans fought in Estonia in 1941-1944, many of them were killed by Nazi occupants and their local collaborators[13]

More than 500 Soviet partisans who fought in Estonia in 1941-1944 were awarded the orders, decorations, and medals of the Soviet Union. Two Soviet partisans who fought in Estonia were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union (posthumously)[14] and five other (Eduard Aartee, Arno Avarsoo, Richard Melts, Roland Valkman and Ilmar Jürisson) were awarded the Order of Lenin.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howell, Edgar M. (1997). The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-1944. Merriam Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-57638-014-7. 
  2. ^ a b c Statiev, Alexander (2010). The Soviet Counterinsurgency in the Western Borderlands. Cambridge University Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-521-76833-7. 
  3. ^ Rudolf Lumi (1962). Rahvatasujad (1. osa). Tallinn, Estonia: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus. OL 24377325M. 
  4. ^ Л.Н. Бычков. Партизанское движение в годы Великой Отечественной войны в 1941-1945 (краткий очерк). М., "Мысль", 1965. стр.102
  5. ^ a b Партизанское движение в Великой Отечественной войне, 1941-45 // Советская историческая энциклопедия / редколл., гл. ред. Е.М. Жуков. том 8. М., государственное научное издательство "Советская энциклопедия", 1967. ст.872-880
  6. ^ a b c Р.Я. Луми. В одном строю // Герои подполья: о подпольной борьбе советских патриотов в тылу немецко-фашистских захватчиков в годы Великой Отечественной войны. - 2-е изд., испр. и доп. - М. : Политиздат, 1970. стр.508-538
  7. ^ П.К. Пономаренко. Всенародная борьба в тылу немецко-фашистских захватчиков 1941-1944. М., "Наука", 1986. стр.75
  8. ^ Отчёт Эстонского штаба партизанского движения о боевой деятельности партизан в Эстонской ССР и Ленинградской области. 15 декабря 1943 г. РЦХИДНИ. Ф. 69. Оп. 1. Д. 605. Л. 41—46. Подлинник.
  9. ^ Борьба за Советскую Прибалтику в Великой Отечественной войне 1941—1945 (в 3-х книгах). Книга 1. Рига, «Лиесма», 1966. стр.330
  10. ^ П.К. Пономаренко. Всенародная борьба в тылу немецко-фашистских захватчиков 1941-1944. М., "Наука", 1986. стр.277
  11. ^ П.К. Пономаренко. Всенародная борьба в тылу немецко-фашистских захватчиков 1941-1944. М., "Наука", 1986. стр.17-19
  12. ^ И.А. Ивлев, А.Ф. Юденков. Оружием контрпропаганды. Советская пропаганда среди населения оккупированных территорий СССР. 1941-1944. М., "Мысль", 1988. стр.92
  13. ^ История Великой Отечественной войны Советского Союза, 1941-1945 (в шести томах). / редколл., П.Н. Поспелов и др. том 6. М., Воениздат, 1965. стр.256
  14. ^ Великая Отечественная война 1941-1945. События. Люди. Документы. Краткий исторический справочник / сост. Е.К. Жигунов, под общ. ред. О.А. Ржешевского. М., Политиздат, 1990. стр.239
  15. ^ Э.А. Сындель. Вечно живые. Таллинн, "Ээсти раамат", 1984. стр.61


  • П.А. Ларин. Эстонский народ в Великой Отечественной войне 1941–1945 / сокр. пер. с эст. — Таллин: АН ЭССР, 1964.
  • Л.Н. Бычков. Партизанское движение в годы Великой Отечественной войны в 1941-1945 (краткий очерк). М.: "Мысль", 1965.
  • Р.Я. Луми. Мстители. Таллин: Ээсти Раамат, 1967. - 263 стр.: илл.
  • Э.Я. Сыгель. Дружба, закалённая в огне войны [пер. с эст.]. Таллин: 1975.