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A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements, an example of which are the civilians that opposed Nazi German rule in several countries during World War II.
The French term "partisan", derived from the Latin, first appeared in the 17th century to describe the leader of a war-party.
The initial concept of partisan warfare involved the use of troops raised from the local population in a war zone (or in some cases regular forces) who would operate behind enemy lines to disrupt communications, seize posts or villages as forward-operating bases, ambush convoys, impose war taxes or contributions, raid logistical stockpiles, and compel enemy forces to disperse and protect their base of operations.
One of the first manuals of partisan tactics in the 18th century was The Partisan, or the Art of Making War in Detachment..., published in London in 1760 by de Jeney, a Hungarian military officer who served in the Prussian Army as captain of military engineers during the Seven Years' War of 1756-1763. Johann von Ewald described techniques of partisan warfare in detail in his Abhandlung über den kleinen Krieg (1789).
The concept of partisan warfare would later form the basis of the "Partisan Rangers" of the American Civil War. In that war, Confederate States Army Partisan leaders, such as John S. Mosby, operated along the lines described by von Ewald (and later by both Jomini and Clausewitz). In essence, 19th-century American partisans were closer to commando or ranger forces raised during World War II than to the "partisan" forces operating in occupied Europe. Mosby-style fighters would have been legally considered uniformed members of their state's armed forces.
Partisans in the mid-19th century were substantially different from raiding cavalry, or from unorganized/semi-organized guerrilla forces. Russian partisans played a crucial part in the downfall of Napoleon. Their fierce resistance and persistent inroads helped compel the French emperor to flee Russia in 1812.
Imperial Russia also made use of partisans in World War I (see for example Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz).
Soviet partisans during World War II, especially those active in Belarus, effectively harassed German troops and significantly hampered their operations in the region. As a result, Soviet authority was re-established deep inside the German-held territories. In some areas partisan kolkhozes raised crops and livestock to produce food. However this was not usually the case and partisans also requisitioned supplies from the local populace, sometimes involuntarily.
Soviet partisans in Finland were known to have attacked villages and indiscriminately targeted the populace. 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.
The Partisans or the National Liberation Army, (officially the National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia) was Europe's most effective anti-Nazi resistance movement. It was led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia during World War II. Its commander was Marshal Josip Broz Tito. The communist Yugoslav partisans were a leading force in the liberation of their country during the People's Liberation War of Yugoslavia.
By the middle of 1943 partisan resistance to the Germans and their allies had grown from the dimensions of a mere nuisance to those of a major factor in the general situation. In many parts of occupied Europe the enemy was suffering losses at the hands of partisans that he could ill afford. Nowhere were these losses heavier than in Jugoslavia.
By late 1944, the total forces of the Partisans numbered 650,000 men and women organized in four field armies and 52 divisions, which engaged in conventional warfare. By April 1945, the Partisans numbered over 800,000.
Shortly before the end of the war, in March 1945, all resistance forces were reorganized into the regular armed force of Yugoslavia and renamed Yugoslav Army. It would keep this name until 1951, when it was renamed Yugoslav People's Army.
Postwar Yugoslavia was one of only two European countries that were largely liberated by its own forces during World War II. It received significant assistance from the Soviet Union during the liberation of Serbia, and substantial assistance from the Balkan Air Force from mid-1944, but only limited assistance, mainly from the British, prior to 1944. At the end of the war no foreign troops were stationed on its soil. Partly as a result, the country found itself halfway between the two camps at the onset of the Cold War.
List of notable partisan movements and battles
- Battle of Carrhae
- Albanian Partisans
- Armenian irregular units
- Armia Krajowa
- Armia Ludowa
- Bataliony Chłopskie
- Bulgarian resistance movement during World War II
- Caucasian Front (Chechen War)
- Cursed soldiers
- Dutch Resistance
- Forest Brothers
- Franc Tireurs Partisans
- Free French
- French Resistance
- Greek Resistance
- Italian resistance movement
- Jewish partisans
- Jewish Combat Organization
- Kuperjanov Battalion
- Lithuanian partisans
- Mosby's Rangers
- National Armed Forces
- Operation Anthropoid
- Partisan Ranger Act
- Pomeranian Griffin
- Polish resistance movement in World War II
- Soviet Partisans
- Ukrainian Insurgent Army
- Yugoslav Partisans
- Green Resistance
- Marutei Tsurunen, a survivor of a Soviet partisan raid
- Fifth column
- Asymmetric warfare
- Guerilla warfare
- Irregular military
- Resistance movement
- Unconventional warfare
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- de Jeney, L. M. [Lewis Michael]: The Partisan, or the Art of Making War in Detachment..."translated from the French of Mr. de Jeney, by an Officer of the Army" [Thomas Ellis]. London: 1760. from French edition in Hag, 1757 see Mihály Lajos Jeney
- Ewald J. (ed. & trans. Selig, R. and Skaggs, D) "Treatise on Partisan Warfare" Greenwood Press (1991) ISBN 0-313-27350-2
- Eino Viheriävaara, (1982). Partisaanien jäljet 1941-1944, Oulun Kirjateollisuus Oy. ISBN 951-99396-6-0
- Veikko Erkkilä, (1999). Vaiettu sota, Arator Oy. ISBN 952-9619-18-9.
- 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, (2002). Partisaanisodan siviiliuhrit, PS-Paino Värisuora Oy. ISBN 952-91-4327-3.
- Jeffreys-Jones, R. (2013): In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780199580972
- Adams, Simon (2005): The Balkans, Black Rabbit Books, ISBN 9781583406038
- Rusinow, Dennison I. (1978). The Yugoslav experiment 1948–1974. University of California Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-520-03730-8.
- Basil Davidson: PARTISAN PICTURE
- Perica, Vjekoslav (2004). Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 0-19-517429-1.