Semyon V. Rudniev (Russian: Семен Васильевич Руднев; Ukrainian: Семен Васильович Руднєв) (February 27, 1899 - August 4, 1943) was one of the leaders of Soviet partisan movement during World War II, popular Commissar in the partisan formation operating in Ukraine and led by Sydir Kovpak.
Rudniev was born in a peasant family in Sumy region. As a teenager Rudniev moved to Saint-Petersburg to work in shipbuilding factory and joined the Bolshevik party. He participated in the assault on the Winter Palace during the October Revolution and fought in the Russian Civil War. Later Rudniev went on a professional military career in the Red Army.
During World War II, Rudniev, already a Red Army officer, joined partisan movement after becoming encircled and crushed down with his regular military unit on the front.
He quickly gained respect among partisan fighters and remained the Kovpak's commissar while their initially small group rose into a large well-organized formation raiding the rear of the Axis occupants. On April 9, 1943 Semyon Rudniev was promoted to the rank of major general.
According to official sources, Rudniev, recovering from a wound, committed gunshot suicide in a sudden German attack, in order to not be taken alive. The incident, happened during the "Carpathian Raid" of the Kovpak's formation, was witnessed at first hand only by small group of his guards (mostly killed in that action).
Posthumously he was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, some historians began questioning the official version of Rudniev's life and death. Basing on disclosed Soviet archives, some researchers alleged that Rudniev was not committed to strategy and approaches (especially regarding civilians) dictated by the Moscow-based Ukrainian Partisan Movement Headquarters (Ukrainian: Український Штаб Партизанського Руху, УШПР)). This supposedly caused Rudniev's conflicts with both Sydir Kovpak and high-ranked NKVD agent Ivan Siromolotnyi (the latter was interacting with Kovpak and Rudniev from Moscow over the radio).
This conflict is said to have caused Rudniev's mysterious death. Some studies suggest that Rudniev might have been assassinated by his personal radio operator, Anna Turkina (a woman trained in Moscow) by a direct order from Siromolotnyi. This version is allegedly supported by the established fact that Rudniev's body had several gunshot wounds to the head when recovered. However, a common understanding that a person is physically unable to produce more than one shot to their own head has been recently challenged by forensic studies in Ukraine and other countries.
Honours and awards
- Hero of the Soviet Union
- Order of Lenin
- Order of the Red Banner
- Order of the Red Star
- Order of the Badge of Honour
- Medal "Partisan of the Patriotic War" 1st class
- Medal "Partisan of the Patriotic War" 2nd class