Defense of the Adzhimushkay quarry

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Defense of the Adzhimushkay Quarry
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Date May 16 – October 30, 1942
Location Adzhimushkay (now within Kerch), Crimea, USSR
45°22′52″N 36°31′25″E / 45.3812°N 36.5235°E / 45.3812; 36.5235
Result German victory
Germany Germany Soviet Union Soviet Union
Several regiments 10,000 - 15,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown 10,000+

The Defense of the Adzhimushkay Quarry (Russian: Оборона Аджимушкайских каменоломен) took part during World War II, between May and October 1942 of in the Adzhimushkay quarry (ru) named after the Adzhimushkay (ru) suburb of Kerch during the Nazi Germany's occupation of the Crimea.


By the time of war, Adzhimushkay was a small mining suburb located five kilometers away from the city of Kerch, where a complex network of catacombs is located. Limestone was extracted there from 1830, using both the surface quarry and the underground mines. The latter resulted in the network of tunnels (catacombs), known as the Great and Small Adzhimushkay catacombs. They were first used for military purposes by the pro-Bolshevik armed groups during the Russian Civil War.


When Kerch was occupied by the Wehrmacht in November 1941, a squad of partisans already operated in the catacombs. By May 1942, a counteroffensive was staged by the Wehrmacht in order to expel the Red Army both from the Kerch Peninsula and the city of Sevastopol. The Red Army was overrun and had to evacuate the bridgehead, sustaining heavy casualties. By May 19, 1942 the regular fighting in the area was over, and, to ensure the evacuation of the Soviet troops across the Strait of Kerch, a defense group was left in Adzhimushkay, led by Colonel Pavel Yagunov (ru). The group absorbed retreating soldiers, along with numerous civilians fleeing the city, and eventually grew to several thousand strong. When it became obvious that the bridgehead over the strait could not be held, the Adzhimushkay group found refuge in the catacombs. It is estimated that more than 10,000 fled to the Great Adzhimushkay catacombs system, and 3,000 to the Small catacombs system. The larger garrison was led by Yagunov, Parakhin and Burmin and the smaller one by Yermakov, Povazhny, and Karpekin.

The catacombs were ill-suited for defense, as there were no supplies prepared and all wells were located outside. Any supply of water had to be taken by force since a sortie was needed to reach a well. The Soviet group attempted several counterattacks, including one resulting in the defeat of the Wehrmacht garrison in Adzhimushkay on the night of 8 and 9 July 1942. Colonel Yagunov was killed in that assault.

Most Soviet guerrillas died, as the groups ran out of ammunition, food and water. The group resorted to extreme techniques of survival that included preparing meat of the dead livestock earlier killed in the mine entrances and gathering water condensed on the mine ceilings. The defenders also attempted to dig their own wells in the catacombs, as deep as 14 m, in order to reach the phreatic water layer.

The German forces surrounded the quarries with barbed wire fencing, blocked the entrances and exits and bombed and shelled them. General Hermann Ochsner (de), chief of the chemical forces, proposed that a non-lethal irritant gas be used to smoke the partisans out of such hiding places. Permission to carry out the attack was denied,[1] however survivors' testimonies claimed otherwise.[2][3][4]

Adzhimushkay Defense Memorial in 2012. Plaque in the foreground states that Ivan Parakhin and other three Soviet fighters were captured alive after the Soviet defeat and later executed by Nazis in a Simferopil prison.

On October 30, 1942, German forces entered the catacombs and captured the remaining defenders. The estimates of the number of guerrilla fighters surviving the 170-day siege and final clash, and their subsequent treatment by Nazis, varied from 48 to 300; out of initial 13,000 strength of the Soviet group.


Several books and songs were written to commemorate the Adzhimushkay Defense. A museum was established in the quarry in 1966[5] and the memorial complex was established in 1982.[6]


  • В. Кондратьев. По поводу дневников, найденных в Аджимушкайских каменоломнях // «Военно-исторический журнал», № 1, 1965.
  • С. С. Смирнов. Подземная крепость // Первая шеренга. М., Политиздат, 1965. с. 103—149.
  • Обагренные кровью. Последнее слово павших героев. / сб., сост. П. Е. Гармаш, Н. Д. Луговой. Симферополь, изд-во "Крым", 1968. стр.180-206
  • В. Кондратьев. Герои Аджимушкая. — М.: Молодая гвардия, 1975.
  • А. Рябикин. Аджимушкай // журнал «Вокруг света», № 11 (2566), ноябрь 1972.
  • Надписи советских воинов на стенах и записи в дневниках, найденных в Аджимушкайских каменоломнях. Май - июль 1942 г. // Говорят погибшие герои: предсмертные письма советских борцов против немецко-фашистских захватчиков (1941 - 1945 гг.) / сост. В. А. Кондратьев, З. Н. Политов. 6-е изд., испр. и доп. М., Политиздат, 1979. стр.83-91
  • В катакомбах Аджимушкая: Документы. Воспоминания. Статьи. Симферополь, 1982.
  • В. В. Абрамов. Героическая оборона аджимушкайских каменоломен. М., «Знание», 1983 — 64 с.
  • Н. А. Ефремов. Солдаты подземелья. Ташкент, 1983.
  • Князев Г. Н., Проценко И. С. Доблесть бессмертна: О подвиге защитников Аджимушкая. М., 1987—174 с.
  • Щербак С. М. Легендарный Аджимушкай. Симферополь, «Таврия», 1989. — 93 с.
  • Всеволод Абрамов. Керченская катастрофа 1942. — М.: Эксмо, 2006. — ISBN 5-699-15686-0.


  • Aleksei Kapler, Two of Twenty Million «Двое из двадцати миллионов»,
  • Пирогов Андрей Иоанникиевич «Крепость солдатских сердец», 1974 год
  • Камбулов (Колибуков) Николай Иванович: повести «Свет в катакомбах», «Подземный гарнизон», «Тринадцать осколков», «Аджимушкайская тетрадь», роман «Разводящий ещё не пришел».
  • Смирнов С. С. «Подземная крепость». Из сборника «Рассказы о неизвестных героях» — М.: Молодая гвардия, 1964 г.
  • Николай Арсеньевич Ефремов. "Солдаты подземелья". Издательство "Крым", Симферополь, 1970 г. - воспоминания непосредственного участника обороны.
  • Lev Kassil. "Улица младшего сына"

The 1986 drama film Descended from the Heaven (Russian: Сошедшие с небес) was based on the novel by Aleksei Kapler. It is the story of an ordinary Soviet couple that struggles with the difficulties of post-World War II life. In the film's finale it is revealed that they perished in the Adzhimushkay Quarry, and the film is in fact a "what if" story.[7]


  1. ^ Halder, F., Kriegstagebuch. Tägliche Aufzeichnungen des Chefs des Generalstabes des Heeres 1939–1942. — Stuttgart, W. Kohlhammer Verlag, 1962–1964 (entry dated June 13, 1942).
  2. ^ Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare, by the United States Department of the Army, p. 52, citing Krause, 1992
  3. ^ Joachim Krause, Charles K. Mallory: Chemical weapons in Soviet military doctrine: military and historical experience, 1915-1991, Westview Press 1992, p. 92
  4. ^ Victor Israelyan, On the Battlefields of the Cold War: A Soviet Ambassador's Confession, 2010, ISBN 0271047739, pp. 338-339
  5. ^ "Музей истории обороны Аджимушкайских каменоломен"
  6. ^ "Мемориальный комплекс "Аджимушкайские каменоломни"
  7. ^ Виталий Некрасов "Сошедшие с небес" - a story about Aleksei Kapler. Quote about the film:" Почти обезумевшие от жажды Маша и Сергей, расстрелянные у колодца… Любили, страдали, растили сына, в общем – жили, в послевоенное нелегкое время – только в воображении авторов фильма."

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