80 years ago, on September 30, 1942, in the city of Krasnodon, Voroshilovgrad region, the Komsomol underground organization “Young Guard” was born with amalgamation of several anti-fascist youth groups. The headquarters included: Ulyana Gromova, Ivan Zemnukhov, Oleg Koshevoy (commissioner), Vasily Levashov, Viktor Tretyakevich, Ivan Turkenich (commander), Sergei Tyulenin, Lyubov Shevtsova.
Their story is the most inspiring resistance ever in confronting fascism, exhibiting courage, creativity and skill in boundaries almost untranscended in history. The guards devised forms of guerrilla struggle defying conventional methods of war, to infiltrate enemy barracks and launch a counter revolutionary blow Mastery of Marxism-Leninism enabled them to carve out a strategic path to overpower the Nazis. Most ample illustration of how a Socialist state bred the most progressive youth and how only Marxist-Leninst ideology could give afitting blow to the fascists.. The Young Guard was major architect in what was the turning point in mankind’s history of the last century The Great Patriotic War. ‘It can inspire the youth of India in confronting the prevailing Hindutva fascism and resurrect spirit in the youth of the world to defy the tentacles of globalisation or USA hegemony as well as ascendancy of neo fascism in the form of racism, Islamophobia. or alienation of Palestenians.
The “Young Guard” numbered about 110 people in its ranks, 15 of them were communists. The youngest member of the underground was 14 years old, the oldest – 19.
They performed heroic deeds in the struggle for the liberation of the country. With the help of Molotov cocktails, they set fire to fascist barracks, freed captured Red Army soldiers, burned down a labour exchange with lists of Soviet citizens who were preparing to be deported to Germany as labour force, printed and distributed leaflets, hung out red flags on the day of the 25th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, demonstrating the spirit of the unconquered people. They waved the banner of resistance against all odds and inspired hope in the people for the victory of the Red Army.
Among the main activities of the organization were
- the release of 70 prisoners from the German concentration camp on 15 November 1942 (20 more people were released from the hospital of the camp)
- the burning of the German Labour Exchange of Krasnodon on 6 December 1942. A list of about 2,000 citizens of Krasnodon, who were intended for the deportation into Germany was burnt, thus saving them from deportation
- eight flags o the Soviet Union were planted on highest buildings of Krasnodon on 6 and 7 November 1942 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the October Revolution
- about 5,000 anti-fascist leaflets were issued and spread in Krasnodon during the existence of the organization
Members of the organization also destroyed motor vehicles, ammunition and enemy fuel supplies. Jointly with the Communist party underground of Krasnodon the Young Guard prepared for an anti-fascist armed rebellion, but treachery within the organization and the betrayal to the Germans gave a setback to these preparations.
As a result of the betrayal, the underground, became exposed to the fascists. In early January 1943, most of the Young Guards were arrested. In the fascist dungeons, the Young Guard with undauanting courage and unflinching resilience withstood the most severe tortures. On January 15, 16 and 31, 1943, the Nazis, partly alive, partly shot, threw 71 people into the pit of mine No. 5. O. Koshevoy, L. Shevtsova, S. Ostapenko, D. Ogurtsov, V. Subbotin, after brutal torture, were shot in the Thundering Forest near the city of Rovenka on February 9, 1943. 12 Young Guardsmen managed to avoid reprisals, four of whom later died at the front.
By decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of September 13, 1943, U. Gromova, I. Zemnukhov, O. Koshevoy, S. Tyulenin, L. Shevtsova were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, 3 members of the Young Guard were awarded the Order of the Red Banner, 35 – Order of the Patriotic War of the 1st degree, 6 – Order of the Red Star.
In Krasnodon the Monument to the Members of the Young Guard was erected in 1951-1954, the memorial complex Young Guard with the museum was built in 1970 and the monument Nepokoryonnye (Unsubdued in English) was erected near the Coal Mine Number 5 in 1982. The new town Molodogvardeysk in Luhansk Oblast of the Ukrainian SSR was named after the Young Guard in 1961. Many towns, settlements, streets of Soviet cities were also named after the organization and its members.
The feat of the Young Guard became widely known in the USSR and throughout the world thanks to the book of the Soviet writer Alexander Fadeev “Young Guard”. According to his book, film director Sergei Gerasimov made a film of the same name.
Young underground workers undertook an oath of allegiance to the Soviet Motherland, and neither martyrdom, nor mockery of the Nazis could dismantle their courage, their love for the Fatherland. From youth they treaded the path of liberation, remaining an example of heroism for present and future generations.
The history of the “Young Guard” is one of the most tragic and great pages in the annals of the war, where fascism is at it’s mightiest, but is unable to win, and youth, inspired by the communist idea, succumb in the struggle, but relentlessly remaining faithful to the oath and to victory.
I recommend everyone to read the novel “The Young Guard’. To me, one of the most creative or illustrative manifestations of Marxist spirit, in the manner the characters are knit to derive the plot. The Young Guard constituted an important component of patriotic education of the younger generation and was made a compulsory element of the school curriculum in 1947. Study of the novel began in the fifth grade; the literary curriculum for the second semester was built on literature as a call to action. The tenth grade curriculum included reading, study and discussion of major sections of the novel.
Fadeyev was strongly criticized because the novel did not vividly display the leading and guiding role of the Communist party..Articles offering serious ideological criticism of Fadeev appeared in Pravda, the mouthpiece of the CPSU and Stalin himself. In Fadeyev’s biography a legendary encounter between Stalin and Fadeyev is reported, in which Stalin is said to have berated Fadeyev with “You have written a book that is not just worthless but ideologically harmful. You have represented the Young Guards almost as Makhnovists. But how could they have dealt effectively with the enemy in the occupied territory without Party leadership? Judging by your book they could have.”
This perhaps reflected the dogmatic approach of Stalin and suppression of creativity.Fadeyev sat down to rewrite the novel, adding new Communist characters, and in 1951 published the second version of the novel. Marxists have to adopt a balance between recognizing USSR as the true victors of World war 2 and give Stalin his due by recognizing his contribution, with being critical of the manner the Communist Party of Soviet Union and Stalin were eulogised.The Western media till now leaves no stone unturned in denying Credit to USSR for the victory against Nazi Germany in the World War.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has done extensive research on erstwhile USSR.