80th Anniversary of massacre of Young Guards of Krasnodon by Nazis

Young Guards

80 years ago, on January 15, 1943, one of the most mortal blows occurred in the history of the Great Patriotic War. This event will carve a permanent place in history of brutality of oppressors unleashed on liberators. On this day in Krasnodon in the Luhansk region, Nazi forces flung bodies of members of the Young Guard youth anti-fascist organization into the 58-meter pit of mine No. 5, many of whom were not even 18 years old.

Ironic that on 14 February 1943, the legendary city of Krasnodon, was liberated from the Nazi invaders, with the unbroken guys from the underground organization Young Guard, not living to witness.

Role of Young Guard

The Young Guard was an underground organization with a short tenure but heroic and tragic history. It was constructed during the Great Patriotic War in Krasnodon, now the Luhansk region.

In July 1942, the Nazis occupied Krasnodon. Despite this, the young guards were not taken aback and leaflets were distributed in the city, in the bathhouse, which was prepared for the German barracks, lights up. All this was undertaken by one person – Sergey Tyulenin, a 17-year-old guy. In addition, he garnered young guys to fight the enemy. The founding date of the underground organization was September 30, 1942 – the day the headquarters and action plan of the underground were established.

Initially, the core of the organization comprised Ivan Zemnukhov, Tyulenin Sergey, Levashov Vasily, Georgy Arutyunyants, Viktor Tretyakevich, who was elected Commissioner. A little later, Turkenich Ivan, Oleg Koshevoy, Lyubov Shevtsova, Ulyana Gromova joined the headquarters. It was an organization of young people committed to one goal – to extinguish the poison of fascism.

It consisted of about 110 people. With creative depth it knitted or fortified youth units, formulated forms of struggle or devised methods of confronting the enemy at its’ hardest point, innovating unorthodox types of warfare to elevate striking capacity  and combat forms or defying conventional patterns, and most craftily preserving underground structure.

The guys printed and distributed leaflets, collected weapons and medicines, and destroyed enemy vehicles. They even were able to infiltrate enemy ranks to get vital information. Their efforts secured release of dozens of prisoners of war and thousands of people managed to evade hard labour. The Young Guards burned down the labour exchange, where all the names of people who were deported to go to work in Germany burned down. Their most spectacular act was on November 7 when red flags decorated the streets of the city. Their activities were a thorn in the flesh of the Nazis, embarrassing them o the last straw.

Members of the “Young Guard”, who, on the instructions of the headquarters, settled in German institutions and enterprises, by crafty manoeuvres in every possible way frustrate their plans. Sergey Levashov, working as a driver in a garage, disabled 3 cars one after another; Yuri Vytsenovsky arranges several accidents at the mine.

Truly heroic work was undertaken by the organization to disrupt the mobilization of youth in Germany.

On the night of December 5-6, 1942, a brave trio of young guards – Lyuba Shevtsova, Sergey Tyulenin and Viktor Lukyanchenko – launched a difficult operation to set fire to the German labor exchange. Having destroyed the exchange with all the documents, the underground saved several thousand Soviet people from being deported to German penal servitude. At the same time, the Young Guards released 75 fighters and commanders from the Volchansk prisoner of war camp and organized the escape of 20 prisoners of war from the Pervomaiskaya hospital.

Infiltration and massacre

But already at the beginning of 1943, the Nazis penetrated the very backbone of the organization, arresting Tretyakevich, Moshkov, Zemnukhov. One of the young guards Pocheptsov, having found out about the fate of the leaders, was terrified and informed the police about his comrades. All the arrested guys survived horrendous or merciless tortures, bullying, and beatings.

Four cells of the city police were packed like a cinema with a full house. All the guys were tortured. to the last tooth. The office of the chief of police, Solikovsky, resembled a slaughterhouse – literally dressed with blood.. In order not to hear the screams of the tortured in the yard, the monsters started the gramophone and turned it on at full volume.

On a cold winter night on January 15, 1943, the first group of Young Guardsmen was taken to the ruined mine for execution. On January 16, the second group of underground workers was shot, on the 31st – the third. One of these groups managed to escape from the place of execution. It was Anatoly Kovalev, who later went missing.

Four remained in prison. They were taken to the city of Rovenki in the Krasnodon region and shot on February 9 along with Oleg Koshev, who was there.

Young underground workers were subjected to intense torture, but none of them deterred from their oath. The German executioners were infuriated, for several hours in a row they beat and tortured the Young Guards, but they remained unrelented and never caved in ,enduring the torture with great courage. The Germans could not overpower the death defying resilience of the young Soviet people, and did not achieve recognition.

Sergei Tyulenin was beaten by the Gestapo several times a day with whips made of electric wires, his fingers were broken, and a red-hot ramrod was driven into the wound. When this did not help, the executioners brought their mother, a 58-year-old old woman. In front of Sergei, she was undressed and tortured.

The executioners demanded that he reveal his connections in Kamensk, Izvarina. Sergei was silent. Then the Gestapo, in the presence of his mother, hung Sergei in a noose from the ceiling three times, and then gouged out his eye with a red-hot needle.

The Young Guards knew that the time of execution was coming. To the very last hour they remained resolute and did not yield, having no doubt victory was inevitably theirs . Ulyana Gromova, a member of the “Young Guard” headquarters, transmitted in Morse code to all cells. “The last order of the headquarters… The last order… they will lead us to the execution. We will be led through the streets of the city. We will sing Ilyich’s favorite song.”

Exhausted, mutilated, young fighters were taken out of prison. Ulyana Gromova walked with a star carved on her back, Shura Bondareva with her breasts cut off. Volodya Oemukhin’s right hand was cut off.

And just a few days later, on February 14, Soviet troops entered Krasnodon. February 17 became a day of mourning, full of weeping and lamentations. From a deep, dark pit, the bodies of tortured young men and women were retrieved and placed in  a bucket. It was difficult to identify them; some of the children were identified by their parents only by their clothes.

What appeared before their eyes was simply indescribable and no adjective could do justice to the state of grief of the mourners.

Historians need to investigate what enabled the Nazi’s to infiltrate the Young Guard organisation in 1943 or who was principally responsible for it.

Accounts of Young Guard members who perished

Ulyana Gromova, 19 years old. “A five-pointed star is carved on the back, the right arm is broken, the ribs are broken” (KGB archive under the USSR Council of Ministers).

Lida Androsova , 18 years old. “Extracted without an eye, ear, hand, with a rope around her neck, which cut hard into the body. Baked blood is visible on the neck” (Museum “Young Guard”, f. 1, d. 16).

Anya Sopova, 18 years old. “They beat her, hung her by her scythes … They lifted Anya out of the pit with one scythe – the other broke off.”

Shura Bondareva, 20 years old. “Extracted without a head and right breast, the whole body is beaten, bruised, black in color.

Angelina Samoshina, 18 years old. “Traces of torture were found on Angelina’s body: her arms were twisted, her ears were cut off, a star was carved on her cheek” (RGASPI. F. M-1. Op. 53. D. 331).

Shura Dubrovina, 23 years old. “Two images rise before my eyes: the cheerful young Shura Dubrovina and the mutilated body raised from the mine. I saw her corpse with only the lower jaw. Her friend, Maya Peglivanova, was lying in a coffin without eyes, without lips, with twisted arms…”

Maya Peglivanova, 17 years old. Maya’s corpse is mutilated: her breasts are cut off, her legs are broken. All outer clothing has been removed. (RGASPI. F. M-1. Op. 53. D. 331). In the coffin she lay without lips, with twisted arms.

Tonya Ivanikhina, 19 years old. “Extracted without eyes, head tied with a scarf and wire, breasts cut out.”

Serezha Tyulenin, 17 years old. “On January 27, 1943, Sergei was arrested. Soon they took away my father, mother, confiscated all things. In the police, Sergei was severely tortured in the presence of his mother, they confronted Viktor Lukyanchenko, a member of the Young Guard, but they did not recognize each other. On January 31, Sergei was tortured for the last time, and then, half-dead, he, along with other comrades, was taken to the pit of mine No. 5 . ”

Nina Minaeva, 18 years old. “… My sister was recognized by her woollen gaiters, the only clothes that remained on her. Nina’s arms were broken, one eye was knocked out, there were shapeless wounds on her chest, her whole body was in black stripes.”

Tosya Eliseenko 22 years old. “The corpse of Tosi was disfigured, torturing her; they put her on a red-hot stove.”

Victor Tretyaknvich,   18 years old. “.Among the latter, Viktor Tretyakevich was raised. His father, Iosif Kuzmich, in a thin patched coat stood day after day, grabbing a post, not taking his eyes off the pit. And when they recognized his son – without a face, with a black-and-blue back, with shattered hands – he, as if knocked down, fell to the ground. No traces of bullets were found on Victor’s body, which means they threw him alive … ”

Boris Glavan, 22 years old. “From the pit, he was taken face to face with barbed wire connected with Yevgeny Shepelev, his hands were cut off. The face is disfigured, the stomach is ripped open.

Volodya Zhdanov,   17 years old. “Retrieved with a lacerated wound in the left temporal region, the fingers were broken and twisted, there were bruises under the nails, two strips three centimeters wide, twenty-five centimeters long were cut on the back, the eyes were gouged out and the ears were cut off” (Museum “Young Guard”, f. 1, d 36).

Klava Kovaleva, 17 years old. “The swollen chest was taken out, the right breast was cut off, the feet were burned, the left hand was cut off, the head was tied with a scarf, there were signs of beatings on the body. It was found ten meters from the trunk, between the trolleys, it was probably thrown alive ”(Museum“ Young Guard ”, f. 1, d. 10).

 Punishment of Criminals

On September 19, 1943, in Krasnodon by the verdict of the Military Tribunal of the NKVD troops of the Voroshilovgrad region, accomplices of the Germans Kuleshov, Gromov and Pocheptsov, who were investigated to be guilty of the execution of the Young Guard, were publicly shot.

In the 40s, almost all the other executioners of the Young Guard – both policemen and German punishers – were sentenced to 25 years in prison or 25 years in a camp. In the mid-1950s, German prisoners were handed to the mercy of the government of the GDR as criminals and served their sentences in Germany.

Other executioners skilfully camouflaged themselves. Policeman V. Podtynny fled from Krasnodon with the Wehrmacht, corrected his passport data, ended up in the Red Army, had a combat wound and awards. After the war, he returned to the Donbass, started a family, and became chairman of the village council. In 1959, a countryman recognized Podtynny – arrest. A year later, he was openly tried in Lugansk and sentenced to death.

Policeman I. Melnikov personally gouged out the eyes of the Young Guards. He also forged documents, fought in the Red Army, received the medal “For Courage”. Then he took refuge in the collective farm of the Odessa region. Found, convicted at an open trial in Krasnodon on December 14-16, 1965, shot in 1966.

Some executioners were never traced. For example, police chief V. Solikovsky was hiding in Austria and Germany, lived until 1967 in New York, then moved to the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, where he died in the 1970s.


A wooden obelisk was placed on the mass grave of the Young Guards with the names of the dead and with the words:

And drops of your hot blood,

Like sparks flare up in the darkness of life

And many brave hearts will be lit!



“It was in Krasnodon,

In the formidable glow of war.

Komsomol underground

Rose for the honor of the country.”

S. Ostrovoy

The first museum of the Young Guard was constructed shortly after the liberation of Krasnodon from the Nazis. In August, 1943, when the war was still raging in the USSR, the Soviet leadership considered it important to glorify the memory of the heroes, and a resolution was issued to establish the museum. 1 May 1944, it was opened in the house of the mother of Oleg Koshevoy. Its employees were surviving underground workers. The young guard Anatoly Lopukhov assumed the functions of director, and Olga Ivantsova became the guide.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has undertaken extensive research on liberation movements


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