In memory of contribution of Soviet Military Commander Sidor Kovpak

Sidor Kovpak

On June 7, 1887 in the village of Kotelva (now Poltava region), Sidor Kovpak,a famous Soviet military commander, statesman and public figure of USSR was born. During the Great Patriotic War he played role of commander of the Putivl Guerrilla Squad (later – the Sumy Guerrilla Union, later – the 1st Ukrainian Guerrilla Division), He was Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, as a Major General.

Few ever better masterminded tactics of guerrilla war to confront or defeat a superior force. Sidor Kovpak was one of the major military architects, of the triumph of USSR, in the Great Patriotic War. He simply exhibited military genius, in resurrecting forces at his command, from dire straits, to pinnacle of glory, like a 360 degree turn in plot.Kovpak testified that human will and innovative capacity could overcome the deepest scales of adversity Few ever exhibited more mastery in converting scattered bunch of fighters into a cohesive, fortified unit or combating enemy encirclement.

Early political life

Kovpak  was a participant of the First World War, in 1916 as a part of the 186th Aslanduz Infantry Regiment and took part in the Brusilovsky Breakthrough. He was renowned for his heroic combat and was twice awarded with the St. George’s Cross.

During the Civil War C. A. Kovpak became the head of the Kotelv guerrilla unit, under his command the guerrillas, jointly with parts of the Red Army, undertook an offensive against the Austro-German occupants and Denikins.

In May 1919, the guerrilla unit merged into the current Red Army. As a part of the 25th Chapaev Division, Kovpak took part in the defeat of the White Guard troops under Guryev, as well as in the battles against Vrangel troops under Perekop and in the Crimea.

Kovpak continued on as a soldier, becoming head of a military district by 1926. By 1937 he retired from the Red Army, serving as head of Putivl city council in the Sumy region of Ukraine, a city which is today contested by Russia and the Maidan regime.

Historical background

Kovpak may have resigned to a peaceful life were it not for the events of 1941, when yet another army of Germans threatened to destroy his beloved Ukraine.

During the War at least 26 million Soviets were executed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. 8 million were soldiers, the remainder and the vast majority were civilians. Of the dead 6 million have never been identified. Despite the merciless toll inflicted by Operation Barbarossa, the invasion and subordination n of the USSR was only the first part embarked in the Nazi plan.

The basis or framework of Nazi ideology was the idea that Germany would forever be unable to compete with the colonial empires of Britain and France, and therefore needed to construct an empire of it’s own to establish it’s deserved place as ruler of the world. With all the best victims overseas already captured, the Germans looked east to the resourceful lands of Eastern Europe.

This was the ideological pillar from which the Nazis created Generalplan Ost. The plan was to extinguish or liquidate the the Slavic people, replacing them with German settlers.

Ukraine which was the breadbasket of the USSR became the breadbasket of the Third Reich, it’s grain mercilessly extorted to feed the very Nazis who murdered its people. Millions died of starvation as their rations were reduced to 420 calories a day.

Entire units of SS were created, the infamous Einsatzgruppen, who could demolish” villages in no time. People would be dragged to pre-dug pits, forced to kneel to their knees and executed at close range via gunshot. They were undertaken with the support of local collaborators. In Ukraine, this meant OUN, UPA and various other Bandera affiliated fascists.

Despite their post war efforts to project themselves as liberators, the OUN, the so called Galicians who despised the “Asiatics” that constituted most of Ukraine, actively participated in the extermination of Ukrainians.

Kovpak masterminding Guerilla War

When the Great Patriotic War began in July 1941, a guerrilla squad was formed in Putivla to fight behind the enemy. Sidor Kovpak was approved as the commander.

In December 1941 – January 1942, the Putivl squad raided Hinelsk, and in March – Bryanskie forests. There it rapidly expanded to 500 people, well armed with domestic and trophy weapons. This was the first raid of the Kovpackers.

As the Nazis forced their way through Ukraine, the old Cossack Sidor Kovpak was waiting for them. While many Soviet administrators failed to make security arrangements or precautions for the invasion, Kovpak was exactly the opposite,. He was able to garner a detachment of 42 partisans who were sent into the Spadschansky Forest near Poltava. Kovpak stayed behind until he could personally confirm the capture of the city on September 8th, 1941.

As a result of Kovpak’s preparations, the newly formed partisan detachment was well armed with 36 rifles, 5 submachine guns, 8 grenades, 1 pistol and approximately 1 ton of explosives. Food and supplies had been pre-placed, and the partisans were equipped with horses and wagons. On September 29th, 1941, Sidor Kovpak’s second partisan war began in earnest with the partisans demolishing a Nazi food requisition unit which was planted to starve Ukraine to death.

The second raid on the native Sumy region began on May 15 and prolonged till July 24, 1942.

During this time, the guerrillas waged many battles with the superior forces of Hitler. The enemy lost about one and a half thousand people. The raid was significant because on the night of May 27, 1942, the squad entered Putivl. The hometown received the liberators with joy and gratitude, written on their faces.

The next raid took place on June 12, 1943. During the raid, the guerrillas engulfed thousand kilometers, killed and mortally wounded more than 3800 Nazis, blew up 19 military echelons, 52 bridges, 51 warehouses, eradicated power plants and oil industries near Bitkov and Jablonov. This raid was without doubt one of the most sensational and defining guerrilla operations staged during the Great Patriotic War.

Accomplished before the Kursk Battle, the action had immense moral and political significance.

It planted seeds for chaos and anxiety to spring in the enemy’s rear, the combination attracted significant enemy forces, destroyed railways, and delayed the transfer of fascist troops to the front.

In addition, the raid was major precursor in shaping development of guerrilla struggle in the western regions of Ukraine. It gave birth to the thousands of new patriots to bloom and integrate with the armed struggle against the enemy.

Battle of Kursk

In the 5th of July, 1943, the Battle of Kursk formally began as the Nazis launched Operation Citadel against a heavily fortified Soviet salient a few hundred miles west of Ukraine. Thousands of tanks and millions of troops fought in the largest tank battle in history.

After a week, the Nazi offensive was subued and the Red Army heroically counter-attacked the dejected fascists, who were forced to flee to the Ukranian border. The Red Army regained the upper hand in the war, which they never again lost. This victory permanently shattered an entire army group and planted the seeds for later offensives which would liberate Ukraine and destroy the Nazis.

The 60,000 Nazis Kovpak’s raid overpowered as it crossed Galicia was a major turning point. Only a band of 1500 men combated several divisions from being utilised more effectively in the decisive battle to the east and inflicted a mortal blow to Nazi transportation and supply infrastructure, destroying dozens of bridges and trains, along with thousands of tons of oil and fuel.

Kovpak was able to achieve this inspite of the Nazis, encircling him 20 times during the 100 day raid. The partisans lost their wagons in one of the first encirclements, so Kovpak was turned from speed to stealth. His method of disguise, had touches of genius.

Still the losses were intensifying and ammunition dwindling,Kovpak thus made  the decision to dissolve the detachment and return to friendly territory. The unit was divided into 7 groups and placed under the command of the most experienced leaders, each of them who ventured in divergent paths, with a pre-set return in October.

In December 1943, Kovpak went to Kyiv for treatment in connection with the disease.

On February 23, 1944, the union was reformed into the 1st Ukrainian Guerrilla Division named after twice the Hero of the Soviet Union S. A. Kovpak.

Under the command of another guerrilla hero – P. P. Vershigory – it undertook   two more raids in the backyard  of the enemy in the western regions of Ukraine and Belarus, as well as on the territory of Poland.

Seymon Rudnev

The contribution of Seymon Rudnev can never be under estimated, who virtually served as a right hand man to Koypak.,who was commissar and hero of the Soviet Union, leading a   partisan detachment, of his own. The two had earlier merged their forces together, forming the Putvil Partisan detachment. Together, the Ukranian Cossack and the Russian Commissar fought to liberate Ukraine from the tyranny of fascism, both German and Galician.

Semyon Rudnev died a hero, confronting dozens of Nazi infantry himself to ensure sage withdrawal of his soldiers. After his platoon escaped, Rudnev fought on till he ran out of ammunition. Eventually he committed suicide by pistol rather than be subjected to the gruelling torture in   Nazi captivity. Kovpak manoeuvred successfully to have Rudnev posthumously awarded Hero of the Soviet Union for this last stand.

Reasons for Success

Kovpak, at the deepest root had knowledge of of his native terrain and how to most effectively wage war within it’s boundaries. He had untold mastery in conducting mass mobilisation.

The partisans would be mounted whenever possible and used wagons as a method of fast transport for heavy weapons, including artillery, along with infantry and supplies. They were ever ready to face the enemy, under all circumstances. This allowed Kovpak to hit targets where he intended to, and at a speed the fascists could never match. Pack animals used to transport artillery and heavy weapons into ambush positions, would then be mounted and used to pave way for e rapid attack in any direction. The wagons even facilitated the partisans to build and replace headquarters very quickly, evading   and countering continuous encirclement moves by the Nazis.

The backbone of partisan forces constituted small groups of scouts, infiltrators and outriders who could be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, scuttling like hares, through plains and forests, as though the spirits possessed them. Kovpak’s scouts were outstanding riders, used to handling fast horses over long distances and with few roads. Horses were rarely used in the attack, rather as dragoons, with partisans dismounting to fight, scout or hide, using the horses to embark and disembark as quickly as possible.

Kovpak was a master craftsman in switching tactics, enabling his partisans to escape encirclement every time, mostly through death defying penetrative attacks on Nazi lines. Kovpak’s partisans pierced through even the tiniest gaps in enemy defences before they stormed it.

The Nazis were tormented constantly, through sabotage, ambush, infiltration and assassination. Kovpak’s scouts were often used to entrap Nazis into ambushes, where entire units could be liquidated by pre-placed guns which could disappear into the forest as soon as they were done with.

Kovpak had complete mastery in intertwining or alternating defensive actions with offence or retaliatory actions, and disguising his forces or moves from the enemy. He could attack the enemy at it’s strongest point and understand every possible chink in their armour.

Kovpak’s ideological grasp of Marxism-Leninism gave him the fuel to innovate dialectical methods of preparations and combat and perceive enemy moves.

Post-War life and impact

After the war, Kovpak lived in Kiev, working in the Supreme Court of Ukraine, where for twenty years he served as Deputy Chairman of the Presidium. The legendary guerrilla commander won deep love among the people.

In 1947 he became a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian USSR.

Kovpak died on December 11, 1967 at the age of 81. The hero was buried at the Baik Cemetery in Kiev.

The tactics of the Kovpak guerrilla movement received applause on a world wide scale far beyond the borders of USSR. Guerrillas of Angola, Rhodesia and Mozambique, Vietnamese field commanders and revolutionaries from various Latin American countries studied and adopted the Kovpakian method of raids, as a living example. Even today they have relevance, inspite of advent of mechanisation or digital age and more sophisticated weapons , for a numerically weak force to wage resistance combat for liberation against a stronger or greater militarised enemy.

After the crash of the USSR in 1991, Stepan Bandera and the rest of the OUN who loathed Ukrainians and were all guilty of genocide against them stepped into the scene, propelled by the CIA. They patronised bandit gangs, launched an offensive to extinguish Marxism, denied genocide of Ukranians by OUN, and projected them as the only heroes or even the only true Ukranians. Yesteryear heroes like Kovpak have to be ressurected to give a mortal blow to reactionary forces like Bandera, who manifest the aspirations of the CIA.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has extensively studied history of liberation. Thanks information from writer Brian Holden in ‘Red Army during the Patriotic War’ and Evan Reif in Internationalist 360 degrees in ‘Glory to the Heroes: Sidor Kovpak and the War for Ukraine’s Memory. ‘

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Life and Times of Edith Durham

Edith Durham was an English woman who explored the Balkan region in the beginning of twentieth century just prior to the first world war. Her several writings about the region…

India Needs a ‘Romero’ Today!

This year, 24 March, is pregnant with meaning! For a large percentage of Indians, it is ‘Holika Dahan’, the start of the great festival of Holi! For most Christians, it…

Khalid Hussain, A wandering Yogi

          The acclaimed script writer , popular poet and nice person of  Pakistan Television Industry Khalil ur Rehman Qamar possesses the intellectual awareness and creative individuality.He is known for his…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News