"The people's avengers" : Soviet partisans, Stalinist society and the politics of resistance, 1941-1944 / by Kenneth D. Slepyan.
At the Second World War, the Soviet Union was militarily and politically unprepared to wage a large-scale partisan struggle. The precarious Soviet military position at the beginning of the war forced the Soviet leadership to overcome its general suspicions towards mass movements and facilitate a partisan movement. Officials had to solve two difficult, and at times, contradictory tasks: the maximization of partisan military effectiveness, and the maintenance of partisan political reliability and loyalty. This dissertation on the Soviet partisan movement explores the dynamics of power relations and the construction of social identities within the framework of Soviet political culture. Based on recently available archival materials from the former Soviet Union, including reports from partisans and Soviet officials, diaries, transcripts of partisan conferences and interviews, and unit personnel lists this project analyzes the partisan movement on three levels: how the Soviet leadership formulated policy towards the partisans; how state agencies--the Party, Red Army, and NKVD--interpreted and implemented these plans; and how the partisan detachments functioned as political, social and military communities. This project shows that the Soviet leadership sought to use the partisan movement as a means of legitimating the Soviet system and attempted to impose a uniform identity on the partisans. This uniform identity connected with partisan self-representations, which themselves were not uniform. The numerous contradictions within Soviet political culture enabled the partisans to embrace alternative visions of what it meant to be a partisan. Although the Soviet leadership used several methods in an effort to control the partisans, the partisans were still often able to evade these controls or manipulate the very structures that were intended to supervise them. And while the partisans identified themselves explicitly as "Soviet", they significantly altered the content of the Soviet institutions they replicated in the detachments. Thus, the partisans simultaneously accepted and rejected certain aspects of the prewar Soviet experience in their own communities.
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