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Истребительные батальоны
Destruction battalions
A poster from the World War II:
Active from June 24, 1941
Country Soviet Union Soviet Union
Type Paramilitary
Role Defending territory of the Soviet Union
Size ca 328,000
Nickname Стрыбки
Motto Если Враг Не Сдается, Его Уничтожают.
If the Enemy Does Not Surrender, He Is Annihilated.
March The Internationale
Anniversaries June 24
Engagements Siege of Leningrad
Battle of Stalingrad
Dmitrii Vasilevich Kramarchuk (Moscow)
Mikhail Pasternak (Estonian SSR)

Destruction battalions (Russian: Истребительные батальоны, Belarusian: Zniszczalnyja batalëny, Знішчальныя батальёны, Estonian: Hävituspataljonid) were the paramilitary combat units in the Soviet Union consisted of conscript battalions formed from the local communists to fight against Anti-Soviet partisans, Selbstschutz (Omakaitse, Latvian Auxiliary Police, Savigyna) who attempted to liberate parts of the country ahead of the arrival of German troops or Abwehr commandos like Brandenburgers, Nachtigall Battalion etc.[1][2]

The destruction battalions murdered from June to August 1941 at least 1850 Estonian people, almost all civilians.[3]

The destruction battalions were a type of Soviet para-military unit. They were created in the territories near the front line during the Summer of 1941, with mission to deny the Germans any immediate economic benefit from the areas they would soon occupy, issued by the Soviet authorities on June 24, 1941. The decisions to form these battalions were made on June 22, 1941 by Soviet authorities, and on July 6, 1941 by the Belarusian Soviet authorities.[4][5] The Chief of the Staff of the Extermination Battalions of Moscow was Dmitrii Vasilevich Kramarchuk.[6]



The destruction battalions were formed from the volunteers out of those not covered by mobilisation, and augmented by personnel considered ideologically solid, like members of Komsomol and kolkhoz managers. The battalions were commanded by head managers of the Raion committees level.[7][8]

During July 1941, a total of 1,755 destruction battalions were created, across all territories near the frontline, comprising about 328,000 personnel.[9][10]

During July–August 1941 in the Byelorussian SSR, chiefly in Vitebsk, Homel, Polesia, Mohylew oblasts, 78 such battalions were created, comprising more than 13,000 personnel. Part of these were later transformed into the Belarusian partisans' units.[11][12]

By the summer of 1941 the coordinated Nazi underground activities forced the Soviet authorities to organize armed people's defence bodies in the new union republics and territories of Karelo-Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, East Poland, Galicia, and Bessarabia. Immediately after the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa, combat squads formed. In Estonia the volunteer squads were controlled by self-governing Estonian SSR authorities and the local people.[13][14] Following the orders of Soviet administration the night watch squads, formed in areas with large concentrations of the Fifth column, were created to protect the villages in the front regions. As firearms were not provided the nightwatchmen equipped themselves with sticks. Their duty was to carry out surveillance, to detain suspicious persons and to warn both Militsiya and people of possible danger. On June 25, 1941 the first squads of "loyal" residents were armed for operations against the Forest Brothers.[15][16]

Changes in 1941

In the summer of 1941 the Soviets lost their strategic initiative on the Eastern front and were dislodged far to the East. Estonia was no longer a remote and quiet country to protect their rear. Due to unsuccessful military and labour mobilization, and spreading armed underground activities of the Nazis, the Abwehr and the Einsatzgruppen consolidated the mass repressions in the Baltic countries, but proclaimed the locals responsible for the acts of sabotage and Nazi crimes.[17][18] In an attempt to protect the people from the terror of Nazi spies and the SD, the Soviet administrations volunteered to form armed security units consisting of about 30,000 men. These units were to act under the supervision of the regional authorities. The destruction battalions as planned were to be established in villages, boroughs and towns. Their task was to protect the people's property and residents of the living sites, and generally fight against the "banditry of the fascist elements". Moreover, a separate military unit of 3000 men was to be formed to defend the major communication roads and objects, and to support the local squads.[19][20] The Destruction Battalions were formed under complicated conditions. The members of the Extermination Battalions were at risk of repressions by the armed anti-Soviet underground.[21][22] The Extermination Battalions were armed from the reserves of the former paramilitary organisations and through self-armament by the members themselves.[23][24] Its activities left significant traces in areas where the armed Nazi underground existed. The establishment and activities of the Extermination Battalions, especially in the Northwestern and Western Soviet Union, was a massive phenomenon during the Nazi German invasion.[25][26]

Atrocities against civilians

Soviet destruction battalions wrought havoc on the countryside while combating the national partisans. Formed in Estonia on June 27, 1941 in face of the advancing German Army. Ostensibly to fight against saboteurs and traitors, they were given wide mandate by the Soviet authorities to summarily execute any suspicious person. Thousands of people including a large proportion of women and children were killed, while dozens of villages, schools and public buildings were burned to the ground. A school boy Tullio Lindsaar had all bones in his hands broken then was bayoneted for hoisting the Estonian tri-colour. Mauricius Parts, son of the Estonian War of Independence hero Karl Parts, was doused in acid. In August 1941, all residents of the village Viru-Kabala were killed including a two-year old child and a six-day old infant. A partisan war broke out in response to the atrocities of the destruction battalions, with tens of thousands of men forming the Forest Brothers to protect the local population from these battalions.[27]

Soviet destruction battalions participated also in Kautla massacre. They murdered Gustav and Rosalie Viljamaa of Simisalu farm and set the farm on fire. In the coming days, the destruction battalion undertook systematic murder of all civilians in the region and burning their farms. The Kautla farm was burned down by the Red Army with the family and staff inside, thus constituting a murder of Johannes Lindemann, Oskar Mallene, Ida Hallorava, Arnold Kivipõld, Alfred Kukk and Johannes Ummus.[28] In total, more than twenty people, all civilians, were murdered in Kautla — many of them after torture — and tens of farms destroyed. The low toll of human deaths in comparison with the number of burned farms is due to the Erna team breaking the Red Army blockade on the area, allowing many civilians to escape.[29]

Clashes with Wehrmacht in 1941

The mass occurrence of the destruction battalions is evident from ostensive and oblique records from the Nazi underground sources, armed clashes with the anti-Soviet partisans and Wehrmacht, terror and violence perpetrated against the Extermination Battalions' members, villages and homesteads being burnt, as well as massacres of innocent inhabitants and other repressions. The anti-Soviet partisans intended to harm the Extermination Battalions from these villages as an act of vengeance for their activities; these repressions were perpetrated to suppress Extermination Battalions as a mass phenomenon. Extermination Battalions occurred on massive scale, illustrated by the losses of the anti-Soviet partisans during the clashes with the Extermination Battalions and unsuccessful attempts to advance from the Białowieża Forest and the Pinsk Marshes in Polesia deeper into the country.[30][31] Formed of armed squads, which had been formed during the German invasion, the Extermination Battalions suited the needs of the people rather than the Red Army. The Extermination Battalions became a widespread resistance movement against the armed Nazi underground, most notably in the Northwest Soviet Union, and was mainly fought by the local peasantry in an attempt to defend their homelands.[32][33]


  • Гісторыя Беларусі: У 6 т. Т. 5. Беларусь у 1917—1945. — Мн. : Экаперспектыва, 2006. — 613 с.; іл. ISBN 985-469-149-7. p.482.
  • Мірановіч Яўген. Найноўшая гісторыя Беларусі. — СПб. : Неўскі прасцяг, 2003. — 243 с. ; іл. ISBN 5-94716-032-3. pp.126—130.
  • Вялікая Айчынная вайна савецкага народа (у кантэксце Другой сусветнай вайны). — Мн. : Экаперспектыва, 2005. — 279 с. ISBN 985-469-150-0. p.100.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Karel Cornelis Berkhoff, Harvest of despair
  2. ^ За паўгода да Віцебскіх варот
  3. ^ Eesti rahva kannatuste aasta. Tallinn, 1996, p. 234.
  4. ^ Бойко Владимир, Боевой подвиг погранзаставы им. Кайманова Н.Ф и действия истребительных батальонов в Суоярвском районе в первые дни войны.
  6. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Роль и задачи войск НКВД в годы Великой Отечественной войны.
  10. ^ Милиция в годы Великой Отечественной Войны.
  11. ^ Р. Барадулін, ВЯЛІКАЯ АЙЧЫННАЯ ВАЙНА.
  12. ^ Жыве імя легендарнага камбрыга.
  14. ^ A Documentary history of Communism in Russia.
  15. ^ истребительные батальоны.
  16. ^ Estonia in 1939–1944.
  18. ^ Peter J. Potichnyj, GLASNOST' AND THE UPA.
  19. ^ Истребительные батальоны.
  20. ^ J. V. Stalin, Radio Broadcast, July 3, 1941.
  21. ^ 1940–1992. Soviet era and the restoration of independence.
  22. ^ Наталля Рыбак, Метады і сродкі ліквідацыі акаўскіх і постакаўскіх фарміраванняў у заходніх абласцях Беларусі ў 1944–1954 гг.
  24. ^ Stalin, the Russians, and their war by M. J. Broekmeyer, Rosalind.
  26. ^ – 52k Эсперантист Николай Кузнецов, биография на английском – 20 Марта ...
  27. ^ Mart Laar, War in the woods, The Compass Press, Washington, 1992, p10
  28. ^ Mart Laar: Tavaline stalinism, printed in Postimees 16 August 2007
  29. ^ Jüri Liim: Kautla lahingud
  30. ^ Наталля Рыбак (Гродна), Метадыі сродкіліквідацыі акаўскіх і постакаўскіх фарміраванняў у заходніхабласцяхБеларусіў 1944–1954 гг.
  31. ^ Võrumaa – oma ja hää.
  32. ^ Вялікая Айчыная вайна.
  33. ^ Litopys UPA.

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