Soviet partisans in Estonia

This article is about Soviet partisans. For the anti-Soviet partisans, see Forest Brothers.

The Soviet partisans in Estonia were Communist partisans who attempted to wage guerrilla warfare against the German armed forces during the German occupation of Estonia. Partisan activity was singularly unsuccessful in Estonia due to the general resistance of the population to the Soviet regime that the partisans represented. The majority of partisans sent in by the Soviets were quickly picked up by the local Estonian militias.[1]

The war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out after one year of Soviet occupation in Estonia. From July to December 1941, Estonia was cleared of Soviet armed forces by Germans who were assisted by Estonian national partisans. The Germans refrained from looting and excessive murders, but retaliated for armed resistance by burning down villages, amongst other things.[2]

Soviet partisans often robbed wealthier peasants and provoked German reprisals. The Baltic lands remained free of partisans throughout most of the war, by 1944 only 234 partisans were fighting in Estonia and none were volunteers, all being either NKVD or Red Army personnel.[2] The partisans found it impossible to establish permanent bases in Estonia, one reporting "it is dangerous to visit a village where even one Estonian lives".[2] In effect, those groups were rather small in Estonia, often consisting of Soviet paratroopers brought from the USSR proper, and never even reaching the degree of pro-Soviet guerrilla warfare in Lithuania (which, in turn, was minor compared with Soviet resistance activities in neighbouring Belarus).

Background and origins

On July 5, 1941 Estonia was invaded from the South by the Army Group North. The invasion lasted one day more than five months, ending with the occupation of Osmussaar on December 6, 1941. Besides the Soviet destruction battalions being ill-equipped compared the Wehrmacht, they attempted to defend the borders but only managed to thinly spread the limited resources available. Also, many Estonian soldiers within the Soviet units refused to fight, welcoming the Germans as liberators from Soviet reign of terror. As has been ascertained, units of destruction battalions burned farms and terrorized the civilian population (for example Kautla massacre).

The partisan warfare

The territory of German-occupied Estonia was incorporated into Reichskommissariat Ostland. In "Generalbezirk Estland" was established German civilian administration and German police force.


1500 Soviet partisans fought in Estonia in 1941-1944, many of them were killed by Nazi occupants and their local collaborators[3]

More than 500 Soviet partisans who fought in Estonia in 1941-1944 were awarded the orders, decorations, and medals of the Soviet Union. Two Soviet partisans who fought in Estonia were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union (posthumously)[4] and five other (Eduard Aartee, Arno Avarsoo, Richard Melts, Roland Valkman and Ilmar Jürisson) were awarded the Order of Lenin.[5]

See also


  1. Howell, Edgar M. (1997). The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-1944. Merriam Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-57638-014-7.
  2. 1 2 3 Statiev, Alexander (2010). The Soviet Counterinsurgency in the Western Borderlands. Cambridge University Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-521-76833-7.
  3. История Великой Отечественной войны Советского Союза, 1941-1945 (в шести томах). / редколл., П.Н. Поспелов и др. том 6. М., Воениздат, 1965. стр.256
  4. Великая Отечественная война 1941-1945. События. Люди. Документы. Краткий исторический справочник / сост. Е.К. Жигунов, под общ. ред. О.А. Ржешевского. М., Политиздат, 1990. стр.239
  5. Э.А. Сындель. Вечно живые. Таллинн, "Ээсти раамат", 1984. стр.61


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