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Records were made wherever and whenever possible – in dugouts, between the battles, on wallpaper, exercise books, office books…

Handwritten partisan journals were kept together with important documents. They contained facts and figures interspersed with stories about the daily grind, battles and heroes. Handmade 'books' were pepped up by pictures and unfailing sense of humor. They were circulated to raise morale. They were read to draw strength.

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The great battles started on the Belarusian land and it is here where they will end!

BELARUSIAN POETS
TO NATIONAL AVENGERS
The words of People's Poet Yakub Kolas proved to be prophetic: the Belarusian land was the first to face the fascists, and it was from here that the Soviet troops, after the successful Operation Bagration to liberate Belarus, continued their heroic march to the West, to Berlin…
Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas made numerous addresses to the nation during the war as part of the anti-fascist campaign. Their poems were printed on leaflets, poster newspapers and partisan journals.
The Belarusian nation had never knelt down before the enemy. This was reiterated by Belarusian People's Poet Yanka Kupala in his address to the Belarusian people published in the poster newspaper Kill The Fascist Beast in March 1942. "Fascists should pay dearly for the suffering they brought; ruthless revenge on the enemy is the sacred duty of everyone," the poet exclaimed. "The victory is inevitable and the Belarusian land will become a graveyard for fascists."
Photo from the museum's archives
What may be stronger than tanks and guns? Only faith in the victory. Soldiers and partisans would perform their heroic deeds in the name of it. The fascists did not understand why Soviet soldiers would fight hand-to-hand once they ran out of ammunition?
The poem To Fascist Bandits was written by Yakub Kolas in 1941, the darkest time when it was not clear who would prevail. But faith in the victory was stronger. "The fascist snake will meet its end here and will be buried under aspen trees…" When partisans were reading these lines they had no doubt that the things would unfold exactly that way. No one knew when the victory would come, but everyone believed it would.


Yakub Kolas' partisan song We Will Avenge written on 22 April 1942 is filled with bitter hatred against fascists. The national revenge will be ruthless, says the poet urging to destroy the fascist beast.


Yakub Kolas' wartime publications were a mix of heavy irony, satire and sarcasm. Tearing to shreds the fascist doctrine about the supremacy of the German race, the poet called for nationwide popular resistance: the myth about the invincibility of fascist Germany was dispelled near Moscow.
A partisan camp. Photo by BelTA

In Yanka Kupala's wartime essays and poems the love for the native land and hatred towards fascists go hand in hand: such a contrast enhanced by symbolism and emotional touch possesses a power which arouses the most moving thoughts and feelings.
The lines published in Russian in the partisan journal Komsomolskaya Iskra in December 1943 are as expressive:

But our heroic and mighty nation would not fall to its knees. The nation destroys the enemy the way people kill mad dogs… And listens to the bidding of its ardent poet Yanka Kupala.
Partisans knew and loved works of the Belarusian poets and even dedicated their own verses to them. In February 1944 the partisan poetess Yanina Krainik published a poem dedicated to Yakub Kolas in the Plamya (Flame) manuscript journal of the partisan brigade from Minsk Oblast under the pseudonym of Lilia Lesnaya.
The author described the tragedy of the residents of Berezyanka who were burned alive by punitive troops on 6 September 1943. It was the Berezyanka on the bank of the Svisloch River, which natural beauty Yakub Kolas loved so much and celebrated in his poems before the war.

Along with menacing and accusatory texts the partisan journals had some space for review materials. For instance, brief background information about the BSSR catches one's eye.
BYELORUSSIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC (BSSR)

Area – about 230,000 square kilometers.
Population – over 10 million.
Major ethnicity – Belarusians.
The BSSR was also home to Russians, Jews, Poles and other ethnicities.
Capital – Minsk.
Collectivization (in terms of area under crops) – 96.7%.
Tractors – 8,900 units, harvesters – 1,200 in 1938.
Area under crops – 3.205 million hectares in 1939 (2.564 million hectares in 1913).
At the beginning of the third Five-Year Plan (1938–1942) school enrollment was 3.8 times as big as in 1913 (266,000 in 1913 vs. 1 million in 1937).
Number of universities – 23 (nonexistent before the revolution).
Number of doctors – 2,367 in 1937 (495 in 1913).

Partisans Ivan Khmelev and Maria Grigorieva on patrol. Photo by BelTA
The following lines of the partisan journal reveal one of the main secrets behind the Victory. Following the defeat near Moscow and at Stalingrad, fascists realized that it would be hard, if possible at all, to defeat the Soviet Union. The enemy did not take into account that the USSR would fight selflessly not only on the frontline but also deep in the rear and that the relocated factories would uninterruptedly provide the army with everything necessary.
Komsomolskaya Iskra journal of the Communist Party and Komsomol organizations of Komsomol Unit of Minsk Partisan Brigade No. 1, Issue No. 4, December 1943:

"The Soviet state has never been as strong and unshakable as it is now, in the third year of the Great Patriotic War. The lessons of the war show that the Soviet system was not only the best way to secure economic and cultural progress during the years of the country's peaceful development but also the best in mobilizing the nation to repel the enemy during the war. Established 26 years ago, the Soviet government managed to turn the country into an adamant fortress very quickly. Out of all the armies of the world the Red Army has the strongest and most reliable rear. This is the source of strength for the Soviet Union."
Years later People's Poet of Belarus Yakub Kolas wrote: "Without studying the past and the present we cannot foresee the future". Today these words sound like a spiritual message to the next generation.
Komsomolskaya Iskra journal of the Communist Party and Komsomol organizations of Komsomol Unit of Minsk Partisan Brigade No. 1, Issue No. 4, December 1943
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© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018
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