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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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PARTISANS' SELF-MADE WEAPONS
Photo from the museum's archives
Sabotage, arson and other diversionary operations... Partisans needed a substantial arsenal of weapons to fight against German invaders. At first those were trophies. In 1942 partisans began to receive new samples of armament from the Red Army, which were delivered either by subversive groups or airlifted from the Soviet rear. However, the partisans frequently used the weapons made in forest gunsmith shops.
Gunsmith shop of the Kotovsky partisan unit of the Budyonny Brigade, Pinsk Oblast, 1943. Photo from the museum'sarchives
Gunsmith shop of the Pravda partisan unit, Pravda Brigade, Minsk Oblast. Photo from the museum's archives
The number of partisans was growing. Therefore, each piece of weapons was taken great care of, repaired or restored. More people volunteered to work in gunsmith shops: local workers, farm machinery operators, engineers. Special workshops were set up to make weapons out from scrap using simple tools.
Partisans of the Bolshevik Brigade smelt TNT, Gomel Oblast, 1943. Photo from the museum's archives
Many partisan units started to produce automatic weapons in their camps in forests. In 1942 a former collective farm head Ivan Mikheichik together with his fellow villagers organized a Razgrom squad [Crushing Defeat] which grew to become the same-name brigade. In his makeshift workshop Ivan Mikheichik restored damaged rifles, shoulder arms and semiautomatic weapons brought by the partisans.
"During his time in the unit Ivan Mikheichik manufactured 65 rifle stocks, 14 stocks to semiautomatic weapons, 10 stocks to machine guns, 27 stocks to vending machines, 110 boxes for road mines, and other, no less important products…"

Excerpt from a story in the Znamya [Banner] handwritten journal of the Znamya partisan unit of the Razgrom [Crushing Defeat] Brigade, 1944
Reference: Before the war, Piotr Chigrinov worked as an equipment operator at a yeast factory in Minsk. On 27 June 1941 he and his family left the burning capital city. They were sheltered by some friends of theirs in the village of Chernova in Minsk Oblast. After a while, he and a group of like-minded people got in touch with the partisans who took action in Cherven District. In May 1942 the entire family of Piotr Chigrinov joined the partisans.
Piotr Chigrinov. Photo from the museum's archives
"Commissar of a partisan unit during the Civil War and a long-term party member, he spared no time and no energy to help the partisans… Many of them are armed with the rifles assembled by Uncle Petya as he was called by the partisans".

Excerpt from the story Uncle Petya's Workshop in the Znamya handwritten journal of the Znamya partisan unit of the Razgrom Brigade, 1944
Since October 1942 the Znamya unit made part of the Razgrom Brigade. Piotr Chigrinov was named the best assembler of Shpagin machine pistols by the handwritten journal of the partisan unit.
This workshop was so efficient that it was dubbed "partisans' Tula". This workshop in Cherven District consisted of a big group of craftsmen. By July 1944 the Razgrom Brigade rolled out 133 PPSh machine pistols, including 32 in the Znamya unit.
Shpagin machine pistol made by Piotr Chigrinov
Handcrafted weapons made by Piotr Chigrinov
Many craftsmen demonstrated ingenuity and resourcefulness while making the armaments. Thus, in spring 1944 self-trained engineer Nikolai Sergeyev from the Znamya unit developed an original design of a gun; six units of such a gun were made.
Gunsmith shop of the Razgrom Brigade, Minsk Oblast. Photo from the museum's archives
Chigrinov's work inspired other partisan units. Thanks to Piotr Chigrinov the field workshop of the Kirov Brigade started manufacturing submachine guns in February 1944. Materials were procured from broken German vehicles and bomb shells. The workshop's operation is described in the brigade's handwritten journal.
"This workshop made simplified detonators, which were vital for diversionary work. Not a single one malfunctioned as partisans placed landmines with blasting fuses. The workshop also made pressure fuses…"

Excerpt from the article Gunsmith's Workshop from the Kirovets journal of the Kirov Brigade, Minsk Oblast, 1944
Chkalov Brigade gunsmith shop workers V.S. Kopelevich and V.Y. Mikheyenko, Baranovichi Oblast. Photo from the museum's archives
"At first glance he is a silent and inconspicuous man," he thought about Sergeyev. "But in practice he runs the gunsmith shop. He did well in a railway demolition operation… An impressive person!"

Excerpt from the story Sergeyev's Submachine Gun from the Znamya journal of the Znamya partisan unit of the Razgrom Brigade, 1944
Apart from manufacturing their own weapons in novel ways the partisan gunsmiths took part in combat operations just like regular partisans. Nikolai Sergeyev was awarded the Medal of Valor. Piotr Chigrinov was awarded the Order of the Red Star for combat deeds and for organizing weapon manufacturing in the brigade.
Organizers of the Razgrom Brigade gunsmith shop: N.Y. Korshun, F.A. Shurygin, N.N. Kolyaskin, P. Boyarko, N.Y. Chetverushkin, 1943. Photo from the museum's archives
Znamya handwritten journal of the Znamya partisan unit, Razgrom Brigade, 1944
To be continued...
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© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018
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