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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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Professor Gutorov on Fight and Creative Art of National Avengers
"For the first time we saw her at the alternate base of the Shchors partisan unit in Vygonichi District. Her mother was the wife of a pilot and was hiding from the German invaders. Ludochka was about five or six. She would sing a song about a commissioner every time she saw us...

The fascist horde blazed through the area, and I saw her, the song-bird, lying among the killed women and children. She laid hunched on one side, slightly spreading out her little arms. Her skull was broken at the temple...

German shells were exploding nearby. Our mortars fired in return. We and riflemen were heading to the enemy lines. The images of the children killed by the Germans would not go away and the familiar child's voice would play in my head..."


Ivan Gutorov wrote the book Fight and Creative Art of National Avengers after the war to tell about his memories of the Great Patriotic War. It was published in 1949, and after that the candidate of philology received the title of professor.
Ivan Gutorov studied partisan folklore for many years: this topic and some personal memories became the basis of his book. This book also features pieces of journals handwritten by partisan units of Minsk Oblast. Partisans gave them to the author. Seven unique partisan books were donated to the Belarusian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War History in 2011. Gutorov's daughter gave them after the death of her father.
For reference: Ivan Gutorov was born in the village of Volkovka, Mstislavl District, Mogilev Oblast, in 1906. Literary scholar, folklorist. Corresponding member of the National Academy of Sciences (1953), Doctor of Sciences [Philology] (1949), Professor (1949). Veteran of the Great Patriotic War. Author of over 150 works. Awarded Order of the Red Banner, Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner of Labor, medals. Diedon 8 February 1967.
The interest of Ivan Gutorov in partisan folklore was not accidental. He volunteered to join the Red Army on 7 July 1941. He was commissar of Regimen No.356, senior instructor of a political department responsible for awareness raising campaigns among the military and civilians. Together with partisans he fought against the Nazis in the forests of Bryansk Oblast. There he heard numerous ditties and songs, poems and marches that were composed virtually on the go. He incorporated them later into his works.

Partisans' creativity means that despite all the atrocities committed by the Nazis, the nation's spirit was not broken. Deep in the enemy's rear people kept composing patriotic works
Ivan Gutorov would write in his book.
"The function of partisan folklore was as important in a combat situation. On the one hand, it was a cry from the depth of one's soul. On the other hand, it was a passionate appeal to fight and avenge. In the enemy's rear partisan creations spread the true word about combat operations and accomplishments of the Red Army and the entire nation in the fight to liberate our land. Partisan folklore uplifted the combat spirit and inspired people to accomplish deeds in the name of the Motherland. It was spread by means of partisan newspapers, handwritten journals, leaflets, and by word of mouth while resting after an intense battle at some base deep in the forest."

Excerpt from Ivan Gutorov's book Fight and Creative Art of National Avengers

The most popular genre was songs – lyrical, satirical songs, songs to sing on the march, heroic and epic tales, ditties, descriptions of combat deeds, and caricatures of German troops. Traitors also got their fair share of attention. Those were heads of village administrations, and other collaborators.
In 1942 the partisan movement became a mass phenomenon. Entire districts were retaken and held by partisan troops in the enemy's rear. These territories were called "small Soviet land". Analyzing partisan art, Ivan Gutorov noted that as the partisan movement grew in popularity, confidence in victory was more and more frequently expressed. Not only in the works of partisans but in art created by civilians partisans were in contact with.
Photo from the museum's archives
Companies of talented partisan singers, storytellers, dancers and accordionists, set up in some units also played an exceptional role in promoting partisan creativity. The accordion itself, even in the most difficult times, was an obligatory attribute of life in many partisan units:
After a successful mission we usually organized a political and spirit-boosting party with songs in the village and then returned to the camp. We always had the accordion with us. We sometimes composed songs ourselves. There was one incident, for example: we got rid of the Savrasovka village head appointed by Germans. It was some 8-10 kilometers away from the camp. When we left the village, someone asked to play 'Barynya', and one of the partisans started singing the old pre-revolutionary ditties in a completely new, so to speak, partisan interpretation...
From Ivan Gutorov's recollections
In his book Fight and Creative Art of National Avengers, Professor Ivan Gutorov would write that partisan works are interesting mainly as materials of living history. They are full of details of the fight, and filled with burning hatred for the enemy and boundless devotion to the Motherland. In many respects it is the partisan folklore that provides a broad perspective on the history and the people's fight against German invaders.
Partisan of the Patriotic War journal, Issue No.2, December 1943
To be continued...
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© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018
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