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.


"21 February 1942. Today we are leaving beloved beautiful Moscow. All is ready: ammunition, food, backpacks, skis. Vehicles are waiting… Passers-by are stopping to watch us go, girls are waving. They do not know, of course, that we are going to the enemy's rear. All they know is that we are leaving to join the fierce battle to defend our Motherland..."
Vehicles with 44 special-mission fighters hurried away from Moscow, closer to the frontline. "Neither the frost, nor the backpack weight dampened our high spirits," volunteers from the Boyevoi special unit of the USSR People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) would write two years later in the Detonator handwritten journal, Issue No.5 dated 1944. Back then, in 1942, a group of fighters and officers were heading deep into the enemy's rear, into the occupied territory of Belarus to conduct subversive activities…
Photo from the museum's archives
On 5 July 1941, the USSR NKVD set up a special group (since January 1942 it came to be known as the 4th Division of the NKVD - NKGB (People's Commissariat for State Security of the USSR). The group hired the best agents who had experience in intelligence work and had participated in partisan activities in the Spanish Civil War. It recruited athletes, university teachers and students, officers of the people's commissariats for state security, members of the interior troops, and young communists from all of the Soviet Union. On 3 October 1941, the units of the special group were brought together into the Special Purpose Separate Motor Rifle Brigade.
Since 1942 special squads consisting of the brigade members were inserted into the enemy's rear, including the occupied territory of Belarus. Special groups and squads were also set up by the central operation and secret service group of the BSSR division of the NKVD. Since the autumn of 1943 such squads were also formed by the BSSR divisions of the NKGB and the NKVD. Those were well-equipped military units that maintained contacts with the Soviet rear. Acting on the ground, they recruited local residents to keep in touch with the people living in the occupied territory and build up their reconnaissance and sabotage capacities.
In 1941–1944 the secret service sent 15 partisan units and 161 special groups into the BSSR. Some 66 partisan units and 181 reconnaissance and sabotage groups were set up in the BSSR. One of them was the USSR NKVD Boyevoi special unit. It was led by Anatoly Goryachev till 7 August 1942.
Excerpt from the Detonator handwritten journal of the USSR NKVD unit Boyevoi, Issue No.5, 1944
On 2 March 1942 members of the Boyevoi unit were taken to the frontline by vehicles. After that, they were to switch to skis. The task was to cross the frontline. Scouts were always sent first. They studied the situation and laid a route. Reconnaissance missions were conducted only at night. It was also at night that the scouts walked the unit through the frontline.
"A halt in the forest during a day. A German garrison is nearby; therefore no fires can be made. We dig a hole in the snow, cover it with spruce boughs, run here and there to get warm and then go to sleep. However, after a short while you start shivering from cold again. An order is given: 'Drink three gulps of alcohol and eat one biscuit each'. The commissar cheered up the troops… We were backtracking, on skis and without them. We were on the move for one night, one day, another night. Short rest to catch our breath, with skis still attached. We ate biscuits and 50 grams of sausage each. Tiredness was unbearable. If you fall, you fall asleep in snow, in all poses wherever you stop. Only the sentries stayed awake."

Excerpt from the Detonator handwritten journal of the USSR NKVD unit Boyevoi, Issue No.5, 1944

In early March 1942 the special unit crossed the frontline on skis via the Vitebsk gate (Surazh gate). Operating in the enemy's rear, the unit stayed in touch with the local population and recruited some locals. "At various times the scouts had to accomplish different tasks which needed new people. For instance, some missions required going as far as 150–200km away from the base, operating along two railroads, and having contacts in Latvia. Despite the difficulty of penetrating the garrisons and recruiting the right people, our scouts were successful," members of the unit wrote in their handwritten journal.
For reference: From February 1942 through July 1944 the USSR NKVD special unit Boyevoi operated in the enemy's rear in Kalinin Oblast, Pskov Oblast of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), the Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics as well as Vitebsk Oblast, Minsk Oblast, Vileika Oblast, and Baranovichi Oblast of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR).
Valentin Neklyudov was appointed commanding officer of the unit on 7 August 1942. The first commanding officer – Senior Lieutenant Anatoly Goryachev – was recalled to Moscow.
For reference: Valentin Neklyudov. Hero of the Soviet Union (5 November 1944). Colonel. Commissioner. Commander of the Boyevoi special unit of the USSR NKVD since August 1942. Worked in the state security and internal affairs bodies of the Belarusian and Moldavian Social Socialist Republics after the war. Holder of the Orders of Lenin, Red Banner, Patriotic War 2 Class and the Red Star.
Valentin Neklyudov made an important contribution to the development of six partisan units. At the moment of joining the Red Army the Boyevoi unit comprised 340 members. Apart from locals the unit comprised Red Army soldiers, and also prisoners of war who managed to escape from the Nazi camps.
"Our unit came along a glorious path of avengers within two years. Thanks to the outstanding command, good organization and discipline the unit broke out of encirclements many times. There were a lot of life-and-death situations. Every time we would escape and be back in action, derailing trains, blowing up bridges, vehicles…"

Excerpt from the Detonator handwritten journal of the USSR NKVD unit Boyevoi, Issue No.5, 1944
Photo from the museum's archives
During its activity in the enemy's rear, the unit derailed more than 120 enemy trains, blew up over 80 factories, dozens of bridges and military ammunition depots, destroyed more than nine kilometers of railway tracks, killed and wounded over 2,000 German soldiers and officers.
Detonator handwritten journal of the USSR NKVD unit Boyevoi, Issue No.5, 1944
The website assets or a selection of assets, parts of the design and the layout can be used only upon authorization of the copyright holder and with reference to the source: www.belta.by
© BelTA News Agency, 2018
© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018