"Архіви України"
№ 1 (289) / 2014

S. I. Vlasenko

(dedicated to his 115th birth anniversary)

The proposed selection of documents from the fonds of the Central State Archives of Public Organizations of Ukraine complements the characteristics of personal and professional features of the Sumy partisan unit Semen Vasyliovych Rudnev.

Key words: Great Patriotic War, partisan movement, Sumy partisan unit; S. V. Rydnev, TsDAGO of Ukraine, document.

During the Great Patriotic War there was arised the whole galaxy of talented commanders of the Red Army and the organizers of the partisan resistance movement behind enemy lines. Particular attention is always paid to the commissar of the Sumy partisan unit Semen Vasyliovych Rudnev (27 (15) February 1899 – August 4, 1943). Being fully devoted to what he did as it was required by military oath, he defended the Motherland and the people from enemy oppression by the cost of his life.

With the approach of German troops in August, 1941 S. V. Rudnev formed small guerrilla group consisting of 13 people in the Putivl district. On October, 18 the group teamed up with a detachment under the command of Sydir Kovak. In the newly formed partisan unit S. V. Rudnev was appointed a Commissar; and S. A. Kovak became a Commander. In October 1942, they led the Sumy partisan unit. This tandem Kovak-Rudnev was considered to be most successful among the guerrilla leaders, and the unit they led – to be one of the best in the Soviet partisan resistance movement in the Ukraine during the World War II. S. V. Rudnev was high disciplined and honest person himself, and thus enjoyed enormous prestige and respect among the guerrillas.

Documents preserved in the fonds of the Central State Archives of Public Organizations (TsDAGO) of Ukraine highlight the personal and professional features of S. V. Rudnev, his attitude to the ordinary partisans and relationships with command staff of the unit and the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement.

Among the documentary complex regarding S. V. Rudnev the most interesting document is his diary written in pencil in a school notebook in the period from 7 May to 25 July 1943. Historians and archivists suggest that this is only a part of the diary of the Sumy partisan unit Commissar. They were found by a miner and exploder (a poet in future) Platon Voronko during the surround brake in the Carpathian Mountains and deposited to the party archives of the Institute of Party History under the Central Committee of Communistic Party of Ukraine. This was evidenced by a note of the miner attached to the diary manuscript. Today the original diary is kept in the fond of the Sumy partisan unit (f. 63, series 1, case 8, pp. 1-55).

Most of diary entries chronologically related for the events of the Carpathian raid lasted from 12 June to 1 October 1943 S. V. Rudnev died in this raid. It was during a breakout of the Sumy guerrilla hostile surround at the area of Delyatyn town of Stanislaviv (now - Ivano-Frankivsk) region on August 4, 1943. His 19-years old son Radiy was also mortally wounded during the breakout. By June 12, the day the unit set off, S. V. Rudnev said the prophetic words to the Communistic Party of Ukraine secretary D. S. Korotchenko: ‘It was hard, very hard to part, maybe it was the last meeting’ (page 20). There was an anxiety about the wife Dominica Danylivna Rudneva (Nioma in the diary) in the notes too: by June 6 (‘Nioma is anxious about Radik and me. Somebody gossiped the mother, and she is worried’, page 17), by June 7 (‘I have been receiving strange and anxious letters from Nioma’, back page 17).

Both the official documents and the personal diary manifest his care and sincere love to the family. He used every possibility to receive the information from the family and to help them as well. In the fond of the Sumy partisan unit there is preserved Rudnev’s radiogram to the commander of Central head-quarters of partisan movement P. K. Ponomarenko: ‘My family is in the Ivaniv region, Nebuliv district, Raslavske village, wife is Dominica Danylivna. Help her’ (f. 63, series 1, case 8, p. 133). In the documents of Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement fond there is preserved a cryptogram of the Communistic Party of Ukraine secretary D. S. Korotchenko addressed to S. V. Rudnev and dated July 10, 1943: ‘By July 5 was back in Moscow. By July 7 visited your family. Informed Radik and you are well. Your wife and child are well. They send Radik and you their passionate greetings’ (f. 62, series 1, case 1288, p. 202). He was very indignant when colleagues while in the rear, could not fulfill for any various reasons the request to visit his family. Thus, he wrote in the radiogram to the commander of the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement T. A. Strokach by March 22, 1943: ‘Where is my family and what has happened to them? Whether was it difficult to transmit a letter from her? It is very essential for us, those who are here’ (f. 63, series 1, case 38, p. 53).

In the diary entry by July 7 Semen Vasyliovych wrote with the parental love and warmth about his older son Radik: ‘It was a splendid day for me. My son Radik is 19. For two years he has been fighting with me here in the enemies rear. He is at war since being 17, thus was with me in 1917. Son went his father’s steps, the only regret he did not end the comprehensive school. Maybe, his fate is like mine, and I do not want it. But the character and temper are mine, good or bad, but I am happy. He is a good boy, we live friendly with him. Nevertheless, loving him I criticize [him] from time to time. He loves me and is proud of. He also loves his mother and the younger brother Yurik very much. Remember very often, incidentally or not, what mother likes, or what she would say etc.’ (f. 63, series 1, case 85, back p. 41). By July 25, Rudnev wrote with anguish in the diary for the last time: ‘Desire so much to have a rest and see my family’ (the same fond, page 55back). Unfortunately, he was not destined to do so.

One of his notes dated June 3, 1943 characterized him vividly as a person: ‘Just a look at these remarkable people makes the heart rejoice. There was not bread for a month, but all were joyful, cheerful, dear fighting friends. It is wonderful to live and struggle with these people, and be not afraid of death too’ (f. 63, series 1, case 85, p. 15). Partisans answered his Commissar with sincere love, respect and understanding.

The TsDAGO documents also represent Rudnev as a professional military man, characterize his behavior as the unit commissioner, his attitude to duties, relationships with the unit head staff and partisans. A commander of the Glukhiv partisan unit P. L. Kulbaka remembered: ‘We must pay tribute to Rudnev as an organizer and a military strategist. He can recognize the mood of each person. In my personal opinion, it was a remarkable man both for his political development, organizational skills, and the courage; he could talk with everybody and convince everyone. If he would said "Who is with me?" everybody went to him’ (f. 166, series 3, case 47, p. 41).

A commander of the Shalygino partisan unit F. P. Matiuschenko characterized Rydnev by March 1947: ‘[...] In terms of guerrilla warfare Rudnev was a military educated man and a creative person. He was an expert on the psychology of people, [...] including the guerrillas. He could recognize the mood of the entire personnel of the unit. Rudnev was a talented organizer, propagandist and agitator. Rudnev, visiting all groups, saw the advantages and disadvantages and was among the first to predict a conditions, life activities of guerrilla groups for a longer period. He succeeded in it because he was a strong-willed person and a good organizer (f. 166, series 3, case 50, p. 232).

A commander of the Sumy partisan unit staff G. Y. Bazyma also remarked professional advantages of Rudnev. He remembered his organization of the Delyatin breakout in July 1946: ‘The unit commissar comrade Rudnev proposed a bold and decisive plan to go through Delyatyn and cross Prut back to the mountains on the right bank of the Prut River. Although it was clear for us that at the Delyatyn railway junction there was focused an enemy. But on August 3 enemies paid all their attention on our disposition in the mountains, and we witnessed their move from Delyatin all day long across the mountains chains towards Sinechko and chains occupied by our forces on August 3. Proposing the plan to defeat Delyatin, the commissar Rydnev was motivated by the reason that if enemy focused on the mountains he weakened Delyatin defense, thus the attack on Delyatin would be unexpected for enemy for Delyatin was situated at the river valley and our strike would be of great surprise for him and find them all of a sudden. That was why our quick vigorous attack to Delyatin would be unexpected for enemy and the garrison would be wiped out, we would force the river Prut, blow up bridges, land on the right river bank, break away from the enemy, make a small rest while the enemy has been concentrating or regrouping the military forces, and would go further to mountains on the south. The operation to defeat the Delyatin garrison was being prepared in detail. [...]. Operation was scheduled for the 1pm on August 4. The commissar Rudnev paid a specific attention to it. He personally ordered each commander and demanded to make his orders clear to every partisan. At the very start of the operation with squadrons passing by, the commissar talked to combatants, inspired them, told them that we had to defeat and wipe out the enemy in Delyatin. [...] We would cross Prut, have a rest and find a provision to eat if we captured Delyatin. I remember the commissar’s words: ‘That one will win who wield the mountain heights’ (f. 166, series 3, case 49, p. 250–252).

Archival documents witness also the high respect of ordinary partisans to personal and professional skills of their commissar. Thus, a radist G. E. Babiy, the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement envoy to the unit, informed T. A. Strokach in her letter by March 22, 1943: ‘There is only one person here who deserves a thought and gratitude – and it is a commissar Rudnev. Only with him it is possible to discuss and explain everything. It is only him all the combatants are of high respect’ (f. 62, series 1, case 40, p. 119). In a cryptogram of Zagorskyi sent from the Sumy artisan unit to the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement by June 17 1943, we can read: ‘During the raid I spoke to many old partisans. All of them praised Rudnev as a commander, a person and a commissar, and everybody wondered why Kovak, not Rudnev, was a Hero of the Soviet Union’ (f. 62, series 1, case 1308, p. 53). The ‘Pravda’ newspaper correspondent L. Korobov being in the Sumy partisan unit since January 29 1943, was of the same opinion. Informing a commander of the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement T. A. Strokach about his observations, by March 25 1943 he noted that ‘if to speak about commissar Rudnev he is worth the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union without any doubt. […] Rudnev is a real hero. He is always at the forefront, is not afraid of a battle, he is an excellent manager and a very sincere, good man’ (f. 166, series 3, case 51, p. 43–44). Unfortunately, Semen Valyliovych was awarded this title only by January 4, 1944 – posthumously.

Evidences about relationships between Rudnev and the unit commander S. A. Kovpak are very interesting. During the service trip since December 16, 1942 till April 17, 1943 to Ukrainian partisan groups dislocated in Polissya, the writer M. S. Sheremet wrote to M. S. Khruschov in his report by May 13, 1943: ‘The commissar of the partisan unit comrade S. V. Rudnev complements the commander in everything. Vigorous, active partisan nature, an expert on military affairs. Kovpak and Rudnev accumulated a great mixture of Ukrainian partisans with their martial authority’ (f. 1, series 22, case 61, p. 9).

The dialogue of the abovementioned correspondent of ‘Pravda’ newspaper L. Korobov and a commander of the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement T. A. Strokach by March 25, 1943 is of great interest too: ‘Strokach – They say he enjoys more prestige than Kovak? Korobov – It is so among the masses, but among the head staff two of them enjoy the same respect. Maybe, Rudnev enjoyes the great respect with the masses, it is so because he talk to people and take care of them as a commissar. Strokach – If we call Kovpak here for medical treatment, will Rudnev cope with the unit management? Korobov – Without any doubt, he will’ (f. 166, series 3, case 51, p. 44).

We have to note that documents help to trace a strong position of the commander and the commissar, their confidence that they are right including the attitude to the head staff. A radiogram of Kovpak and Rudnev by June 28, 1942 addressed to Stalin (in a copy to Strokach) is of striking evidence: ‘Your 1 May order is not executed. The group of 1 thousand partisans is without ammunition. For a month we ask for a half a million of patrons […] ammunition, explosives. Opponent throws all means to blow the detachment back from the highway Konotop-Vorozhba. Please help’ (f. 63, series 1, case 36, p. 1).

However, according to documents, the commissar had an impact on the unit commander and played a moderating role which was most apparent in the extremely tense situation of the Carpathian raid. We can give relationships between Soviet partisans and Ukrainian nationalists as an example. Rudnev had his own opinion on the matter and stood on his own. By June 25 after a collision with the nationalists while crossing of the Gorin river between villages Korchyn and Zdvyzhdzhe he wrote in his diary: "Kovpak decided [...] to give battle and wipe the village out, which I strongly objected; it's easy and does not require much intelligence, but what about victims from the both sides, the victims of civil persons, children and women. Also, it will benefit Germans who wish to stifle nationalist guerrillas, and vice versa. [...] I decided to go for diplomatic negotiations, wrote a letter and sent it with a girl, the tone of the letter was peaceful. We asked not to obstruct our passage by. Our goal was general one – to beat the Germans, and if they interfered, we would beat’. Then, after the successful negotiations he resumed: ‘Our diplomacy ended in bloodless victory. For the first time the population stayed at homes and poured into the streets. It was a huge political victory, which showed that between Soviet partisans and Ukrainian people there were unity and one purpose, the purpose to destroy fascism. [...] This success was hard to gain, especially for me, did not sleep for two nights, barely ate for two days, and when the question regarding the river crossing arose, Kovpak and I had different opinions on the matter, he insisted to take the battle and defeat the village, I was against it standing for the peaceful resolution of the issue, as the fight might drag on and there would be victims, especially [among] the civilian population, and with this battle we would give a trump card in the hands of the Germans. There was a great, a very great argument on the matter. But my point [of view] won: we crossed without any victims, let the fascists go mad. We need to conduct [such a] policy: to beat the Germans together and live separately, we know our political goals. Our bloodless diplomatic victory was a brilliant maneuver, but how many nerves and blood I lost myself. It turned out that you should be not only very competent in military and political affairs, but also to use "diplomacy". Combatants laugh there is a need to write the third volume of diplomacy’ (f. 63, series 1, case 85, p. 28back, 29-30back).

Nevertheless, both leaders were aware of the importance of their work and a huge responsibility to the partisans and it conduced a closer cooperation and understanding between them.

Semen Vasyliovych Rudnev died August 4, 1943 during a breakout from the enemy surround near the city Delyatyn. The partisans of the unit, transcripts of whose conversations are preserved in the fond of Commission on the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, highlighted this tragic event. In particular, a commander of Krolevets artizan group P. A. Brajko remembered: ‘In this battle, there was killed our beloved commissar Semen Vasyliovych Rudnev. Before the fight Rudnev said that the only way out was the output from the city Delyatyn. ‘We have to break through. There is no time to think about death, maybe, now I am standing here and speaking to you but my tomorrow will never come. Life or death’. Rudnev died in the fight outside the town. We seek for him for a long time but have not found’ (f. 166, series 3, case 47, p. 152). A commissar of the unit battery O. B. Nepomniashyi told about the Delyatin fight and Rudnev’s death: ‘After the information about the tasks to do, commissar Rudnev said to combatants and commanders: ‘In this crucial battle we have to go forward and only forward, for it is a question of life and death of our Kovpak unit.’ Soldiers and commanders were inspired by true command solution and during night, crossing the forest, came close to the town of Delyatyn and defeated it. [...] I was together with the artillery battery staff as a political instructor. Commissar Rudnev was very pleased with the progress of military operation in Delyatyn. He crossed the Prut River with us and went to the village of Bili Oslavy. And it was here in the morning we took a brutal fight. Commissar Rudnev wanted to organize divisions to dislodge the Germans from the dominant heights on both sides of the highway Delyatyn – Colomya and win those heights. He ordered commanders to take the defense, but that time enemy aircraft appeared, and Rudnev was seriously wounded and died shortly after it. I personally did not see, so said the men who were close to him’ (f. 166, series. 3, case 4, pp. 136-137).

The first official notice of the death of S. Rudnev appeared in mid-August. By August 12, 1943 there was sent a radiogram from the Sumy partisan unit to the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement signed by Zagorskyi: ‘Rudnev is wounded and it is unknown where he is’ (f. 62, series 1, case 1308, pp. 56). Kovpak reported in a radiogram addressed to the Ukrainian head-quarters of partisan movement by August 15, 1943: ‘We do not know where commissar Rudnev is, there is no communication, applied measures [to] restore communication’ (f. 63, series 1, case 3, pp. 179back-180).

By 27 August he had already informed Khrushchev and Strokach in a radiogram about the circumstances of his death: ‘According to a Glukhiv p[artisan] g[roup] soldier it was reported that by August 5 during a fight near the town of Delyatyn the commissar Semen Vasyliovych Rudnev was wounded in the leg and arm. A commandant, two nurses and four soldiers were with him. I sent a group of soldiers of the second battalion to take [them] to the division dislocation but they failed to find neither Rudnev, nor combatants at the place, and tracing measures had no results’ (f. 63, series 1, case 36, pp. 47).

Documents proposed for a review are only a small part of the materials concentrated in fonds of the TsDAGO of Ukraine. They highlight mostly personal and professional features of S. V. Rudnev. In general, the archives store a large number of documents relating to the activities of S. V. Rudnev during World War II. They are kept in the collections of the Sumy partisan unit (f. 63), the Ukrainian Partisan Movement Headquarters (f. 62), the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (f. 1, series 22), the Commission on the Hhistory of World War II (f. 166, series 3), a personal fond of S. A. Kovpak (f. 241), and in the collections of some partisan formations operated in the occupied territory of Ukraine. They can form the basis of the source base for biographical studies of the legendary partisan leader during World War II.

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