Images of Soviet pioneers and Young Communists (members of the Komsomol Organization), who sacrificed their lives in their struggle against fascism, were pure and full of heroism 20 years ago. When the USSR collapsed, some analysts shed new light on ‘true events’ of those days.
Soviet heroes were presented to the general public from a considerably different point of view. Their images were marred with shameful details; some researchers said that they were not filled with patriotism at the moment when they were committing their legendary deeds. They attempted to blacken the image and story of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya too.
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, an iconic woman in the history of the Great Patriotic War, was fighting against Nazi invaders like a true partisan, but was later captured, tortured and hanged.
She was the first woman, who was awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union during the era of the Great Patriotic War. Her legend still lives in the hearts and minds of many people, especially among war veterans.
According to official documents, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was born on September 13, 1923 in Russia’s Tambov region and died on November 29, 1941 in the village of Petrischevo, the Moscow region. The title of the Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to her on February 16, 1942, posthumously.
Zoya’s grandfather was a priest. He was captured and murdered by Bolsheviks in August of 1918. The son of the murdered priest, Anatoly, Zoya’s father, was working as a teacher in the village.
Zoya was a six-year-old girl, when the period of collectivization began. The girl’s father dared to criticize the new order and was subsequently exiled from the village to Siberia with other families.
The exiled family had relatives in Moscow, who later helped them move from Siberia to the capital of the USSR.
In 1940, Zoya suffered from acute meningitis and was then sent to a Moscow resort home to recover. The war broke out the following year.
Documents say that Kosmodemyanskaya finished the Central Intelligence School in October of 1941 and volunteered to join a partisan group.
She was executing her last task in the village of Petrischevo, the Moscow region. Zoya and her two comrades, were spying on a group of Nazi servicemen and intended to burn the houses in which the Nazis were going to stay for the night.
The partisans fulfilled their mission, but the Nazi soldiers managed to escape from the burning houses. Zoya lost her two comrades during the operation, but decided to continue with the arsons. The fascist Germans and the local citizens were on high alter at that moment. Zoya was captured when she was trying to set fire to a barn.
The commanding officer himself interrogated Zoya, speaking in Russian.
"Who are you?" asked the colonel. "I won't tell." "Was it you who set fire to the stables?" "Yes." "What is your aim?" "To destroy you." ...Silence... "When did you cross the front line?" "On Friday." "You got here too soon for that." "Why waste time?"
They asked Zoya who sent her and who came with her. They demanded that she should tell them who her comrades were. Through the door came her answers: No; I don't know; I won't tell. Then belts hissed through the air, and one could hear them lacerating the bare flesh. After a few minutes a young officer jumped out of the room into the kitchen, buried his head in his hands and sat thus till the end of the interrogation, his eyes shut and his fingers plugging his ears. But those, who beat Zoya were laughing. The owners of the house counted two hundred blows. Not a sound came from Zoya. And afterwards she again said: No; I won't tell; only her voice sounded fainter.
She was executed the next morning. The woman was taken to the gallows having a board with the inscription “Arsonist” hanging from her neck. Before she died, Zoya said:
"Comrades! Why are you so gloomy? I am not afraid to die! I am happy to die for my people! Be brave, fight the Germans, burn them, poison them! My death is my advantage!”
A German standing next to her tried to hit her on her mouth, but she warded off his blow and turning to the soldiers shouted:
"You'll hang me now, but I am not alone. There are two hundred million of us, and you can't hang us all. My comrades will avenge my death. Germans, surrender before it is too late. Victory will be ours !"
Zoya’s body was hanging in the village for about a month. German soldiers would abuse the body when passing through the village. A group of drunk Nazi soldiers pulled clothes off the body on the eve of 1942 and abused Kosmodemyanskaya’s body again having stabbed it many times.
The gallows were then removed, and the village folk buried Zoya on a local graveyard. When the war ended, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was reburied at a large graveyard in the center of Moscow.
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya became known in the USSR after a publication in the Pravda newspaper in January of 1942. The author of the article, Pyotr Lidov, incidentally heard a story about a courageous young woman from a witness, elderly peasant.
“They were hanging her, but she was speaking, they were hanging her but she was threatening them,” the eye-witness of Zoya’s execution said.
Lidov went to the village of Petrischevo and subsequently published the article in the January 27, 1942, issue of the newspaper. The woman was later identified, and the whole Soviet Union learned about Zoya’s heroic deed.
The new shocking information about Zoya appeared in the press during and after Gorbachev’s perestroika. Some publications said that Zoya supposedly had schizophrenia. Other pieces of information said that it was not Zoya, but another young partisan, a female named as Lilia Azolina, who committed the legendary deed.
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya is still remembered in Russia. Her name can be found on countless memorials and monuments all across Russia. Many Russian streets and squares still have her name.
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