Fighting Behind Enemy Lines
The struggle against the German Army and its allies on the Eastern front was fought not only at the front, but also behind enemy lines. The brutal regime of occupation and patriotic feelings drove Russian people into underground resistance in cities or partisan groups operating mainly in forests. They were engaged in anti-fascist propaganda, carried out reconnaissance on behalf of the Red Army and assisted it in any possible way, staged numerous acts of sabotage. The total number of resistance fighters is estimated at around 1.3 million people. Over 128,000 of them were awarded with orders and medals. 248 people received the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Partisans derailed about 20,000 trains, killed or captured 650,000 enemy soldiers and officers during the war. Partisan groups operated in vast rural areas in the rear of German army. The occupation administration often could not maintain control over those territories.
The partisan movement began to take shape in the summer of 1941. A pivotal role was played by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). It sent numerous sabotage groups behind enemy lines. The Central Headquarters of the Partisan Movement was established in May 1942. Its task was the coordination of struggle behind enemy lines. From isolated acts of sabotage in the first year of the war the partisans eventually moved to coordinated operations. Partisans were especially active in the wooden area at the junction of Belarus, Ukraine, and the Oryol and Bryansk regions of the Russia.
One of the most significant actions of partisans was codenamed the Rail War. It was aimed to disrupt the Germans’ railway communications. It started on the night from August 3 to August 4, 1943. At that time the Red Army was exploiting its success in the Battle of Kursk. A total of 1,350 km of railway tracks were blown up. Next large operation was named the Concert. It was conducted during the Battle of the Dnieper in September-October 1943. Partisans destroyed 148,000 rails, thereby reducing the capacity of railroads by 40 percent.