Masters of Propaganda to the end….

Around 60 million people had perished by the end of the Soviet union in 1991, and although Glasnost and Perestroika were beginning by the end of the communist era to bring some things into the light and to allow the public a measure of “questionment” of the party line, there was still a shadow cast by the iron curtain.  When we think of the Soviet Union, we know that they, the party were great creators of propaganda, and distributed it freely to mask the poverty and wholesale slaughter during the war, and in the postwar years.  Propaganda was used heavily, in every walk of life, from stamps to magazines to buildings (yes buildings!) and of course the posters synonymous with Soviet Russia.  The heavy red and black tones on white/yellowish paper that were more through necessity than propgandistic power; the reasoning was more behind the need to supply ink and press equipment, to do these posters as rudimentary schemes were used (the heavy block colours also helped to fix the images firmly in peoples minds, such as using red for soviet soldiers etc… a greta thing for areas of low literacy).    I won’t pretend this article is making any great revelations, but I think this and reading this article in the Daily Mail: which shows heavily stocked shelves, happy laughing people, and young socialist-socialites in glorious techni-colour….. may prompt people to have a peruse over something they once before may have thought uninteresting. In this article they have cursorily glanced through the propaganda used in the Soviet Unions key magazine; one could almost liken it to a Communist Hello, or possibly Vogue it shows of polit-bureau members and other people, as well as glorifying the Soviet Unions achievements, it is difficult to pin down as we no longer really have such a broadly propagandistic magazine.   A good read and likely to wet your appetite to take things further.



Minsk Partisan…..


Commander of Radio Operations at Minsk Partisan Headquarters; Pavel Vishnivetskiy.

Little is known about Pavel (anglicised it would be read as Paul), except that from the paperwork, he joined the Minsk Partisans as a “Commander of the Communications Centre” in September 1943, and left them in July 1944, presumably the Partisan units were stood down when Soviet forces re-captured Minsk in July.


After the war we know that he also worked as a Radio operator working in the Magadan Oblast region (Magadan being temporarily sanctioned a “Potemkin village” in 1944).  Magadan post war was a centre for forced labour gold mining.  The only airport in the area was “Magadan 13”, the airport handled primarily only Ilyushin ll-14 aircraft, he was awarded the “Flight Radio Operators Badge”, for 3000 hours safe flying in 1989. This overall is all I know about Pavel, other than his name shows he was most likely Jewish, and from this we can theorise that he may have been in the Minsk Ghetto, accounting for his late deployment to the Minsk Partisan units, he might well have been working in the underground in the Ghetto prior to this, with the date of 1943, being the year of the liquidation of the Ghetto, and of many thousands of people being sent to camps and executed.



The Minsk ghetto, held close to 100,000 people, most of whom perished in the Holocaust, around 10,000 people escaped to join resistance forces and fight for their freedom.   The Minsk partisans have found fame in films such as “Come and See” and “Defiance”.

“In August 1941 about 231 partisan detachments were operating already in Belarus. The units totalled 437 by the end of the 1941, comprising more than 7,200 personnel.  As the front line moved further away, the logistical conditions steadily worsened for the partisan units, as the resources ran out, and there was no wide-scale support from over the front line until March 1942. One outstanding difficulty was the lack of radio communication, which wasn’t addressed until April 1942. The support of the local people was also insufficient.  So, for several months, partisan units in Belarus were virtually left to themselves. Especially difficult for the partisans was the winter of 1941-1942, with severe shortages in ammunition, medicine and supplies. The actions of partisans were prevailingly uncoordinated.  In Belarus, the SS-Sonderbataillon “Dirlewanger” came under the command of Central Russia’s Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer, Erich von dem Bach Zelewski. The “Dirlewanger” resumed anti-partisan duties in this area, working in cooperation with the Kaminski Brigade for the first time. Its conduct in the Soviet Union, rather than improving, worsened and atrocities were a daily occurrence. It is estimated that 200 villages were burned and 120,000 civilians were killed during the actions involving the Dirlewanger in Belarus 1942-1944.  The turning point in the development of the Soviet partisan movement came with the opening of the Vitsyebsk gate, the corridor connecting the Soviet and German-occupied territories, in February 1942. The partisan units were included in the overall Soviet strategical developments shortly after that, and the centralized organizational and logistical support had been organized, with Gate’s existence being the very important facilitating factor. As early as the spring of 1942 the Soviet partisans were able to effectively harass German troops and significantly hamper their operations in the region.

In the Spring 1942, the aggregation of the smaller partisan units into brigades began, prompted by the experience of the first year of war. The coordination, numerical build-up, structural rework and now established logistical feed all translated to the greatly increased partisan units military capability, which showed, e.g., in the increased number of diversions on the railroads, reaching hundreds of engines and thousands of cars destroyed by the end of the year.  By the November of 1942, Soviet partisan units in Belarus numbered about 47,000 personnel.  In January 1943, out of 56,000 partisan personnel, 11,000 were operating in the West Belarus.

The build-up of the Soviet partisan force in the West Belarus was ordered and implemented during 1943, with nine brigades, 10 detachments and 15 operational groups transferred from the Eastern to Western lands, effectively tripling the Partisan force there (to 36,000 in December 1943). It is estimated that ~10,000-12,000 personnel were transferred, and about same number came from the local volunteers. The build-up of the military force was complemented by the ensuing build-up of the underground Communist Party structures and propaganda activity.  In the Fall 1943, the partisan force in BSSR totaled about 153,000, and by the end 1943 about 122,000, with about 30,000 put behind the front line in the course of liberation of eastern parts of BSSR (end 1943). The partisan movement was so strong that by 1943-1944 there were entire regions in occupied Belarus, where Soviet authority was re-established deep inside the German held territories.”

However from research conducted by my friend Sergio Rustichelli, to whom I would like to place my thanks on record, it would appear that despite a Jewish sounding surname he may not have been a Ghetto inmate at all, in fact it seems likely that he was a Russian Air force member.

“Once through its connected Paul learned that in prison Komarichsky contains two Soviet pilots who were shot down in a serious condition and taken to jail. Nezymaev won permission from the district authorities to survey the prison.  On examination, the doctor gave the conclusion that the pilots Starostin and Wisniewski need hospital treatment. A few days later the two pilots were taken to hospital. After recovery, they were transferred to the guerrilla group.”

And so it would appear that he was a crew member, possibly a radio operator judging by his qualification badge.  He appears to have been shot down, or crashed, wounded and then have joined the Partisans later on, which would explain his rise in the ranks quickly, his position and why his service started so abruptly.

Taking tea with the enemy……

Sergeant Thomas James Sevier MM, MSM 2/3rd South Midland Field Ambulance R.A.M.C. (T.F.)


Seargent Sevier had an interesting war; he had served through the Battle of the Ancre winning a military medal for rescuing wounded men under heavy shell fire near Beaumont Hamel on the 16th of November 1917.   It is his post war service however that is most interesting, not much is noted about the Royal Army Medical Corps involvement in the North Russian campaigns in 1919, however the citation that Thomas receives show that the front was an interesting place to be….

“Meritorious Service Medal” awarded on the 30th September 1919 (Archangel Command, Russia), for:

“This N.C.O has performed meritorious service in the DVINA force. Practically the whole time he has been the senior N.C.O. in the forward hospital at TOULGAS. On one occasion when the hospital was captured by the enemy, by his presence of mind, in remaining with the patients, he protected them when threatened, and persuaded the enemy to sit down to tea, until the village was recaptured.”

It does make you think that this must have been an absurd sight to see Bolshevik forces drinking tea with a British Sergeant and wounded men….

The town of Toulgas, was fought over fiercely by British and American troops and was taken and recaptured several times during 1919, with rumours abounding of Leon Trotsky even being present with troops.   The hospital was situated at the North end of Toulgas was near the Dvina river, and only 200 miles from Archangel.

For information on the battles at Toulgas:

Video of Toulgas and troops:



Whilst digging through my record boxes, I found the original personal commendation for bravery presented to Thomas Sevier by the Major-General, officer commanding of the 61st (South Midland) Division.


It says:


This parchment has been awarded to no. 439298

Sergeant Thomas James Sevier 2/3rd South Midland Field Ambulance R.A.M.C. (T.F.)

In recognition of the act of gallantry that he performed on 8th December 1917 near Viliers Plough.

During the day the shellfire was so severe that the wounded in the dressing station (Charing Cross S.W. of Beaucamp) had to be moved on five occasions.  This was done under very heavy shell fire.  Owing to the personal courage of this N.C.O. the transference of these cases was effected without further casualties.

On another occasion this Sergeant was blown over by a shell whilst assisting Ptes. HISCOCK and WILSON to carry in some wounded lying outside the advanced dressing station at Charing Cross.

This certificate issued in appreciation of the act, but does not entitle or qualify the recipient to any reward, extra emolument or pension.


Signed Major – General,

Comdg 61st (South Midland) Division.