Themed Set: Women Against Fascism 1944: Lilo Gloeden, Erich Gloeden and Elisabeth Kuznitzky

1941: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya

November 29th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1941, Soviet partisan Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was hanged by the Wehrmacht for sabotaging buildings behind German lines near Moscow.

A statue of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya stands vigil over Moscow’s World War II-era Partizanskaya metro station. Image used with permission.

One of the most famous Soviet war heroines and the first woman decorated as Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II, the 18-year-old had quit school to volunteer for a partisan unit only a few weeks before her hanging as Russia mobilized against Hitler’s race towards Moscow.

Known simply as “Tanya”, the nom de guerre which was the only information she volunteered during two days of torture, the power of the press offered her apotheosis into a propaganda coup for the Kremlin, and a symbol of courage that would long outlive Stalin. Before the public execution, the Nazis paused to photograph the scene; Kosmodemyanskaya availed the lull to harangue the Germans — “you can’t hang all 190 million of us!” — and call on the Russian villagers present to resist occupation.

Her bayoneted, mutilated body hung on the gibbet until the Red Army recaptured the village; witnesses related the tale of her dying heroism to a newsman.

It was only after the story of “Tanya” hit the press in January 1942 that her identity was established … and then promulgated widely. Anonymous and obscure in death, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya would inspire millions and become the heroic emblem of other women partisans.

Zoya, a 1944 Soviet film, was scored by Dmitri Shostakovich.

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Part of the Themed Set: Women Against Fascism.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arson,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Famous Last Words,Germany,Gibbeted,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Martyrs,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Power,Public Executions,Russia,Soldiers,Torture,USSR,Wartime Executions,Women

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11 Responses to “1941: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya”

  1. 1
    Dmitri Minaev Says:

    Thanks for remembering Zoya…

    I added some more words to this story here: November 29 in Russian history

  2. 2
    Yugo Istay Says:

    Thank you for remembering Zoya. She was not just a hero to the Soviet Union, she was an example of courage in the face of evil whose story should be told forever. How many women have faced such as Zoya and refused to surrender their comrades and efforts to defeat fascism. God Bless Zoya.

  3. 3 » Seven Generic Halloween Costumes You Can Spice Up With an Execution Story Says:

    [...] like Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya and Evagoras Pallikarides cut heroic figures with a plain set of clothes, some basic military gear, [...]

  4. 4 » Themed Set: Russian Revolutions That Weren’t Says:

    [...] by ideology or merely driven to the wall by the Hobson’s choice between collaboration and resistance in a war between two of history’s cruelest state edifices, some set of people will always be [...]

  5. 5 » 1941: Masha Bruskina, Kiril Trus, and Volodia Shcherbatsevich, partisans Says:

    [...] and resisted identifying her because of it — while an ethnically Russian female partisan like Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya could be more conveniently accepted as a heroine. Maybe, but bureaucratic inertia and simple [...]

  6. 6 » Executed Today’s Second Annual Report: Once Bitten, Twice Die Says:

    [...] 10. November 29, 1941: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya [...]

  7. 7 » Executed Today’s Third Annual Report: Third Time Lucky Says:

    [...] of him. 19. Jan. 31, 1945: Private Eddie Slovik – The last U.S. soldier executed for desertion 20. Nov. 29, 1941: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya – Famed teenage anti-Nazi partisan 21. Feb. 17, 2004: Cameron Todd Willingham – He’s the [...]

  8. 8 » 1946: Andrei Vlasov, turncoat Soviet general Says:

    [...] Russians fighting for their country’s self-determination free of Uncle Joe. By hanging other Russians from [...]

  9. 9 » 1933: The “killers” of Pavlik Morozov Says:

    [...] Cult of Pavlik declined significantly once World War II began and there were other young heroes to exalt, and even more so after Stalin’s death. Still, even into the 1980s public [...]

  10. 10 » 1942: Vasily Klubkov, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya’s betrayer Says:

    [...] touched in these pages — one of our earliest posts, in fact — on Soviet war heroine Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a teenager executed by the advancing German army in November 1941 for conducting partisan attacks [...]

  11. 11
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