1942: Vasily Klubkov, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya’s betrayer

2 comments April 16th, 2013 Headsman

We’ve 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 behind enemy lines.

Zoya’s story became known after the Red Army recaptured village of Petrishchevo, where she was hanged. A January 27, 1942 Pravda article recounted the gallows defiance of the young guerrilla, whom villagers knew only by her nom de guerre, “Tanya”. She had withstood German torture, refused to give them any information, and at her hanging incited her countrymen and -women to resist the invaders. She’s still to this day a beloved national martyr in Russia, which is why she’s also an Ace in our execution playing cards.

The young woman on the gallows, and in the ghastly post-mortem pictures with her left breast mutilated swiftly became propaganda grist for Moscow.

Zoya’s instant Joan of Arc-like legend invited investigation of the precise circumstances of her capture and death … and this in turn meant extremely dangerous scrutiny for any Soviet citizen in her environs whose behavior in those last days could be held to be in any way sub-heroic.

This brings us to today’s unfortunate entry, Vasily Klubkov, a humble mail-sorter before the war whose picture belongs in the dictionary next to “poor luckless sod.” Just him, Zoya, and everyone else on the terrible Eastern Front.

It was on this date* in 1942 that Klubkov paid the penalty for Zoya’s sacrifice.

Vasily Klubkov and Boris Krainov were other partisans who had been detailed along with Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya to torch some enemy assets on the same mission around Petrishchevo. Practically children all, they each acted independently from the others; long story short, Zoya and Vasily Klubkov were both captured.

Zoya fiercely endured every torture the Germans could throw at her, but Klubkov was made of softer stuff. When an officer pointed a gun at his head and demanded some answers, Klubkov started talking.

“I was a coward,” he later admitted. “I was scared I would be shot.”

Now, this admission very much against his own safety was made to the NKVD in March 1942, and since we already know that Vasily Klubkov was the sort to fold under torture, we can well imagine that the NKVD also got whatever it wanted out of the misfortunate young man. Considering the politicized quality of the trial and the circumstances of the “confession,” it has to be treated with caveats.

Under NKVD pressure, Klubkov signed off on a version of events that just so happened to mesh beautifully with the iconography already forming around the hanged “Tanya”: namely, that he was brought face-to-face with his fellow-prisoner and confirmed her identity, whereas she refused to breathe a word to her captors; that he saw her stripped naked and bashed with truncheons for hours and still summon the fortitude to refuse her interrogators the least satisfaction. Pavel Klubkov gave posterity firsthand evidence of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya’s heroism in captivity.

“Klubkov may have been telling the truth, since it’s easy to imagine a terrified teenager on his first mission agreeing to his German captors’ demands,” notes Andrew Nagorski in The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II. “But there’s no way of knowing for sure how he really behaved, since he surely was just as terrified when he was interrogated by the NKVD. Or how much of what he said about Zoya was accurate, since the NKVD may already have been preparing the transcript with the idea of her elevation to mythic status.”

Heck, the reason the NKVD even had Klubkov to interrogate was that he escaped German custody, another big character red flag as far as the Soviets were concerned. That he escaped from the same custody that martyred Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya probably sealed his fate before he received his first pistol-whipping. NKVD records paint a kid who has already given up.

Well he might have. The verdict of the court was surely ordained from the start, but it was formally delivered on April 3: “Execution by shooting, without confiscation of property due to its absence.”

* Though there are some cites for April 3 out there, it appears that April 3 was the date of his conviction by a military tribunal and April 16 his execution date. This is a bit of a protracted delay by wartime Soviet tribunal standards, but then, Klubkov would have been a person of relevance to the state itself. The highest-ranking official who thought he could approve Klubkov’s execution without asking anyone else might have been a little further up the food chain than for your run-of-the-mill deserter.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,History,Notable for their Victims,Occupation and Colonialism,Russia,Shot,Soldiers,Torture,USSR,Wartime Executions

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1942: Klava Nazarova, Hero of the Soviet Union

Add comment December 12th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1942, Klava Nazarova and five other Soviet partisans were hanged by the Wehrmacht in and around Ostrov.


Image from a fantastic collection of illustrations of Soviet female heroes at this Dutch-language forum thread.

Nazarova was a 21-year-old Komsomol member in the town of Ostrov when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

The Germans overran Ostrov’s Pskov oblast en route to Leningrad for that city’s legendary siege, leaving Nazarova to apply her leadership talents to the finer points of partisan warfare.

She was captured with five other resistance members in November 1942, and the six executed in a traveling spectacle of the macabre this date: Nazarova and another young woman, Nura Ivanova, were hanged together in the main square of Ostrov; then, the party rolled out to the neighboring village of Nogino for the hanging of a middle-aged husband-and-wife couple; last, Nikolai Mikhailov and Konstantin Dmitriev got that treatment in yet another nearby village, Ryadobzha.

Klava Nazarova is one of three women from the Great Patriotic War designated as Heroes of the Soviet Union. (The others are Maria Kislyak and Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya.) We think it meet to mark her martyrdom to the strains of the great Soviet war anthem “Svyaschennaya Voyna” (“Holy War”).

Rise up, huge country,
Rise up for a fight to the death!
With the dark fascist force,
With the damned horde.

[audio:http://download.sovmusic.ru/m/saintwar.mp3]

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Russia,Soldiers,Torture,USSR,Wartime Executions,Women

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Seven Generic Halloween Costumes You Can Spice Up With an Execution Story

5 comments October 22nd, 2008 Headsman

Executed Today’s Guide to Halloween, Part II (Click here for Part I.)

Not enough time to assemble an individual masterpiece to play Halloween make-believe? Looking at that off-the-rack costume, that witch outfit from last year, and sighing that it’ll have to do?

No sweat.

Let Executed Today help you go from so generic to sui generis with a horrible backstory that adds conversation-starting depth to the most bland of disguises.

Witch

The Halloween standby has a few hundred thousand real-life executions of which we’ve covered a bare handful.

Anne de Chartraine, a Walloon teenager burnt for witchcraft during the Thirty Years’ War, makes a good characterization of the classic black-hat-and-broomstick outfit.

More complex occultist disguises might consider presenting themselves as poisoner La Voisin, author Jacques Cazotte or the Weirs.

Pirate

Avast, ye sea-dog — there be more pirates than Blackbeard.

Men (especially leftists, anarchists and Bostonians — but I repeat myself) will enjoy answering the inevitable question when representing as William Fly. Ladies — think Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Ghost

Appropriately, the Great White North has interesting specters to round out the old white-sheet look. Haunt the scene of the kegstand as Madame Marie Josephte Corriveau or assassin Patrick Whelan.

Roman

Cicero is an obvious choice for the toga set, but consider writing Catiline on the nametag instead.

For the whole centurion look, call yourself Sejanus and start settling scores.

Soldier

There are many military looks for many times and places, of course, lots of them liable to be politically touchy in the wrong crowd.

Partisans like Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya and Evagoras Pallikarides cut heroic figures with a plain set of clothes, some basic military gear, and a knapsack full of consonants.

More formally equipped modern-ish choices of various different lands include Francisco Caamano, Breaker Morant, Mikhael Tukhachevsky, Claus von Stauffenberg, Dmytro Bilinchuk, Emil August Fieldorf, and Theophile Maupas et al.

Werewolf

This blog will always have a special place at the stake for supposed real-life lycanthrope Peter Stubbe, the “Werewolf of Bedburg” who was profiled in our very first post: he was executed October 31, 1589.

Executioner

Of course, there is one ubiquitous character in these pages — and his face isn’t always well-hidden.

Klutzy Brit Jack Ketch, prolific French Revolution headsman Sanson, U.S. President Grover Cleveland and (helpfully, for Halloween) flamboyantly costumed Italian executioner Mastro Titta are among the famous characters to tread the scaffold boards.

Creative Commons pumpkin image courtesy of fabbio

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1941: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya

11 comments 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.


Soviet propaganda poster unabashedly modeled on the already-iconic image of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya’s abused corpse.

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

Part of the Themed Set: Women Against Fascism.

On this day..

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

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