Contrary to popular belief, the occupation regime in the territories seized by the Nazis was not the same everywhere. There were areas with varying degrees of independence. The most famous so-called. Lokotskaya republic, in whose territory almost 600 thousand people lived. The “Zueva Republic” is less known (due to its smaller scale), but no less interesting.
Drang nah Osten
Byelorussia end of summer - beginning of autumn 1941. German soldiers briskly walk along Russian roads. A few more weeks - and the war will end. Month, from the strength of two. The soldiers believe in the military genius of the Fuhrer, whom they adore. The generals do not doubt the victory, although many of them are already tormented by a worm of doubt: the troops are not moving as fast as we would like, and the losses are higher than planned. Apparently, the victory will not be so quick and not so easy.
Where did elders come from
Capturing vast territories, the Wehrmacht moved forward, leaving small settlements in the settlements of strategic importance (bridge, road, warehouses, railway junction), headed by orts commanders. Arriving in some distant village, the commandant appointed the headman from among those who expressed a desire to cooperate with the new government, or simply the first old man with a military bearing. After leaving home, the commandant preferred to make such voyages as seldom as possible because of their danger. In many villages lost in the wilderness, the Germans have seen 1-2 times during the entire war, or even never. Often the peasants themselves put forward a respected fellow villager as a candidate for the post of elder.
Therefore, when Mikhail Zuev appeared in Polotsk and introduced himself as the elected headman of the village of Zaskorki, the commandant did not see anything unusual in that and approved him in the position. Very soon, the Zasorki elder drew the attention of the commandant, and the name Zuev often flashed in the documents of the Polotsk commandant's office.
The village of Zaskorki was inhabited by the Old Believers. The community, united by common faith and many years of persecution by secular and ecclesiastical authorities, in the conditions of a vacuum, the authorities quickly organized themselves and advanced from their midst a leader who possesses the necessary abilities and is ready to accept the “burden of power”. Mikhail Yevseyevich Zuev was earnestly a believer, for which he suffered twice from Soviet power. For “anti-Soviet agitation” (and actually for religious propaganda), Zuev served a total of 8 years, returned to his native village in 1940 year. His two sons were also arrested and convicted, but they did not return home - they perished in the camps. So it is not surprising that at the village meeting the community chose him as its head and handed over the full power in the village.
Zuev, who had practical wisdom and decisively, distributed collective farm land on shares, restored the Old Believers Church. The peasants were satisfied and dreamed of living a quiet, peaceful life in conditions of maximum self-isolation from the outside world. But Zuev understood that even in a bearish corner it would not be possible to sit out from the terrible war and waited for the war to come to Zorkorki when this would happen. And it happened.
In November 1941 of the year 7 of armed men came to Zorkorki, declaring themselves partisans. Who were these people is impossible to say. How many sources, so many versions:
1. The Red Army soldiers, who did not change the oath.
2. Convinced communists and Komsomol members fighting for Soviet power.
3. Russian patriots who fought against the invaders.
4. The employees of repressive bodies who had not evacuated had nothing to “catch” under the new government.
5. Deserters and felons who have committed robbery under the guise of partisans.
Whoever these people are, they needed food. Moreover, they were going to make Zaskorki their base. Zuev laid the table, set a bottle of moonshine, and secretly sent his daughter to collect old people. While the guests ate and drank, the crowd consulted how to proceed. They decided to kill the aliens, weapon to hide.
1941. The war with the partisans
Soon the armed people came again, and again they asked for bread and meat. Zuev gave the request and asked not to come again. But they came. This time, except for Zuev, partisans were met by village men armed with captured weapons. Guests had to leave with nothing. In the evening, Zuev handed out weapons to young guys, set patrols. The partisans who came at night met with gunfire.
Realizing that the village is unlikely to be left alone, Zuev set about organizing a self-defense detachment and drove the partisans a few more times. Soon, walkers from two nearby villages, also inhabited by Old Believers, arrived in Zaskorki and asked to be taken under protection. The population of the “Zuev Republic” exceeded thousands of people for 3. A permanent combat core was created, a surveillance and warning system was developed. Secrets were exhibited around each village.
By December, the number of repulsed attacks reached 15. Began running out of ammo. They could only be taken from the occupiers. In December 20, Zuev went to Polotsk to ask the Germans for ammunition.
In union with the Germans
So, the headman of a village lost in the forests came to the Polotsk commandant and asked for weapons and ammunition to fight the partisans. It is clear that the commandant met the request with caution: it is still unknown who Russian men will shoot from rifles issued to them. But on the other hand, there is a great opportunity to clear the area of partisans by the forces of the Russians themselves!
After long hesitations and several meetings, contrary to all prohibitions, the commander of Polotsk, Colonel von Nikish, issued Zuev 50 rifles and several boxes of ammunition. Zuev, in turn, promised to establish regular supplies of provisions to the occupying authorities and ensure the absence of guerrillas in the territory under his jurisdiction.
Having received the weapon, the Zuev people felt much more confident. The Hungarians, who were standing in Polotsk, had a resourceful headman who traded Soviet machineguns for 4 products. "Self-defense forces" became known as the "army". Discipline in the "army" was harsh. Punished for the slightest offense - they put him in bread and water in a cold cellar, they flogged me. For serious misdemeanors, a meeting of selected respected old men was judged, which also handed down death sentences.
1942. Between the Germans and the partisans
A few more villages were asked in the “Zuev Republic”, representatives of the villages that were under the control of the partisans also appealed. At the beginning of 1942, Zuev with his “army” made a raid on remote villages, expelling partisans who had settled there. The territory of the republic has expanded. According to the descriptions of officer Abwehr Karov who visited the “republic”, each village was surrounded by barbed wire, a bunker stood at the gate leading to the village, where a fighter with a gun was constantly on duty. There were secrets around the village, with which the boys-messengers kept in touch. After several major battles, the partisan detachments stopped alarming the “republic”. Zuev, in response, pointedly did not notice the partisans operating in the neighboring area, refused to give out his people to participate in anti-partisan actions, avoided contacts with the SD and the Gestapo.
A certain balance was also established between Polotsk and Zaksorki: Zuev regularly supplied the authorities with bread, meat, milk, wool, hay, firewood, and ensured calm and order in his area. The commandant did not interfere in the internal affairs of the "republic", completely leaving them under the jurisdiction of Zuev. The only clause that Zuev did not regularly fulfill was the obligation to release the prisoners of partisans. The Zasorki elder did not betray a single person, preferring to decide their own fate. Who was shot, who was released, and who went into the "republican army."
The events of May 1942 showed how fragile this steady state balance was.
Incident with the SS police battalion
In May, an Estonian SS police battalion approached the village of 1942, the purpose of which was to search for and destroy partisans. The battalion met Zuev told the officer that there was no partisan in the territory he controlled and there was nothing for the battalion to do. If the SS guards try to enter any of the “Zuev” villages, they will be provided with armed resistance by the forces of the self-defense detachments. The policemen had to leave. In the morning Zuev went to Polotsk, where he informed the commandant of the incident and asked for protection. The colonel immediately contacted the command of the police battalion so that the incident would not continue. But this, as it turned out, was not the worst incident.
As a "republic" nearly rebelled
In the summer of 1942, the leadership changed in Polotsk. The new commandant gathered the elders and demanded an increase in the volume of food supplies and a merciless fight against the guerrillas. In the case of the slightest disobedience threatened to burn the village, and the inhabitants to steal in Germany. Although Zuev never disrupted supplies, he did not feel confident in his safety. At the end of August, a messenger rode on a horse at Zaskorki, reporting that a German detachment with a large number of empty carriages was moving along the road. Zuev announced the alarm. At the appointed meeting place, all the forces at his disposal, the 4 machine gun and the company mortar. The fighters took up positions, Zuev went out to meet and entered into negotiations with an officer. Presented receipts Polotsk commandant on the implementation of the supply. At the same time, Zuev demonstrated the power of his "army", and the mortar gave a demonstrative salvo. The officer carefully studied the documents and agreed that, apparently, there was some mistake. The convoy turned back to Polotsk.
For two days, the Zuevites strengthened their positions in anticipation of a punitive “retaliation action”, while Zuev himself was looking for a way out: did the Germans go to reduce the conflict or ask the partisans for help? It was not necessary to choose: by the end of the second day, a sunderferr arrived from Polotsk, who, on behalf of the commandant, proposed to restore the status quo: Zuev continues to supply food in the previous volumes, ensures road safety and does not allow partisans to his area. Instead, the commandant does not send any teams to the area. Zuev accepted the conditions, simultaneously asking to replenish his "army" with ammunition.
A sharp softening by the commandant of his policy was simply explained. The commandant, who did not know the local specifics, was told that in the event of a punitive campaign, another partisan detachment headed by an active talented commander would appear in the area.
1943. The pressure from all sides is increasing
In 1943, the onslaught of the occupation authorities against the “republic” intensified. The millennial Reich demanded more bread, meat, butter, and for the first time demanded a “live tribute” - people to work in Germany. It is not known what measures Zuev took, and on what basis he made lists, but several dozens of Old Believers were sent.
The pressure of the partisans increased. Small detachments of several dozen fighters grew into huge units. Airplanes from the “Big Land” supplied them with weapons, ammunition, and medicines. Now Zuev was forced to negotiate with them, provide small services, supply small groups with food and at the same time keep them from holding shares in "his" territory.
1944. Where to go?
In the spring of 1944, Zuev was summoned to Polotsk, where he was awarded the order in a solemn ceremony. By the three previously received awards from the Germans added the fourth. Then, in private, the commandant suggested that Zuev take over a more extensive area. Together with emergency powers, he will receive small arms, machine guns and even light artillery. His men will be equipped in German uniform with Russian shoulder straps. Zuev this proposal is not at all pleased. He was not going to start a war with the partisans at all (and that was exactly what his new position meant). Thanking for the trust, Zuev rejected the offer. The fact that the Red Army will return, he had no doubt.
But he too was not on the way with the Soviet authorities. Cooperation with the occupiers, battles with the partisans ... The burden of sins was too heavy. Not counting on forgiveness or condescension, Zuev began to prepare for care - he harvested carts, food, horses, weapons. In the summer he left, about 2 thousands of people left with him. On their way, the Polotsk commandant joined them with his detachment. Having sustained several fights with partisans, the group made its way to Poland, and then to East Prussia. There the squad disintegrated.
How did the fate?
The answer to this question is hard to give, there is little data, they are contradictory. Around 200, the Zuevians fell into the Soviet zone of occupation, were tried and got from 5 to 25 years. Most are rumored to have left for South America. So far, Old Believers live compactly in Bolivia in the area of Santa Cruz. Maybe it's the Zuevites.
Zuev himself joined Vlasov, joined the POA, where he received epaulets of second lieutenant. In conversations about the future, he said that he plans to return to Russia and live on false documents. It is impossible to say whether he fulfilled his intention.
Among the convicts and the dead in the Ob ITL are Mikhail Evseevich Zuev, 1884, R., Vitebsk region, Polotsk district. Is he?
Republic without a future
The fate of the “Zuev Republic” is interesting, but if someone thinks that the model of the life of the Russian peasantry under the invaders should have been such, then he deeply mistaken. Only the location in a remote area allowed the "Zuev Republicans" to maintain such a curious status quo. Villages and villages located in the steppe part of the USSR (and therefore quite accessible) fully realized all the “charms” of the Hitler regime. The slightest resistance was punished by the authorities very severely, no autonomy was allowed. I choked on the vine. No equal partnership, only unquestioning obedience.
The “Zueva Republic” existed only because the Germans simply did not reach it. In the future, after the destruction of the USSR, the Nazis would have engaged in partisans, using all their military power. And then it would be the turn of the peaceful "free republics" hidden in the thickets and forests of Belarus. The existence of such here "free enclaves" plans of the Nazis was not provided.