UDC 94 (477.6) «1941/1943»


Abakumova Victoria Ivanovna
Oleksandr Dovzhenko Hlukhiv national pedagogical university
Doctor of Historical Sciences, Full Professor, Head of the Department of History, Law and teaching methods

The article deals with the variety of the political dispositions of the population at the beginning of Hitler occupation; the groups of population depending on their attitude to ‘the new order’ are classified. The basis of the research results is made up by the conclusion that the population civil position on the occupied territories was affected by several reasons. In particular, the ideological bias that prompted local people either to cooperate with the "new authority" or made them fight it; economic motives related either to the desire to protect their financial well-being through resistance to invaders, or, conversely, pushing citizens to cooperate with them expecting the performance of some economic promises of the invaders; moral motives that led to anti-fascist stance which developed as a result of the invaders genocidal policies.

Keywords: anti-fascism, civil conflict, collaborationism, Donets’ territory, expropriated wealthy peasants, occupation, separatism, volksdeutsche.

Article reference:
Abakumova V.I. Grading the political dispositions of the populations in the conditions of occupation: historical experience (Luhans’k region, 1941 - 1943) // History and archeology. 2015. № 6 [Electronic journal]. URL: http://history.snauka.ru/en/2015/06/2191

View this article in Russian

The explosion of separatism in the east of Ukraine makes everybody analyze not only the events, but also their reasons. It is doubtless, escalating separatism is provoked by the Kremlin. But keeping only to such evaluation would be wrong, because it ignores the most important foundation of separatism, its deep socio-economic and socio-psychological reasons. The latter ones developed for almost a quarter of a century after the collapse of the USSR. In particular, the criminal oligarchic social and economic basis of the society remained unchanged all the time, it forming the corresponding social relations based on corruption, social injustice, unlimited exploitation of the country by the small group of oligarchs. Thus, on the one hand, the economic conditions of existence on average the same at the national level: unemployment, high prices, inflation, lack of any optimistic prospects influenced negatively the ordinary citizens. However, the current authority still ignores the social factors of separatism. The attempt to neglect the social problems turned out to be the most important constituent of separatist dispositions, threatening both the current country authority and the country as a whole. On the other hand, the social and psychological differences and different historical experiences of residents of geographically opposite regions of Ukraine became apparent. So, separatist reaction to the Kremlin attempts to separate southeastern regions of Ukraine from the mainland is the result of the complex of reasons. Their analysis is just beginning. The time will tell what the assessment will be. But one can be sure of one thing that a consensus should not be expected. Historical science has proved it many times.

In Ukraine the discussion on estimating the attitude of Ukraine’s population to coming Hitler’s Nazi troops and the impact of the occupation regime on resistance development is still ongoing. The solution was inherited by the Ukrainian historians from the time when the issue had been the subject of discussions between the Soviet and world historiography. The Soviet historiography categorically emphasized the hostility of the absolute majority of the local population to the occupation [1, p.13; 1, p.153-154; 2, p.123, 381-382]. The majority of the western authors stated that the peoples of the USSR especially the national minorities met Germans as their liberators from the Soviet authority imposing [3, p.51]. Modern Ukrainian historical science vary from the reserved conclusion on the passive and discreet awaiting of the population to tendency conclusion on the friendly disposition and expectations for the new authority [4, p.407; 5, p.26-28; 6, p.221; 7, р.7].

The absence of the unified viewpoint on the issue makes our own interest in the subject. This study is aimed at reconstructing the political dispositions of the population on the example of a particular region of Ukraine. For investigating we have chosen Voroshylovhrad (now it is Luhans’k) region. To achieve the aim it is necessary to define the population groups grounding on their attitudes to a “new order” at the beginning and the end of occupation; to find out the reasons of the civil positions of people under occupation; to research the influence of the Nazi occupation regime on the political dispositions of the population etc.The occupation of Voroshylovhrad region which happened during two weeks led to abandoning the powers of the Soviet authorities on the whole territory of the region.  At that time the main part of the civilians who remained on the occupied territories in the ideological vacuum “had to decide their fate by themselves, at least within the limits, specified by their life circumstances” [8, p.393]. Under this provision three groups of population should be conventionally distinguished. The first one consisted of the obvious supporters of the Soviet authorities, who wanted its to return; the second one consisted of persons who had been offended by the Soviet authorities, aware of themselves as their enemies and tried to support the new government; the third group was made up of citizens who recognize any authority if it provides them the proper life conditions. The proportion of individuals in these groups reflects the general attitude of the society to the invaders. We shall outline the likely scope of each of these groups.

Among the ardent supporters of the socialist system and the dominant ideology of the Communist party (Bolsheviks) a significant part of people left the area before the occupation because of the mobilization and evacuation campaign. Thus, only in 1941 of 49 thousand members of the regional party organization nearly 25 thousand people or 50% of its stock left to the front; of 103 thousand regional Komsomol members more than 65 thousand or 63% left for the front. In total by the end of 1941 over 100 thousand young people were mobilized from the region that is the most pro-Soviet minded population [1, p.10]. During the evacuation almost all the members of the party and government organs of cities and districts left the region. Only the party members with special tasks for underground work were required to stay on the occupied territory. But the evidence suggests the desertion of some of these individuals to the rearmost areas of the USSR [9, sheet 12].

By the time of the liberation of the region only 34 Communists survived and completed the underground tasks: senior executives of the city committees, district committees, district executive committees [10, sheet 1-5]. The rest of the party members who were in the occupied territories either did not perform underground work or stayed in occupation without party tasks. Thus the accounting list after the liberation of Voroshylovhrad region stated that “5884 communists remained, including 4717 members and 1170 candidates for members of the Communist party (Bolsheviks).  Most of them were in the occupied territories, and 3292, mainly those who had been registered by invaders, got rid of their party tickets “[11, p.127]. That is, party affiliation is not a basis for classification of such persons to the first group of population.

Together with evacuation of the equipment of enterprises, institutions laboratories, agricultural machines, the work was carried out to evacuate the population of the region. Due to the limited opportunities to take out every willing person, the preference was made for skilled workers, experienced engineering and technical personnel, who for their political preferences were usually fully committed to the dominant ideology. The total number of people evacuated from ​​the territory of Voroshylovhrad region was 269 380, including 35700 persons in the coal industry, 7452 people working in machinery, metallurgical and coking industry, 5000 manpower apprentices [7 p .84-85]. Much less evacuees belonged to peasants, among which were also mostly responsible party members and personnel. Thus, through the mobilization and evacuation the portion of the population that had the potential to be set against the occupation authorities, was quantitatively reduced.

Implementation of population evacuation on the basis of party affiliation could not but affect the dispositions of people. This situation and some other events that took place on the eve of the occupation of the region show the decrease in the number of adherents of the Soviet authorities among ordinary party members and independent people. The population affected between the two evacuation waves (1941 and 1942) by hunger [5, p.155] got to know the facts of catering food staff for the families of senior employees of the executive committee of city organizations evacuated to the city of Samarkand and Samarkand region, by means of the stocks that were intended for employees and workers. From the funds of North Donets’ railroad, intended for supplying railroad workers, the part of food  was removed for supplying the senior officials of regional organizations of town of  Stalino (now the city of Donetsk), who at that time were in the city of Voroshylovhrad [12, p.112].

Discontent among a certain segment of the population, especially among the rural one, was caused by the campaign of relocation and evacuation of livestock, which used to be for the personal use. To provide practical assistance to local authorities in case of riots 378 policemen from People’s commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) were sent to 12 districts of Voroshylovhrad region [13, sheet 4]. These facts alienated the part of the population from the Soviet government, rejected it by the fatal boundary condition to the enemy position. For some reason the proof of this fact can not be realized by means of statistics, as well as the fact that many people, especially young ones, remained loyal to the government that raised them.

The second and the third groups because of their consciousness were the potential social support for the German occupation regime. The degree of commitment of these individuals from these groups to the occupying power depended on their own expectations, which could or could not be met by the new government. For the second group political motives were decisive while for the third group the economic ones. The second group of the population mainly consisted of persons hurt by the Soviet authorities and of their family members. To make more or less accurate estimates of this stratum of society, among which the invaders can get support, is impossible due to the lack of necessary data. Meanwhile, we shall try to determine the potential collaborators social groups.

First, those were people who had been repressed or persecuted for “anti-Soviet activity”, religious beliefs, and nationalist viewpoints. Occupation authorities tried to bring this group of people to actively cooperate, to complete local authorities by those persons. Second, the Volksdeutsche or ethnic Germans obtained from the new regime a number of benefits and were able to actively express themselves in public life, improve their own welfare. According to the census of 1939 the percentage of Germans who lived in the Ukrainian SSR, equaled to 1.4% of the total population; in Voroshylovhrad region it was 1.1% [14, p.101, 171]. The number of German population in the region decreased because of deportation, but some of them still remained at the time of the occupation. In total, according to the German data the occupied territory of Ukraine had about 200 thousand of ethnic Germans [15, p.16]. Thirdly, expropriated wealthy peasants became the solid social base for the invaders in the rural areas. Prior to collectivization, according to the average rates in Ukraine, there were 65.6% middle wealth peasant farms and 4% of wealthy farms [16, p.123, 130]. Given that the portion of peasants which had not expressed the desire to join collective farms were “deprived of their property”, we can assume that at least half of the Ukrainian peasants had some hope for the new regime. In addition, the living and working conditions in the collective farms and later famine reduced the number of supporters of the collective farm system among the poor peasant too. Of course, it is impossible to count the number of dispossessed and repressed people, Volksdeutsche who were in occupation and joined cooperation with the “new government”. But pro-German oriented part of the population consisted of these social strata. Meanwhile, many facts indicate the participation of these individuals in the antifascist struggle.

The third group of the population consisted of individuals who showed restraint ideological views; the fore they needed to be economically and psychologically and household-protected by any government. This item made them cooperate with the occupiers. For example, the occupiers created attractive conditions of service in the local government. Thus, procurement of chiefs and police members consisted of a high enough salary (from 400 to 1000 rubles) and food rations. Thus, work in the occupational institutions and enterprises sometimes became the only source of earnings. Especially it was widespread in the coercive circumstances among the breadwinners of families. These individuals had to deal gently with the invaders. The main motive of their behavior was survival. According to Yaroslav Hrytsak’s viewpoint, “it was the general pattern of behavior for the Central and Eastern European nations in the German-occupied territories” [6, p.237].

The category of the population that was ready to cooperate with the occupiers included those who in Soviet times were dissatisfied with their economic situation and hoped for better in the new conditions. The new government provided opportunities that were unrealistic under the Soviet rule. Thus, the occupation administration created the conditions for the expansion of private trading networks and small industry. During fascist rule private entities reappeared in the region that in the Soviet times almost completely disappeared; existence of private initiative attracted a fraction of the population to the occupants.

Rural population hoped that the new government would cancel the collective farm system and return them the land. Addressing of the occupation administration to the population stated that restrictions on growing and maintaining their own livestock were abolished. Farmland would be privately owned farms and community members would be freed of taxes. Everyone could use this land at his own will. The peasants of the best public sector farms would be vested with additional land. It was proclaimed that the compensation for work in the form of workdays would be replaced by a new status of wages. Thus, the economic interests of a certain part of the population caused the affiliated position to the “new authority”.

Thus, establishing the occupation regime led to the civil conflict in the society, divided the population of the region according to its ratio to the new authority. The largest group of the population was made by the citizens, whose main concern was daily survival. The mood of the group depended on the policies pursued by the Nazis, and the extent, to which the occupation authorities justified people’s expectations. Failure of perception of Nazism by the population was another factor that caused the anti-fascist position of population during the occupation. People’s unwillingness to live under the foreign oppression gave rise to the social base of anti-fascists. However, only a small part of the population immediately came to understand the need to fight. The rest of the people changed outlook on life is the criminal conditions under occupation. Thus, the nature of the occupation regime also affected the person’s world outlook. Some of the pro-Soviet and pro-German minded groups were made of citizens, which were the smallest in the number of people. Attitude of people of those groups to the regime was formed by political reasons and almost did not depend on the occupation conditions.

To summarize, we should note that the social position of the occupied territories is affected by the complex of motives. It is filled by several components. In particular:

1. The ideological bias that prompted citizens either to cooperate with the “new regime” or to combat it;

2. Economic reasons related to the desire of home security that pushed citizens to cooperate with the invaders, but also vice versa: the protection of material well-being from robbery prompted people to resist the new regime;

3. The moral motives that determined the anti-fascist stance of a man which occurred because of humiliating Ukrainian human dignity, the genocidal policy of occupation.

Consideration of the factors that affected the social position of a man in the conditions of the Nazi occupation, shows that the most dominant ones were: personal attitude (positive / negative) to the Soviet government, which was formed before the occupation; rejection of Nazism by the majority of the population; the desire of people to meet existing needs (ideological, economic, moral) that appeared in human existence in terms of the occupation regime.

It should be noted that, like seventy years ago, when the occupation regime led to the establishment of civil conflict in the society, divided by the dispositions of the population to the Nazi authorities, the present attitude of the citizens of Ukraine also varies according to their attitude to the tragic events going on in the Donets’ territory. To study the complex of the origins of the separatist reactions to the Kremlin attempts to separate Ukraine from its south-eastern regions, it should be taken into account: the ideological component, economic motives and moral motivation formed both by the personal standpoint of the citizens living in the area Antiterrorist operation and the whole previous experiences of their life the Soviet Union and independent Ukraine.

  1. Klokov V.I. (1978), A people’s struggle in the rear of the German fascist invaders in Ukraine, 1941-1945: historiographical essay,  Naukova dumka, Kiev,  123 р. (rus).
  2. The People’s War in the rear of the Nazi occupiers in Ukraine 1941-1944, Book 1. Fighting underground (1985), in  Kondufor yu.yu. (Ed.),  Naukova dumka, Kiev, 399 р. (rus).
  3. ZarubInskiy O. (1993), Some aspects of perception and ideas of UPA population of Ukraine during the war of 1941-1945. In coverage of Western historiography in Materials of scientific conference of Ukrainian Insurgent Army soldiers brotherhood “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army: history, lessons Present”, (16-17 January 1993), Ivano-FrankIvsk – Striy, рр.51-53  (ukr).
  4. Gritsak Ya.Y. (2000), Essay on the History of Ukraine: Formation of the modern Ukrainian nation XIX – XX century,  Geneza, Kiyiv, 360 р. (ukr).
  5. Subtelniy O. (1991), Ukraine: History, LibId, Kiyiv, 512 р. (ukr).
  6. Koval M.V. (1994), Ukraine in the World and World War II (1939 – 1945 years). Attempt modern vision, Institut istoriyi Ukrayini Natsionalnoyi akademiyi nauk Ukrayini, Kiyiv, 58 р. (ukr).
  7. Abakumova V.I. The transformation of human consciousness under occupation (1941 – 1944 рр) (2006) in Visnik of the Volodymyr Dahl East Ukrainian national university, № 9 (103). Part 2, pp. 3-7(ukr).
  8. KuromIya G. (2002), Freedom and Terror in the Donbas: Ukrainian-Russian border, 1870-1990 years, Osnovi, Kiyiv, 510 р. (ukr).
  9. State Archive of  Lugansk region. F. П-1790. Op. 1. D. 1.
  10. State Archive of  Lugansk region. F. П-1790. Op. 1. D. 6.
  11. Nem’yatiy V. (1989),  People’s War hoses in Курас І.Ф. On the past – for the future, Vidavnitstvo pri Kiyivskomu universiteti, Kiyiv, рр.125-137 (ukr).
  12. Koval M., Kondratska L. (1996),  Homeland, №1-2, рр.108-113 (ukr).
  13. Central State Archive of Public Organizations of Ukraine. F.1. Op. 23. D. 642.
  14. Romantsov V. (1998), Ukrainian ethnos: the eternal land according to their borders (XVIII – XX century), Vidavnitstvo ImenI Oleni Telegi, Kiyiv, 184 р. (ukr).
  15. Koval M.V., Medvedok P.V. (1992), Ukrainian Historical Journal, №5, рр. 15-28 (ukr).
  16. From the Great October Revolution to the present day (1967), in History peasantry Ukrainian SSR, Naukova dumka, Kiyiv, 535 р. (ukr).

All articles of author «espuma»

© If you have found a violation of copyrights please notify us immediately by e-mail or feedback form.

Contact author (comments/reviews)

Write comment

You must authorise to write a comment.

Если Вы еще не зарегистрированы на сайте, то Вам необходимо зарегистрироваться: