Skip to main content

Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya inspired people in every corner of globe to extinguish fascism

By Harsh Thakor*
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya sacrificed every ounce of her energy to defend socialism from the Nazi Fascist invaders. When she was 17 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Stalin made the call to the Soviet people, instructing that, “In the occupied regions conditions must be made unbearable for the enemy and all his accomplices. They must be hounded and annihilated at every step, and all their measures frustrated.” ,Zoya anwered this call and became “Tanya”, a partisan guerrilla.
She was captured following an operation behind the German line, tortured and executed. The story of her life and her struggle, and ultimately, her martyrdom, became an inspiration to the Soviet people as they repelled the fascist offensive to gain a glorious victory. The story of Zoya illustrated how the war was dealt with by ordinary Soviet people, who witnessed all that they had struggled so painstakingly to build collapsing like a brick wall razing to the ground.
On 29 November 1941, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, aged 18, was executed by German occupiers. Zoya was born 13 September 1923 in the district of Tambov, about 300 miles southeast of Moscow. Zoya was one of the roses that bloomed who planted seeds for new ones to blossom, to extinguish the weeds of fascism. She manifested how Marxist-Leninist ideology could overcome the most adverse circumstances and how a Socialist state b read a new man, who could take self-sacrifice to zones untranscended in rendering service to humanity.
Zoya blended the creativity of an artist, with the methodology of a sugeon and the courage of a soldier. Her sacrifice and life story burns like an inextinguishable flame, manifesting the contribution of USSR in the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War 2. On 13th September, we commemorated her birth centenary.
Kosmodemyanskaya was a mascot ordered by Stalin to burn down populated settlements behind German lines. Many locals living in these towns were naturally opposed to the destruction of their homes, but Kosmodemyanskaya accomplished her duty, by enduring torture in German captivity at a scale rarely penetrated, before meeting her death.
Zoya was highly cultured and relished the works of Tolstoy, Dickens, Shakespeare, Goethe and Pushkin and loved the music of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, and was a member of the Soviet youth Komsomol organisation. (Pictured below is Zoya’s Komsomol membership card).


The Germans had invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 and by late November had trapped Leningrad and were marching towards Moscow. The Soviet authorities were recruiting volunteers to penetrate the German lines and operate as partisan fighters in German-occupied areas. Their task, generally, was to break the German advance. It was a dangerous assignment but one which 18-year-old Zoya readily volunteered for.
Having been enrolled as a partisan, despite her tender age, Zoya was given the name ‘Tanya’. Handed a revolver and trained how to use it, she was allotted control of a small group of partisans and given instructions. Their first task was to lay mines on the Volokolamsk highway, just behind German lines, about 80 miles west of Moscow. Another task involved laying spikes in the road but the more hazardous jobs were reserved for the young men. Zoya pleaded her case, stating, ‘Difficulties ought to be shared equally.’ Her commander, a man who went by the name of Boris, acquiesced.
Thus, on 27 November, Zoya was sent into Petrischevo, a village occupied and flooded with Germans. She went alone while Boris and his team waited anxiously for her return. After a few hours, Zoya emerged from the woods, victorious at having burnt down a house and a stable. However, unbeknownst to Zoya, a village collaborator identified her and notified the Germans.The following day, Zoya returned to the village. This time, she didn’t return. After three days, Boris knew that she was dead.
What happened to Zoya is based on a report written by a Soviet journalist, Pyotr Lidov, pieced together from various eyewitness statements and published in the Soviet newspaper, Pravda (‘Truth’), on 27 January 1942. Lidov returned to Petrischevo shortly after its recapture by the Soviets and spoke to various villagers about what had happened during the brief spell of German occupation.
On basis of the information provided by the collaborator, the young girl was caught red-handed setting light to a stable. The Germans pulled her off and interrogated her at length while beating her with their belts, punching her, burning her with lighters, and cutting the skin on her back with a handsaw. One overheard exchange went as follows:
‘Who are you?’ ‘I won’t tell you.’ ‘Was it you who set fire to the stables?’ ‘Yes, it was.’ ‘Why did you do it?’ ‘To destroy you.’ A German sergeant, later taken prison-of-war, described the scene:
‘The young Russian heroine displayed nerves of steel. She would not yield and betray her friends. Inspite of being drenched with the cold, blood flowed from her wounds, but still she disclosed nothing During the night, they forced her outside, barefoot, in subzero temperatures.’
Zoya was hanged on the morning of 29 November 1941. The Germans hung a sign around her neck, saying, and ‘Incendiary’. The Germans gathered around, some with cameras at the ready, and ordered the villagers to witness the scene. Perched on a box, with the rope around her neck, she called out to the villagers, ‘Comrades! Why are you so gloomy? I am not afraid to die! I am happy to die for my people!’ Then, taking death defying courage to soaring heights, and spirit of self sacrifice in regions almost unparalleled she cried, ‘You’ll hang me now, but I am not alone. There are two hundred million of us. You can’t hang us all.’ The box was then kicked away from beneath her.
The Germans took photographs of Zoya’s body, her breasts mutilated, as she lay dead on the ground. When the photos were later taken off captured Germans and published with Lidov’s article, it shook the entire Soviet Union.
Her body was left to hang for many weeks, the villagers were forbidden to remove it. A new unit of Germans, passing through on New Year’s Eve, subjected Zoya’s corpse to more indignities. Finally, in New Year 1942, she was buried.
On reading Lidov’s article in Pravda, Stalin reputably remarked. ‘Here is the people’s heroine’. She was bestowed the award, ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’, and immediately eulogised throughout the country. Poems, plays, novels and films were made about her life; streets and buildings named after her. To this day, the name Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya is known throughout Russia.
Narration of action and execution of Zoya Anatolyevna and Vera Danilovna
Armed with Molotov cocktails, a combat friend's pistol without self-cocking,she gave her revolver to her friend before going out as more reliable weapon, having missed the group's comrades, which obviously thwarted the group's exit plan, in the terrible frost, without a parking lot in the forest, independently decided to continue setting fire to the winter apartments of the Wehrmacht servicemen.
So, left without a group, without a parking lot or a secret in the forest, with a partially completed combat mission, in a terrible frost, the fighter Zoya with unflinching resilience continues the sabotage alone, in extremely adverse circumstances. She perfectly understood that the successful sabotage on the night of November 27 attracted the attention of the Germans and the proposed circumstances were developing according to the scenario with her inevitable death or capture, followed by torture and inevitable s execution as a saboteur or partisan.
On entering the military unit No. 9903, the Komsomol commanders were told in detail by the commanders that the fate of the fighters is inevitable, and 95% of them will die, or will be captured and tortured with subsequent execution. On the same day, November 29, 10 kilometers from the village of Petrishchevo, near the village of Golovkovo, another saboteur was hanged on a willow - 22-year-old Vera Danilovna Voloshina, her group was ambushed by military outposts and, having no serious weapons, was dispersed, and she herself was caught. Vera was mercilessly tortured, beaten, trying to investigate the combat mission of the group, but Vera Danilovna, displaying courage and heroism in metaphysical proportions, did not yield to the Germans and give information.
- You came to our country and you will find your death here! You cannot take Moscow ... Farewell, Motherland! Death to fascism!
A worthy award for the heroism of Vera Voloshina was awarded posthumously to her mother only in 1966, after the essay "The Order of the Daughter" by Georgy Nikolaevich Frolov in the newspaper Pravda - the Order of the Patriotic War, 6st degree, awarded to Vera posthumously a year earlier on May 1965, XNUMX.
The fact that there are also exceptional cases when a citizen who does not have the opportunity to evade, chosen by a time, a difficult year for the Fatherland, with a certain time place, also himself, independently chooses a place and time in the given circumstances! We call such people heroes. And their choice is an act.
Zoya Anatolyevna and Vera Danilovna, at their 18 and 22 years old, respectively, chosen by the time, performed d an act - they made a choice of place and time, bravely plunging into the abyss. Even in the training unit, they were made clear that this was not a linear front-line unit, death was a virtual certainty! They then made their choice They pursued their decision to the very end, , commited to continuing the combat mission in the frosty forest, under brutal torture and cruel violence, bullying, realizing the inevitability of execution. With a noose tied around their necks, they took revolutionary courage or personified spirit of liberation to scales rarely transcended.
At 7 pm on November 28, while trying to set fire to the barn, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was captured by the Germans. It is known that Kosmodemyanskaya did not retaliate with fire Perhaps, engaged with arson, Zoya simply did not have time to combat with her revolver, it is known that she did not have time to get her revolver, given to her friend in exchange, due to the group's departure on a mission.
In the interrogations and subsequent brutal torture, according to eyewitnesses, soldiers and officers of the 332nd Wehrmacht Infantry Regiment took part. During interrogation, Zoya called herself Tanya and did not disclose anything definite. Then Kosmodemyanskaya, an 18-year-old girl, was stripped naked and flogged with belts. After beating her with no respite with bare feet, they took her out into the cold, the frost was so strong that the sentry periodically warmed himself in a warm room and occasionally took Zoya into the room. It is known that Zoya received severe frostbite of her legs.. Then, beaten, frostbitten and mutilated with belts, Zoya was put on a bench, where she remained until the morning.
On a frosty morning on November 29, 1941, in the village of Petrishchevo, Vereisky District (now Ruzsky District) near Moscow, an 18-year-old Komsomol member, a native of the Tambov Region, Zoya Anatolyevna Kosmodemyanskaya, soldiers of the 332nd Infantry Regiment of the 197th Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht hung a sign on the chest near the erected gallows the inscription in Russian and German: "The arsonist of houses." An exhausted, bloody, disfigured, still very young girl was executed by hanging in front of the villagers and the Wehrmacht soldiers. With a noose around her neck, the heroine made a short speech At the execution itself, the brave girl also made a short fiery speech which manifested courage to confront iron feet of oppression in depth almost unprecedentedand spirit of self sacrifice in regions almost unparalleled . Zora’s voice manifested the aspirations of people in every corner of the globe to extinguish fascism, like a soul or poetry of the anti-fascist resistance. She cried “- Hey, comrades! What are you looking at sadly? Be brave, fight; beat the Germans, burn, poison!
A German standing nearby swung at her and wanted to interrupt, but a brave girl, on the threshold of her end, pushed his hand away and continued: “I’m not afraid to die, comrades. It is happiness to die for your people ...”
"Tatiana" (the episode is taken from the essay "Tanya" by the military commander Pyotr Lidov) turned towards the commandant and the German soldiers and said: “You’ll hang me now, but I’m not alone, there are two hundred million of us, you don’t outweigh everyone. You will be avenged for me ...”
The Russian people standing in the square were crying. Others turned away so as not to see what was about to happen (this is from the fresh testimony of the villagers, interviewed by military commander Peter Lidov in 1941, much more truthful than those ugly and dirty speculations from the 90s about the villagers' hatred of arsonists). Were they arsonists in the cold of the huts of their compatriots? No, the servicemen of military unit No. 9903 were executing order No. 428, which spoke of the "scorched earth" tactics!
So, the executioner pulled on the rope, and the noose strangulated Tanino's throat. But she defied the noose with both hands, raised herself on her toes and shouted, straining her strength: “Farewell, comrades! Fight, don't be afraid! Stalin is with us! Stalin will come!”
In the morning, Zoya was executed by hanging in front of the Wehrmacht servicemen and residents of Petrishchevo. The body of Kosmodemyanskaya hung on the gallows for about a month and was repeatedly abused by Wehrmacht soldiers passing through the village. And on New Year's Eve (1942), her body was stripped and again mutilated, stabbing with knives and cutting off her chest.


Zoya’s identity became disclosed over the course of time in the months following her death. She was first identified as "Tanya" by villagers who shared the story with a newspaper correspondent. Zoya’s brother later verified her true identity after reviewing Soviet newspaper accounts of the incident at Petrischevo. Her body was exhumed from Petrischevo and she was returned to Moscow for burial. On February 16, 1942, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was posthumously awarded the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union." She was the first woman to receive this distinction.
The Germans had documented Zoya’s execution by taking photographs beforehand and afterward. These photos were later found on the body of a dead German officer and shortly thereafter, the rest of the world became eyewitnesses of Zoya's fate. The Nazi regiment responsible for Zoya’s murder was destroyed by Red Army forces under the command of General Poketkin in late 1942.
Lyubov Timofeyevna Kosmodemyanskaya, mother of Zoya and Shura, memorialized her children with her book, The Story of Zoya and Shura. Reflecting upon the ultimate fate of Zoya’s executioners, Kosmodemyanskaya said:
“…as for them — they are not human. They are not men. They are not even beasts. They are fascists. And they are doomed. Alive they are dead. Today, tomorrow, in a thousand years, their names, even their graves, will be hateful and vile in the eyes of men.”


Although post-Soviet revisionism has included bids to downplay n the heroic story of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, her story is revered by many to this day. Monuments to Zoya still stand in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Tambov, Dorokhov, and Petrischevo. Her grave is in Moscow. The 1944 Lev Arnshtam film "Zoya" tells the story of her arrest and execution.
*Freelance journalist



Towards 2024: Time for ‘We the People of India’ to wake up before it is too late

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is Constitution Day once again! We, the people of India, gratefully remember 26 November 1949 when the Constitution of India was passed and adopted by the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly comprised women and men of distinction, who were able to represent the heart and soul of the people of India without fear or favour. They gave of their best, so that we may a visionary Constitution, which would be the mainstay for and of democracy in India!

Regretful: Kapil Dev retired not leaving Indian cricket with integrity he upheld

By Harsh Thakor  Kapil Dev scaled heights as an entertainer and a player upholding the spirit of the game almost unparalleled in his era. In his time he was cricket’s ultimate mascot of sportsmanship On his day Kapil could dazzle in all departments to turn the tempo of game in the manner of a Tsunami breaking in. He radiated r energy, at a level rarely scaled in his era on a cricket field. Few ever blended aggression with artistry so comprehenisively. Although fast medium, he could be as daunting with the ball as the very best, with his crafty outswinger, offcutter, slower ball and ball that kicked from a good length. Inspite of bowling on docile tracks on the subcontinent, Kapil had 434 scalps, with virtually no assistance. I can never forget how he obtained pace and movement on flat pancakes, trapping the great Vivian Richards in Front or getting Geoff Boycott or Zaheer Abbas caught behind. No paceman carried the workload of his team’s bowling attack on his shoulders in his eras muc

Critical factors that determine, contribute to the success and effectiveness of NGOs

By Rohit Rakshit  Over the last few years, I have been fortunate to work with numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across various states in the country. This experience has allowed me to gain insights into their diverse areas of work while also enabling me to analyze the key attributes that contribute to the success of a good NGO. According to my observations, the following are the critical factors that determine the effectiveness of an NGO.

Eight years of empowering tribal communities through water initiatives in Chhattisgarh

By Gazala Paul*   In the heart of Chhattisgarh, amidst the echoes of tribal life, a transformative journey has unfolded over the past eight years. The Samerth organization has diligently worked to elevate the lives of indigenous communities in the Kawardha district through the project, "Enabling Baiga Community to access safe drinking water." 

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Raising temperature of frozen foods by 3 degrees from -18°C to -15°C can slash carbon emissions: Study

By Payel Sannigrahi  Frozen food temperatures could be changed by just three degrees to save the carbon dioxide emissions of 3.8 million cars per year, research suggests. 

Odisha leadership crisis deepens: CM engages retired babus to oversee depts' work

By Sudhansu R Das  Over decades, Odisha has lost much of its crop diversity, fertile agriculture land, water bodies, employment potential, handicraft and handloom skills etc. The state has failed to strike a balance between the urban and rural sector growth; this leads to the migration of villagers to the urban areas leading to collapse of the urban infrastructures and an acute labor shortage in rural areas.  A large number of educated, skilled and unskilled Odia people have migrated to other states for higher education, quality jobs and for earning livelihood which plummet the efficiency level of government departments. Utmost transparency in the recruitment and promotion in the state government departments will improve governance mechanisms in the state.  "No near and dear one approach" in governance mechanisms can only achieve inclusive growth for the state on payment basis. This is a moral hazard. When so many educated young people seek employment outside the

20% of Indian businesses have no emission plan in place despite climate emergency: Report

By Jag Jivan   New research underlines urgent need for strategies and transition plans to combat climate change, remain successful and meet stakeholder expectations.

TERI researchers outline ways for robust, equitable and flexible outcome at COP28

By Sanya Hans  Researchers at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) launched two crucial policy briefs ahead of the much anticipated 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) scheduled from November 30 to December 12, 2023 at Dubai, UAE.  Former climate negotiator, Ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri, a Distinguished Fellow at TERI emphasized, “Adaptation is an imperative and absolute must in present times for the Global South. COP28 needs to make the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) integral to climate commitments and action”.  “Climate change demands that energy use must be sustainable; the development imperative of the Global South demands it to be inclusive, just and fair," Mr Puri added.   Outcome on GGA will be a key determinant for the success of COP28   The policy brief titled ‘Road to Dubai and The Global Goal on Adaption’ reviewed the discussions around the GGA framework to provide perspectives on what could be a robust, equitable, and flexible outcome of the GGA process at CO

1982-83 Bombay textile strike played major role in shaping working class movement

By Harsh Thakor  On January 18th, 1982 the working class movement commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Textile Workers Strike that lasted for 18 months, till July 1983. It was landmark event that played a major role in shaping the working class movement. With more than 2.5 lakh workers from 65 textile mills joining in this strike for almost two years, this strike became one of the most significant strikes in terms of scale and duration All democrats should applaud the mill workers’ united battle, and their unflinching resilience an death defying courage continues to serve as a model for contemporary working-class movements. Many middle class persons harboured opinions that the Textile workers were pampered or were a labour aristocracy, ignorant of how they were denied wages to provide for basic necessities. The Great Bombay Textile Strike is notably one of the most defining movements in the working class struggles in Post-independent India. Bombay’s textile industry flourished in