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Zoya Anatolyevna Kosmodemyanskaya;September 13, 1923 – November 29, 1941) was a Soviet partisan. She was executed after acts of sabotage against the invading armies of Nazi Germany; after stories emerged of her defiance towards her captors, she was posthumously declared a Hero of the Soviet Union.She became one of the most revered heroines of the Soviet Union.
In October 1941, still a high school student in Moscow, she volunteered for a partisan unit. During the course of her army service, she idealized Tatiana Solomakha, a Red Army soldier who was tortured and killed during the course of the Russian Civil War. She was assigned to the partisan unit 9903 (Staff of the Western Front). Of the one thousand people who joined the unit in October 1941, only half survived the war. At the village of Obukhovo near Naro-Fominsk, Kosmodemyanskaya and other partisans crossed the front line and entered territory occupied by the Germans. They mined roads and cut communication lines.
On November 27, 1941, Kosmodemyanskaya received an assignment to burn the village of Petrishchevo, where a German cavalry regiment was stationed. Together with fellow partisans Boris Krainov and Vasily Klubkov, she set fire to three houses in the village. The partisans believed that one of the houses was being used as a German communications center and that occupying forces were using others for accommodation. The writer A. Zhovtis has disputed these claims, arguing that officially Petrishchevo was not a point of permanent deployment of German troops. However, the villagers said that virtually all the houses of the village were used for accommodation by the German troops transported along the main roads near the village.
After the first attempt at arson, Krainov did not wait for Kosmodemyanskaya and Klubkov at the agreed meeting place and left, returning to his own. Later, Klubkov was also captured by the Germans. Kosmodemyanskaya, having missed her comrades and left alone, decided to return to Petrishchevo and continue the arson campaign. However, the German military authorities in the village had by then organized a gathering of local residents, forming a militia in order to avoid further arson. After being arrested, Kosmodemyanskaya was stripped, beaten, interrogated and tortured with 200 lashes and her body burnt, but refused to give any information. The following morning she was marched to the center of the village with a board around her neck bearing the inscription 'Houseburner' and hanged.
The Germans left her body hanging on the gallows for several weeks. One of her breasts was cut off by a drunk German near Christmas Eve, and her body desecrated by Germans or collaborators. Eventually she was hastily buried by the Germans to cover up their crimes just before the Soviets regained the territory in January 1942.
The story of Kosmodemyanskaya's death became popular after Pravda published an article written by Pyotr Lidov on January 27, 1942. The journalist had heard about her execution from an elderly peasant, and was impressed by her courage. The witness recounted: "They were hanging her and she was giving a speech. They were hanging her and she was threatening them." Lidov travelled to Petrishchevo, collected details from local residents and published an article about the then-unknown partisan girl. Soon after, Joseph Stalin noticed the article. He proclaimed: "Here is the people's heroine", which started a propaganda campaign honouring Kosmodemyanskaya. Stalin ordered that the soldiers and officers of the 197th Infantry Division (Wehrmacht), which participated in the execution, should not be taken prisoner. In February, she was identified and was awarded the order of Hero of the Soviet Union.