Soviet Dog Partisans
Sure, we know all about Belka (“Squirrel”) and Strelka (“Arrow”), the two Soviet dogs who spent a day in space (the rabbit, mice, rats and flies that went with them got less coverage). And yes, we know about the famous Soviet “anti-tank” dogs that blew up German tanks during the Second World War — immortalized in Antony Beevor’s Stalingard book (also see this great post), but what about the Soviet partisan dogs that fought behind enemy lines?
Today at the former communist party archives, I came across my first reference to dog partisans. In a report by partisan leader, V.A. Begma, on the activities of his partisans in the Rovno region (Ukraine), he celebrated the “innovative technical work” of his partisans, namely in that they had trained dogs to use signaling devices. Dogs do often show up in partisan memoirs and photographs (we already know how much Comrade Fedorov loved animals), but they’re often depicted as companions and friends to the Soviet partisans living the forest. This is the first time I’ve seen then used for intell or fighting behind enemy lives.
Historians, Leonid Grenkevich and David M. Glantz, even write about how Soviet partisans were friendly to enemy dogs. Apparently in the summer of 1943, the Burevestnik partisan unit ambushed some Germans near Minsk. Among the wounded was a large sheep dog, which the Soviet partisan leader, Marmulov ordered to be taken to the medic, where he was treated. The two became best of friends afterwards and the dog was renamed Dzhulbars after the Soviet hero. Sadly, the dog gave his life for the motherland in the spring of 1944 against his old masters.
Reportedly, dogs were also useful in the rear, since they could smell a traitor to the motherland a mile away. Ok, I admit, I made the last sentence up.