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Vlasov and Russian Liberation Army in Czechoslovakia

Author : 🕔02.11.2002 📕186.827
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Saviors of Prague or traitors? Heroes or cowards? Who were the Vlasovs, and what led them to our territory at the end of World War II? There are a lot of questions about Vlasov himself and his troops. I'm not trying to answer the unresolved questions, but I'm going to try to get a realistic view of this contradictory group of people.

It all started with Vlasov. Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov, a participant in the Civil War, then commander of a company, battalion and tactics teacher at a military academy in Moscow, then commander of a regiment of the Turkestan division, chief of staff of the 72nd Division . During his stay in China in 1937, he escaped purges in the officer corps of the Soviet army. After returning from China, he became commander of the 99th Division and for the demonstrated organizational skills received the Order of the Red Banner . His star rose.


Andrey Andreevich Vlasov

On June 22, 1941, the Germans attacked the USSR. At that time, Vlasov was at the head of the 37th Soviet Army . He excelled in retreating battles and was awarded by Stalin himself. Then Vlasov participated as commander of the 20th Army of Defense of Moscow, which earned him the Order of the Red Star . In March, already at the head of the 2nd Army , he tried to free Leningrad from siege. Due to Stalin's nonsensical orders, he finds himself surrounded by the whole army and follows a journey into German captivity. At that moment, the life of one of Stalin's most capable generals changed. Vlasov expressed a desire to become one of the members of the anti-Stalinist resistance. The Germans initially used him as a propaganda officer, and later, when he gathered enough sympathizers around him, they allowed him to form a political anti-Soviet organization.

The movement led by Vlasov was a manifestation of political opposition to Stalin's dictatorship and its goal was to overthrow it by the armed forces. What followed was a spectrum of political views, largely aimed at a socialist order. This movement was nationalist and at the same time willing to expel from the union of the new Russia all national groups that would ask for it. This idea represented a new direction in the history of Russia. The whole movement was influenced by strong emotions, which were turned in two directions: the first was directed against its own establishment in its own country, the second against the Third Reich. According to him, Vlasov chose, according to him, a lesser evil, through which he wanted to destroy the Bolshevik tyrant. He no longer counted on the Germans in the future, they should only be a means to achieve his goals.

In the following years, Vlasov sought to form the Russian Liberation Army. But he had to prove his influence. The proof was to be leaflets convincing defected Soviet soldiers to join the Liberation Army. However, General Vlasov's efforts ran into distrust in the higher German places. Although Russian divisions began to form, Vlasov did not receive official recognition of the liberation movement until the end of the war, on November 14, 1944 in Prague.

The Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia ( KONR ) was established, a kind of emigrant Russian government, dealing with the formation of the first divisions of the Russian Liberation Army ( ROA ). The first units began to form in Munsigen from Russian volunteer units. Other parts were to be units of the Kaminsky Brigade, famous for their cruelty and brutality. Their commander, Bronislav Kaminský, was a hard bite for the Germans as well. He was executed in Lodz in 1944 for his cruelty. The new Russian division was armed with German weapons, mostly decommissioned or obsolete. Vlasov chose Colonel Sergei Bunačenko, an anti-Stalinist and an anti-Bolshevik, as the commander of the First ROA Division.The division received its first deployment in April 1945. The unit attacked the Russian bridgehead near Frankfurt n / Odra, but despite all efforts, it failed to achieve the desired result. Buňačenko decided to withdraw the division from the front. After quarrels with the German command, Buňačenko was allowed to leave towards the Army Group Center in Bohemia and Moravia. Its commander, Marshal Ferdinand Schörner, wanted to include the Russian alliance in the lineup of his troops. However, Buňačenko ignored his orders and steadily moved to the former Czechoslovak border. Schörner threatened to shoot Buňačenko and, after several unsuccessful negotiations, forced him to move in the desired direction. The commander of the first division of the ROA agreed to move only to the eye. Buňačenko tried to save the division and was willing to break the word. At the end of April, the division was located in the Teplice area. There was also a personal meeting with Marshal Schörner. Buňačenko promised obedience again, but that evening he received a Czech military delegation, with which he led long negotiations.

At the same time, the armament of the second ROA division continued. Construction began in Heuberg and then moved to Munsingen. The commander of the 2nd Division was General Zverev. However, neither he nor the German liaison officer, a capable Colonel Heere, could prepare the division in time. Rifles, machine guns, panzerfausts were missing. More serious, however, was the decay of the team's morale. The soldiers saw that a fateful moment was approaching that would decide their future. With the end of the war approaching, General Vlasov was under a heavy responsibility for the fate of thousands of people in the ROA. He decided to act. As there was no connection with the First Division, Vlasov went after it. After his departure, the staff of the Second Division had a long discussion about the future. General Meandrov argued that time needed and that the alliance between the USSR and the Western powers would not last long. He saw hope in moving to the Balkans and joining General Shandruk and Mikhailovich's Cossacks and continuing to hold on until the Western powers turned against the Bolsheviks. The next day he ended all the discussions. An order came for the Second Division to move to Linz to meet the advancing Russians. On May 1, the division headed for Č. Budějovice, when the soldiers received a newspaper with a black border. They reported that the leader had fallen in defense of Berlin. Nazi Germany was in agony. General Malyshkin from the staff of the Second Division decided to cross the front to the Americans in the current situation. He joined the staff of the commander of the 7th US Army, General Patch , where he tried to arrange the transition of Vlasovs to American captivity.

General Vlasov had other worries at the time. On the way to Buňačenko's First Division, he learned that Marshal Schörner was angry at the highest level and was about to liquidate the division. That must not happen. General Vlasov's only hope was to be able to offer his divisions to the Americans. If he were to lose them, it would be all over. Vlasov immediately went to the staff of Marshal Schörner in the spa Velichovky near Hradec Králové. The road was full of pitfalls, because anti-German standing was already beginning in Bohemia. It was May 2, 1945. Vlasov did not meet with Schörner in the evening. ROA leaders eventually managed to get the marshal to cancel the division's disarmament order. In return, he promised to lead his troops against the Bolsheviks. Near Louny, Vlasov met Buňačenko. The commander of the first division convinced Vlasov that the only chance to save was to speak out against the Germans. " If we help the Czechs from the Germans, we will also help them not to be swallowed up by the Bolsheviks, " Buňačenko claimed. Finally, he admitted that he had accepted the Czech delegation and negotiated an agreement. Vlasov disagreed with Buňačenko, but eventually gave him a free hand.

On May 4, 1945, the commander of the Allied troops, General D.Eisenhower agreed with the Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Army, General Antonov, on the line of contact between the two armies: České Budějovice - Plzeň - Karlovy Vary. The Soviets had a free hand and made accelerated preparations for the liberation of Prague, where an uprising broke out on May 5. The control center became the Czech National Council ( ČNR ) headed by Professor A. Pražák. She joined the Košice government of the National Front. The military headquarters was subordinated to General K. Kutlvašr and Lieutenant Colonel Bartoš . Natural events in Prague thus acquired an organized character. Buňačenko's division was at that time near Beroun, about 30 km from Prague. On May 5, Buňačenko concluded an agreement with representatives of the insurgents. The division was to set out in a few hours on its way to Prague and help the insurgents. In the meantime, fierce fighting took place in the capital. The rebel radio called for help. On the morning of May 6, at the request of Lieutenant General SS Puckler , the German Air Force was deployed. The military insurgent commander Kutlvasr receives an ultimatum from the Germans. The situation is desperate. During the night, news of the arrival of the Vlasovs arrives at the insurgent headquarters. West of Prague, they clashed with the Germans and disarmed 10,000 of them. They shell the Zbraslav chateau and attack Lahovice. The next direction of progress leads through Dušníky, Košíře and reconnaissance patrols penetrate as far as Smíchov. The population welcomes them and clears the passages in the barricades. They fight the Germans in Motol and attack the Ruzyně barracks and the airport. It is from Ruzyně that German planes take off to attack Prague and destroy the historic center of the city. By morning, General Kutlvašr is receiving comprehensive data on Vlasov's army. It is already certain that the division has entered Prague and the soldiers are joining the insurgents. The first regiment of Lieutenant Colonel Archipov operates in the area of Radotín, Chuchle and Zlíchov. Lieutenant Colonel Artemev's second regiment advanced on Jinonice and reached Vyšehrad. The third regiment of Lieutenant Colonel Alexandrov-Rybcov fights at Ruzyně and advances to Střešovice and Hradčany. Colonel Sakharov's last, fourth regiment moved from Beroun to Motol and from there attacked Smíchov. General Buňačenko sent the parliamentarians of Captain Antonov together with the Czech liaison officer, Lieutenant Charvát, with a surrender call to K.H. Frank . The insurgent radio then announced in the morning that General Vlasov was asking Frank to surrender with the German army in Prague. If he does not receive an answer within eleven hours, the people of Vlasov will launch another attack. The Czech Republic, which is based in Bartolomějská Street, also learns about Frank's capitulation challenge. According to council members, Vlasov cannot challenge Frank without coordination with the headquarters of the Czechoslovak troops. Only the Czech people who carry out the uprising can call on the Germans to surrender. The Council decides to invite Captain Antonov, Deputy General Buňačenko. Antonov came and said that he respected the position of the Czech National Council. He promised that Vlasov's troops would operate in accordance with Czechoslovak commanders. Further negotiations will then be reserved for the command of the Czechoslovak forces in cooperation with the command of General Vlasov's troops.

After Antonov's departure, there was an excited discussion in the Czech Republic about the Vlasov event. Communist Vaclav David warned that cooperation with Vlasov could have far-reaching consequences for the USSR's position and could jeopardize the aid of the uprising, which was requested by the insurgent radio yesterday. General Kutlvašr spoke out against him, knowing how much help Vlasov's troops meant to the desperately fighting Praguers. Without their help, he could not imagine another leadership of the fight against the German superiority. David protests again and insists that Vlasov not be treated. A letter translated into flimsy Russian was finally sent to General Vlasov. " Mr. General Vlasov, the Czech National Council thanks your soldiers for the quick help they provided to our capital city of Prague upon a radio call.The Czech National Council met with your authorized representative and announced the manner of this cooperation ... ”The radio then published a statement from the Czech National Council stating that General Vlasov's action against German troops was his own affairs and that the Czech National Council had no political agreements with them. At that time, the Vlasovs began to distribute leaflets of " dangerous content " in Prague: " We Russian soldiers, who are waging a struggle for the freedom of their native Russia against further humiliation by Bolshevism, cannot be a party to this struggle of the Czech nation ... " London. Hubert Ripka, over the radio, urged extreme caution and restraint in dealing with General Vlasov's troops. " Vlasov is considered a traitor in Russia. If this possibility were not taken into account, serious complications would arise in relation to Russia. "

Representatives of the Czech National Council realized what the alliance with Vlasov would mean for post-war development. But on the other hand, it was difficult to refuse the help of several thousand soldiers in a situation where there were not enough rifles and enough ammunition and when Prague was attacked from three sides by Waffen SS units. Actually impossible. To avoid suspicion that it had political agreements with the Vlasov family, the Czech Republic appealed to the soldiers of Vlasov's army: " You were formed to fight against your Soviet homeland. You have decided to turn your weapons against the Nazis in time. We welcome your decision, beat the Nazis, beat them like the people of Prague, beat them like the famous Red Army. "

On the evening of May 6, the commander of the 1st Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Archipov, learned a devastating news. In front of the rebel headquarters building, he found a group of American military vehicles heading for Schörner's staff, where parliamentarians were to negotiate the surrender of German troops. In an interview with them, Archipov learned that the American army, which the Russians expected to come to Prague, must not cross the agreed demarcation line. Buňačenko's plan to travel to American captivity collapsed. On the morning of May 7, the allied Vlasov rebel troops resume combat operations. The crew of the barracks in Motol surrenders. Vlasovci proceeds via Karlov to Fugnerovo náměstí and Vinohrady. Around noon, Pankrác, Bílá hora and Hvězda are occupied. The Germans quickly recovered and attacked Pankrác with the support of tanks. Vlasovci are in distress and have heavy losses. In the afternoon, the 1st Regiment retreated to the left bank of the Vltava and its artillery blasted Hradčany. In the evening, heavy fighting breaks out and lasts all night. He fights in Vyšehrad, Pankrác and Ruzyně. Defenders urgently need reinforcements. During the day, however, there were quarrels between the insurgents and Vlasov's troops. In Lobkowice Square and elsewhere, the people of Vlasov adopted all the captured weapons, regardless of the need for the insurgents. Another incident occurred in front of the radio building. The representative of the Vlasov family demanded that a call to the world public be included in the sessions. When his request was denied, a section of Vlasov was about to take the building by storm. The fight was about to take place when the situation was resolved by a Czechoslovak officer, who persuaded the people of Vlasov to withdraw.

At the headquarters of the Czech National Council in Bartolomějská Street, it was again about Vlasovce. After a lively exchange of views, the Czech National Bank decided to send David and Knap to Buňačenko with a letter of thanks. The delegation is to find out further intentions of the Vlasov family. Buňačenko accepted them with overwhelmed anger. The Czechs refused his request to be allowed to read on the radio the statement that he was fighting for Russia's freedom and against Stalin. Buňačenko read a letter written in bad Russian: "The Czechs thank you for your help, but they cannot remain indifferent to the hostility of Czechoslovakia from the best friend of Czechoslovakia, Stalin and his army, and ask the general to withdraw his troops from Prague. "Buňačenko is angry with himself and shouts:" I won't stay in this city for an hour! You are not worth a single drop of blood. Go to the Bolsheviks. After all, they will show you! "On the same day, the units of the First ROA Division begin to leave Prague.

The Russian 1st Division advanced from Prague on the road to Pilsen, into the saving arms of American captivity. It was May 8, 1945.Three days earlier, ROA officials agreed with the Americans to lay down their weapons in their area of operations. The next day, May 9, 1945, Vlasov met with General Carles H. Noble in Pilsen. He received a promise from him that he would try to keep the division in American captivity. Vlasov then moved to the 1st Division, which camped near the town of Lnáře near Blatná. Vlasov was constantly trying to negotiate, with the help of US Captain Donahue, the transfer of his men to American captivity. Meanwhile, a Russian tank brigade advancing from Prague approached the camped Vlasovs. At that time, the Vlasovs were without weapons, which they passed under the American surrender conditions. The division commander, Captain Bunachenko, ordered the soldiers to retreat to a nearby forest and wait. However, some did not withstand the excruciating uncertainty and voluntarily went into Russian captivity ( about 10,000 men ). Vlasov was still waiting for news from the US command to move his troops out of Soviet reach. The next day, May 12, 1945, Bunachenko received a message from Vlasov that the division could move to territory occupied by the Americans. Despite this permission, the American liaison officer suggested that it be wiser to adhere to the plan that the Vlasovs were to go through small groups. Bunachenko issued the last order to his division. Panic broke out as he announced that everyone was to retreat south as soon as possible. The men hurriedly destroyed the deeds, the insignia, and all other documents. Then, in small groups, they headed for the Allied lines. For the next few weeks, most of them were chased in the woods by Red Army units and a number of Czech guerrillas in Soviet service. Few of them escaped death or transport to Siberia. The rest did manage to get into American captivity, but most of them were handed over to the Soviets shortly thereafter. Such was the end of the last ROA division. All that remained were Vlasov and Buňačenko and several of their companions. They set out on the road from the Flax, to the American escorts, to the west. They drove only about 1.5 km when a convoy was stopped by a Soviet military car. A Soviet officer stepped out, pulling Vlasov out of the jeep with the indifference of an American escort and the help of a ROA traitor. He was escorted to the Soviet headquarters, then traveled to Dresden and from there by plane to Moscow. Other officers, including Buňačenko, were extradited by the Allies to the Soviets under repatriation agreements. All of the above sat on the dock for high treason, active espionage and terrorist activity. The trial followed a pre-arranged scenario in which the death penalty by hanging was fixed and approved. Vlasov, Bunachenko, Truchin, Zverev and others were convicted on August 1, 1946. The verdict was executed.


General Vlasov in front of a military tribunal in Moscow, 1946

A few more words about the repatriation of Soviet prisoners and citizens back to Russia. Based on an agreement between the allies, soldiers serving in the German army ( ROA ) and prisoners from German camps were repatriated (even forcibly). Violent repatriations took place in both Europe and Africa. There have been many incidents and unnecessary casualties. The sad episode was just members of the ROA or Cossack divisions, serving voluntarily in the German army. These soldiers were automatically released from American captivity by the Soviets. Among the repatriates was a large part of those who emigrated from Russia before the war and lived in Western countries. By September 30, 1945, when the flow of repatriates had virtually ceased, about 2,035,000 Russians had been transferred from the western occupation zones of Germany and Austria. According to Soviet data, another 2,946,000 people were repatriated from the territory occupied by the Red Army. It will never be possible to find out how much returned voluntarily and how much was forced by force.

References:
Auský Stanislav A.: Troops of General Vlasov in Bohemia, Vyšehrad 1992
Tolstoy Nikolai: Victims of Yalta, Elka Press 1998
Richter Karel: The Tragedy of a General

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Author : 🕔02.11.2002 📕186.827