Syncretic Subculture or Stalinism without Stalin? Soviet Partisans as Communities of Violence
Fedor Danilovich Gnezdilovo was born in 1898 to a poor peasant family in Voronezh province. Long before he became a famous partisan, he joined the counterinsurgency troops fighting the insurrections in Turkestan that began in 1916. During the Civil War he joined the Red Army to fight the Whites in the South, then returned to Central Asia to “liquidate bands” of rebels in the early 1920s. Having finished only a one-class peasant school, he was too illiterate to take advantage of an invitation to study at a party school, he recalled, but after demobilization at the end of 1922 he began work as an executioner for Soviet courts in Central Asia. “Eleven years I shot enemies of the people who were sentenced by our Soviet court,” he proudly told the Academy of Sciences Historical Commission, the socalled Mints Commission, in May 1942.1 By 1929 he had “gone psycho” (zapsikhoval), as he readily admitted in his interview, but was cured after six months in a psychiatric institute. He moved to Moscow and found work in the department of prisons of the NKVD.