The partisan leader Artyom Ramanchuk was, to put it mildly, a legend. A printer’s assistant before the Great Patriotic War, he had taken up arms after a Nazi Einsatzgruppe had slashed through his village, executing his boss (a Jew) and his father-in-law (a commissar).

From late 1941, he’d forged a disparate group of Belorussians into a potent fighting force. They blew up railway lines, sabotaged Nazi supply convoys, and established broad “liberated” fiefs far behind the front lines, places where the invaders would only travel in great numbers and in direst need. Ramanchuk even founded a number of partisan collective farms in forest clearings and other unoccupied lands to provide food and meat for his growing force.

Always a dedicated student of Lenin and the Revolution, Ramanchuk used what spare time he had studying Marxist theory. Using his experience as a printer, he made and distributed several underground books in which he detailed a new form of collective farming based on the Jewish kibbutz and ways in which the Soviet government could adapt its large and unwieldy structure to become more responsive to the needs of its people.

Those books proved to be his undoing. When his area of operations in the Byelorussian SSR was overrun by Red Army troops in 1944, Ramanchuk expected his force of nearly 10,000 partisans to join them. After all, they had aided Operation Bagration considerably through behind-enemy-lines actions. Instead, the NKVD rounded Ramanchuk and his officers into a Minsk stockyard under the pretense of taking a snapshot.

The ranking commissar read a note declaring the men anti-Soviet reactionaries, and they were gunned down to a man by a heavy machine gun nest concealed, appropriately, in a nearby slaughterhouse. The remaining partisans and their families, including Ramanchuk’s common law wife Darja Maysenia and his daughter Tatsiana, were shipped to Siberia.