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Mikhail Devyatayev (wikipedia.org)
75 points by rmason 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 33 comments

Missing from this article is why Devyatayev was considered a criminal:

"The NKVD did not believe Devyataev's story, arguing that it was impossible for the prisoners to take over an airplane without cooperation from the Germans. Thus, Devyataev was suspected of being a German spy and sent to a penal military unit along with the other nine men. Of the escapees, five died in action over the following months. Devyataev himself spent the remainder of the war in prison."[1]

[1] https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Devyatayev

We’re there any returning POWs who weren’t considered to be criminals?

Russian history is just brutal, particularly during the Soviet era. A meaningful portion of its citizens were deemed criminal and the definition of criminal changed with time. All sorts of things got you dead or imprisoned: your class, your region, your town, ethnicity, religion, friends, family, profession and everything else.

There will be loads of good books about it, but Simon Sebag Montefiore has done a few - Young Stalin and The Court of the Red Czar come to mind immediately.

They weren't considered criminals, they were sent to detention for clearing because otherwise it would've been easy for spies to get into army ranks. Of course, it sounds straight-forward in theory, but during war times the conditions in the detention were awful, and the whole Soviet system of gulags was very demanding of labor, so there weren't many incentives to get cleared.

Someone seems to have added that text. :)

What is fascinating and tragic is how how Soviets treated their own repatriated POWs. The hero of this story remained classified a criminal until 1957 when the head of the Soviet space agency personally pled his case.

Why was he considered a criminal?

Treating all POWs as traitors and spies was easier than weeding out the actual traitors and spies. Human life had no value in the USSR.

Not sure if you know much about communists, but none of them value human life.

According to Soviet penal code, paragraph 58-1, betrayal of motherland, aka treason. Punishable by death or 25+5 in prison camp. True and proper communist wouldn't have let himself be captured.

POWs and civilians who lived in the occupied lands were often charged with treason and sent to labor camps. Many (but not all) were released in 1953 when Stalin finally died.

It was dishonorable to be caught by the enemy in combat, and considered a shame.

A similar thing happened with Russian pilots who were held captive in Afghanistan in the 90s. They all escaped with their plane after being held captive for a year: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airstan_incident


On each trip the crew would be guarded by six Taliban guards but on 16 August 1996, half of the guards left the crew for afternoon prayers. Seizing the opportunity, the Russians overpowered the remaining guards and the pilot was able to start one engine from the auxiliary power unit (itself started with a battery)


See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathias_Rust

>An amateur pilot, the then-teenager flew from Helsinki, Finland, to Moscow, being tracked several times by Soviet air defence and interceptor aircraft. The Soviet fighters did not receive permission to shoot him down, and his aeroplane was mistaken for a friendly aircraft several times. He landed on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, next to Red Square near the Kremlin in the capital of the Soviet Union.

I am reminded of Bob Hoover commandeering an FW-190 to escape to Holland after spending 16 months in Stalag I:



> After a short time in hospital, in late March 1945 seven of the escapees were sent to serve in the rifle unit, five of them died in action over the following weeks.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire!

Union sent their own ex-POWs to https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shtrafbat who were marched in front of https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrier_troops

Yeah, when I read "rifle unit" I translated it into penal battalion.

I came here to post that exact paragraph. Talk about a Soviet Russia outcome.

Again and again, I think that hacker news cant be a place for spreading false anti-russian (anti-any country) propaganda that was proved to be false a long ago. If you read a references section of "penal military unit" - you will not able to find it in his books.

Also somewhat related video from the now-shutdown Great Big Story, “Meet the Man Who Escaped the Soviet Bloc in a Homemade Plane”: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ilPGLj87ybo

Can’t trust pilots.

From one prison to another. Socialist regimes are pretty much similar in regards of valuing human life.

seems like they probably were better off in the camp

The Germans hated the Russians (and generally anyone east of them). You had a 57% chance of dying if you were a soviet POW, compared to a 3.6% chance if you were British or American [0].

[0] - https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-perse...

The Russians had a reputation for brutality, and so were considered by the German army to be undeserving of the gentleman's rules of war. Once Germany finally fell, many civilians were raped or killed or starved under the occupying Russian forces. People either hunkered down and hoped for a miracle, or fled to anywhere they could find that was controlled by the French, English, or Americans, who had a reputation for the rule of law.

The Russian POWs were treated terribly long before the Red Army had any chance to maltreat German civilians.

The idea of "Hogan's Heroes" resonating at all is still utterly bizarre to me, given the legacy that we have now of WWII Germany, but I guess with some countries, gentlemen's rules of war were still a thing.

I'm not sure who still finds Hogan's Heroes resonant. I enjoyed it when it was on, but I was about ten, and not particularly up on history.

Not really. If they had stayed in the camp they would have died anyway or sent to the Gulag when they got home instead of “just” being disgraced for a decade

Could the title please be changed to the title of the Wikipedia article, so that it is boring and nobody bothers to read it. That seems to be the intention behind this HN guideline:

"please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait; don't editorialize."


Believe it or not, the "boring titles" often times get better attention. I found that out a couple weeks ago, when I posted my open source project using just the title of the website and it not only made it to the front page, but stayed there for several hours. Whereas I tried for the last several years with more descriptive titles, and it would get at most 1 - 3 upvotes before disappearing from the new submissions queue.

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