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Sep 4, 2022
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The biggest scam in Soviet history: a fake military unit

The biggest scam in Soviet history: a fake military unit

In 1952, a complaint was received addressed to the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Voroshilov. The applicant was a civilian working in a military unit. He stated that the military unit where he worked, called the Military Construction Directorate (UVS), had collected money to buy government bonds. But the bonds were never received.

The letter was sent to the General Military Prosecutor’s Office. The Ministry of Defense was asked to find out the address of the problematic military unit. The response received testified that there was no such unit on the ministry’s list. The surprised prosecutor’s office turned to the Ministry of State Security, and the same answer came from there.

Further research revealed an incredible, unimaginable, amazing fact. In a country where everything and everything is under total control, there is a fictitious military unit. With a closed territory, personnel, battle flag. Branches in several cities, under the command of Colonel Pavlenko.

Carier start

Nikolai Pavlenko, who is said to have been born in 1908, 1912 or 1914 in a village near Kyiv. Father is a collective farmer, was exiled to Siberia with his family. Fortunately, Nikolai left for Minsk 2 years before this event, in 1928.

Nikolai Pavlenko, who is said to have been born in 1908, 1912 or 1914 in a village near Kyiv.  Father is a collective farmer, was exiled to Siberia with his family.  Fortunately, Nikolai left for Minsk 2 years before this event, in 1928.

It was at this time that he made his first forgery. Soviet norms did not allow people from the “exploiting classes” to receive higher education. Pavlenko draws up a certificate stating that he is the son of a poor peasant, and enters the construction department of the institute.

But two years later, for some reason, he dropped out of school. Some sources say he volunteered because he wanted to work and earn money. Some say that it was difficult for him to study because he did not have a secondary education. And there are even those who claim that he was a child prodigy .. In any case, Pavlenko ends up in Efremov, Tula region, and starts working at a construction site.

There is nothing interesting in Pavlenko’s biography of the 30s. Let’s just say that during this period he collaborated with the NKVD, wrote denunciations against some of his colleagues. And his position gradually rose. When Germany attacked the USSR, he was already a field commander.

daring idea

In the first days of the war, Pavlenko was drafted into the army as a military technician of the 1st class and sent to the Western Military District. Where the hardest fighting took place. Like all Soviet military units here, our hero’s military unit is receiving heavy blows. And retreats with heavy losses.

In the spring of 1942, Pavlenko was sent to the airfield construction. But he wasn’t about to put himself in danger again. He leaves the old place of service with his driver, but does not appear at the new place. The couple appears in the city of Kalinin (now Tver). There are two major events that affect Nikolai’s life.

In the spring of 1942, Pavlenko was sent to the airfield construction.  But he wasn't about to put himself in danger again.  He leaves the old place of service with his driver, but does not appear at the new place.  The couple appears in the city of Kalinin (now Tver).  There are two major events that affect Nikolai's life.

He first meets a girl named Zinaida and decides to marry her. The second incident turned him from an ordinary fugitive into a criminal who would go down in history.

The one with whom he had just met, Ludwig Rudnichenko, decided one day to show him his skills. He made a stamp with the Soviet emblem on the sole of the boot with a knife. Amazed, the fugitive military technician begins to think about how to use this talent.

Pavlenko’s idea was no less striking than Rudnichenko’s skill. He decided to create a fake military unit. He instructs Rudnichenko to make a state coat of arms and a seal with the inscription “Military construction site 5”. And the corresponding stamp. After that, the seals and stamps of higher associations are prepared. And for a bribe, special forms are printed at the local printing house.

In conditions when all the basic foodstuffs are rationed, massive hunger reigns. Pavlenko takes all the necessary steps in exchange for several cans of canned meat. A bank account is opened, military uniforms are purchased at a clothing factory for Rudnichenko and others.

The “officers” are aware of the matter.

Since the first period of the war was extremely difficult for the USSR, chaos reigned in management. Soldiers separated from platoons, units from battalions, regiments from divisions. Therefore, no one was interested in where a unit called UVSR-5 appeared in Kalinin.

It is not difficult to find an empty building and build a headquarters in a city that was under German occupation for two months. How to buy abandoned equipment.

Since the first period of the war was extremely difficult for the USSR, chaos reigned in management.  Soldiers separated from platoons, units from battalions, regiments from divisions.  Therefore, no one was interested in where a unit called UVSR-5 appeared in Kalinin.

Pavlenko, who had assumed the rank of 2nd class military engineer (major), turned to the relevant authorities with a fake letter. And he managed to get stocks of food and clothing. In the same way, the military enlistment office of Kalinin was asked to send newly drafted or dismissed soldiers to UVSR-5. Soon 80 soldiers are sent to the unit. Of course, they did not know that they were serving in a fictitious military unit.

The fake military unit of Pavlenko receives the first orders in Kalinin. Although the city and its environs were not under occupation for long, there was much work to be done.

Since the autumn of 1942, the Soviet army has been advancing and gradually began to liberate the occupied lands. At this time, Pavlenko rightly believes that the military unit in the rear can attract the attention of counterintelligence such as SMERSH. UVSR-5 also begins to move west, in the rear of the Soviet army. But at a safe distance from the front line.

“Combat” merits

In the devastated country, there was a great need for military units involved in construction. To restore communication between the front line and the rear, it was necessary to urgently repair roads and railways. Bridges, as well as airfields and other military infrastructure. In exchange for the work done, hundreds of thousands of funds entered the bank account.

In the devastated country, there was a great need for military units involved in construction.  To restore communication between the front line and the rear, it was necessary to urgently repair roads and railways.  Bridges, as well as airfields and other military infrastructure.  In exchange for the work done, hundreds of thousands of funds entered the bank account.

By the end of the war, Pavlenko, who became a colonel, already had up to 300 people. They served in a fictitious military unit called UVR-5. His construction machinery and garage are also greatly expanded.

The part that goes to Germany confiscates a lot of property under the name of military needs. From cattle to cars, tractors, motorcycles. From sewing machines to various food products. All this is loaded into 30 wagons and sent to Kalinin.

230 fighters of the unit were awarded orders and medals. Pavlenko himself receives the Order of the Red Star, the Order of the Patriotic War, I and II degrees.

Pavlenko, who does not want to risk his happiness, which still smiled at him. After selling the booty he brought from Germany, he generously rewards his henchmen and releases the military unit.

Post-war “victories”

But Pavlenko, who is used to living in abundance and already has a mistress, soon runs out of money. In 1948, he decided to continue his “military career” and reunited with his old associates.

This time, the headquarters of a unit called UVS (military construction department) was located first in Lvov, then in Chisinau. By already tested methods, Pavlenko manages to send conscripts to a fake unit.

After creation, suspect the fakeness of the military unit with red stars engraved on the gate.  With the commander, who on holidays stood next to the leaders of the party and government on the podium, and had all the attributes, it was as unimaginable as the adventure itself.

Construction work was carried out everywhere in the post-war country. Pavlenko also makes good use of it. With cheap labor, soldiers work 10-12 hours a day and quickly fulfill orders. Branches of the fake military unit cover all the western republics of the USSR. 21 current accounts are opened in various branches of the state bank.

But this time Pavlenko hardly managed to achieve the discipline of his henchmen. During the war, the commander of a military unit could shoot his subordinates. And it played a serious role in maintaining discipline. Now this was not the case, and in fact Pavlenko was in a hopeless situation.

It was indiscipline that put an end to this whole amazing adventure. One of the officers did not fully pay the pledges promised to the workers. And one of them complained to Moscow.

At the same time, information appeared about the falsification of the military unit. As a result of the operation carried out on November 14, the guards of the unit were disarmed. All personnel, except for the commander, were arrested. Those who did not know that they were serving in a fictitious military unit were later released. Pavlenko, who managed to escape, was captured after 9 days.

End of the scam

The investigation into the fake military unit was led by Semyon Svigun, deputy chairman of the Moldovan KGB. The investigation lasted two years, the criminal case covered 164 volumes.

17 people appeared before the court.  During the five-month trial, Pavlenko said that he had worked to contribute to the reconstruction of the country.  And will continue to do so if given the opportunity.  But his arguments were not accepted.

It was established that only in 1948-1952 the military unit concluded 64 agreements with various organizations. In the amount of 38 million, and 25 million rubles were cashed out. It turned out that there were 6 cars and 62 trucks in the fictitious military unit. As well as over 100 firearms. During the searches, 13 fake seals and stamps were found.

17 people appeared before the court. During the five-month trial, Pavlenko said that he had worked to contribute to the reconstruction of the country. And will continue to do so if given the opportunity. But his arguments were not accepted.

In April 1955, the court sentenced Nikolai Pavlenko to death. Rudnichenko by the age of 20, the rest by 5-15 years of camps. The exact date of execution of the sentence against Pavlenko is not known. Thus, the largest scam in Soviet history ended.

Conclusion

But in a country like the Soviet Union, especially under Stalin's total control and fear, the creation and long-term functioning of a fake military unit was an incredible audacity.  However, on the other hand, it was precisely this fear that was the reason for the lack of interest in the military unit.  Questioning about her, gathering information.

In the history of mankind, there have been many scams, scams and adventures that have amazed people. Someone pretended to be a dead prince and took the throne. Someone sold the Eiffel Tower, and someone sold the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul. A man who was first a murderer and a robber, then became the Pope.

But in a country like the Soviet Union, especially under Stalin’s total control and fear, the creation and long-term functioning of a fake military unit was an incredible audacity. However, on the other hand, it was precisely this fear that was the reason for the lack of interest in the military unit. Questioning about her, gathering information.

Such an adventure, most likely, should have been exposed at the very beginning. After creation, suspect the falsity of the military unit with red stars engraved on the gate; with the commander, who on holidays stood next to the leaders of the party and government on the podium; and had all the attributes; was as unimaginable as the adventure itself.

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