New details of war veteran and thief in law Tolik Cherkas's biography

New details of war veteran and thief in law Tolik Cherkas's biography
Anatoly Cherkasov (Tolik Cherkas)

A new version of the biography of the legendary crime boss has emerged.

The life of Anatoly Cherkasov, better known in criminal circles as thief in law Tolik Cherkas, has long been mythologized. Recently, yet another version opposing the one presented in Wikipedia has appeared on the Internet.

According to some author Alexander Polishchuk, the reality turned out to be much simpler, but no less heroic. It is argued that Cherkasov got to the front during World War II not through the penal battalion from the prison where he was serving a 5-year sentence for a number of robberies, but that he was a guardsman — the elite of the Red Army.

His military period of life began in 1942, and not in 1944, as many sources say, when he was sent to the intelligence group of the 7th battery of the 214th guard howitzer artillery regiment of the 8th guard howitzer brigade from the 3rd guards artillery penetration division of the general headquarters reserve.

After the Battle of Kursk, Soviet troops went on the offensive with heavy fighting, which allowed the soldiers of heavy artillery to stand out. In the fall of 1943, the long-lasting Orsha operation of the troops of the Western Front began, and one of the stages of the operation was to begin on November 14, 1943, when the 31st army, advancing north of the Dnieper, received the task of breaking through the enemy’s tactical defense by 8 km.

On November 11, Cherkasov was ordered to establish a stable connection with the command of rifle companies of one of the regiments of the 251st rifle division, which was supported by his 7th battery.

After establishing contacts with the neighbors, the to-be crime boss, on his own initiative, carried out reconnaissance and found out that under the cover of bad weather in conditions of limited visibility, the Germans were building up strength for a counterattack. The data obtained by Cherkas allowed to thwart the Germans' plans, delivering a preemptive fire attack on them. December 5, 1943, Anatoly Pavlovich himself was awarded the medal For Courage (order No. 06/H of the commander of the 214th guards howitzer regiment).

Already in the winter of 1943-44, in Belorussia, the howitzer brigade of Cherkas came under the command of the 33rd army and, after cutting across the river, was supposed to capture a section of the Stupnishche-Shemilovka railway, thus contributing to the entrapment and destruction of the German Vitebsk group. On February 5, 1944, during the offensive on the settlement of Bukshtyny (the German 431st grenadier regiment from the 131st infantry division held the line), the Red Army suffered a major setback.

Firstly, the division itself was weak - on February 3, 1944, it numbered only 4,382 people. Secondly, on the very first day of the offensive, the 256th tank brigade, attached to it for supplementation, having strayed from the reconnoitered route, got bogged down in a swamp and left 8 of the 22 tanks there, three more tanks went deep into the enemy's defense and went missing, and 5 cars were crippled by the Germans. Attacks on Bukshtyny died out. The offensive on February 4 and 5 failed as well. The total death toll of the 164th rifle division for the day of the battle on February 5 amounted to 177 people.

And that was when Cherkas had his chance to stand out, who, on his own initiative, led a subdivision of machine gunners to storm the village, fell under heavy machine-gun fire, was wounded, but did not leave the battlefield; having dressed his wounds, led the submachine gunners out of the fire and, having received a second wound, was evacuated. As a result, in March 1944, Cherkasov received his second award for determination and fearlessness, namely, the order “Glory of the 3rd degree” (Order No. 4/n of the commander of the 3rd Guards Breakthrough Artillery Division)

Already in November 1944, Cherkasov once again distinguished himself by discovering three enemy targets, which, thanks to his information, were destroyed. By the time he, as a junior sergeant of the Guard, was already in command of the intelligence department, whose service was praised by commanders, and Cherkasov was awarded the medal “For courage” (Order No. 12/N of the commander of the 214th Guards Howitzer Artillery Regiment of 15.10.1944). 

Even when many did not have a desire to risk their lives by the end of the war, Cherkas continued to show his best fighting and commanding qualities. During the East Prussian strategic offensive in early 1945, in which the 5th Army took part as part of the 3rd Belorussian Front of General Ivan Chernyakhovsky, the purpose of which was the defeat of the entire East Prussian group of German troops, Anatoly Cherkasov discovered a whole range of enemy weapons near the village of Friching: a disguised self-propelled gun, an anti-tank gun, a mortar battery, two observation posts of the enemy, 5 dugouts, and 4 machine-gun points. On a tip from Cherkas, all of them were destroyed by the artillery fire of the 214th Guards Howitzer Artillery Regiment. In fact, Anatoly Pavlovich acted as artillery forward observer and gun layer, the most difficult and dangerous profession at war. 

Near Gross-Laut on January 28, 1945, Cherkas was again wounded in the chest, but refused to evacuate and continued to monitor the enemy. He went to the no-man's land and found that the German infantry was preparing a counter-attack, saving his unit.

For all this, Cherkasov got his next award, the Order of Glory of the 2nd Degree (Order No. 22/n of the Military Council of the 5th Army of 24.03.1945). 

It is also noted that Cherkas was never a penalized soldier and did not take Berlin, as various sources reported, but showed himself truly heroically in battles during the liberation of Belarus and on the land of East Prussia. The author of his biography writes that “life is not only black or only white, but has many shades, and each person is the creator of their own destiny.” Cherkas paid his debt to the Motherland, living the life of a sergeant-guardsman, a fearless artillery commander, and a scout. But after returning from the front line, he went back to prison a year later. In 1950, he was transported under guard to Vorkuta. He died in Rostov-on-Don on September 6, 1990 (other sources say 1996).

It is noteworthy that history knows many other examples of how war heroes could not stand the realities of a peaceful life. For example, pilot Pyotr Poloz, the hero of the Soviet Union, killed N.S. Khrushchev's security guard, Fomichev, in 1962, for which he was shot. Naval fighter pilot, also the hero of the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Shilkov smirched himself with dishonour due to rape and got 10 years. Yet another hero of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Lelyakin went to armed robbery, and it broke his life.


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