The Lokot Autonomy (Russian: Локотскoe самоуправление) was a semi-autonomous region in Nazi German-occupied Central Russia led by Bronislav Kaminski's administration from July 1942 to August 1943. The name is derived from the region's administrative center, the urban-type settlement of Lokot in Oryol Oblast (now located in Bryansk Oblast). The "Autonomy" covered the area of eight raions (the present-day Brasovsky, Dmitriyevsky, Dmitrovsky, Komarichsky, Navlinsky, Sevsky, Suzemsky and Zheleznogorsky districts) now divided between Bryansk, Oryol and Kursk Oblasts. The autonomy was to serve as a test case for a Russian collaborationist government under the SS in Reichskommissariat Moskowien.
In October 1941, the Nazi German military advance into Soviet Union from Operation Barbarossa reached the Lokot area near the city of Bryansk, and was captured by the Germans on October 6, 1941. In November 1941 Bronislav Kaminski (an engineer at a local distillery) and Konstantin Voskoboinik (a local technical school teacher) were approached the German military administration with proposals to assist them in establishing a civil administration and local police. Voskoboinik was designated by Germans as starosta of the "Lokot volost". Kaminski became Voskoboinik's deputy. Other deputies appointed were Stepan Mosin and Roman Ivanin (the head of the local militia), both former prisoners.
Initially the militia headed by Voskoboinik numbered no more than 200 men. It assisted Germans in policing the area, and committed numerous atrocities against the civilian population loyal to the Soviet authorities or Soviet partisans, Soviet prisoners-of war (POWs), Jews and ordinary civilians. By January 1942 the militia's personnel was increased to 400-500.
During a partisan attack headed by Alexander Saburov on January 8, 1942, Voskoboinik was mortally wounded. After his death Kaminski took over the command and further expanded the militia.
In cooperation with German forces the militia commenced anti-partisan operations, and by spring of 1942 the militia had 1,400 armed personnel. The number of Soviet partisans in this area was estimated at 20,000 men – they controlled almost the entire rear of the Army Group Center’s area of operations.
In March 1942 Kaminski’s representative to the German Second Panzer Army in Oryol gave assurances that Kaminski’s unit was “ready to actively fight the guerrillas” and to carry on a propaganda campaign against “Jewish Bolshevism” and Soviet partisans. Soon thereafter the commander of 2nd Army Generaloberst Rudolf Schmidt appointed Kaminski as the mayor of the Army Rear Area 532 centered in the township of Lokot. On 19 July 1942, after the Commander of Army Group Centre, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge gave an official approval, the Lokot administration received some degree of autonomy and nominal self-rule under the supervision of major von Veltheim and colonel Rübsam. Kaminsky was appointed the oberburgomeister of the Autonomous Administration of Lokot (comprising eight raions) and the brigadier of the local militia.
From June 1942, Kaminski’s militia took part in the major anti-partisan action, code-named Operation Vogelsang, as a part of Generalleutnant Werner Freiherr von und zu Gilsa's kampfgruppe (taskforce) Gilsa II.
Germans did not interfere in the affairs of the Lokot Autonomy as long as their transports were kept safe and the republic delivered the required food quotas to the Wehrmacht. Collective farms were abolished, and a large degree of free enterprise was permitted. Kaminski established the Autonomy's own court, jails and newspapers. Kaminski's speeches published in the newspapers of the region emphasised that the aims of Nazi Germany and Russia "are the same".
The schools (closed after the German invasion) were reopened, and a radio station along with theater groups were established in Lokot, Dmitrovsk and Sevsk Newspapers published in the Lokot Autonomy were typical of all newspapers published on Nazi-occupied Russian territories, featuring articles exposing "Jewish Bolshevism" crimes along with Nazi propaganda which included the usual heavy dose of anti-Semitism. The Jewish population in the Autonomy was annihilated without German assistance: 223 Jews were shot in the township of Suzemka, and 39 at Navlya.
In October 1942 Kaminski renamed Lokot township as the town of Voskoboinik. Streets in other townships of the Autonomy were also renamed.
In the autumn of 1942 Kaminski ordered the compulsory draft into militia of all able-bodied men. Its units were reinforced with the “volunteers” drafted from Soviet POWs at the nearest Nazi concentration camps. Kaminski ordered the gathering of Soviet tanks and armored cars abandoned in 1941 due the lack of fuel or minor mechanical failures – by November 1942 his unit has in possession at least two BT-7 tanks and one 76 mm artillery system. Due the lack of uniforms and boots (some units were barefoot) the Germans provided Kaminski's brigade with used uniforms: these were sufficient for only four battalions.
By late 1942, the militia of the Lokot Autonomy had expanded to the size of a 14-battalion brigade with close to 8,000 men under arms called the Russian National Liberation Army (RONA). From November 19, 1942 to December 1942, Lokot was inspected by the order of the Alfred Rosenberg.
In January 1943, the brigade numbered 9828 people; the armored unit of brigade has one heavy KV-II, two medium T-34, three BT-7 and two BT-5 light tanks, and three armored cars (BA-10, 2 BA-20).
In the spring of 1943 the brigade’s structure was reorganized – there were five regiments created with three battalions in each, anti-aircraft battalion (three AAA guns and four heavy machine guns), armored unit. A separate “guard” battalion was created; brigade strength was estimated to be 12,000 men in total.
Prior to Operation Citadel, the massive offensive to destroy the Kursk salient, in May–June 1943 the brigade took part in Operation Zigeunerbaron ("Gypsy Baron") together with other German units.
This operation was followed by similar operations - Freischütz and Tannenhauser, the brigade together with others units under German command was involved in action against partisans and also took part in reprisal operations against the civilian population.
In the summer of 1943, the brigade began to suffer major desertions, due in part to the recent Soviet victories and in part to the efforts of the partisans to "turn" as many of Kaminski's troops as possible. As a part of these efforts, several attempts on Kaminski's life were carried out. Each time, Kaminski narrowly avoided death and punished the conspirators with execution. Several German officers passing through Lokot reported seeing bodies hanging from gallows outside Kaminski's headquarters. Fearing a breakdown in command, a German liaison staff was attached to Kaminski's HQ to restructure the brigade and return stability to the unit.
After the German failure of Citadel, the Soviet counteroffensives forced the brigade, along with their families, to flee with the retreating Germans. On the 29th of July, 1943 Kaminski issued an order for evacuation of property and families of RONA brigade and Lokot authorities. Up to 30 thousand persons (10-11,000 of them were brigade members) were transferred by Germans to the Lepel area of Vitebsk in Belarus by end of August 1943.
According to unreliable post-war Soviet estimates up to 10,000 civilians were killed during the existence of the Kaminski “Autonomy”.
From the end of August 1943 Kaminski tried to set up a new "Lepel Republic" in the Lepel area, which met with strong opposition from the local population. This area was overrun by partisans, and the brigade was involved in heavy combat in this area for the rest of the year.
During the retreat, desertions from the brigade increased greatly, and the entire formation seemed close to disintegration. When the commander of the Second Regiment, Major Tarasov, decided to join the partisans with all of his regiment (he was offered amnesty if his entire regiment joined the partisans), Kaminski flew to his headquarters and according to one account, strangled him and eight others in front of his men. Despite this up to 200 people deserted within two days.
By the beginning of October 1943 the brigade lost 2/3 of its previous personnel number.
On January 27, 1944, Heinrich Himmler decorated Kaminski with the Iron Cross 2nd Class and the Iron Cross 1st Class on the same day.
On February 15, 1944, Kaminski issued an order to relocate the brigade and Lokot administration further west to the Dyatlovo area at West Belarus.
The Jewish population of the area was completely massacred by the auxiliary police.The chief of the Suzemka area police Prudnikov took part in the massacres. There were 223 Jews shot in Suzemka, and 39 in Navlya.
After the end of World War II in Europe some of the former RONA and Lokot personnel were repatriated by the Western Allies to the Soviet Union. At the end of 1946 the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union sentenced Yury Frolov, Stepan Mosin and several others to death. In the 1950s and 1960s several other former officials of the Autonomy were apprehended by the KGB; some of them were also sentenced to death, most notably the Lokot Autonomy's executioner Antonina Makarova-Ginzburg, found in 1978 and sentenced to death.
Anatoli Ivanov portrayed the Lokot Republic in his novel Eternal Call (Вечный зов) and the corresponding TV sequel, which was popular in the Soviet Union.