80 years ago, on September 10, 1941, the Battle of Smolensk ended
Smolensk. Providence itself established the ancient Russian city in such a way that every enemy that went to Russia from the West rested against it.
Smolensk was Moscow’s shield on the outskirts of it, that stone over which the invader stumbled, already dreamed of views of the golden Moscow bell towers. In the Time of Troubles in 1609-1611. Smolensk withstood a 20-month siege, detaining the army of King Sigismund III of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In August 1812, the Russians fought a fierce battle under the walls of the city of Napoleon’s army.
“… We retreated into the night, and Smolensk blazed behind us, – recalled the hero of the Patriotic War of 1812, General N.N. Muravyov-Karsky. – The troops walked quietly, in silence, with a torn and embittered heart. The image of the Mother of God was taken out of the cathedral, which the soldiers carried all the way to Moscow during the prayer of all the passing regiments. “
The initiative of the memoirist is taken up by the writer. Let’s open “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy: “From under the mountain, a church procession rose from Borodino …
– Mother is being carried! Intercessor! .. Iberian !!
“Mother of Smolensk,” corrected another.
… Behind the battalion, walking along the dusty road, there were priests in robes, one old man in a klobuk with a clergyman and singers. Behind them, soldiers and officers carried a large, with a black face in a setting, an icon. It was an icon, taken from Smolensk and from that time carried by the army. For the icon, around it, in front of it, from all sides walked, ran and bowed to the ground with naked heads of the crowd of military … “…
Smolensk played its historical role as a shield for Moscow in the Great Patriotic War. It was in the theater of operations around it that a fierce battle broke out on July 10, 1941, which was of decisive importance for disrupting the German blitzkrieg.
Commander of the Western Front, Marshal S.K. Tymoshenko focused his main efforts on holding the Smolensk Gate – between the Western Dvina and the Dnieper rivers, where he sent troops of three armies – the 16th (Major General K.K.Rokossovsky), 19th (Lieutenant General M.F. Lukin) and 20th (Lieutenant General F.A.Ershakov). Behind the troops of the Western Front, 100 km east of Smolensk, the Stavka deployed a second strategic echelon from the group of forces of the Front of Reserve Armies, which united six combined-arms armies, which increased the stability of the western direction.
On July 15, the enemy captured the 16th, 19th and 20th armies in the Smolensk region from three sides. To retreat to the east, they had the only crossing over the Dnieper in the area of the village of Solovyovo (15 km south of Yartsevo). Fierce battles did not stop day or night. The departure of our troops from Smolensk to the crossing (and the 19th Army was the last to withdraw) took five days. Commander-19 General M.F. Lukin told the writer K.M. Simonov: “These five days are a heroic feat of the 16th and 20th armies, which shed blood and lay down with bones, but held the enemy, exhausted him” and ultimately provided the 19th army with the possibility of crossing.
Front commander Marshal S.K. Tymoshenko, in turn, reported to the Chief of the General Staff, Marshal B.M. Shaposhnikov: “The shackling of such significant forces of Army Group Center by the 20th and 16th armies did not allow it to develop its success from the Smolensk region in the direction of Drogobuzh – Vyazma and ultimately played a decisive role in the reconstruction of a continuous front of Soviet troops east of Smolensk, which was two more than a month stopped the enemy in the western direction “…
Meanwhile, the Soviet command continued to transfer its reserves to Moscow. At the turn of Staraya Russa – Ostashkov – Bely – Yelnya – Bryansk, i.e. in the rear of the Western Front, the Reserve Army Front was defended. In total, the new front included four armies (29th, 30th, 31st and 24th). On the distant approaches to Moscow, the front of the Mozhaisk line of defense was formed as part of the 32nd, 33rd and 34th armies. Three defensive lines were being prepared, occupied by troops at a depth of 300 km.
The combat operations of the troops of the center and the left wing of the Western Front were divided into two relatively independent centers of struggle: one in the region of Smolensk, the other in Gomel. On July 25, for the convenience of controlling the troops, the Headquarters formed the Central Front (Colonel General F.I.Kuznetsov, from August 7 – Lieutenant General M.G. Efremov). The task of this front was to firmly cover the junction of the Western and Southwestern Fronts and by active actions to the northwest, in the direction of Gomel, Bobruisk, to contribute to the success of the Western Front.
Strengthening the defense in the Moscow direction, the Supreme Command Headquarters on July 30 united the reserve armies on the Rzhev-Vyazma defensive line, creating a Reserve Front headed by General G.K. Zhukov, who had recently been relieved of his post as chief of the General Staff.
The persistent and active hostilities of the Soviet troops near Smolensk weakened the offensive power of Army Group Center. She found herself shackled in all sectors of the front. In the course of the Smolensk battle, a miscalculation of the political and military leadership of Germany was clearly revealed; it clearly underestimated the ability of the Soviet troops to fiercely resist. The main goal of the campaign – the destruction of the Soviet armies – could not be achieved.
And although there were still quite a lot of forces, the Wehrmacht could no longer conduct an offensive simultaneously in three main directions. On July 30, Hitler was forced to sign Directive No. 34, according to which Army Group Center was to go on the defensive. The main efforts of the Germans were shifted to the flanks. The German command intended to continue the offensive with the aim of destroying the Soviet troops in Ukraine, and also to blockade Leningrad together with the Finnish troops. Tank groups that were part of Army Group Center were withdrawn from combat to restore their combat effectiveness and then use them on the flanks of the eastern front.
In August, the main events unfolded in the zone of the Central Front, where 25 divisions of Army Group Center, including six armored and motorized, were deployed. They attacked the south with the aim of reaching the rear of the Southwestern Front, which stopped the advance of Army Group South on the Dnieper line. On August 8, with the support of large aviation forces, the formations of the 2nd Panzer Group of G. Guderian went on the offensive, and on the 12th they were supported by the 2nd Field Army.
The troops of the Central Front could not hold back a powerful tank strike and, under the threat of being enveloped by enemy forces, began to withdraw in the southern and southeastern directions. Then the Supreme Command Headquarters, in order to prevent the encirclement of the Central Front and the enemy’s exit to the rear of the troops that were defending Kiev, deployed the Bryansk Front (Lieutenant General A.I. Eremenko) between the Central and Reserve Fronts.
And although the troops of the Western, Reserve, Central, Bryansk fronts suffered heavy losses, their strikes did not reach the target, they inflicted very significant damage on the enemy.
The troops of the Reserve Front achieved significant success. Near Yelnya, the 24th army of Major General K.I. Rakutina from August 30 to September 8 conducted an offensive operation to destroy the enemy group. The front commander, General of the Army G.K. Zhukov chose the most decisive method – two-sided coverage with the aim of encircling and defeating the Germans in parts. By the end of September 8, the Elninsky ledge, which had entered the defense of the Reserve Front, was cut off – the enemy lost an advantageous foothold for attacking the flanks of the Soviet troops.
Here, near Yelnya, the Soviet guard was born. By order of the People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR of September 18, 1941, four rifle divisions: 100th (Major General I.N. Russiyanov), 127th (Colonel A.Z. Akimenko), 153rd (Colonel N.A. Gagen ) and the 161st (Colonel P.F. Moskvitin) were renamed the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Guards Rifle Divisions.
On September 10, the Smolensk battle ended. “It should be said – recalled the former commander of the Western Front, Marshal S.K. Tymoshenko, – that there was not a single piece of land in the Smolensk region, where the Soviet soldier would not stand until the last cartridge, until the last breath. And if he retreated, it was only by order of his commanders … The battles in the Smolensk region were remembered as one continuous grandiose battle that did not stop for a minute. The people and the army accomplished a great feat “… The population of the Smolensk region rendered invaluable assistance to the troops. About 300 thousand inhabitants of the Smolensk region took part in defensive work alone in the zone of the Western Front.
The main result of the Smolensk battle was the disruption of the Wehrmacht’s plans for a non-stop advance towards Moscow. For the first time since the beginning of World War II, German troops were forced to go over to the defensive in the main direction of their strike. In late autumn, Moscow did not have enough time and energy spent near Smolensk, at the Solovievskaya ferry, in the Dukhovshchina region, near Yartsevo and Yelnya.
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