Battle for Moscow – Red Army Counterattacked from City Fringes 80 Years ago

Battle for Moscow – Red Army Counterattacked from City Fringes 80 Years ago

Photo: https://zen.yandex.ru

On December 5, Russia celebrates the Day of Military Glory. It was on this day 80 years ago that the active phase of the Red Army counter-offensive began on a broad front from Kalinin to Yelets.

The battle of Moscow takes a special place in the history of the Second World War. As a result of this counter-offensive, the Nazis suffered their first defeat. Having marched for two years across Europe which offered little resistance, Hitler's army took the first decent punch near Moscow.

The last German offensive began on November 15-16. The Nazis had amassed 25 to 27 divisions on the main axis Volokolamsk – Nara, including 18 tank and motorized infantry divisions on its left flank but their strength oozed away during the fighting. Moreover, when the German troops approached the village of Kryukovo, it became clear that they had not expected such fierce resistance from Red Army units. The Germans were on their last legs as they had miscalculated the strength of Soviet troops.

“When Hitler signed the famous Barbarossa plan, he assumed that the war with the Soviet Union would be a blitzkrieg,” historian and journalist Yevgeny Spitsyn told wek.ru. “The German plan hinged on this strategic goal but by approving it, Hitler signed his death warrant. Exhausting defensive battles were waged on the border in the summer of 1941. Then there was the defense of Kyiv in July and September. At the same time, there was a heavy battle near Smolensk and the defense of Leningrad, and then the Red Army counterattacked near Elnia. The fighting took a heavy toll on Hitler's troops. So, his offensive on Moscow failed to complete this strategic task.”

By the beginning of the counter-offensive, the Soviet troops had more than 1 million soldiers and officers. On December, 5 troops of the Kalinin Front led by Colonel-General I. S. Konev mounted a counterattack. On December, 6 General of the Army G. K. Zhukov’s Western Front and the right-wing of the Southwestern Front under Marshal S. K. Timoshenko’s command counterattacked, too. The German command had to acknowledge that the Army Group Centre offensive on Moscow had failed. The Soviet command decided that it was the most favorable moment for a counterstrike against the whole Army Group Centre. The Red Army fought fierce battles and defeated the Nazis from the very beginning. On December 8, Hitler signed directive No. 39 on the transition to the defense across the Soviet-German front.

“The battle for Moscow began on September 30,” said Spitsyn. “It is divided into the defensive stage that ended on December 5-6, 1941, and the offensive stage, which began exactly 80 years ago and ended, according to some historians, in January 1942, and according to others, on April 20, 1942. By the way, the final date of the Battle of Moscow in the post-Soviet historiography has become a subject of quite heated scientific debate. In my opinion, there is more politics in the date of April 20 than historical science.”

"Only he who saw the endless expanse of Russian snow during this winter of our misery and felt the icy wind that blew across it, burying in snow every object in its path: who drove for hour after hour through that no-man's-land only at last to find too thin shelter with insufficiently clothed, half-starved men: and who also saw by contrast the well-fed, warmly clad and fresh Siberians, fully equipped for winter fighting: only a man who knew all that can truly judge the events which now occurred,"

German Army 2nd Panzer Group commander General Guderian later wrote in his memoirs.

A clip from the film “Defeat of German forces near Moscow” / “Victory Museum”

Nazi Germany lost about 500,000 soldiers and officers, 1,250 tanks, and 2,500 guns and cars in the battle for Moscow. The Moscow counter-offensive stopped and defeated Nazi Germany troops for the first time in World War II. They were driven back 100-250 kilometers from Moscow, and the Soviet citizens started believing that the Soviet people could defeat the aggressor.

Photo: a still from the documentary film “Defeat of German troops near Moscow,” directed by I. Kopalin and L. Varlamov. Produced by the Central Documentary Film Studio. (Arch. № 5058).

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