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The Great Patriotic War 1941 - 1945

At 4.00 on June 22,1941 the German Army, by invading the territory of the USSR, opened the greatest battle in the history - the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945. The War unfolded on the front from Murmansk to Odessa, involving millions in it. Dramatic changes of the situation, greatest battles, tremendous losses-1417 days and nights included all it and more. Tens thousand of tanks, aircraft and millions of soldiers remained on the battlefields. In some aspects, the war still has not yet ended, as not all the dead are buried, and remains of Soviet and German soldiers are still laying in some hidden places in Russia as well as too many questions remain unanswered.

The official Soviet/Russian historiography separates the war into three periods with the Soviet Union entering the war against Japan as a separate campaign. This approach appears to be politically biased as the campaigns, such as Winter/Finnish war, "Liberation" of Poland , Occupation of Baltic states etc., were taken out of the general context of the World War and considered as a chain of non-related events. Otherwise the division of the Great Patriotic War, i.e. 22.06.1941 - 9.05.1945, is reasonable as the periods are based on the main operations with Defense of Stalingrad marking the end of the first period.

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The first period,

lasting from June 22,1941 to November 18,1942, comprised three campaigns:

Autumn-winter 1941, winter 1941/1942, and spring-autumn 1942.

One of the most dramatic periods in the Russian history featured by the stunning defeats of the Red Army and heavy losses sustained during unsuccessful counter-offensives, defense operations. The German Army moved deep in the USSR and reached Moscow.

Main operations of the period:

Baltic strategic defensive operation (Litva and Latvia) 22.06.-9.07.41 : 18 days, front line - 350-450 km, retreat by 400-450 km. 498000 men. Average losses: 4916 men/day. Results: devensive battles inflicted heavy losses to the advancing Group "Nord".

Belorussian strategic defensive operation 22.06-9.07.41: 18 days, front line - 450-800 km,retreat by 450-600 km. 627000 men in the beginning + 45 divisions were additionally sent to the front. Average losses: 23210 men/day.
Results: defensive battles inflicted heave losses and delayed the advance of the Group " Center" allowing the Soviet Supreme Command to prepare the second strategic defense line.

The defensive operation in the Westren Ukraina (Lvov-Tschernovzy) 22.06-6.07.41: 15 days, front line - 600-700 km, 864,000 men. Retreat : 300-350 km. Average losses: 16,106 men/day. Results: heavy defensive battles and counter-attacks by the Soviet tank formations inflicted massive losses and allowed to arrange the defense at the old state boarder. Remark: the Soviet Group of armies in the South was the most powerful before the war among all other Groups. It is explained by different reasons by different experts : (1) Stalin's belief in the advanceof the bulk of Wermacht directly to Kiev; (2) prepation of tremendous preventive strike of the Red Army to block Germany off the Romanian oil by the first strike.

Defense in the North ( Murmansk and Karelia) 29.06-10.10.41: 104 days, front line - 800 km. Retreat - 50-150 km, 358,390 men. Average losses: 1,305 men/day. Results: the German plans to capture Murmansk and surround Leningrad from the North failed.

Defense of Kiev 7.07-26.09.41: 82 days, front line - 300 km, 627,000 men. Retreat: 600 km. Average losses: 8,543 men/day. Results: the heavy battles during 2.5 months resulted in heavy losses for both sides.As always the politics prevailed and under direct Stalin's order the Soviet troops were defending Kiev too long. Although the Wermacht had to withdraw forces from Moscow direction, the strategic situation in general was getting critical for the Red Army.

Defense of Leningrad 10.07-30.09.41: the opening stage of the Battle for Leningrad lasted 83 days on the front of 450 km. 517,000 men. Retreat: 270-300 km. Average losses: 4,155 men/day. Results: the devensive operation did not allow Germans to seize Leningrad, although the German Army was stopped in the suburbs of the city. Remark: the bunch of Party burocrats was about to surrender the second largest city of the USSR. The transfer of Zhukov to Lenigrad allowed to arrange the defense and stop Germans. The event made Stalin change his mind about his former favourites, Zhdanov and Voroshilov. In total the Battle for Leningrad lasted more than three years.

Smolensk battle 10.07-10.09.41: 63 days, front line - 600-650 km, 581,600 men. Retreat: 200-250 km. Average losses: 12,063 men/day. Results: the complex operation comprised defense based on the counter-attacks of the Red Army and local operations with main objective to inflict heavy losses to Germans in order to stop the advance in the direction of Moscow. Due to the massive losses Wermacht postponed further advance for about two months, thus Blitzkrieg plans were broken.

Defense on Donbass-Rostov/Don area 29.09-16.10.41: 49 days, fron line - 400-670 km, 541600 men. Retreat: 150-300 km. Average losses: 3,277 men/day. Results: both sides failed in the carrying out their plans. The Red Army did not stop the German advance, the Germans did not destroy the troops of the Southern front. The planned by Germans advance to Caucasus was failed by the defense of the Red Army. The tactical situation lead to counter-offense of the Red Army under Rostov/Don later.

Defense of Moscow 30.09-5.12.41: the opening stage of the Battle for Moscow lasted 67 days on the front of 700-1110 km. 1250000 men were involved in the operation with the objective to stop Germans. The loss of the capital could lead to grave consequences in the political and economical situation in the USSR, although it would hardly result in the immediate end of the war. The situation on the front was so unstable that nobody in Moscow was sure about anything. The mumified Lenin was taken out of Moscow and secretly delivered on Ural, while the anneversary of the Great October Revolution of 1917 was celebrated in the regular way by the military parade on the Red Square. In the end of October the most citizenz left Moscow (later they returned). Wow, it was close! The Germans were stopped in the suburbs of Moscow within city limits of the modern city. They planned to flood Moscow after capturing and make a sea on its place. The German Army prepared special decorations to award for capturing Moscow and granite blocks for Victory monument. The blocks were captured and later used to decorate the lower part of buildings on the Moscow main street, Tverskaya. Sic transit gloria mundi...
Average losses: 9,825 men/days.

Counter-offensive operation under Tikhvin 10.11-30.12.41: in the offense lasting 51 days on the front of 300-350 km the Soviet troops reclaimed 100-120 km from Germans. 192,250 men, average losses: 959 men/day. Advance : 2-2.5 km/day.
Results: the circle of German troops around Leningrad was broken, 10 German divisions defeated. The Tikhvin operation helped to arrange the counter-offense under Moscow.

Counter-offensive operation under Rostov 17.11-2.12.41: 16 days, front line - 140-180 km. Advance - 60-80 km at 4-5 km/day. 349,000 men. Average losses: 2,069 men/day. Results: the counter-offense negated the German attempt to seize Caucasus as well as the German troops could not be moved to the Moscow direction.

Counter-offensive operation under Moscow 5.12.41-7.01.42: finally buried the Germans plans of capturing Moscow. The first serious defeat of Wermacht in the World War II. The operation lasted 34 days. Front - 1000 km. Advance: 100-250 km at the rate of 3-6 km a day. 1,021,700 men, average losses - 10,910 men/day.

Offense under Rzhev 8.01.42-20.04.42: 103 days. Front line- 650 km. Advance: 80-250 km at 1-2.5 km/day. 1,059,200 men. Losses - 7,543 men/day. Although the strategic objectives were not reached, the operation allowed to clear from enemy the areas close to Moscow.

Defensive operation Voronezh-Voroshilovgrad 28.06-24.07.42: 27 days. Front- 900 km. Retreat: 150-400 km. 1,310,800. Losses: 21,050 men/day. The heavy defensive battles did not prevent the further advance of Germans in the direction of Rostov and Stalingrad.

Devensive operation under Stalingrad 17.07-18.11.42: 125 days. Front line- 250-500 km. Retreat - 150 km. 547,000 men. Losses: 5,151 men/day. The first stage of the Battle under Stalingrad. The German troops were involved in the heavy battles, lost the strike power and time, allowing the Red Army to prepare for the advance.

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