On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Smolensk from Nazi troops, the Russian Ministry of Defense launched on its website a historical and educational multimedia section "We remember the roads of the Smolensk region from Alyosha ...", which contains reports, acts of Nazi atrocities, reports, diagrams and journals of military operations, summaries and award sheets. These documents serve as evidence of the heroism of Soviet soldiers who defeated Hitler's war machine.

"Terrorist regime for Soviet citizens"

The fighting in the Smolensk region had a huge impact on the course of the Great Patriotic War. In the summer of 1941, the defenders of Smolensk fought for the city for more than two weeks, and the battles for the region as a whole held back the Nazi offensive for about two months.

"This time was critically necessary to prepare for the defense of Moscow. It was one of the factors that created the conditions for the December counteroffensive of the Red Army. In the Smolensk region, the Nazi blitzkrieg has seriously stalled, "military historian Sergei Perelygin said in an interview with RT.

The Red Army was forced to withdraw from Smolensk on July 29, 1941. For more than two years, the city remained under Nazi occupation.

"During the stay of the Germans in Smolensk, they introduced an exceptionally cruel terrorist regime for Soviet citizens and prisoners of war of the Red Army, designed for the mass extermination of Soviet people," says the report of the military prosecutor's office of the Western Front to the chief military prosecutor of the Red Army, Lieutenant-General of Justice Vladimir Nosov, published on the website of the Ministry of Defense, dated October 13, 1943.

  • Report of the Military Prosecutor's Office
  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

According to employees of the military prosecutor's office, the Nazis subjected Soviet citizens to illegal arrests, torture, shot them and killed them in gas vans. In addition, Soviet people died due to hunger and overwork. In the report, the death toll was tentatively estimated at 100-120 thousand people. Later it was found that the Nazis killed more than 135 thousand civilians in Smolensk.

"A ghetto was established for the Jewish population ... For some time, the Jewish population was forced to work, but later all the Jews were stripped naked, loaded into cars and taken out of town, where they were buried. It is assumed that the Jews were strangled in special gas vans," the report says.

According to the prosecutor's office, Jews from Poland, the western regions of Ukraine and Belarus were taken to Smolensk, allegedly for work, and then killed. The report also describes the murder of prisoners of war exhausted from overwork, the facts of the mass extermination of Roma and the deportation of Soviet youth to hard labor.

"Those who refused and refused to go to Germany were also shot in batches of several people," the document says.

  • Nazi Crimes Act
  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

The Act on the Atrocities of the Nazi Occupiers, drawn up by the partisans, reports how the Nazis burned two villages in the Smolensk region, killing all the inhabitants.

"The Germans drove 150 people out of the village of Kurovyatino - old people, women and children - and shot them all at the mound ... Before the execution, the Nazis set a lot of dogs on this group of Soviet people, "the document says.

According to witnesses, the Nazis took off the hats of peaceful old people in order to report to their command about the partisans they allegedly destroyed while hiding in the forests.

"During the years of occupation, Smolensk was turned by the Nazis into a kind of unofficial capital of the regions of Russia controlled by them. The possibility of placing the center of a new Reich protectorate in the city was considered. Punitive actions in the occupied regions of the RSFSR were coordinated from Smolensk. Here, due to its proximity to Moscow, all kinds of reconnaissance and sabotage courses were located. It was a Nazi knife at the very heart of the Soviet state, "said Dmitry Surzhik, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in a conversation with RT.

  • Smolensk after liberation from Nazi invaders
  • RIA Novosti
  • © Liepiņš

"Smolensk is ours"

In 1943, the situation on the Soviet-German front began to change rapidly. The strategic initiative began to pass to the Red Army. On July 12, Soviet troops launched a large-scale counteroffensive on the Kursk Bulge. Shortly thereafter, the Red Army units began to actively advance in other sectors of the front.

On August 7, 1943, the Smolensk strategic offensive operation of the Soviet armed forces (code name "Suvorov") started. They had to prevent the transfer of Hitler's units to the southwestern strategic direction and liberate the Smolensk region from the Nazi occupiers.

In accordance with the plan of the operation, the troops of the Western and Kalinin fronts were to split the left wing of the German fascist Army Group Center with simultaneous strikes.

On September 15, 1943, the troops of the Western Front, with the assistance of part of the forces of the Kalinin Front, launched an offensive to liberate the cities of Smolensk and Roslavl. Since the Red Army had to operate in a wooded and marshy area and organized resistance of the enemy, who equipped a defense in depth, the Soviet command saturated this sector of the front with a large number of engineering units. The servicemen of the engineering troops not only equipped the initial areas for the offensive and made passages in minefields, but also built a sufficient number of roads and column routes.

"In carrying out the planned operation in the Velizhsko-Demidov direction, I have built railways ... These railways create favorable conditions for the material support of the troops in the operation, "Army General Andrei Eremenko, commander of the Kalinin Front, reported to the General Staff.

According to the combat log of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps of the Kalinin Front, during the offensive in the Smolensk direction, he bypassed the city from the south, cutting the Smolensk-Roslavl railway. By September 20, 1943, Soviet cavalrymen reached the railway line, and on the 23rd, breaking enemy resistance, cut it. As a result, the Smolensk grouping of the enemy was covered from the south. In these battles, conducted in difficult weather conditions and with washed-out roads, the 32nd Cavalry Division distinguished itself, which was later given the honorary name of Smolensk.

  • Schemes of hostilities
  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

In the report of the political department of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps dated September 26, 1943, it is noted that the soldiers of the unit bravely engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, were the first to rise to the attack and rescued their comrades, carrying the wounded from the battlefield.

Together with the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps, the 2nd Guards Tank Corps operated as part of a cavalry-mechanized group. He was given the same task: bypassing Smolensk from the south, pursue the enemy and cut off his communications.

In connection with the liberation of the city, the 4th Guards Tank Brigade from this corps was also given the name Smolensk. This is discussed in the combat log of the unit in the period from 14 to 25 September 1943.

  • Materials for combat logs
  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

According to the combat report of the Chief of Staff of the 5th Army, after the Soviet troops broke through the defenses on the outskirts of Smolensk, the enemy began to retreat in the western and southwestern directions, while providing fire resistance, blowing up bridges and installing barriers. Overcoming obstacles, units and units of the 312th Infantry Division of the 5th Army entered the northern part of the city by 06:00 on September 25, 1943. At 06:30, having crossed the Dnieper on the move, the 1079th regiment of this division occupied the southern part of Smolensk.

"Units of the division continued to pursue the enemy ... At 05:40 (division. - RT) entered the city of Smolensk. At 06:30, having crossed the Dnieper River, it occupied the southern part of the city. On the night of 25.09.1943, the enemy, hiding behind small groups of machine gunners and machine gunners, withdrew in a south-westerly direction ... At 20:00, the units occupy the northern part of the city of Smolensk, "the combat log of the 312th Smolensk Rifle Division says.

  • Sappers demine the embankment of the Dnieper in Smolensk
  • RIA Novosti
  • © Mikhail Savin

The scouts of the 859th Artillery and 1079th Rifle Regiments were the first to enter the city. At 06:00, Senior Sergeant Gladkikh from the reconnaissance group of the artillery regiment hoisted the Red Banner over the elevator building in the northern part of the city, and an hour later, the Komsorg from the 1079th Rifle Regiment, Lieutenant Varsenov, hoisted a second flag over one of the buildings in the southern part of Smolensk. This is discussed in the report of the political department of the 312th Infantry Division.

Local residents greeted the liberators with tears in their eyes. A rally was held in the city under the slogan "Smolensk is ours, forward, for the final liberation of the Motherland."

  • Schemes of hostilities
  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

The newspaper "Defender of the Motherland" published an order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Joseph Stalin, in which gratitude was declared to the troops who liberated Smolensk. According to the order, 39 military units and formations were given the honorary title of Smolensk. The newspaper also describes the rallies that took place in the liberated city, and tells about the courage shown by the Red Army soldiers in the battles for the Smolensk region.

Details of the battles for the liberation of Smolensk can also be found in the combat log of the 331st Infantry Division, which on September 25 broke into the city from the north and, having crossed the Dnieper, reached its southern outskirts.

  • Newspaper "Defender of the Motherland"
  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

According to the summary of the headquarters of the 5th Army, during the fighting in the Smolensk region, Hitler's troops used scorched earth tactics. Retreating, they blew up bridges, destroyed railways, mined narrow passages, destroyed and burned settlements. On favorable lines for defense, the Nazis put up fierce resistance. During the retreat, they set fire to the settlements located on the next line.

The Soviet command carefully analyzed the experience of past battles, and then massively produced and distributed illustrated collections, memos, brochures, information leaflets in the troops, in which the most successful methods of fighting the enemy were described in popular language.

  • Schemes of hostilities
  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

During the battles for the Smolensk region, the Red Army not only deprived the Nazis of the opportunity to transfer reserves from this sector of the front, but also forced the Nazi command to withdraw 13 divisions from Orel-Bryansk and three more from other directions.

As a result of the Smolensk operation, Soviet troops completely defeated seven Nazi divisions and defeated another 14.

According to Maxim Sinitsyn, a graduate student at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the defeat of the Wehrmacht in the Smolensk region created the prerequisites for the liberation of Belarus.

"The liberation of the Smolensk region was due to the successful implementation of the plan of the Soviet command to conduct a strategic offensive in vast sectors of the front. The liberated Smolensk for nine months became a key supply hub for the Soviet group advancing in the Minsk direction, "Sinitsyn summed up.