This article is written in memory of Soviet soldiers, who, on June 22, 1941, faced the first blow of a united Europe led by Nazi Germany.
On June 22, 82 years ago, the first bombs fell on our homeland, the first soldier fell dead, the first Russian houses caught fire, the first blood was shed… Four long years of unpreceded battle with a ruthless enemy ahead. There was the bitterness of retreat, the courage and martyrdom of the besieged Leningrad, the defense of Moscow and Sevastopol, the legendary heroism of Stalingrad, many other battles and battles, the selfless work of the Soviet people in the rear, the inexpressible happiness of victory – all this was then. 82 years ago, on a clear June morning in 1941, the first German boot crossed the sacred borders of our country.
It is known that in 1941 the western border of the USSR stretched from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea and had land and sea sections. They were defended by frontier troops of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the USSR, which faced the first monstrous blow of the Blitzkrieg machine. There were 715 frontier posts, of which 485 were subjected to a massive attack on the first day of the war. The remaining border outposts took the fight a few days later.
Military operational data indicate that none of the 715 outposts left their positions without orders, holding back the enemy’s advance for 24 hours, sometimes for several days. There were cases, when some of the outposts held out for a month or more, while the Germans in their plans were counting on breaking resistance of the border guards in 30 minutes. Personnel of many outposts was lost entirely, fighting to the last soldier and cartridge.
Soviet poet Konstantin Simonov, who from the very first days of the war worked as a war correspondent on various fronts and traveled the war roads to Berlin, described the first day of the war as follows (translated in prose):
The longest day of the year
The longest day of the year
With its cloudless weather
We’ve all had a common misfortune
For all, for all four years.
It has made such a mark
And laid so many on the ground,
That for twenty years and thirty years
The living can’t believe that they are alive.
And to the dead, having received the ticket,
Someone of the closest ones departs,
And time adds to the list
Those who fell…
And time puts, puts obelisks.
The fascists were hustling into the center of Russia toward Moscow. The lands of Central Russia faced the blow of a monstrous force. Here, on the expanse of the Central Russian Plain, this cradle of the Russian people, which absorbed many historical events, the greatest and most tragic battle took place.
Here, in December 1941 began a counteroffensive near Moskwa, which disrupted the German Operation Typhoon to take the capital and ended with success in the spring of 1942. Fierce battles near Moscow were fought on the territory of Kalinin (now Tver), Smolensk, Orel, Bryansk, and Tula regions.
On the land of Kalinin for 13 months, from January 1942 to March 1943, the bloody Battle of Rzhev continued, which constrained the huge forces of the German Army Group Center and thus made a significant contribution to the victory in Stalingrad.
Here, in Central Russia, in the summer of 1943, the unpreceded Battle of Kursk was fought for a month and a half, in which 2 million people from both sides came together in a deadly battle and which went down in world military history as the greatest tank battle.
Millions of Soviet soldiers and officers who died in these and other battles of the Great Patriotic War rest in their native land, generously watered with blood. The fate of many of them is known; their names are immortalized in lists on monuments, obelisks and memorial plates, of which there are a great many in the vast European part of our immense motherland. The names of unknown heroes continue to be established by search parties which arrive in summer from all over Russia to the places of previous battles and every year find more and more remains of soldiers and officers.
It is impossible to show in one article all monuments and obelisks which immortalized the memory of the lost soldiers in areas of Central Russia. It is enough to give some figures to understand the scale of human losses. In Rzhev district of Tver region alone, there are 38 military cemeteries where more than 100 thousand fallen soldiers and officers are buried. On the territory of the whole Tver region, there are more than 500 cemeteries. On the territory of the Oryol region, there are more than 800 military cemeteries.
In the Tver region and other regions of Central Russia, where battles were fought, numerous military cemeteries can be seen almost in every village and town.
As has already been said, one of the critical battles of the Great Patriotic War – the Battle for Moscow – unfolded on the territory of Kalinin (now Tver region). The city of Kalinin had been under German occupation for a short time – two months from October 17 to December 16, 1941. However, the region was cut in half for three long military years – the eastern part was under the control of the Red Army, the northwestern part remained under occupation. It was finally liberated only in July 1944.
In the village of Ryabeevo near Tver, more than 600 fallen soldiers are buried in a common grave. It is known that some of them were in the lists of the 256th Division, formed from the NKVD staff. The division was a part of the 22nd army under the command of general Nikolay Vatutin. Some of the fallen soldiers served in the 5th, the 20th and the 62nd infantry divisions defending Kalinin. The soldiers of the 27th Artillery Regiment and the 537th Independent artillery battalion are also buried here.
In Soviet times, a modest memorial plaque was erected here. Later in the post-Soviet period, a monument in the form of a star of dark red granite and adjacent plates with the names of heroes was installed.
For Smolensk in the summer of 1941, the Soviet troops fought fierce defensive battles, the German Blitzkrieg was thwarted, but the city was not defended then. The occupation of Smolensk lasted for over two years – from July 1941 to September 1943. Nazi authorities established a brutal occupation regime. The local population was deported by train to Germany to perform forced labor.
In the Pokrovsky Military Burial Ground on Frunze Street rest the ashes of 5,700 soldiers and officers of the Red Army who died during the fighting for the city, killed by the Nazis in prisoner of war camps and died in hospitals from wounds.
In September 1943, the city was liberated due to the Smolensk offensive operation. This, in turn, contributed to the success of the Battle of Kursk. Losses during the Smolensk offensive operation amounted to 107 thousand Soviet soldiers and officers.
Adjoining the Pokrovsky burial ground in Smolensk is a memorial, the basis of which is a stele of gray granite with the inscription “Grateful Smolensk region to the soldiers of the 16th, 19th, 20th and 24th armies who took part in the battles for the city of Smolensk.”
Fraternal cemetery of victims of fascism is located in Orel. Here are buried 5,000 Soviet citizens, tortured and executed by the Nazis during the occupation of Orel in 1941-1943. At that time, the Nazis organized a concentration camp in the building of the city prison. The prisoners in the camp were held in inhuman conditions: the overcrowding was such that people had to sleep standing up, the premises were not heated in winter, and people were starved of water and extremely scarce food.
In addition, emaciated and sick people were forced to do hard physical labor in construction and in the quarries. Those unable to work were shot. Also, communists, Jews, and arrested partisans were immediately shot. According to evidence from witnesses, among the dead in these terrible torture chambers were not only prisoners of war, but many civilians of Smolensk, including children aged 13-14.
The investigation of Nazi atrocities was carried out immediately after the liberation of Orel. Academician Nikolai Burdenko headed the State Commission. The materials of the commission were published. In 1973 a monument of dark red granite was erected in memory of the tortured Soviet citizens.
Bryansk land also holds the pain and memory of the victims of the Great Patriotic War. One of the most important monuments is a monument at the Bezhitsky cemetery, where the ashes of the dead soldiers of the 11th Army of the Bryansk Front are buried. Partisans of the detachment named after Vinogradov are also buried there. The author of the bronze composition “Monument to the Soviet Soldier – Liberator of Bryansk and Bezhitsa” – the sculptor and architect A. Romashevsky. The sculpture is four meters high and is installed on a granite pedestal. The monument was opened on September 17, 1995.
The monument commemorates the exploits of the men of the 273rd Bezhitsky Rifle Division under the command of Colonel Aleksey Valyugin as part of the 11th Army. Bryansk was occupied from August 1941 to September 1943 and was liberated during the Bryansk Offensive.
There is a war memorial in the village of Betovo Bryansk district, Bryansk region, where 168 Soviet soldiers are buried. There is a monument to fellow villagers who died on the different fronts of the Great Patriotic War.
In Tula, on the territory of Education Center no 45, there is a monument dedicated to the students and teachers of this school who died during the Great Patriotic War.
Originally, there was an obelisk near the school. In 2005, a monument was installed in its place. The names of students and teachers are embossed on the symbolic wings surrounding the central group – three women and a boy in a soldier’s uniform.
In the city of Odoev, Tula region, a monument dedicated to the cavalrymen of the 1st Guards Red Banner Zhitomir Cavalry Corps of Pavel Belov was erected. The monument was created in 1975, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Victory.
In the summer of 1941 the Belov’s cavalry successfully operated near Kiev, breaking through the encirclement and helped thousands of our soldiers out of it, killing up to 8 thousand Nazis. And in autumn 1941, the corps of General Belov defended the capital from the south, creating serious problems for the German troops advancing on Moscow.
In the village of Bolshaya Yelovaya (Tula region), a memorial was established in memory of the defenders of Tula. The memorial was created in 1976 on the initiative of employees of the Tulachermet NGO. The stele of the monument was made in the form of rails of a Katyusha rocket launcher. Not far from the memorial, there is a common grave of soldiers of the Soviet army.
A monument was installed at the military cemetery in the village of Prilepy of Tula urban district, where soldiers who died during the war were buried.
Among the names embossed on the monument, there are many of the same, which means that relatives, perhaps entire families, went to war and died.
In Tambov, at the Vozdvizhensky cemetery, there is a rare expressive monument “Mourning Mother”. Its opening in 1975 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Victory. The authors – sculptors K.Y. Malofeev and S. Е. Lebedev, the architect V.S. Sibirtsev.
During the Great Patriotic War, the Tambov region was not in the war zone, but it became a major hospital base. About 600 thousand wounded and sick Soviet soldiers were treated in Tambov hospitals during the war.
About 450 thousand citizens of Tambov region fought at different fronts, which was almost a quarter of its population. Almost 250 thousand of them were lost. At Vozdvizhensky cemetery, about five and a half thousand fallen natives of the Tambov land are buried.
The remains of soldiers who took part in the colossal Battle of Kursk lie in the Kursk region in military cemeteries. One such memorial is in the village of Shchetinka in the Kursk region, just outside Kursk in the direction of the village of Zolotukhino. The monument is made in the form of a ruined wall.
A monument at the memorial in the village of Lebyazhye in the Kursk region was established in 1947. The remains of 29 Red Army soldiers are buried here, the names of 12 have been established, the remaining 17 are still unnamed. All of them fought in the 121st Infantry Division and were killed during the liberation of Kursk in 1943.
The obelisk “Star, fringed with a wreath” in the village of Kamyshi (Kursk region) is set on a memorial where 30 fallen Soviet soldiers are buried. Only 19 of them have names.
The sculpture “Soldier with a rifle behind his back” is located two hundred meters from the village of Klyukva near the Kursk – Voronezh highway. Here lie the soldiers who died in February 1943 during the rapid offensive of the 60th Army of I.D. Chernyakhovsky. The monument was established in 1948 at the initiative of the Kursk district military commissariat and the Klyukva village council. The project of the sculpture was made by a local district sculptor. Over time the monument fell into disrepair, and in 1979 it was dismantled. But in 1980, a new monument was created by the sculptor N. P. Krivolapov and with the active participation of the Klyukva villagers.
The liberation of Belgorod from the Nazi invaders took place during the Belgorod-Kharkov offensive. Before that Belgorod had experienced 20 months of terrible period of enemy occupation. Extermination of the population by fascists was such that on the day of liberation on August 5, 1943 there were only 150 people out of 34 thousand inhabitants left in the city. On that day in honor of Belgorod and Orel liberation, the first salute in Moscow was fired.
Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency