• Michael Laxer

Bryansk liberated by Red Army, Sept. 17 1943


Monument of Glory to the Soldiers and Partisans - Liberators of Bryansk, USSR 1973


On September 17, 1943 the forces of the Red Army liberated the city of Bryansk from the Nazis after intense fighting that had left the city virtually destroyed. It had been under cruel occupation since October, 1941 when it had been taken in the initial swift advances of the invaders that ended at the very gates of Moscow.


Partisan troops played a major role in the battle and the in facilitating the Red Army's progress.


The liberation of the city was part of a broader offensive and drive on Smolensk and into Byelorussia as the initiative in the war had turned decisively in the USSR's favour after the Battle of Kursk.


Below is a short account of the battle from the Soviet history Great Patriotic War: A General Outline published in 1974.


Text:


At this time the Bryansk Front conducted successful operations. Its task, was to liberate Bryansk and continue its advance towards Gomel. The main blow was to be struck in a southwesterly direction from the vicinity of Kirov. The Front commander transferred General I. V. Boldin’s 50th Army to the sector in question, and on September 7, after a short but powerful artillery barrage and with air support this army attacked the flank of the enemy Bryansk group. The suddenness of the attack decided the outcome of the battle. General V. V. Kryukov’s 2nd Guards Cavalry Corps followed the 50th Army into the breach made in the enemy’s defences, reached the Desna and established a bridgehead on the river’s western bank northwest of Bryansk. South of Bryansk the Desna was forced by General I. K. Bagramyan’s 11th Guards Army and at the town itself by the 11th Army under General I. I. Fedyuninsky. Effective support was received from partisans operating around Bryansk. Bryansk and Bezhitsa were liberated on September 17.


On September 14, after a seven-day lull, the Kalinin Front resumed its offensive, and was followed on the next day by the Western Front. In the direction of the main thrusts the nazi defences were torn to pieces on the very first day; troops of the Kalinin Front captured the town of Dukhovshchina, an important enemy strongpoint on the road to Smolensk, while troops of the Western Front liberated the town of Yartsevo. In close co-operation with them, troops of the Bryansk Front pressed forward, and the offensive developed along a vast sector.


On September 25, units of three armies of the Western Front’s right wing (the 31st under General V. A. Gluzdovsky, the 5th under General V. S. Polenov and the 68th under General Y. P. Zhuravlev) liberated the ancient Russian town of Smolensk. On the same day General V. S. Popov’s 10th Army drove the nazis out of Roslavl. On the next day units of the Bryansk Front crossed into Byelorussia and occupied Khotimsk, a district centre in Mogilev Region.


On September 30, acting in concert with the Western Front’s left-flank armies they captured the town of Krichev. Early in October, units of all three fronts reached a line running south of Usvyati, Rudnya and Lenino and farther along the rivers Pronya and Sozh to Gomel. There they encountered organised resistance from the enemy.


These operations were supported by three air armies: the 3rd under General N. F. Papivin, the 1st under General M. M. Gromov and the 15th under General N. F. Naumenko. Extensive assistance was rendered by partisan formations in Kalinin, Smolensk and Bryansk regions and in Byelorussia.


As a result of the two months’ offensive the Kalinin, Western and Bryansk fronts dealt the main forces of Army Group Centre crippling blows. They smashed the enemy’s defences in a sector 350-400 kilometres long, advanced 250 kilometres to the west, gained the upper reaches of the Dnieper, liberated part of Kalinin, Smolensk and Bryansk regions and entered Eastern Byelorussia. Up to 55 German divisions were pinned down in the central sector of the Soviet-German front. This facilitated the main 204 task, that of crushing the German troops in the southwest.


The Red Army’s entry into Byelorussia was a major military and political event in the life of the Byelorussia people. For more than two years they had courageously fought behind the enemy’s lines. Hundreds of thousands of Byelorussians were serving in the Red Army. Now many of them, together with soldiers of all the other peoples of the Soviet Union, were, poised for the liberation of their republic.


Residents of Bryansk react with joy as the city is liberated, September 17, 1943.


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