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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Army stops the Nazis at the gates of Moscow, Dec. 5 1941

On December 5, 1941 the Red Army launched a counter-offensive against the Nazi invaders at the very gates of Moscow. This was totally unexpected and shocked the German command who thought that Moscow would fall to them in a matter of days.

The German forces were driven back and while the Soviet counter-offensive would stall in January and while the Germans would launch a devastating offensive in 1942, the Soviet capital was never seriously threatened again. It was the first serious reversal and defeat of any significance for the Germans during WWII.

The Soviet Union's forces saved not only the Soviet capital but likely the world in those days of bitter fighting. Humanity owes the brave women and men of all the Soviet peoples a tremendous debt of gratitude.

In honour of the 80th anniversary of this event we post this brief Soviet account of the Battle of Moscow from 1975 with numerous photos.

"The historic victory was ensured by unparalleled heroism on the part of the Soviet people. At Moscow the Nazis suffered their first major defeat in the Second World War. The myth that the German Army was invincible was shattered."

The Eternal Fire on the grave of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexandrov Gardens, by the Kremlin wall. The feats of the Soviet people in the Second World War will be remembered for ever.

War came to each home, to each family. The most bitter, the greatest battle of all those known to mankind, the battle against fascism, began. The city was girdled with fortifications. The factories were transformed into a mighty arsenal for the front. The first to go over to war production were the Vladimir Ilyich Factory, the Dynamo, Kalibr, Frezer, Krasny Proletary, and the Motor Works. Thousands of Muscovites worked a double shift. The State Defence Committee was headed by Joseph Stalin.

The city's appearance changed completely. Hastily printed sign-boards with the Inscription "Air-raid shelter" were put up on houses. In parks, public gardens and squares barrage balloons made their appearance, shop windows were obscured by heaps of sandbags, and house windows were criss-crossed with strips of paper. Civil defence squads were formed at factories, offices and schools, and in blocks of flats.

In the battles at the approaches to Moscow Victor TaleIlkhin, Alexel Katrich, Boris Kovzan, Konstantin Titenkov, Ivan Kholodov and other fighter pilots won renown for ramming Nazi planes. One October night in 1941 Soviet fighters destroyed 47 enemy bombers. Moscow had an excellent anti-aircraft defence. In November the enemy made 41 raids on the capital but of 2,000 planes only 28 were able to break through to the city. Altogether, the anti-aircraft troops defending Moscow brought down 1,305 planes. The city's defenders displayed mass heroism.

In the first 45 days of the war 12 divisions of civilian volunteers numbering 120,000 men, almost half of them Communists or Komsomol members, were formed in Moscow under the leadership of the City Party organisation. A total of 42,000 people joined the anti-aircraft troops and air raid defence battalions. Peaceful-minded men and women had to get down to an urgent study of military science. Muscovites learned to deal with the consequences of enemy raids, and to give first aid to their victims. Women and teenagers went to the factories to work the machines left by men who had gone to the front.

On November 6. 1941, a solemn meeting was held in the Mayakovskaya Metro Station to mark the 24th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The next day the historic parade of troops was held on the snow-blanketed Red Square. From here the defenders of Moscow went off to take up their front-line positions. Even In the most critical days the working rhythm of the city did not flag, all Its efforts being directed to defeating the enemy. The working people of the region donated 220 million roubles from their savings for the building of tanks and aircraft.

The great battle of Moscow began. Every hour cost hundreds and thousands of lives. But the troops were determined to stand firm, and not to let the enemy into the capital. The soldiers and officers of the 316th rifle division, commanded by Major-General Panfilov, displayed mass heroism and self-sacrifice. At Dubosekovo, 28 Panfilov heroes stood up to an attack by 50 enemy tanks. They all fell in battle but they did not retreat. In the enemy rear the partisans gave the fascists no peace —the earth burned beneath the invaders' feet. The heroic actions of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya [Read more about her at: "You can't hang us all. They will avenge me." ( ] and many other fearless patriots are immortal. At the beginning of December 1941, Soviet troops began the counterattack on all sectors of the Moscow defences.

The great battle at the approaches to Moscow culminated in the defeat of the Nazi troops. During the fighting 38 fascist divisions were smashed, including 11 tank divisions, 4 motorised and 23 infantry divisions, while the remaining divisions of the "Centre" armies suffered heavy losses. Of the four enemy tank armies operating on the Soviet-German front, 3 were smashed. The fascists lost nearly half a million soldiers and officers, six armies losing 80 per cent of their artillery, tanks and motor transport.

The historic victory was ensured by unparalleled heroism on the part of the Soviet people. At Moscow the Nazis suffered their first major defeat in the Second World War. The myth that the German Army was invincible was shattered.

The battles for Moscow were followed by the battles for Stalingrad and Kursk, in the Ukraine and the Crimea, Byelorussia and the Baltic area, around Leningrad and Odessa... Backed by the support of the people in the occupied countries the Red Army drove the fascist invaders out of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria and Northern Norway.

Military operations were transferred to the territory of Germany Itself.

The names of outstanding military leaders — Marshals of the Soviet Union Ivan Konev, Alexander Vassilevsky, Georgy Zhukov, Konstantin Rokossovsky, Kirill Meretskov, Fyodor Tolbukhin, Rodion Malinovsky, Leonid Govorov, Andrei Yeryomenko, Ivan Bagramyan and others, have gone down in the history of the Second World War.

At 5 a.m. on April 16, 1945, more than 40,000 guns and mortars, and over 6,000 tanks and self-propelled guns began hammering at the German capital: several thousand planes swept over Berlin. A total of 140 powerful search-lights dazzled the enemy and lit up the path to the Soviet units. On May 2, 1945, the capital of the German Reich, the sinister nest of fascism in Europe, fell.

From: Moscow, Planeta Publuishers, USSR 1975 - Various Authors


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