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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Tallinn liberated by Red Army, September 22, 1944

The Estonian capital of Tallinn was liberated from Nazi occupation by the Red Army on September 22, 1944. Among the Red Army heroes who liberated the city were many Estonians who fought in the Red Army's Estonian 8th Rifle Corps and the 45th Estonian Tank Regiment.

From the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1974:

The Liberation of Estonia:

The operations that led to the enemy’s defeat were started simultaneously by all three Baltic fronts on September 14 and by the Leningrad Front on September 17.

The success of this operation was ensured by the 1st Baltic Front’s assault group advancing on the right wing from the region of Bauska. In three days this group advanced more than 50 kilometres and reached the approaches of Baldone and the Daugava River. This placed Army Group North’s main forces before the threat of encirclement. Meanwhile the 3rd and 2nd Baltic fronts inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy despite the fact they did not make much headway. However, the offensive towards Riga developed slowly and the attempts to splinter the enemy group failed. The Soviet troops had to gnaw their way through the enemy’s defences methodically, metre by metre.

On September 15 and 16 Colonel-General Ferdinand Schorner, commander of Army Group North, reported to Hitler’s Headquarters that in the Baltic area the German troops had lost nearly half their strength and were in no condition to fight prolonged defensive battles. There was only one way out, he said, and that was to withdraw. The German Command, which had formerly refused even to entertain the idea that it would have to relinquish this territory, now ordered its troops to withdraw to prepared rear defences between the Gulf of Riga and the Daugava River, 60-90 kilometres away from Riga.

This shortened the firing lines by more than 300 kilometres and enabled the Germans to release several infantry divisions. This maneuver was started with the withdrawal of German troops from Estonia. However, the German Command proved to be unable to effect a planned withdrawal.

On September 17 the Leningrad Front in Estonia launched an offensive on the Tartu sector.

General I. I. Fedyuninsky’s 2nd Strike Army, which had been transferred to this sector from Narva, smashed the enemy’s defences and advanced some 28 kilometres in two days. On the right flank of this army particularly swift progress was made along the western coast of Lake Chudskoye by General L. A. Perna’s Estonian 8th Infantry Corps. Formed* in 1942, this corps had traversed a glorious road of battle and now carried its victorious banners into its native republic.

The 2nd Strike Army forced the German Command to begin withdrawing its troops from the Narva sector as early as the evening of September 18. That same night General F. N. Starikov’s 8th Army, which was operating in this sector, went in pursuit of the retreating enemy and made contact with the 2nd Strike Army at the northwestern tip of Lake Chudskoye the next day. Reinforced with the Estonian 8th Infantry Corps, transferred from the 2nd Strike Army, the 8th Army continued to pursue the enemy in the direction of Tallinn, while the 2nd Strike Army pushed forward towards Parnu.

Advanced units of the 8th Army encountered resistance from rearguards covering the withdrawal of the main forces. But they manoeuvred skilfully and dislodged the enemy from inhabited localities. Estonian troops fought bravely. An illustration of this is the action of 10 Estonian soldiers under Junior Lieutenant K. P. Salma, who broke into a railway station southwest of Rakvere, killed 150 German troops and took 22 prisoners.

The morning of September 22 saw advanced units of the 8th Army at the approaches of Tallinn. Co-operating with the Baltic Fleet they destroyed the enemy units covering the city and at 15.00 hours of the same day liberated the Estonian capital.

On that day the people of Tallinn filled the streets to welcome the Red Army. Their joy knew no bounds when their greetings were answered in their own language by the men of the Estonian Corps. They were free people once more, delivered from nazi bondage.

Units of the Baltic Fleet helped to pursue the enemy. They covered the 8th Army’s right flank from the sea and air and landed marine task forces on islands in the Gulf of Finland and in the ports of Kunda, Loksa, Tallinn and Paldiski. The Fleet’s air arm attacked the enemy’s sea communications and prevented his evacuation from Estonia.

After capturing Tallinn, Marshal L. A. Govorov’s troops pressed southwestward, completing the liberation of Estonia. On September 24 the 8th Army occupied the town and port of Haapsalu and by September 26 it cleared the western coast of Estonia. On the same day the 2nd Strike Army crossed into Latvia and made contact with the 3rd Baltic Front, which was advancing towards Riga.

Armed Estonian factory and office workers courageously demined factories, offices and apartment houses.

The whole of continental Estonia was liberated in ten days, and preparations were started for the liberation of the Moonsund Archipelago. The enemy was compelled to withdraw his forces from the Gulf of Finland, enabling the Baltic Fleet to deploy its submarines in the Baltic Sea and establish sea communication with the Baltic republics, Finland and Sweden. Many formations of the Front and Fleet were decorated with Government awards. Formations and units of the Estonian Corps were decorated with Orders of the Red Banner, Suvorov, Kutuzov, Alexander Nevsky and the Red Star. Orders and medals were awarded to nearly 20,000 officers and men. Subsequently, the Estonian formations and units were decorated with the Guards title.

Soviet poster in honour of the liberation of Tallinn. The text reads "The enemy is again crushed by the avalanche of our steel, / The victory cry resounds from all directions. / The Estonian capital, ancient Tallinn, / Is forever liberated from the enemy."

Red Flag over Tallinn!



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