Decree of the President of the Russian Federation from 31 December 1996 of the year under the number 1792 "for heroism and courage shown in the fight against the Nazi aggressors during the Great Patriotic War," Lieutenant-General Mikhail Grigorievich Efremov was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation. Why is the feat of the general kept silent for so long? Why a minute of silence in his memory dragged on for decades? Why did he become a hero only through the efforts of the public? Why is the understanding of the role of Ephraim in the defense of the capital is the property of only a narrow circle of people? The answer is simple. His military way ends with the Vyazma tragedy of the 1942 year. And that says it all.
Mikhail Grigorievich Efremov was born 27 in February 1897 of the year in the Kaluga province in the city of Tarusa. His father, Grigory Yemelyanovich, was a simple Russian peasant from Orel province. In search of earnings, he moved to Tarusa, where he hired as a laborer for the merchants Bobrov. Killed in 1922 year in an armed clash with the "fists". Mother, Alexandra Lukinichna, worked as a cook in the house of the magistrate of the Tarusa district of Golubitsky. The Ephraim had six children: Vasily, Ivan, Pavel, Vladimir, Mikhail and Anastasia.
Since his childhood, Misha has helped his father in the household. Once he caught the eye of a Moscow merchant. The smart little boy liked the merchant, and he decided to attach him to his manufactory factory. Grigory Emelyanovich did not object, his family lived very poorly. Initially, Mikhail worked as an apprentice at a merchant’s enterprise on Bolshoy Voskresensky Lane, then became a student of master engravers, and after some time enrolled in six-year Prechistenskii working courses. His training coincided with the events of 1905-1907's, but he did not take part in them.
At the end of September, 1915 of the year Efremov was drafted into the imperial army. Mikhail was sent to the 55 second reserve regiment, and soon he was seconded to the school of ensigns in the Georgian town of Telavi. He graduated from it in the spring of 1916 year, the time was hot, and the young prapor immediately found himself in the active forces in the ranks of the artillery division. His baptism of fire took place on the South-Western Front, and later, as part of the same division, Efremov took part in the Brusilov breakthrough. Judging by the few remaining information, the military service appealed to him, and he himself on the battery enjoyed great respect among his subordinates.
The revolution found Michael at the front. The troops began to unrest, the military unit, where Efremov served, began to fall apart before our eyes: the soldiers killed their officers, deserted en masse, leaving their positions. In the 1917 year, at the height of the battles between supporters of the provisional government and the Soviet authorities, Mikhail Grigorievich returned to Moscow and enlisted in the Red Guard. As part of the first Zamoskvoretsky Red Guard detachment, he took part in the October Uprising.
When the civil war began, Efremov continued his military career, starting in February 1918, he fought against the white casings of Mamontov and Krasnov. In one of the clashes he was wounded, was recovering in a Voronezh hospital. At the beginning of 1919, Mikhail already led a rifle company on the South and Caucasus fronts. Soon he was entrusted with a battalion, then a regiment, a brigade, a rifle division of the head section of the eleventh army’s railroad and, finally, a special separate corps - a whole detachment of armored trains.
In the same year, Efremov participated in the defense of Astrakhan - an important strategic object of the new republic - from the fierce offensive of the troops of Kolchak and Denikin. Raw materials and bread went to the central regions of the country along the Volga, so it was extremely important to keep the Saratov-Astrakhan railway. Efremov had cavalry and infantry units, an artillery division and several armored cars. True, they were all old, and were repaired more than they worked. This was not enough, and then he proposed the creation of special mobile combat vehicles, later called armored vehicles. They were built by tinkering with ordinary freight cars - they put additional walls, added special embrasures for machine guns. On open platforms, they were installed and strengthened on the turntables, thus turning into mobile artillery batteries. The locomotive itself was laid on all sides with sandbags. "Efremov invention" was approved by S.M. Kirov armored troopers for disorienting the enemy were painted red like real armored trains. As a result, the task of defending Astrakhan was successfully completed, during these battles Yefremov was wounded three times, but did not stay long in any hospital. Soon he received the post of chief of defense of all ways in the zone of the eleventh army. In the fall of 1919, Mikhail Efremov joined the RCP (b).
After Astrakhan, the tireless commander was sent to fight in the North Caucasus. In each battle taking place near the railways, his armored trains took part. Efremov’s detachment grew, replenished with well-equipped armored trains captured from the White Guards. In 1920, together with the participants in the uprising of Baku workers and the forces of the Volga-Caspian fleet Mikhail Grigorievich participated in the Baku operation. This offensive required lightning speed and coordination of all actions in order to avoid arson of oil reserves and existing oil fields. Efremov had to take control of the Baku railway station with one swift throw before approaching the main forces, thereby paralyzing the activity of the Azerbaijani government. Armored trains, breaking through wire fences, despite the enemy’s resistance, rushed forward at full speed without stopping. Efremov had to make decisions instantly, but their maneuver was successful, a successful operation helped establish Soviet power in Azerbaijan. For the successful conduct of the Baku raid of armored trains - an extremely rare maneuver in stories military art - Mikhail Grigorievich was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
The further career of a talented military leader developed rapidly. Since February, 1921 of the year Efremov became commander of the 33 Infantry Division, and since the middle of the summer of 1921, he headed the Second Moscow Infantry Command Course. From February 1924, he was already an assistant to the commander of the 14 th rifle division, and from April of the same year he was the commander of the 19 th Tambov division. In 1927, he attended the talks in China as a military adviser, and in July of the 1928, he was entrusted with the 18-th Yaroslavl Infantry Division. In March, 1931-th Efremov receives another appointment, now he is a military commissar and commander of the third rifle corps. In 1935, the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR awarded Efremov the title “division commander”. Since the end of June, 1937, Mikhail Grigorievich had a chance to command the troops of the Volga, Orlovsky, Trans-Baikal, Trans-Caucasian and North Caucasian military districts. In addition, in the two decades he had after the end of the civil war, Efremov managed to graduate from two academies. The peasant son, through his own efforts, turned himself into a comprehensively educated person commanding a new type.
At the end of the 1930s, merciless cleansing of the commanders of the armed forces took place in the country. After Pavel Dybenko, the commander of the Leningrad Military District, was under investigation, Efremov felt like an unclear threat hung over him too. The premonition did not deceive him; in 1938, Mikhail Grigorievich was urgently summoned to Moscow. Employees of the NKVD took him under arrest and settled in one of the rooms of the hotel "Moscow", which Michael could not leave. For more than two and a half months, endless interrogations seemed to him a whole life. Monstrous, painful, which, he, nevertheless, managed to live as far as possible with dignity. He was accused of having connections with the enemy of the country Tukhachevsky, and during a confrontation with Dybenko, the commander learned that he had allegedly been recruited in the spring of 1937 in Kuibyshev. However, Michael did not slander anyone and did not lose heart. Investigators provoked Efremov, broke him, asking the same questions ten to twenty times, inclined to admit to conspiring against the Red Army, the Motherland, and Stalin. However, the commander stood his ground firmly, heresy, in his opinion, could not become the truth, even if it was repeated a hundred times. On April 17, out of desperation, he sent a letter to Kliment Voroshilov asking for help, and a month later he sent exactly the same Mikoyan, with whom he raided armored trains in Baku.
An excerpt from a letter to Voroshilov, sent by 17 on April 1938 of the year: “Clement Efremovich! This is my last word to you and Comrade Stalin. I am absolutely clean before the party, before the country, the Soviet government. He gave his life for Soviet power in the years of the Civil War, in the national-liberation war of the people of China against the imperialists ... If you still believe me, save me from the slander that the enemies of the people have raised against me. It is not confirmed by any fact ... ".
People's Commissar of Defense of the country and members of the party military commission under the Central Committee of the party analyzed the situation, after which they appealed to Stalin to personally consider the case of Efremov. Joseph Vissarionovich wanted to attend the interrogation of Michael. Having listened to how convincingly and coolly he proves his innocence, the leader decided to close the case and dismiss all charges from Yefremov.
Military service of Mikhail Grigorievich continued. 4 June 1940 year he was awarded the next rank - Lieutenant-General, and in January 1941-th, he became the first deputy inspector general of the infantry of the Red Army. The beginning of the war, Lieutenant-General met as commander of the twenty-first army of the Western Front. In the first weeks of the fighting, the army units fiercely fought with the advancing fascists on the Mahilou direction. 7 August he was transferred to command the troops of the Central Front. Chained to the considerable forces of the Germans in the Battle of Smolensk, he managed to delay their movement to Moscow. In October, the 1941 of Ephraim was put in charge of the thirty-third army. As it turned out, this appointment was fateful. At that moment, the Naro-Fominsk direction was threatening, from where it was within easy reach of the capital, only seventy-three uncovered kilometers. In spite of the fact that Naro-Fominsk moment in October 1941 of the year is rarely described in popular reviews of the defense of Moscow, in those days the Germans might well have been in the capital. However, on the night from 22 to 23, the number of Mikhail Grigorievich arrived in Naro-Fominsk together with the First Proletarian Division, re-organizing the thirty-third army from the militia forces. Already in the middle of November, his troops took up defensive positions along the Nara River in conditions of contact with the enemy, experiencing a shortage of both forces and means. North of them kept the defense of the fifth army Govorova, and to the south - the forty-third Golubev.
On December 1, 1941, Field Marshal von Bock made another attempt to capture Moscow. The area near the village of Aprelevka, only twenty-five kilometers from the capital, was chosen as the place of the breakthrough of Army Group Center. Lightning strike as planned by the enemy tank and infantry units was to dismember (and then destroy) the troops of the fifth and thirty-third Soviet armies, and then along the Minsk and Kiev highways, clear the way to Moscow. After the strongest aviation and artillery preparation on the morning of December 1, the Germans launched an attack. Northwest of Naro-Fominsk, using significant superiority in forces, two German divisions broke through the defenses of the 222nd Rifle Division of the 33rd Army. The commander of the entire Western Front, Georgy Zhukov, gave Efremov an order to retaliate against the enemy. In a short time, the task force of the army developed a plan to destroy the breakthrough Fritzes. The operation involved the 136th separate tank battalion, two ski battalions, the 18th rifle brigade and even the 76th rifle regiment of the NKVD. Already on December 2, the Germans were driven out of Petrovsky, and on 3 December a successful tank counterattack with an infantry landing completed the defeat of enemy units, which, having suffered losses, were forced to retreat. The last attempt of the Germans to break through to Moscow failed, and soon Soviet troops began to push them back from the capital. During the counter-offensive that began, the thirty-third army of Lieutenant General Efremov cleared the city of Naro-Fominsk of the Nazis by December 26, Borovsk by January 4, 1942, and Vereya by January 19.
According to contemporaries, Mikhail Grigorievich referred to the younger ranks of the army without familiarity, but without arrogance. He was always demanding, disciplined, smart and neat. These qualities distinguished him to the end of his life. He was extremely negative about violations of the established rules, carefully checked in what condition and how is stored weapon. Efremov always supported the initiative officers, who distinguished themselves in the combat training of officers, represented them for awards, for the assignment of the next rank. He sent the most talented to military establishments, put them in positions of responsibility. At one time, future Marshals VD served under his command. Sokolovsky, A.M. Vasilevsky, F.I. Golikov, I.S. Konev.
After the liberation of Verei, the army of Efremov needed to be replenished, there was not enough equipment and ammunition. However, 17 January 1942 year from Zhukov came the order to speak at the most important strategic node - Vyazma. The Rzhev-Vyazemskaya operation, conducted at the second and final stage of the battle for Moscow, played a decisive role in the life of Mikhail Efremov. According to the plan of the Soviet command, the forces of the Western Front — the thirty-third army and the forces of the first Guards cavalry corps of Belov — interacting with the armies of the Kalininsky front, advancing to Vyazma from the north from the Rzhev region, were to surround the two armies of the “Center” group that were on the Vyazma projection. Despite the fact that the Nazis surpassed parts of the Red Army in tanks and artillery almost twice, according to the Stakes, they, weakened by the previous counterattack of the Soviet troops and the Russian winter, should not have put up strong resistance.
It is impossible to say that M.G. Efremova and G.K. Zhukov were good. 28 January 1942 of the year George Konstantinovich wrote to Stalin: “Yefremov’s operational outlook is limited ... needs tough leadership from the front command ... it is necessary to whip up all the time ...”. The general conclusion was: "I recommend to appoint the commander of the internal district." However, a couple of decades later, the marshal would write: “Evaluating now the events of 1942 critically, I think that we made a mistake at that time, assessing the situation in the Vyazma region ... Oreshek turned out to be stronger ...”.
Initially, the operation developed quite successfully. The army of Ephraim came out of the area of Verei 8 of January, but soon half of the troops got bogged down in battles near the village of Shansky Zavod plant, not far from Medyn. The second half continued the attack on a key point - Vyazma, the general personally led it. As early as February 1, three divisions of the thirty-third army clashed with the Germans on the outskirts of Vyazma, and in the south of the city were deployed units of the Belov and Fourth Airborne corps, previously thrown into the rear of the enemy.
However, the Germans were not idle. Two fresh brigades and twelve divisions were deployed near Vyazma, which immediately launched strong counterattacks on all units of the Soviet troops in the area. The lack of manpower and equipment, unusually severe frosts, and, most importantly, reinforcements approaching the Germans, led to the fact that by February 3 tank armor of the enemy’s communications of the 33 troops had been cut off near the second echelon near the town of Yukhnov. The German defense was stabilized, and cavalrymen, paratroopers and half of the thirty-third army, including the entire headquarters, fell into a tight ring. All efforts of 43-, 49-, 50-th armies to get through to the surrounded failed with great losses, and the General Staff did not give permission to break through. By this time, all the reserves prepared for the end of the operation were over, and Vyazma did not succeed.
Efremov did not lose his head in these conditions, creating a perimeter defense, with the support of the partisans, he managed to organize active resistance to the enemy. The local population rose under the gun, worked the air bridge. However, time passed, there was no help, and the strength of the Germans only increased. The number of Ephraim at that time barely reached ten thousand people. The Reich command, in turn, was waiting for spring, the moment when the earth would dry out a bit and it would be possible with one blow to get rid of the Soviet forces near its extremely important communications.
The story knows very little of such long and stubborn fights surrounded. Not having shells for artillery, fodder for horses, fuel for transport, receiving cartridges by air and almost not receiving any products, the bloodless units spent more than two months defensive and, in some places, offensive battles, holding down enormous forces of the enemy. Opportunities to save your life, it was even more than enough, around the dense forests - a step to the side and you do not, you can go anywhere. However, the Efremovs did not surrender, the starving army did not turn into a herd, did not lose its sense of elbow, fraternity, humanity, and most importantly, the ability to fight. And to a large extent, the high spirit of the troops was determined by the personality of the commander. According to the memoirs of the survivors, Mikhail Grigorievich seemed to them durable, reliable, immortal, they believed in him, they prayed for him. The soldiers were convinced that fighting for Vyazma they were saving Moscow, giving the Red Army the opportunity to win battles in other directions.
At the end of March, the position of the surrounded ones sharply deteriorated, as expected, the enemy began to liquidate the “cauldron”, with one blow separating the units of the 33 Army and Belov's troops. Fiercely fighting, the units of the 33 army moved away from Vyazma in the south-east direction to the Ugra. 2 On April 1942, the German High Command sent an ultimatum leaflet to Efremov. Here are some excerpts from it: “The German leadership and the German soldier express respect for the courage of the surrounded Red Army ... The German command is well aware that typhus is rampant in your ranks, the number of cases is high and growing every day. Hunger devastates the ranks from the inside, the wounded do not have proper care. The military strength of the army is weakening and the complete destruction of exhausted divisions is only a matter of time ... Commanders! General Efremov! Think about your future. No effort will save you from ruin. The German High Command invites you to surrender. We will arrange for you a Military Tribunal and guarantee the life of all Red Army men and commanders. German soldiers do not kill prisoners ... ". In response, Efremov merely sent a ciprogram to the headquarters of the Western Front: “I ask you to launch a bombing attack on the area with the enemy: Kr. Tatarka, Losmino, Koshelevo, Star. Grekovo, Ezhevitsy, Lomovka, Melikhovo, Besovo ". The resolution of Zhukov from 3.04.1942 of the year: “All aviation should be thrown at the indicated points”.
Mikhail Grigorievich is often compared to another contemporary general, Andrei Vlasov. Indeed, their fates are very similar - both led by whole armies, both (second shock and thirty-third) went into the breakthrough, both were cut off from their own and surrounded. However, Andrei Andreevich changed the oath, surrendered, served the Wehrmacht. Mikhail Efremov did not lay down his arms, having spent the last cartridge as intended. Vlasov’s soldiers, who had left the encirclement, came under suspicion, the commander’s treachery left an imprint on them. The surviving fighters of the 33 Army in May already were awarded the 1942 of the year: the rank and file received the orders of the Red Star, the commanders received the Red Banner. Ephraim's death whitened even those who quivered in the most terrible moment, leaving him alone and trying to escape.
One of the last orders of Zhukov's bloodless, exhausted to the limit 33-s army was the instruction to break through the partisan forests to Kirov. However, Efremov considered that this was not feasible for his exhausted soldiers and in mid-April radio asked the General Staff with a request to give permission for a breakthrough across the Ugra river along the shortest route. Georgy Konstantinovich did not approve this plan, but Stalin personally agreed on a breakthrough. The forty-third army was ordered to prepare a counter attack on the German fortifications.
April 9 for Efremov from the rate flew the plane. The command understood all the catastrophic situation and wanted to pull out of the environment of his general. But Mikhail G. refused to abandon his troops: "I commanded the soldiers in the environment, and if I had to, I would die too, with them." It was the climax of his life. On the plane returned only the banners of the army.
One hundred kilometers from Kaluga flows one of the cleanest and most beautiful rivers in Russia - the Ugra. Pine forests filled with berries and mushrooms stand on the banks. Even today, these places are scarcely populated and filled with the charm of true Russian nature. Here on vacation comes a huge number of tourists. However, few of them remember the dramatic events of the last stage of the battle for the capital of our country, which turned around here and are associated with the death of the 33 Army.
Until April 13, the army of Efremov concentrated forces and prepared for a throw. The terrain through which they were to pass was a windmill forest, dotted with numerous ravines. To go to these places with heavy weapons during the spring thaw (the soldiers were in boots) seemed a daunting task. On the night of 13 on 14 April, leaving the rest of the equipment, the army went on a breakthrough in the east and north-east. The Germans waited for them, meeting with tanks, armored personnel carriers, aircraft, artillery. The forty-third army could not help the Ephraimites, its attack was choked with blood, the Nazis threw back the Soviet troops, forcing them to go on the defensive. The remnants of the thirty-third army were cut into pieces and destroyed, it ceased to exist as a whole organism. Since the evening of the 13 number, communication with the headquarters has been lost, however individual parts continued to make their way east. From 15 to 18 in April, German reports mention the “stubborn resistance” of Efremov’s people, according to their data (overpriced, most likely) about 1700 people were killed, taken prisoner - 600.
By 18 April, no more than two thousand people remained around Ephraim. The general himself at the time of the breakthrough was badly wounded in the leg. As the medical examination performed during the exhumation of the body showed, Mikhail Grigorievich had the ischial bone damaged, and he could hardly move. The soldiers, devoted to their commander, carried him on themselves. On April 19, when the situation became critical, Efremov, not wanting to give up, shot his wife Elizabeth Vasilyevna, who served as his medical instructor, and herself. His detachment managed to cross to the other side of the Ugra, where it was dispersed by the enemy. Only some groups of Soviet soldiers managed to break through to their own. Efremovtse exit from the environment continued until May.
Some historians believe that the betrayal prevented General Efremov’s exit from the encirclement. With reference to the German archives, they note that the defense in front of the forty-third army breaking through and moving towards it was focal, that is, it had the character of strong points. Reserve mobile groups were quickly thrown into threatening areas, as if the Germans knew exactly where to wait for the Soviet soldiers. In addition, of all the relatively large detachments making their way out of the encirclement, only the Efremov group was relentlessly followed by special units from the Brandenburg 800 regiment.
The Germans, who found the body of Ephraim, buried him with military honors in the village of Slobodka near the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, in which they held prisoners. The grave was dug by local residents and Russian prisoners of war. The Germans did not touch the personal and valuable things on the body of the general. A monument with a star and a plaque with text in Russian and German were erected on the grave of the general. According to the testimony of the prisoners, the German general present at the funeral said to his soldiers: “Fight for Germany as this man fought for his country”.
It is not known exactly which of the German commanders buried the body of a courageous military leader. The researchers focused on two figures - it is believed that this was either the commander of the ninth army, General Model, who actually visited Slobodka in those days, or Major General Rudolf Schmidt, commander of the nineteenth tank division, who acted against the surrounded grouping. Another curious. Both Walter Model, ringed in the Ruhr area by the Allied forces, and Rudolf Schmidt, surrounded by our tankers near Belgorod, as well as General Mikhail Efremov, were shot from personal weapons.
In March 1943, the Red Army knocked the Germans out of Vyazma. The son of the general, twenty-two-year-old captain Mikhail Efremov, came to Slobodka to check the rumors about his father’s grave. The remains of Mikhail Grigorievich were reburied at the Catherine cemetery in Vyazma, and after the Victory he was erected in the city a grand monument of the work of Vuchetich, by the way, also Efremov.
In 2011, the initiative group appealed to Patriarch Kirill of All Russia with a request to allow the church funeral of Ephraim. It was impossible on general grounds, but the petition stated that the suicide of the general was not due to the mortal sin of despair and despondency. He fell, fulfilling his military duty, remaining loyal to the soldiers' brotherhood and homeland, and therefore, according to the Gospel, "laid down his soul for his friends." The patriarch gave permission for the funeral.
The general's brothers, Pavel and Ivan, also died in World War II. His son, Mikhail Mikhailovich, participated in the liberation of Vyazma, took an active part in the reburial of his father’s remains, was a member of the commission investigating the causes of the death of the thirty-third army. He rose to the rank of colonel, died in the 1992 year. Grandson - Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Efremov - also became a colonel.
There are many black spots in the history of Russia. Even more of them in our view of her. There are many interpretations of the actions of Mikhail Efremov, however, this is not the main thing. Of course, it is necessary to evaluate the feasibility of certain operations, but let the specialists do it. For people's memory, any military action is connected with the victims, connected with the lives. And for people's memory, heroes remain heroes, no matter what scientific assessment they give to the operations in which they participated. Mikhail Efremov was one of those people who was born to command at the front line, and not at headquarters, from those who under no circumstances and would never leave their army. Until the very end, he did not lay down his arms, choosing between life and honor, settled on the latter. Eternal glory to the heroes!