The biggest battle of the Kursk battle is not Prokhorovka, but Soborovka, they say in the Oryol region. Why were the Oryol battles on the Kursk Bulge forgotten?
- So write down: we have all история rigged with a political accent and mythologized. And in the history of the Great Patriotic War we will have to rewrite a lot more!
From the very first seconds, Yegor Egorovich Shchekotihin, Doctor of Historical Sciences, makes it clear: if you want vague wording and soft expressions, this is not for him. Yegor Egorovich’s judgments are sharp, like his features and the manner of rapidly moving from place to place, suddenly raising his index finger to the sky.
Shchekotihin is of the same age as the event for which we arrived in the Oryol Region: he was born in May 1943 of the year, and on July 5 of the same year the battle of the Kursk Bulge began. True, it looks like Yegor Egorovich is about fifteen years younger, and a teenager would not envy his unbearable energy. Shchekotihin is the author of 22 monographs and more 60 publications, despite the fact that he began his scientific work at the end of 1990's. Prior to that, he worked in schools in the line of educational work, took students to patriotic exploratory campaigns.
- And you, in fact, under what date will you make an article about our region? Under 23 August, the liberation of Kharkov? Very logical, - Yegor Egorovich sneers.
We are offended: August 23, 1943 is the official date for the end of the Battle of Kursk, but ask a passerby on the street, what does he know about this battle? Will remember Tanks under Prokhorovka. Something about Kursk, since the Battle of Kursk. Particularly advanced will be called Belgorod and Oryol, the first salute. The liberation of Kharkov for modern Russians already behind the scenes is another country. The existence of the northern face and the southern face of the battle, where events unfolded according to different scenarios, is known only to specialists and people who are passionate about military history.
Interest in history is always enlivened under the anniversaries, we explain Shchekotihin, so we want, they say, to coincide with a long date about the role of the Oryol region in the Battle of Kursk. An almost forgotten role - even in Wikipedia, the main source of modern knowledge, there is no separate article about the Kursk defensive operation, and little is disgracefully written about the Oryol offensive.
It produces the desired effect. Shchekotihin's eyes light up, and he, in his characteristic manner, to which we have already begun to get used, says:
- The Oryol offensive operation, the operation “Kutuzov”, which was carried out from 12 July to 18 in August 1943, was a series of the bloodiest battles of the war. Her daily losses exceeded Stalingrad. This operation is on a par with the battle for Moscow, Stalingrad, Leningrad. There was no Kursk battle at all, and Prokhorovka is a collective myth!
Oryol Region. Fields around the village Knit. In August, 1943, there were bloody battles of the Oryol offensive operation.
Cathedral and Prokhorovka
It is difficult to talk with military historians. With enthusiastic military historians who, among other things, are engaged in local history, is almost impossible. We gallop along the Orlov war memorials, opened on the initiative of Shchekotikhin, among which is the monument to the tank guard in the village of the First Warrior and the “Knit” memorial. All this time, Yegor Egorovich brings down data streams at us: transfer of armies, divisions, generals, tactical maneuvers ... An hour later my brain refuses to absorb information, but one thing is clear: Shchekotihin is outraged. The dirt spot on the asphalt formed next to the puddle helps to clarify the situation.
“This is what the Kursk Arc is,” Shchekotihin draws a semicircle around the conditional Kursk, which looks to the west. “And here is the Oryol Arc,” now his finger through the mud describes the line around an imaginary Eagle, which looks east. - What is this arc together! This is the letter S. So the name “Battle of the Kursk Bulge” is even incorrectly purely geometrically, - Yegor Egorovich takes a breath for a second. - Now we go on dates. It is believed that this battle lasted from July 5 to August 23 1943 of the year. But after all, all the battles for Kursk ended on July 12, when the Germans on the southern front, on the Belgorod side, did not go further than Prokhorovka. And then ours, the Oryol offensive operation, when the Oryol region was freed from the Germans. This operation became the starting point for our attack on the Germans on all fronts. It was not just that the first salute during the war was given in honor of the release of the Eagle, and it was not just that Roosevelt congratulated Stalin on this great victory. For all the time of the war, Roosevelt sent only two such telegrams of congratulations to Stalin - after Stalingrad and after Eagle!
The more Yegor Egorovich talks about the undeservedly forgotten Oryol operation, the louder his voice becomes. It boils, and when it mentions Prokhorovka it explodes altogether:
- "Prokhorovka - the largest tank battle in the history of the war." What nonsense! I do not argue, it was large-scale, it was terribly bloody, but it was neither the largest nor the most successful. If on both faces - Prokhorovka is southern - the same thing happened, the Germans would have taken Kursk. But on the north face they were also stopped on July 10 by the troops of the Central Front under the command of Rokossovsky. They say this, yes, but the neighborhood of the village of Ponyri is called the main battlefield. But the main battles — indeed, the largest tank battles in the history of the war — took place side by side, on the Soborovsky field. I opened the Soborovskoye field, this is it present, but the three presidents did not arrive there and the memorial is not there yet, ”Yegor Egorovich says with an insult in his voice.
Army General KK Rokossovsky examines the German heavy tank Pz.Kpfw. VI "Tiger", shot down by the gunners of the 307 division during the Kursk defensive operation (under drones) in July 1943
In the end, there will be no doubt that the memorial: with the active participation of Schekotiikhin in the Oryol region, at least a dozen monuments to fallen soldiers were erected. The complex on Soborovsky field is going to open 9 of May 2015 of the year, to the 70 anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, a nationwide fundraising has already been announced.
However, outside the Oryol region, the term "Soborovsky field" no one knows, and in military literature it is not used. And if this is the case, then the words of Shchekotikhin seem to be a fantasy of an excessively enthusiastic local enthusiast. In fact, everything is much more serious, but in order to understand the situation, drawing a finger on the pavement is no longer necessary. We'll have to make a small geographical and historical retreat.
It is believed that the name Soborovsky Field was born in 1988, when a memorial sign 33 to the Heroes of the Soviet Union was awarded to the Heroes of the Soviet Union near the village Soborovka, Trosnyansky District, Oryol Region, for participating in the 5-10 battles of July 1943. Soborovka stands in the center of a huge field the size of 10 on 10 km, along the edges of which are scattered villages Tagino, Gnilets, Igishevo, Teploe, Olkhovatka, Kashara and Ponyri-2. And these names are already well known to military historians: despite the seemingly aggressive stance of Shchekotiikhin, none of the specialists will argue with him - it has long been known that the crucial battles of the Kursk battle took place here, on the northern face, "near the Ponyri", and from this July 12 began the victorious offensive of the Red Army, which ended with the liberation of the Eagle.
The problem suddenly turned out to be different: just look at the location of settlements on the map. Ponyri, like the well-known historians Olkhovatka with the key height 274, and Igishevo are all located in the Kursk region, and the Kurds do not want to share this part of their military glory with anyone. Another important detail: in July 1944, the Ponyrovsky and Trosnyansky districts were transferred from the Kursk region to the Oryol region, but in October of the same year the Ponyrovsky district was returned to the Kursk region. So Cathedral Field turned out to be on the border of the Oryol and Kursk regions. At that time, no one could have imagined that, due to administrative division, one part of the battle would be glorified, and the other part would be forgotten.
To restore justice
It is impossible to restore justice in respect of fights in a nameless field. I had to give this field a name, Soborovsky - in the central village. The meaning of the correct name should not be underestimated - who now remembers, for example, that before the 1968 of Prokhorovka, the village did not exist? In 1943, Prokhorovka was only a railway station near the village of Aleksandrovskoye. It was this village that was completely destroyed during the fighting. In the 1968 year, when the whole world already knew about the great tank battle, Aleksandrovskoe was renamed Prokhorovka, although technically the station was only part of the village.
Inevitably, the question arises, why did Prokhorovka become a legend, but very little is known about the decisive battles in the northern face and in general about the defensive stage of the battle from 5 to 11 in July? We begin to torment Shchekotikhin with the eternal question “Who benefits from this?”.
“It was beneficial to Khrushchev,” Egor Egorovich reluctantly replies. - He comes from the village of Kalinovka, Kursk province. As we know, he had many oddities, and another one: to exalt his little homeland. At the expense of others, first of all, the Oryol Region, contrary to expectations, Shchekotikhin says not aggressively, but rather sadly.
- The second person to whom this juggling of facts was beneficial was Lieutenant General Rotmistrov, whose 5-I Guards Tank Army was ground at Prokhorovka. He thought that Stalin would shoot him for it, but they stood up for Rotmistrov, and then in his memoirs he would call Prokhorovka "the largest tank battle" - only to cover up his failure in this way. But the really brilliant and grand battles that were going on on the Soborovsky field under the command of Rokossovsky preferred to hush up so that against their background Prokhorovka did not look like such a failure, Egor Egorovich explained gloomily the essence of the conspiracy against Orlovschina.
Shchekotihin's words only seem to be a “bomb” and a sensational statement in the spirit of crazy conspiracy theories. For modern historians this is not news. Not biased by any of the rival areas, Moscow military historian Yuri Blinov confirms:
- At the front level, daily falsification of reports was encouraged. All in order to justify his losses to Stalin. After all, if Stalin had found out the ratio of our and German losses, someone would have just been shot. However, by the end of the Battle of Kursk, Headquarters had this question, including to Comrade Rotmistrov: why do we have such big losses? And what did the fellow Rotmistrov do? He said something like the following: “I’m not guilty here, it’s our industrialists who are bad, it’s better to bring them to justice, since our tanks cannot cope with the Tigers.” That is why, they say, they abruptly began to develop the newest T-34-85 tank - already with an additional crew member and with a large caliber of guns, 85 mm.
Soborovsky field, which is now often referred to simply as Soborovka, Yegor Egorovich Shchekotikhin “discovered”, working in the State Military Archive of Germany (Freiburg), in our military archive in Podolsk and in local villages, which he traveled around, collecting eyewitness accounts. Too many in the district claimed that the battle on the field was simply inhuman scales - this was Shchekotikhina and hooked in the first place. He began to unwind the tangle, one after another - and now he became interested in other operations that took place on the Oryol land. Now the process begun by Schekotihin is unstoppable.
- I do not overtighten, I restore historical justice. On the territory of the Oryol region there were seven operations, she survived two years of occupation. Only the military history of the Leningrad Region was more bloody. Only two Orlov operations are known - the one when the Germans attacked and the one when ours drove them out. And five more - forgotten. And the fact that Hitler considered the Eagle to be his most important springboard and wanted to make it the center of the occupied territory of Russia is not being said either. And the fact that the title of Heroes of the Soviet Union in Orlovschine received more soldiers than at Stalingrad, is no longer interesting to anyone. But it was here that victory was forged, and for so many years we have been living in the shadow of the Battle of Kursk, which, like porridge from various cereals, equalized us all ...
And excessive pressure, and quiet bitterness Shchekotihina understandable. He has to struggle not so much with official history - with the availability of documents and a sufficient amount of research, everything can become part of official military historiography. He is confronted by deep-rooted ideas about the heroics of war and the everyday unwillingness of people to “rewrite history,” even in the name of searching for the truth. Why stir up the distant past?
“Since the authorities have forgotten the names of the heroes, and Khrushchev reinforced how cowardly the Rotmistros justified themselves, which means that we will call these names.”
Unlike Schekotihina, Nikolai Anatolyevich Andreev speaks softly, without revolutionary notes in his voice. Andreev - also a historian, head of the museum at the Oryol Academy of National Economy, by vocation - the head of the search organization "Nameless Soldier." At the same time - a rare case - Andreev the search engine and Shchekotihin-professor actively cooperate and, one can say, are friends.
- I bet, of course, constantly. Yegor Egorovich still very much trusts in documents, including political communications. But over time, he ceases to blindly believe the documents, and we work together fruitfully. I am compiling military certificates for him, he finds in the archives new documents that are not available to us, - Nikolai Anatolevich smiles conciliatoryly.
Eagle. Museum search organization "Nameless Soldier." Nikolay Anatolyevich Andreev, head of search organization
In the museum with the finds made by the search squad of Andreev for many years of work, the book of Egor Egorovich is on the table. In the fields, Andreev writes remarks with a red pen to the doctor of historical sciences. But in the main thing - the key role of the Soborovsky battle and the Oryol offensive operation in 1943 - they converge. And about the contribution of the Oryol region to the overall victory, they both seek to tell. True, by different means and with slightly different goals.
- Our main task is to name names. We are not just a funeral team. And the longer we “dig”, the deeper I immerse myself in this topic, the more terrible it becomes to me: I, as a historian, do not understand what all of our data is based on, including on losses, in the mouth of Andreev the word “scary "Acquires a special meaning. The fact is that Nikolai Anatolyevich has been engaged in the search with 13 years, he started at the museum at the children's tourist station in Orel. Moreover, he fought in the Second Chechen campaign, which, for obvious reasons, he recalls with reluctance.
- There is a modern official directory of losses that we suffered in the Great Patriotic War. Under this directory, the Oryol region lost 520 thousands of civilians. But we, the search engines, can confidently say that 40% should be added to these losses. According to our data, the Oryol region lost 800 thousands of people. If you add on the losses of the army and consider the territory of the then region, which was much larger, you will get about two million, - Andreev lists the numbers that do not allow him to live and work peacefully in peaceful areas. At one time he tried - was a restorer, an artist - but returned to war.
- The most terrible statistics we have comes from the results of specific searches. This is not our invention - the results agree with our colleagues in the Kaluga and Leningrad regions, there are also strong search organizations, - so Andreev anticipates skepticism, which is inevitable with respect to unofficial calculations.
- So, of the five identifiable medallions that we find, two belong to the people who served in the Red Army. One medallion will belong to a man who was retroactively recorded in the Red Army. The fact is that after the war, people from the military registration and enlistment office went to their homes and apartments and additionally rewrote all those who served, replenishing the lists - this was called a household survey. But we will not find two people in any official lists, as if they had never served in the Red Army. They are simply not taken into account anywhere, they do not exist, - Andreev pauses, as if he himself is trying to digest this information.
He knows too much: and that of the mass graves on the territory of the Oryol region 1200, and not 870, as told in the Military-Historical Museum of Orel. And that the lists of those buried in them were formed after the war and anyhow. Therefore, the names on the memorial boards often do not belong to those who lie in the graves under the boards. Many fighters who were “attributed” to these graves lie anywhere in the Orlov region, but not in graves with their names. And it’s hard to say at what point the face of Nikolai Anatolyevich is darker: when he talks about forgotten fights in the Oryol region and soldiers who do not exist for history, or when he recalls a half-meter layer of earth as white as snow: this happens if you bury more 50 people. Over the years, hemoglobin decomposes, the blood dries to white ... There is too much white land in the Orlov region to forget about it.
Military Historical Museum of the Eagle. The senior researcher at the museum, Alexander Leonidovich Zverev, habitually stands at the main exhibit - the panorama of the Battle of Kursk, preparing to conduct a tour. And it comes to confusion when we make it clear: we are interested in his opinion, personal and as a representative of official science, about the Soborovsky field and the Oryol offensive operation, which eventually turned into an insignificant episode of the large-scale Kursk battle.
- Now there is no censorship. Therefore, they write whatever they want, Alexander Leonidovich immediately became worried. - I, like many other historians in the Oryol region, and in Kursk, too, adhere to the traditional point of view: there was a large-scale battle on the Kursk Bulge, from Orel to Belgorod, Prokhorovka is the largest tank battle of this battle and the war in general. And about Soborovka until the middle of 1990-x in general, no one opened his mouth. But Yegor Egorovich, and he is a famous person, began to write about her, and everyone started talking, - Alexander Leonidovich is justified, as if he was personally accused of some kind of historical substitution.
“I can't deny what Schekotihin says.” But only because I myself did not work in the German archive. And this is his trump card - no one has seen the documents that he found there. But the fact that he doubts Prokhorovka and attributes all merits to Soborovka and subsequent operations in the Oryol region, I consider the statement to be too responsible - Alexander Leonidovich, who has worked in museums for most of his life, suffers such disregard for well-known facts: he is nervous, touchingly corrects collar and trying, not offending anyone, insist on the official version.
- I am not penetrative, I did not achieve high ranks. But what can I say now that Soviet historians have been writing nonsense all the time? Of course, there are inaccuracies and excesses everywhere: for example, our diorama is called “Breakthrough of the German defense near the village of Vyazhi”. And this was only the first day of the operation, what a breakthrough! We have a fight, but a breakthrough, but they prefer not to remember about unsuccessful operations, - as if by chance Alexander Leonidovich confirms the words of Shchekotikhin and Andreev that all Oryol operations (except the last, successful) were silent due to huge losses .
Oryol Military History Museum. Fragment of the diorama "Breakthrough of the German defense near the village of Vyazhi"
- It has always been like this: local historians and historians are trying to set aside their small homeland. That raise the hype. But the problem is something else: we have almost no local historians left, young people do not want to go to science or a museum because of salaries. To whom these theories and new versions now to discuss something, - hopelessly waving his hand Alexander Leonidovich. - You give me these German documents, on the basis of which Yegor Egorovich works, and if everything is correct, I will agree with him. I'm not some kind of conservative! - smiling, Alexander Leonidovich is beating his fist on the wooden fence of the panorama.
When we leave, he clearly sighs with relief. But for a moment the smile disappears from his face, and he says in a patter after us:
- And yet, this is unreal. Do not rewrite us, in the end, the whole story ...