In the fall and winter of 1939 - 1940, the dramatic events of the Soviet-Finnish war unfolded. I want to talk about one white spot in her stories - The deaths of thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers in the forests of subpolar Finland.
For a long time about the events in the area of the village of Suomussalmi was not written a paragraph, not a line, not a word ... The tragedy remained only in memory of the miraculous participants in the battles, a narrow circle of military experts who escaped from this snowy hell. Talk about victories is easy and pleasant. But you need to know about the lesions to be able to avoid them in the future. Especially if these defeats were predetermined by military-political miscalculations.
A blow that the Finns did not expect
The symbol of the winter war was the “Mannerheim Line” on the Karelian Isthmus, which units of the Red Army tried to storm head-on, suffering heavy losses. But to the north, along the state border from Ladoga to the Barents Sea, the Finnish defense was much more “transparent” - it was held not by the regular army, but by reservists. Here the Finns did not expect a powerful strike, relying on almost complete lack of roads.
However, the blow was still inflicted. The Red Army intended to pass from the eastern border of Finland to its western coast, cutting the country in two, with a swift cast in the direction from the village of Suomussalmi to Oulu (Uleaborg).
Such a task was assigned to the 9 Army. In its center operated 163-I infantry division of the brigade A.I. Zelentsova. She was supposed to strike from Ukhta (now Kalevala) on Suomussalmi, and later on in the direction of Oulu.
30 November, 1939, the division launched an offensive. And for the first time, the days of the operation were she, and not other units of the 9 Army, the most successful. Despite the difficult terrain, in the first four days the 163 Division advanced deep into Finnish territory 50 kilometers, as it was opposed only by the Finnish battalion and small border guard units. But such a success did not suit the High Command, which expected a higher rate of advancement. On December 2, it demanded "to force the advance of our troops in every possible way."
And the 163 Division continued to develop the offensive. On December 6, one of the regiments went to the nearest approaches to Suomussalmi, an important transportation hub that was defended by two infantry battalions. December 8 The 81 and 759 regiments, advancing from two directions, captured Suomussalmi.
Mannerheim’s last reserve
The Finnish command was aware of all the danger that the loss of Suomussalmi concealed in itself. Therefore, it hastily transferred its reserve to the area - an infantry regiment, which had previously been planned to be sent to defend the Mannerheim line. The regiment, together with the battalions defending under Suomussalmi, joined the formed brigade under the command of Colonel Hjalmar. Siilasvuo, who received an order from the commander-in-chief of Mannerheim to destroy the Russians. He took a simple tactic: to cut the enemy's forces into parts and gradually destroy them.
The Finns had five battalions, and the Red Army had two regiments of the Zelentsov division. Having occupied the key points of the Raate road and having cut off almost all directions for the further advance of the 163 division, Colonel Siilasvuo began the assault on Suomussalmi. After a week of fierce fighting, reinforcements approached the Finns. Even artillery and anti-tank guns appeared.
The headquarters of the Soviet High Command, concerned about the unfavorable development of events, demanded an urgent restoration of the situation and the transfer of new forces to the aid of the 163 division.
From a telegram from 19 December 1939, to the commander of the 9 army:
IMMEDIATELY by direct wire.
The case at Suomussalmi is getting worse. I order you to take all measures and immediately immediately surrender all forces of the 44th SD in order to prevent the enemy from encircling and capturing two regiments of the 163 rifle division. Throw all Aviation to help the 163 rifle division ... The direct leadership and responsibility for conducting combat operations to assist the 163 pages of the division lies with you personally. I warn you that you will personally be responsible for a possible catastrophe of the 163 pages of the division. Report immediately about your actions and orders.
THE MAIN COMMANDER - K. VOROSHILOV
MEMBER OF THE MAIN MILITARY COUNCIL - I. STALIN
CHIEF OF GENERAL HEADQUARTERS - B.Shapshnikov
The Finnish command understood that the delay in death was similar and continued to build up its forces, sending practically its last reserves to the Suomussalmi area. And on December 22, all units and subunits operating in the area were joined by the Finnish command in the 9 Infantry Division, which was led by the same Colonel Siilasvuo.
The deprived material supply routes, the 81 and 759 rifle regiments of the 163 rifle division, after the fierce fighting of December 28, left Suomussalmi and began to withdraw to the northeast.
Meanwhile, the 44 Division was already moving to the rescue, which was tasked with striking Suomussalmi, unblocking the road on Raat and connecting with the units of the 163 Infantry Division. However, the deployment of the division transferred to Karelia from Zhytomyr, went slowly. Some units and units by this time had not yet had time to unload from the railway trains. Due to the lack of vehicles, the fighters moved with a march. Moreover, the division was not prepared for combat operations in a harsh winter. The personnel had neither warm coats, nor felt boots, nor mittens. The fighters wore thin overcoats and canvas boots. And the frost has already reached 40 degrees.
At that time, the Finnish radio intelligence service had already intercepted data on the 44 division, which was in a hurry to help the surrounding people. And then Colonel Siilasvuo took a big risk. On a narrow bridge between the Kuivajärvi and Kuomanjärvi lakes on the path of the division moving along the Raate road, he set a barrier, and from the nearby forests began to make preemptive strikes by the forces of the volatile skiers. In that war, skiing in general turned out to be almost the ideal means of transportation. In addition, the Finns had an excellent ski training: they also knew how to crawl perfectly in their bellies, without taking off their skis, and even if necessary, climb into the trees. In addition, the Soviet fighters experienced the effectiveness of Finnish snipers ("cuckoos").
The myth of the "cuckoo"
Finnish intelligence, in order to demoralize Soviet soldiers, created the myth of snipers - “cuckoos”, allegedly sitting on the branches. In fact, the Finnish soldier could be on a tree only for the purpose of observation, but not to be ambushed. After all, it is generally difficult to think of a more unfortunate place for this - in such a situation, the sniper unmasks the first shot, and it is simply impossible to change position quickly, not to mention the likelihood of a fall from a height, even in the case of the slightest injury. That is why Finnish snipers preferred to “pretend to be from themselves” a snowdrift or, at the very least, to hide behind a tree, but certainly not to climb on it. But the myth acted, the Soviet soldiers, moving through the forest, constantly looked around at all the trees, and their attention was weakened.
Due to the fact that almost all of the 44-I division was on foot, the column was stretched for 30 kilometers. As a result, parts of the division, tired of the multi-kilometer crossing, engaged in battle from the march. The snow and difficult terrain prevented the divisional division Vinogradov from using military equipment. Therefore, the blow of the 44 division turned out to be weak, and the position of the 163 division remained all the same heavy: its forces dried up.
But the 44-Infantry Division itself was in a difficult position. After the liberation of Suomussalmi, Colonel Khyalmar Siilasvuo regrouped his units: now he redirected the main forces against the 44 division. With flank attacks on parts of the division that stretched along the road, he cut off her communications in several places, depriving the supply of ammunition, fuel and food, and the ability to evacuate the wounded. By this time, the 44 th rifle division was separated from the 163 th division of the entire 10 kilometers.
The situation was complicated by the fact that the maps at the disposal of the Soviet units were not so accurate that they had to use Finnish tourist. And the divisions had to move almost blindly.
Due to the lack of interaction and the lack of communication of the division commander of the 163 Division, Zelentsov, without waiting for the approach of the units of the 44 Infantry Division, and without coordinating their actions with the division commander Vinogradov, decided to leave the encirclement independently. The division overcame Kianta-Yarvi Lake on the ice, and reached the Soviet-Finnish border, losing about 30 percent of personnel, as well as a large number of weapons and military equipment. The command could not organize a competent withdrawal, and if it were not for the heroism of the fighters and commanders of the 81 Mountain Regiment that covered the retreat of the main forces, the losses could have been even greater.
The Stavka of the Soviet High Command blamed the commander of the 9 Army for Dukhanov and the Chief of Staff of the Sokolovsky Army for blame for the failure and the failed attack. They were removed from their posts. They arrested and prosecuted the commander of the most injured 662 Infantry Regiment Sharov and Commissioner Podkhomutov. They "sincerely" confessed to sabotage and were shot.
Defeating the 44 Division
... And the position of the 44 Infantry Division deteriorated by the hour. As a result of the strikes undertaken by the Finnish forces from December 30 1939 to January 4 1940, the division was divided into six centers of resistance. Unfortunately, the brigade commander Vinogradov failed to unravel the maneuver of the Finnish troops and organize them to repel. In addition, the Finns knew about the plans of the Soviet command, since even 27 of December they had captured a number of orders for the 44 division and had time to get ready to repel attacks in the right places. A few days later, they themselves switched to counterattacks. The situation was aggravated by the fact that at the most crucial moment one of the battalions of the division, whose fighters had not received hot food for several days, left the front without permission. As a result, the left flank of the division was exposed, which the Finns took advantage of.
On January 2, Finnish ski teams cut the only road that the divisional column was moving on. People and equipment crowded in a small area became an excellent target for Finnish artillery. The attempted breakthrough attempts made on January 2-4 failed. The commander of the division Vinogradov and the chief of staff of the division Volkov lost control of the troops. They still 4 January asked the command of the 9 Army for permission to leave the environment without heavy weapons and equipment, since there was no fuel, no horses. Some of the horses fell from hunger, the others were eaten by the surrounded fighters. In addition, the Finns organized the so-called "carousel" - small Finnish ski flying teams constantly inflicted disturbing blows. Suddenly appearing on the flanks and in the rear of the Soviet units, they opened heavy fire, and then suddenly disappeared. Not only subunits, but also headquarters were hit. This made confusion, disrupted communication, disorganized management. In addition, there were fierce frosts, and if the soldiers did not die from a bullet, they froze to death in their thin overcoats. But the commander, due to the lack of reserves, could not render substantial assistance to the surrounded units. At his disposal there were only a battalion and a howitzer artillery regiment that escaped encirclement, and a 5 company formed from the arriving recruits. But, with such forces, it was only possible to press the Finns only half a kilometer away. All attempts to break the ring around parts of the 44 Division were unsuccessful.
Late in the evening of January 6, the permission came to Bid on the withdrawal of parts of the division from the environment, but with the indispensable preservation of heavy weapons and equipment. Then the connection with the army headquarters was interrupted.
After receiving the permission of the 10 Army Command at 9 in the evening: “Act on their own initiative,” Vinogradov on January 7 ordered at its own risk “to destroy the hardware and retreat to Važnvaara area in the east along the forests”. By this time, the indiscriminate retreat had already begun, which had fled.
Colonel Siilasvuo described this digression as follows: “The panic of those around was growing, the enemy no longer had joint and organized actions, everyone tried to act independently to save his life. The forest was full of running people. Fighters threw not only guns and machine guns, but also rifles. Many Red Army soldiers perished caught in a snowstorm. Their bodies were found and buried in the spring, after the snow melted. At noon on the 7th, the enemy began to surrender, mostly they were wounded. Hungry and frozen people came out of the dugouts. The one and only nest continued to resist, for a while it was left alone ... We captured an incredibly large amount of military materials that our units could not even dream of in a dream. We got everything in perfect order, the guns were new, they still shone ... Trophies were 40 field and 29 anti-tank guns, 27 tanks“6 armored vehicles, 20 tractors, 160 trucks, 32 field kitchens, 600 horses.”
By the evening of January 7, the first groups of the fighters of the division, headed by its commander and headquarters, arrived in Vazhenvaara. People left the encirclement for several days. According to Finnish data, about 1300 people were taken prisoner. 44-division lost almost all weapons and military equipment. 40 percent of fighters who left the environment were even without rifles.
Komdiv shot in front of the ranks
Thus, the plans of the Soviet command to unite the two divisions and their swift rush along the shortest path to the western border of Finland were thwarted. The remnants of the 163 division went back to the north and entrenched themselves in the town of Yuntusrant until the end of the war, and the 44 (with about 17 and a half thousand people) was defeated. (The loss of division personnel exceeded 70 percent). Only a few groups and singles, who immediately fell into the hands of the NKVD, managed to leave the environment.
19 January 1940 of the year issued an order of the Main Military Council: "In the 6-7 battles of January, at the front of the 9 Army in the area east of Suomusalmi, the 44-Infantry Division, in spite of its technical and numerical superiority, did not provide adequate resistance to the enemy; machine guns, artillery, tanks and in disarray went to the border. The main reasons for being so shameful for the 44 Infantry Division of the defeat were:
1. Cowardice and shameful treacherous behavior of the division command in the person of the division commander Kombriga Vinogradov, the chief of the political department of the regimental commissar Pakhomenko division and the head of the division of Colonel Volkov, instead of taking command of will and energy in the leadership of units and persistence in defense, instead of taking measures to withdraw parts, weapons and material parts, meanly threw the division in the most crucial period of the battle and were the first to go to the rear, saving their skin.
2. The confusion of the senior and middle command personnel of the divisions, who, having forgotten about the duty of the commander to the Motherland and the Army, lost control of their units and divisions and did not organize the correct withdrawal of units, did not try to save weapons, artillery, tanks.
3. The lack of military discipline, poor military training and low education of the fighters, thanks to which the division, forgetting its duty to the Motherland, violated the military oath, threw even its personal weapon - rifles, light machine guns - and left in a panic, completely defenseless .
The main culprits of this shame suffered a deserved punishment of Soviet law. The military tribunal of 11 and 12 in January considered the case of Vinogradov, Pakhomenko and Volkov, who had pleaded guilty to mean aborcism, and sentenced them to death. ”
CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF OF THE RED ARMY
t. SHAPOSHNIKOVU. (for bet)
We report: the trial of the former commander of 44 sd Vinogradov, chief of staff VOLKOVY and chief political officer PAKHOMENKO took place on January 11 in Vazhenvara under the open sky in the presence of the personnel of the division. The defendants pleaded guilty to the crimes committed. The speeches of the prosecutor and the public prosecutor were approved by all those present. The court lasted fifty minutes. The sentence to the execution was carried out immediately by a public platoon of the Red Army. After the execution of the sentence, a meeting of the commanders was held, at which further explanatory work was scheduled. The identification of all traitors and cowards continues. In 44 sd, a commission of the Military Council works, whose duties are to investigate in detail all the causes and circumstances of the defeat of 44 sd.
January 11 Chuikov, Mehlis
Information: In total, Finnish troops lost about 800 people near Suomussalmi, ours - about 23 thousands (killed, wounded, missing, frostbitten). Finnish specialists, considering the reasons for the defeat of the 44 division, pay special attention to psychological factors: on the Raate road, two military models of thinking collided, one of which recklessly believed in equipment, the other in a more efficient lightly armed fighter in this area.
This material is not written by a professional historian and does not claim to be of scientific or historical significance. But I want to say, any war is a tragedy of nations. And it seems that the peoples of Russia and Finland have learned from the war and realized its disastrous consequences. They had the courage not only to reconcile, but also to establish good-neighborly relations, which allowed in time to ease the pain of past offenses and to perpetuate the memory of those who died in the fighting. In the area of the village of Suomussalmi, there are more than a hundred nameless graves of Soviet soldiers. At first, the very idea of the installation, here at least a memorable sign was encountered by the Finns with hostility. But times have changed, in 1994, in Finland, a monument was erected to the dead fighters of the 163 and 44 divisions. It is called "Sons of the Fatherland - Grieving Russia".
Map of fights.
Combrig 44 Division Alexei Vinogradov
Fighters of the 44 Division
Chief of Staff Captain Alpo Kullervo Martinen (one of the leaders of the defeat of the 44-th and 163-th divisions). Photos from the Finnish archive of the Winter War http://sa-kuva.fi
The famous Finnish sniper, the symbol of the Finnish "cuckoo" Simo "Valkoinen Kuolema" ("White Death") Hyahya, destroyed more than 500 Soviet soldiers. Photos from the Finnish archive of the Winter War http://sa-kuva.fi
The Finnish funeral team is posing against the backdrop of the December dead 9 fighters of the 3 squadron of the 81 th company. Photos from the Finnish archive of the Winter War http://sa-kuva.fi
Finnish officers inspect the trophies obtained in Suomussalmi (guide skiing). Photos from the Finnish archive of the Winter War http://sa-kuva.fi
The crushed convoy of machines 44-th division. Photos from the Finnish archive of the Winter War http://sa-kuva.fi
Crushed tank column 44-th division. Photos from the Finnish archive of the Winter War http://sa-kuva.fi
Broken Soviet wagon train. From the archive of American photojournalist Carl Midans
Frozen bread seized by the Finns. From the archive of American photojournalist Carl Midans
Prisoners of the Red Army 44-th division. December 1939 of the year. From the archive of American photojournalist Carl Midans
Frozen under Suomussalmi. From the archive of American photojournalist Carl Midans
The Red Army soldiers of the 44 division frozen in a trench. From the archive of American photojournalist Carl Midans
Suomussalmi. The harsh truth of the war ... Finnish soldiers posing next to the body of a frozen Red Army. http://pictures-of-war.livejournal.com/127505.html
A long time ago in the spring of 1940, when the snow began to melt, the locals found the decomposing bodies of the Red Army. http://pictures-of-war.livejournal.com/127505.html
War correspondent. Suomussalmi, December 1939 of the year. Photos from the Finnish archive of the Winter War http://sa-kuva.fi