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11-08-2015, 19:04

The Victories of the Red Army

On the eastern front, the Red Army formed a broad front and advanced still more rapidly over a wider area. At the end of the winter of 1942—1943, the German divisions in the south had retreated to the Donetz. Hitler decided to smooth out the resulting salient. In July, 65 German divisions, including 14 armoured divisions, launched Operation Citadel in the region of Kursk. It became one of the biggest battles in the war in which nearly 3,000 tanks took part. After a confused struggle the German attack was repelled. The tide had turned. Now was the Red Army's turn to unleash an unremitting series of attacks in the seven 'fronts' or groups of armies. The heaviest offensives were launched during the summer but pressure was maintained throughout the winter. During the summer and autumn oi 1943 the Russian front between Smolensk and the Black Sea, reached and forded the Dnieper, and proceded to capture Smolensk, Briansk, Kharkov, Kiev and the whole of the Don Basin, cutting off the Crimea. The iront had advanced between 200 and 250 miles. During the winter 1943—1944 fighting continued in every sector and Leningrad was liberated. In spring Zhukhov and Koniev launched a massive offensive towards the Carpathian Mountains, and they crossed the Dniester and the Prut. On 10 April Odessa fell and the Russians were threatening to enter Rumania. Then the Crimea was liberated. By June the front had stretched to Kovno, Tarnopol and Jassy forming an enormous salient. Hitler uselessly transferred and dismissed his generals. He forbade retreat, which he regarded as insubordination, but he could not prevent the Red Army renewing its offensive along an 800 mile front. It deployed 16,000 aeroplanes and 14,000 tanks, including a new heavy tank called the Joseph Stalin, which outclassed the German tanks. On 2 September, with the southern flank of Finland under fire, Marshal Mannerheim surrendered on Soviet terms. In Bielorussia, the Red Army comprised two and one-half million men. They were supported by 45,000 heaw guns. Soviet superiority was immense. They were able to advance thirteen miles a day. Marshal Rokossovksy took Minsk, Vilno, Bialvstock, Lublin, Brest- Litovsk in an uninterrupted advance of 400 miles. On 1 August his army reached the right bank of the Vistula opposite Warsaw, where it had to cope with political obstacles rather than military ones. The Polish government in London had not recognized Russia's claim to the eastern provinces of Poland. It was unanimously supported by the Polish people. Stalin responded by forming the Lublin Committee, a rival government composed of Polish communists. In July it was installed in the disputed territories and it formally agreed to cede them to Russia. It also reapportioned land among the peasants and raised an army. Without informing the Allies the Polish government in London ordered a general uprising. They wanted to confront the Russians with a Polish government already victoriously in power when they reached Warsaw. Rokossovskv, whether because he lacked the resources or because he had been forbidden, did not cross the Vistula. On 2 October, after two months of heroic struggle, the uprising at Warsaw succumbed. The Germans destroyed the entire city and deported 350,000 inhabitants. Further south the Slovak rising also Failed, but political and military developments in Rumania and Bulgaria were more favourable to Soviet Russia. The leaders of both countries first tried unsuccessfully to get through to the British and Americans, then switched sides. King Michael dismissed General Antonescu on 23 August. Soviet Russia granted a chastened armistice to the Rumanian Army, which immediately busied itselfwith the task of taking Transylvania hack from Hungary. In Bulgaria, after a communist putsch at Sofia, the Red Army entered the capital on 18 September and the Bulgarian Army shifted its allegiance against Germany. Stalin's policies began to add up. He used the German satellites against Germany while bringing them under Soviet influence. This plan failed in Hungary, where Admiral Horthy's vacillations gave the Germans the chance to step in and deposed him in October 1944.