Defensive "Stalin Line"
Since the peace treaties concluded in the 20s with the Western states, which were our potential adversaries, did not fully guarantee their non-aggression, there was a vital need to build a complex of fortifications that protected the western borders of the USSR. It was just such a shield against possible aggression that the Stalin Line, which had been built during the entire pre-war decade, should have become.
Strategic, but difficult task
It should be immediately noted that such a name never appeared in official documents. For the first time it appeared in 1936 in one of the Russian-language Latvian newspapers, then it was picked up by the Western press, and already after this the term “Stalin Line” was widely adopted.
According to the program proposed by Stalin, it was planned to build a chain of fortifications along the entire western border of the country, the length of which was 2 thousand km. Since the creation of a continuous fortification line was not possible for economic reasons,The concept of building individual fortified areas (SD) at the most operational sites was adopted.
Simultaneously with the Soviet Union in the 20-30s, on the territory of the Finnish part of the Karelian Isthmus, a powerful line of fortifications was built, known as the Mannerheim Line. Stalin and the High Command of the Red Army, well aware of the progress of these works, decided to build an analogue of the Finnish project, but on an incomparably larger scale.
However, the implementation of such a program entailed considerable difficulties. Even in a shortened version, it was on the verge of the possibilities of the Soviet industry of that period. An important fact was the fact that in the 1930s there was a massive replacement of the former leading cadres of the engineering troops, who were still officers of the tsarist army, with new young specialists, most of whom did not have the proper experience and knowledge.
The basic concept of creating a line of defense
According to the plan adopted at the end of the 1920s, the Stalin Line complex was to consist of individual SDs that had a front length of 70 km and consisted of several positions that went deep into the depths.The first of these was the so-called predpole - a territory in which no fortifications were erected, but various obstacles were created, such as anti-tank guns, hedgehogs, barbed wire obstacles, etc.
Behind it was the advanced forward position, consisting of the main defensive structures - bastions, pillboxes, billets and other fortification elements, grouped into battalion defense units. Each of these nodes, located in the line, had a length of 3-6 km, and went into the depth of 3-5 km.
Fortifications of the second echelon of defense were built on the flanks of the advanced positions. They were removed somewhat deeper, and were intended to prevent the enemy from enclosing the main forces of the UR. In addition to them, in the places of the most likely offensive of the enemy, additional cut-off positions were built - units consisting of a number of fortifications erected in case the enemy broke through the main defensive line.
Thus, the complex "Line of Stalin", according to the intention of its authors, was supposed to be a powerful and reliable defensive line. The main task facing the garrisons that made up the UR,in the event of an enemy attack, it was necessary to detain its main forces and gain the time needed for the general mobilization and approach of the troops.
"Stalin Line" - the most important shock construction of the pre-war years
At the end of 1929, the construction of the first series of fortified areas began in the territories of the Leningrad and Byelorussian military districts. In the summaries of those years it appears that of the planned 20 SD, by the summer of 1935, it was possible to finish 6. They became the first bastions in the general defensive complex "Line of Stalin". Minsk, Polotsk, Pskov, Kingisepp, as well as Mozyr and a significant part of Karelia were, therefore, in a zone protected by a complex complex of engineering fortifications. Equally intensive work was carried out simultaneously in the Kiev and Odessa military districts.
Like all pre-war construction sites, Stalin’s defense line was built at an accelerated pace, and in 1937 the command of the engineering troops had already reported to Stalin about the creation of 3,096 engineering structures located in fortified areas. However, the country's defense industry did not have time to supply them with a sufficient amount of weapons.It is known that only 13.5% of the built SD were equipped with artillery guns, with the rest armed with machine guns at best.
Technical errors and miscalculations
According to the majority of modern military historians, the UAs, erected in the 30s, were still technically outdated at the time of their construction. First of all, they did not provide the necessary depth of defense, and, moreover, the arrangement of the nodes that made them was not sufficiently thoughtful. Anti-tank artillery was completely absent. The design of the pillboxes - long-term firing points, allowed only frontal shelling of the enemy, which led to their speedy destruction.
Among the most noticeable shortcomings of URs of that period are their weak armor protection, the extremely low level of all internal equipment and the complete lack of chemical protection equipment. In addition, these facilities, designed for a long stay in them garrison troops, most of them were not equipped with sewage and did not have water wells.
Technical commissions and lawsuits
These and many other shortcomings, discovered as far back as 1937, became the cause of sharp criticism of the drafters and those who directly built fortifications.The "Stalin Line" throughout its entire length was thoroughly examined by a number of commissions, which were supervised by Lieutenant-General of Engineering Troops Kuzma Podlas.
According to the results of this inspection, which was primarily political in nature, a significant number of officers from among the commanders of various levels were arrested and brought to trial. All of them were accused of sabotage and deliberate sabotage in the construction of strategic facilities. The demonstration processes continued the following year, which significantly undermined the personnel potential of the Red Army and deprived it of many knowledgeable specialists. For example, in the Kiev Military District of the five commandants of fortified areas built there, four were shot.
Innovations in the construction of fortified areas
Nevertheless, the work of the commissions brought a number of positive results. On the basis of the shortcomings and miscalculations identified by her, it was possible in a short time to rework the very concept of building such a large-scale defensive line and, if possible, upgrade the already constructed objects.
In particular, the length of the fortified areas was significantly increased.If earlier it ranged from 50 to 70 km, now it has reached 100-120. Changed and the location of its individual nodes. They began to be placed in a checkerboard pattern, in two separate echelons. A number of design changes were made.
In 1938, due to the international situation aggravated by that time, Stalin was instructed to further expand and modernize the defense line. At the same time, the urgent construction of eight more new fortifications - Starokonstantinovsky, Izyaslavsky, Sebezhsky, Kamyanets-Podolsky, Shepetovsky, Slutsk, Ostrovsky was started.
All of them were located in such a way that to fill in the remaining gaps in the general complex of fortifications, and to ensure communication between the previously constructed SD. The preserved archival documents of those years testify to the scale of the work performed. It is known that by the end of 1939 only in the newly erected fortified areas 1029 new engineering facilities were built.
Change the border line of the USSR
In the further fate of the Stalin Line, the pact signed on August 23, 1939 between the governments of the Soviet Union and Germany played a significant role.On the basis of this document, already in the middle of September, the Red Army occupied a large part of Poland. At the same time, according to the results of the Finnish War, Lapland and Karelia were ceded to the USSR. The following year, the Baltic states - Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia - were added to them. Then followed part of Bucovina and Bessarabia.
As a result of such significant territorial acquisitions, the border of the Soviet Union was significantly moved away - in some places by 400 km or more. Thus, in the deep rear were many border areas, and with them the previously built "Stalin Line". Minsk, Polotsk, Pskov, Kingisepp and many other cities, on the approaches to which the SD was built, were separated from the state border by hundreds of kilometers.
Building a new line of defense and conservation of the old
Since the line of defense, which had been built for ten years and swallowed up huge budget funds, was deep in the rear and lost its strategic importance, we had to urgently build a new one. The need for this was largely due to the international situation escalated by that time and the deterioration of Soviet-German relations.In the summer of 1940, construction of a new defensive line began along the new frontier of the country, which should have been 20 fortified areas.
As for the old and defensive line, which had lost its relevance, it was decided to remove all armaments in it, and to conserve its engineering structures. This decision was made mainly because in early 1941 it became obvious that the Soviet defense industry was unable to fully meet the needs of the Red Army, and the resulting weapon shortage was attempted to be compensated by the previously produced military equipment.
This is quite a reasonable, but unfairly executed decision led to the fact that weapons, seized at the facilities of the old line of defense, instead of getting into the new fortifications, settled in warehouses. As a result, the next, hastily erected "Stalin Line" at the beginning of the war was unable to repel the attacks of the fascists. In addition to the short supply of weapons, its low combat capability is also due to the fact that by order of the General Staff, the number of personnel of the SD garrisons was reduced by almost a third.
Breakthrough defense line
The sudden outbreak of the war caught the builders who were building fortifications on the new border, as well as the garrisons of already completed objects. The unfinished and poorly armed line of defense was broken by the Germans during the very first hours of the offensive.
As a result, thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers, unable to resist, were captured by the enemy. In addition, the enemy got a huge amount of building materials, a variety of equipment, ammunition and weapons brought, but not installed on the firing points.
The gravity of the existing situation was aggravated by the order of the General Staff, ordering the troops to retreat to the old, thoroughly ravaged and completely disarmed line of defense. This decision of the command clearly indicates a complete ignorance of the actual state of affairs and the state in which the former Stalin Line was then.
The tanks of the enemy on June 25, that is, only three days after the start of the war, reached the fortified area, which covered the way to Minsk. Since all his objects were mothballed, according to the previously given orders, he was unsuitable for battle, and attempts to stop the Germans completely failed.Having broken through the defenses that the 13th Army units were trying to organize, the fascists rushed into the interior of the country.
At intervals of several days, Slutsk, Polotsk, Sebezhsky and all other fortified areas that were in the path of the enemy fell. The sections of the Stalin Line, located in the Kiev and Odessa military districts, were also unable to resist the enemy. Their defenders after the fierce battles were also forced to retreat.
The only exception was the Karelian SD, whose defenders managed to stop the invasion of the Finnish army. Having given the positional character to the war, they held out until June 1944, when, during the offensive undertaken by the troops of the Leningrad Front, the enemy was thrown out of the country.
Memory of the war years
Summing up the past war, historians conclude that the Stalin Line, taken from combat duty in 1940 (photos of some of its objects are given in the article), however, played a certain role during the first and most difficult days of the war. On its separate sections, the advancement of the enemy was stopped for a period of 2-3 days to several weeks, which played an important role in the situation of military operations.
Nowadays, a number of memorial museums have been created in the territories of the former fortified areas, of which the Stalin Line consisted. Belarus became one of the first republics of the former Soviet Union, which created such a military-historical complex. A group of activists organized an open-air museum on the 60th anniversary of Victory. It is located in the area of the former Minsk UR, and its central expositions are located in one of the DOTs that have survived to our day.
The example of the Minsk activists was followed by residents of another Belarusian city of Zaslavl, who opened on July 24, 2012 a monument to the marines and sailors. The site for its installation was also chosen one of the sections of the historical and cultural center "Line of Stalin."
From day to day the expositions of the already existing memorial complexes are replenished and, along with this, new ones are being created. So, in 2009, two museums of military glory were opened - in the Pskov Region and in Sestroretsk - a municipality, part of the Kurortny district of St. Petersburg. This memorial, known as the Sestroretsk Frontier, consists of a bunker, the call signs of which in the days of the defense of Leningrad were “Elephant” (it was also called in subsequent years), as well as several small firing points.This fortified area was also part of the Stalin Line.
How to get to the memorial complex "Sestroretsky frontier"? The easiest way to do this is by electric train from the Finland Station of St. Petersburg. The train schedule is designed in such a way that even on weekdays the interval between them does not exceed one hour. In addition, you can take a taxi №305 from the metro station “Staraya Derevnya” or №827 from the “Prospect of Enlightenment”. Those who have personal transport can get to Sestroretsk along the Primorskoe highway. The distance is 36 km, and taking into account the congestion of the route, the road usually takes about 40 minutes.
In 2014, a four-part documentary film by Oleg Chetverikov, Stalin's Line, appeared on the country's screens. The film tells in all details about the construction of this unique, and which had no analogues in the world history of the system of fortifications. During its creation, many archival materials were used that have not been published anywhere before and are of great interest to all who cherish the memory of the war years.