Defense of Brest Fortress
The defence of Brest Fortress was the first major battle of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union launched on 22 June 1941. The battle took place from 22 to 29 June 1941; the defenders had received no warning of the attack, the German Heer expected to take Brest on the first day using only infantry and artillery. The defence of the fortress by the Red Army lasted for several days; the area around the nineteenth-century Brest Fortress was the site of the 1939 Battle of Brześć Litewski, when German forces captured it from Poland during the Polish September Campaign. According to the terms of the 1939 German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact the territory around Brest as well as 52 percent of Poland was assigned to the Soviet Union. In the summer of 1941, the Germans had to capture the fortress from the Soviets; the Germans planned to seize Brest and the Brest Fortress, in the path of Army Group Centre, during the first day of Operation Barbarossa. The fortress and the city controlled the crossings over the Bug River, as well as the Warsaw–Moscow railway and highway.
The Brest garrison comprised 9,000 Soviet soldiers, including regular soldiers, border guards and NKVD operatives. The Red Army soldiers belonged to elements of the 6th and 42nd Rifle Divisions, under Colonel Mikhail Popsuy-Shapko and Major-general Ivan Lazarenko the 17th Frontier Guards Detachment of the NKVD Border Troops and various smaller units inside the fortress. There were 300 families of the servicemen inside the fortress as well; the Austrian 45th Infantry Division had the task to take the fortress during the first day. For the first five minutes of the shelling it was supported by parts of the artillery of the 31st and 34th Infantry Divisions; the 45th Division had neither aircraft nor tanks at its disposal but was supported on 22 June by a battery of assault guns from 34th Division and on June 29, by some Ju 88 bombers that dropped 23 bombs. The fortress had no warning when the Axis invasion began on 22 June 1941 and it became the site of the first fighting between Soviet forces and the Wehrmacht.
The attack started with a 29-minute bombardment by Nebelwerfer. Many of the Soviet survivors of the fighting wrote after the war that the fortress was bombed by German aircraft. Due to the simultaneous artillery fire, tank support against the fortress made this not possible. Only two air raids took place on June 29, 1941 but only the East Fort on the northern island of the fortress was bombed by the Luftwaffe; the initial artillery fire took the fortress by surprise, inflicting heavy material and personnel casualties. The first German assault groups crossed the Bug river four minutes after the bombardment had started; some Soviet troops managed to escape the fortress but most were trapped inside by the encircling German forces. Despite having the advantage of surprise, the attempt by the Germans to take the fortress with infantry stalled with high losses: about 281 Wehrmacht soldiers died the first day in the fighting for the fortress. Fighting continued two more days. In the evening of June 24, 1941, some 368 Germans has been killed and 4,000–5,000 Red Army soldiers in captivity.
On June 25 and June 26, 1941, local fighting continued in the citadel. In the evening of June 26, 1941, most of the northern Kobrin fortification, except the East Fort, was captured. Of the fighting around East Fort, the commander of the 45th Infantry Division, Generalmajor Fritz Schlieper, wrote to Oberkommando der Wehrmacht It was impossible to advance here with only infantry at our disposal because the highly-organised rifle and machine-gun fire from the deep gun emplacements and horse-shoe-shaped yard cut down anyone who approached. There was only one solution - to force the Soviets to capitulate through thirst. We were ready to use any means available to exhaust them... Our offers to give themselves up were unsuccessful... Although the Soviet soldiers in the opening hours of the battle were stunned by the surprise attack, short of supplies and cut off from the outside world, many of them held out much longer than the Germans expected; the Germans used artillery, rocket mortars 15 cm Nebelwerfer 41 and flame throwers.
The civilians inside the fortress tended the wounded, reloaded the machine-gun drums and belts and took up rifles to help defend the fortress. Children brought ammunition and food supplies from half-destroyed supply depots, scavenged weapons and watched enemy movements. Schlieper wrote in his detailed report that...the 81st Combat Engineer Battalion was given the task of blowing up a building on the Central Island... in order to put an end to the Russian flanking fire on the North Island. Explosives were lowered from the roof of the building towards the windows the fuses were lit; when they exploded, we could hear the Soviet soldiers screaming and groaning, but they continued to fight. Chaplain Rudolf Gschöpf wrote, We only managed to take one defensive position after another as a result of stubborn fighting; the garrison of the so-called "Officers' House" on the Central Island only ceased to exist with the building itself... The resistance continued until the walls of the building were destroyed and razed to the ground by more powerful explosions.
On 24 June, with Germans having t
Battle of Kiev (1941)
The First Battle of Kiev was the German name for the operation that resulted in a large encirclement of Soviet troops in the vicinity of Kiev during World War II. This encirclement is considered the largest encirclement in the history of warfare; the operation ran from 7 August to 26 September 1941 as part of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. In Soviet military history, it is referred to as the Kiev Strategic Defensive Operation, with somewhat different dating of 7 July – 26 September 1941. Much of the Southwestern Front of the Red Army was encircled but small groups of Red Army troops managed to escape the pocket, days after the German panzers met east of the city, including the headquarters of Marshal Semyon Budyonny, Marshal Semyon Timoshenko and Commissar Nikita Khrushchev. Kirponos was killed while trying to break out; the battle was an unprecedented defeat for the Red Army, exceeding the Battle of Białystok–Minsk of June–July 1941. The encirclement trapped 452,700 soldiers, 2,642 guns and mortars and 64 tanks, of which scarcely 15,000 escaped from the encirclement by 2 October.
The Southwestern Front suffered 700,544 casualties, including 616,304 killed, captured or missing during the battle. The 5th, 37th, 26th, 21st and the 38th armies, consisting of 43 divisions, were annihilated and the 40th Army suffered many losses. Like the Western Front before it, the Southwestern Front had to be recreated from scratch. After the rapid progress of Army Group Centre through the central sector of the Eastern front, a huge salient developed around its junction with Army Group South by late July 1941. On 7-8 July 1941 the German forces managed to breakthrough the fortified Stalin Line in the southeast portion of Zhytomyr Oblast, which ran along the 1939 Soviet border. By 11 July 1941 the Axis ground forces reached the Dnieper tributary Irpin River; the initial attempt to enter the city right away was thwarted by troops of the Kiev ukrep-raion and counter offensive of 5th and 6th armies. Following that the advance on Kiev was halted and main effort shifted towards the Korosten ukrep-raion where was concentrated the Soviet 5th Army.
At the same time the 1st Panzer Army was forced to transition to defense due to counteroffensive of the Soviet 26th Army. A substantial Soviet force, nearly the entire Southwestern Front, positioned in and around Kiev was located in the salient. By end of July the Soviet front lost some of its units due to critical situation of the Southern Front caused by the German 17th army. While lacking mobility and armor due to high losses in tanks at the Battle of Uman on 3 August 1941, they nonetheless posed a significant threat to the German advance and were the largest single concentration of Soviet troops on the Eastern Front at that time. Both Soviet 6th and 12th armies were encircled at Uman where some 102,000 Red Army soldiers and officers were taken prisoners. On 30 July 1941, the German forces resumed their advance onto Kiev with the German 6th army attacking positions between the Soviet 26th army and the Kiev ukrep-raion troops. On 7 August 1941 it was halted again by the Soviet 5th, 37th, 26th and supported by the Pinsk Naval Flotilla.
With a help of local population around the city of Kiev along the 45 km frontline segment were dug anti-tanks ditches and installed other obstacles, established 750 pillboxes, planted 100,000 of mines. Some 35,000 soldiers were mobilized from local population along with some partisan detachments and couple of armored trains. On 19 July Hitler issued Directive No. 33 which would cancel the assault on Moscow in favor of driving south to complete the encirclement of Soviet forces surrounded in Kiev. However, on 12 August 1941, Supplement to Directive No. 34 was issued, it represented a compromise between Hitler, convinced the correct strategy was to clear the salient occupied by Soviet forces on right flank of Army Group Center in the vicinity of Kiev before resuming the drive to Moscow, Halder and Guderian, who advocated an advance on Moscow as soon as possible. The compromise required 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups of Army Group Centre, which were redeploying in order to aid Army Group North and Army Group South be returned to Army Group Centre, together with the 4th Panzer Group of Army Group North, once their objectives were achieved.
The three Panzer Groups, under the control of Army Group Center, would lead the advance on Moscow. Halder, chief of staff of the OKH, Bock, commander of Army Group Center, were satisfied by the compromise, but soon their optimism faded as the operational realities of the plan proved too challenging. On 18 August, OKH submitted a strategic survey to Hitler regarding the continuation of operations in the East; the paper made the case for the drive to Moscow, arguing once again that Army Groups North and South were strong enough to accomplish their objectives without any assistance from Army Group Center. It pointed out that there was enough time left before winter to conduct only a single decisive operation against Moscow. On 20 August, Hitler rejected the proposal based on the idea that the most important objective was to deprive the Soviets of their industrial areas. On 21 August Jodl of OKW issued a directive, which summarized Hitler's instructions, to Brauchitsch commander of the Army; the paper reiterated that the capture of Moscow before the onset of winter was not a primary objective.
Rather, that the most important missions before the onset of winter were to seize the Crimea, the industrial and coal region of the Don.
Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist
Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist was a German field marshal during World War II. Kleist led the 1st Panzer Group during the Battle of France, the Battle of Belgium, the Balkans Campaign and the initial stages of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, he was the commander of Army Group A during the latter part of Case Blue, the 1942 summer offensive in southern Russia. Following the war, Kleist was extradited to the Soviet Union where he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes. Ewald von Kleist was born into the noble family Kleist, an old Pomeranian family with a long history of military service, his ancestor was the Prussian field marshal Henning Alexander von Kleist and his great-grandfather was the Prussian general Karl Wilhelm Heinrich von Kleist. At a young age, Kleist joined the Prussian field artillery regiment, "General Feldzeugmeister" No. 3 on 9 March 1900 as a fahnenjunker. He was commissioned as a lieutenant on 18 August 1901. On March 22, 1914, he was promoted to Captain and joined the Leib-Husaren-Regiment No. 1.
During the First World War, Kleist served on the Eastern Front and participated in the Battle of Tannenberg. From 1915 to 1918 he served as a staff officer on the Western Front. After the First World War ended, Kleist joined the Freikorps and participated in the Latvian and Estonian Wars of Independence as a member of the Iron Division. In June of 1919, he led an attack group during the Battle of Cēsis. Kleist joined the Reichswehr in 1920. From 1924 to 1928 he was assigned as a tactics instructor at the Hannover Cavalry School. In 1928 he served as the chief of staff of the 2nd Cavalry Division in Breslau from 1929 to 1931 he held the same position in the 3rd Division in Berlin. Kleist was promoted to Colonel in 1931 and was given command of the 9th Infantry Regiment in Potsdam. At the beginning of 1932, he was given command of the 2nd Cavalry Division. In October of 1932, he was promoted to Major General. After the Nazis seized power the Reichswehr was united with the newly formed Wehrmacht. On December 1, 1933, he was promoted to lieutenant general.
In October 1934 he was given command of the "Breslau Army", reorganized into the VIII. Army Corps. In 1935 he was given command of the newly formed military district VIII responsible for Silesia while serving as the commanding general of the VIII. Army Corps. On August 1, 1936, he was promoted to General of the Cavalry. In February 1938 Kleist was involved in the Blomberg–Fritsch affair and forced to retire from service. To secure his retirement, he acquired a property near Breslau. After the outbreak of the Second World War Kleist was recalled to active duty and led the XXII Motorised Corps in the Invasion of Poland, during which his corps broke through the southern wing of the Polish army. In May 1940 Panzer Group Kleist was formed, the first operational formation of several Panzer corps in the Wehrmacht. Panzer Group Kleist played an important role in the the Invasion of France, it spearheaded the German breakthrough in the Ardennes and reached the sea, forming a huge pocket containing several Belgian and French armies.
Kleist was promoted to Colonel-General on 19 July 1940 and received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. In April 1941 Panzer Group Kleist was renamed to 1st Panzer Group and spearheaded the invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece. In June of 1941, he led 1st Panzer Group in Operation Barbarossa as part of Army Group South; the 1st Panzer Group was responsible for the breakthrough of the Stalin Line. It defeated the Red Army in the Battle of Brody, one of the largest tank engagements of the war, which involved over 3400 Soviet tanks and 750 German tanks. By 26 September 1941, 1st Panzer Group together with 2nd Panzer Group led by Colonel-General Heinz Guderian had captured over 800 Soviet tanks and took about 650,000 prisoners of war in the battles of Uman and Kiev. In recognition of their achievements, the Kleist and Guderian tank groups were converted into panzer armies at the beginning of October 1941, which made their commands equivalent to other army commanders. After operations at Kiev concluded, Kleist's 1st Panzer Army advanced east to capture the important industrial Donbass region.
On 26 September, the Battle of the Sea of Azov began as the Southern Front launched an attack on the northern shores of the Sea of Azov against the German 11th Army, advancing into the Crimea. On 1 October the 1st Panzer Army swept south and encircled the two attacking Soviet 9th and 18th armies, by 11 October both Soviet armies had been destroyed; the Soviet forces suffered heavy losses with over 100,000 men captured as well as 760 artillery pieces and 200 tanks destroyed or captured in the pocket alone. By the end of October, the 1st Panzer Army had taken Donbass. On 17 November, after the German forces crossed the Mius river and captured 10,000 Soviet troops, the Battle of Rostov began. On 19 November 1941 the 1st Panzer Army reached Rostov and the following day, they seized the bridge over the river Don, the last barrier before the Caucasus. On 21 November the Germans took Rostov, but on 27 November the Southern Front led by General Yakov Cherevichenko as part of the Rostov Strategic Offensive Operation, counter-attacked the 1st Panzer Army's over-extended spearhead from the north, forcing them to pull out of the city.
By 2 December 1941, the Soviet forces had retaken Rostov and the 1st Panzer Army was forced to withdraw back to the Mius River, near Taganrog. This was the first major German withdrawal of the war. During the Second Battle of Kharkov on 17 May 1942 as part of Operation Fredericus, Kleist's 1st Panzer Army attacked the Barvenkovo bridgehead from the South, advancing up to ten kilometres in the first day
Battle of Uman
The Battle of Uman was the German offensive operation against the 6th and 12th Soviet Armies — under the command of Lieutenant General I. N. Muzychenko and Major General P. G. Ponedelin, respectively; the battle occurred during the Kiev defensive operation between the elements of the Red Army's Southwestern Front, retreating from the Lwow salient, German Army Group South commanded by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, as part of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front during World War II. The Soviet forces were under overall command of the Southwestern Direction, commanded by Marshal Semyon Budyonny, which included the Southwestern Front commanded by Colonel General Mikhail Kirponos and Southern Front commanded by General Ivan Tyulenev; the battle finished by the encirclement and annihilation of 6th and 12th armies to the southeast of the Uman city. In the initial weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Army Group South had advanced East, defeating several Soviet mechanized corps at the great tank Battle of Brody 23–30 June.
The armies of the Southwestern Front were ordered to retreat to the line of fortifications along the old Soviet-Polish border of 1939. III and XXXXVIII Motorized corps of the 1st Panzer Group wedged in between the 5th and 6th Soviet armies. On July 5, XXXXVIII Motorized Corps cracked a weak defense on the Stalin Line and began to move embracing the right flank of the 6th Army. A new Soviet counter-attack was attempted on July 9 in the direction of Berdychiv to prevent further advance of the 1st Panzer Group to the east; the fighting continued until July 16, the 11th Panzer Division lost 2,000 men, but Soviet troops failed and on July 16 the German offensive continued. Further to the north, the mobile units of the III Motorized Corps overcame the Stalin Line and reached the approaches to Kiev; the command of Army Group South intended to capture Kiev while Hitler and the High Command insisted on a strike in the southern direction, which guaranteed the encirclement of the Soviet troops in conjunction with the 11th Army.
The compromise solution proposed the capture of Belaya Tserkov and after that a strike in the south-west direction towards the 11th Army. Such a decision left the possibility, instead of a strike to the southwest, to continue the offensive from Kiev farther east, beyond the Dnieper, but Kiev was secured by a separate fortified area, the rear communications of the III Motorized Corps were under attack from the 5th Army. So, in the opening days of Battle of Uman the task of encircling the 6th and 12th armies from the north and the east was to be done by divisions of the XXXXVIII Motorized Corps only. To help them, the third unit of the 1st Panzer Group, the XIV Motorized Corps, was transferred from the south and committed to action between the III and XXXXVIII Motorized corps in the direction to the Belaya Tserkov. Infantry units of the German 6th Field Army on the north hastened to replace the advanced tank units, the 17th Field Army on the west continued to pursue retreating forces of the Soviet 6th and 12th armies.
The advance of the 11th Field Army from the Soviet-Romanian border was suspended by Soviet counterblows, its attack from the south towards Vinnytsia was postponed. Most of the Soviet forces were depleted, having withdrawn under heavy assaults from the Luftwaffe from the Polish border, the mechanised units were reduced to a single "Corps" after the Brody counter-offensive, its mechanised infantry now fighting as ordinary rifle troops; the Axis forces were divided into those of 1st Panzer Group that had suffered significant losses in matériel, but retained combat effectiveness, the large infantry formations of the German and Romanian armies that attempted to advance from the West to meet the armored troops north of Crimea, the initial strategic objective of Army Group South. Since July 15, the XXXXVIII Motorized Corps of Wehrmacht repulsed the counter-attacks of the Soviet "Berdichev Group" and resumed the offensive; the 16th Panzer Division seized the city of Kazatin. On the left, the 11th Panzer division was in the gap between Soviet armies, so by July 16 it made a deep breakthrough to the South-East.
By July 18, the division advanced another 50 km, crossed the Ros' River and captured the settlement of Stavishche. The 16th Panzer Division, forced to repel counterattacks of the Soviet 6th Army, advanced slower, but by July 17 its forward detachment seized the Ros' station, where was an important Soviet base of rear services support. July 18, units of the 6th army managed to recapture the station. Further to the North, the XIV Motorized Corps advanced to Belaya Tserkov, but met counterattacks by the 26th Army; this army had no time to prepare the offensive, its divisions didn't have time to concentrate. They couldn't beat out the 9th Panzer Division from Belaya Tserkov, they for a short time captured Fastov. The advance of the 26th Army soon stopped, but its attacks contained the mobile units of the 1st Panzer Group. A similar situation was with the Panzer divisions of the III Motorized Corps. Halder, the chief of OKH, irritably wrote on July 18 that "the operation of the Army Group «South» is losing its shape", that "enveloping flank of the 1st Panzer Group is still hang about in the area of Berdichev and Belaya Tserkov".
At the same time the 17th Field Army from the West was approaching too and Halder feared that the future "cauldron" will not trap significant enemy forces. Meanwhile, the 17th Field Army tried to implement a shortcut version of the original plan, according to which the Soviet troops were to be surrounded to the
Slovak Republic (1939–1945)
The Slovak Republic, otherwise known as the Slovak State, was a client state of Nazi Germany which existed between 14 March 1939 and 4 April 1945. It controlled the majority of the territory of present-day Slovakia but without its current southern and eastern parts, ceded to Hungary in 1938; the Republic bordered Germany, constituent parts of "Großdeutschland", the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Poland – and subsequently the General Government – along with independent Hungary. Germany recognized the Slovak State, as did several other states, including Croatia, El Salvador, Italy, Japan, Manchukuo, the Soviet Union, Spain and the Vatican City; the majority of the Allies of World War II never recognized the existence of the Slovak Republic. The Soviet Union nullified its recognition after Slovakia joined the invasion of the USSR in 1941; the official name of the country was the Slovak State from 14 March to 21 July 1939, the Slovak Republic from 21 July 1939 to its end in April 1945. The country is referred to as the First Slovak Republic to distinguish it from the contemporary Slovak Republic, not considered its legal successor state.
The name "Slovak State" was used colloquially, but the term "First Slovak Republic" was used in encyclopaedias written during Communist rule. After the Munich Agreement, Slovakia gained autonomy inside Czecho-Slovakia and lost its southern territories to Hungary under the First Vienna Award; as the Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler was preparing a mobilisation into Czech territory and creation of his Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, he had various plans for Slovakia. German officials were misinformed by the Hungarians that the Slovaks wanted to join Hungary. Germany decided to make Slovakia a separate puppet state under the influence of Germany, a potential strategic base for German attacks on Poland and other regions. On 13 March 1939, Hitler invited Monsignor Jozef Tiso, to Berlin and urged him to proclaim Slovakia's independence. Hitler added that, if Tiso did not consent, he would have no interest in Slovakia's fate and would leave it to the territorial claims of Hungary and Poland. During the meeting, Joachim von Ribbentrop passed on a report claiming that Hungarian troops were approaching the Slovak borders.
Tiso refused to make such a decision himself, after which he was allowed by Hitler to organise a meeting of the Slovak parliament which would approve Slovakia's independence. On 14 March, the Slovak parliament convened and heard Tiso's report on his discussion with Hitler as well as on a possible declaration of independence; some of the deputies were skeptical of making such a move, among other reasons due to the fact that some worried that the Slovak state would be too small and with a strong Hungarian minority. The debate was brought to a head when Franz Karmasin, leader of the German minority in Slovakia, said that any delay in declaring independence would result in Slovakia being divided between Hungary and Germany. Under these circumstances, Parliament unanimously declared Slovak independence, thus creating the first Slovak state in history. Jozef Tiso was appointed the first Prime Minister of the new republic; the next day, Tiso sent a telegram asking the Reich to take over the protection of the newly minted state.
The request was accepted. On 23 March 1939, having occupied Carpatho-Ukraine, attacked from there, the newly established Slovak Republic was forced to cede 1,697 square kilometres of territory with about 70,000 people to Hungary before the onset of World War II. Slovakia was the only Axis nation other than Germany to take part in the Polish Campaign. With the impending German invasion of Poland planned for September 1939, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht requested the assistance of Slovakia. Although the Slovak military was only six months old, it formed a small mobile combat group consisting of a number of infantry and artillery battalions. Two combat groups were created for the campaign in Poland for use alongside the Germans; the first group was a brigade-sized formation that consisted of six infantry battalions, two artillery battalions, a company of combat engineers, all commanded by Antonín Pulanich. The second group was a mobile formation that consisted of two battalions of combined cavalry and motorcycle recon troops along with nine motorised artillery batteries, all commanded by Gustav Malár.
The two groups reported to the headquarters of the 3rd Slovak Infantry Divisions. The two combat groups fought while pushing through the Nowy Sącz and Dukla Mountain Passes, advancing towards Dębica and Tarnów in the region of southern Poland; the Slovak military participated in the war on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. The Slovak Expeditionary Army Group of about 45,000 entered the Soviet Union shortly after the German attack; this army lacked logistic and transportation support, so a much smaller unit, the Slovak Mobile Command, was formed from units selected from this force. The Slovak Mobile Command was attached to the German 17th Army and shortly thereafter given over to direct German command, the Slovaks lacking the command infra
The Continuation War was a conflict fought by Finland and Nazi Germany, as co-belligerents, against the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944, during World War II. In Russian historiography, the war is called the Soviet–Finnish Front of the Great Patriotic War. Germany regarded its operations in the region as part of its overall war efforts on the Eastern Front and provided Finland with critical material support and military assistance; the Continuation War began 15 months after the end of the Winter War fought between Finland and the USSR. There have been a number of reasons proposed for the Finnish decision to invade, with regaining territory lost during the Winter War being regarded as the most common. Other justifications for the conflict included President Ryti's vision of a Greater Finland and Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim's desire to liberate Karelia. Plans for the attack were developed jointly between the Wehrmacht and a small faction of Finnish political and military leaders with the rest of the government remaining ignorant.
Despite the co-operation in this conflict, Finland never formally signed the Tripartite Pact that had established the Axis powers and justified its alliance with Germany as self-defence. In June 1941, with the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Finnish Defence Forces launched their offensive following Soviet airstrikes. By September 1941, Finland occupied East Karelia and reversed its post–Winter War concessions to the Soviet Union along the Karelian Isthmus and in Ladoga Karelia; the Finnish Army halted its offensive past the old border, around 30–32 km from the centre of Leningrad and participated in besieging the city by cutting its northern supply routes and digging in until 1944. In Lapland, joint German–Finnish forces failed to capture Murmansk or cut the Kirov Railway, a transit route for lend-lease equipment to the USSR; the conflict stabilised with only minor skirmishes until the tide of the war turned against the Germans and the Soviet Union's strategic Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive in June 1944.
The attack drove the Finns from most of the territories they had gained during the war, but the Finnish Army halted the offensive in August 1944. Hostilities between Finland and the USSR ended with a ceasefire, called on 5 September 1944, formalised by the signing of the Moscow Armistice on 19 September 1944. One of the conditions of this agreement was the expulsion, or disarming, of any German troops in Finnish territory, which led to the Lapland War between the former co-belligerents. World War II was concluded formally for Finland and the minor Axis powers with the signing of the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947; the treaties resulted in the restoration of borders per the 1940 Moscow Peace Treaty, the ceding of the municipality of Petsamo and the leasing of Porkkala Peninsula to the USSR. Furthermore, Finland was required to pay $300 million in war reparations to the USSR. 63,200 Finns and 23,200 Germans died or went missing during the war in addition to 158,000 and 60,400 wounded, respectively.
Estimates of dead or missing Soviets range from 250,000 to 305,000 while 575,000 have been estimated to have been wounded or fallen sick. On 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union and Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, in which the two parties agreed to divide the independent countries of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania into spheres of interest, with Finland falling within the Soviet sphere. Shortly after, Germany invaded Poland leading to the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany; the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on 17 September. Moscow turned its attention to the Baltic states, demanding that they allow Soviet military bases to be established and troops stationed on their soil; the Baltic governments signed agreements in September and October. In October 1939, the Soviet Union attempted to negotiate with Finland to cede Finnish territory on the Karelian Isthmus and the islands of the Gulf of Finland, to establish a Soviet military base near the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
The Finnish government refused, the Red Army invaded Finland on 30 November 1939. The USSR was expelled from the League of Nations and was condemned by the international community for the illegal attack. Foreign support for Finland was promised, but little actual help materialised, except from Sweden; the Moscow Peace Treaty concluded the 105-day Winter War on 13 March 1940 and started the Interim Peace. By the terms of the treaty, Finland ceded 11 per cent of its national territory and 13 percent of its economic capacity to the Soviet Union; some 420,000 evacuees were resettled from the ceded territories. Finland retained its sovereignty. Prior to the war, Finnish foreign policy had been based on multilateral guarantees of support from the League of Nations and Nordic countries, but this policy was considered a failure. After the war, Finnish public opinion favored the reconquest of Finnish Karelia; the government declared national defence to be its first priority, military expenditure rose to nearly half of public spending.
Finland purchased and received donations of war materiel during and after the Winter War. Finnish leadership wanted to preserve the spirit of unanimity, felt throughout the country during the Winter War; the divisive White Guard tradition of the Finnish Civil War's 16 May victory-day celebration was therefore discontinued. The Soviet Union had received the Hanko Naval Base, on Finland's southern coast near the capital Helsinki, where it deployed over 30,000 Soviet military personnel. Relations between Finland and the Soviet Union remained strained after the signing of the one-sided peace treaty
Semyon Mikhailovich Budyonny was a Russian cavalryman, a military commander during the Russian Civil War and World War II, a close political ally of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. During the Russian Civil War, Budyonny's large cavalry force helped the Bolsheviks to victory and Budyonny himself became the subject of several popular patriotic songs, he was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1935. He was an opponent against the pre-war development of Soviet mechanized forces. In World War II, he received the blame for many of Stalin's military strategy errors, but he was retained in the Soviet high command because of his bravery and popularity, he was a notable horse-breeder, who declared that the tank could never replace the horse as an instrument of war. Budyonny was born into a poor peasant family on the Kozyurin farmstead near the town of Salsk in the Don Cossack region of the southern Russian Empire. Although he grew up in a Cossack region, Budyonny was not a Cossack—his family came from Voronezh province.
He was of Russian ethnicity. He worked as a farm labourer, shop errand boy, blacksmith's apprentice, driver of a steam-driven threshing machine, until the autumn of 1903, when he was drafted into the Imperial Russian Army, he became a cavalryman reinforcing the 46th Cossack Regiment during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. After the war, he was transferred to the Primorsk Dragoon Regiment. In 1907, he was sent to the Academy for Cavalry Officers in the St. Petersburg Riding School, he graduated first in his class after a year, becoming an instructor with the rank of junior non-commissioned officer. He returned to his regiment as a riding instructor with a rank of senior non-commissioned officer. At the start of World War I, he joined a reserve dragoon cavalry battalion. During World War I, Budyonny was the 5th Squadron's non-commissioned troop officer in the Christian IX of Denmark 18th Seversky Dragoon Regiment, Caucasian Cavalry Division on the Western Front, he became famous for his attack on a German supply column near Brzezina, was awarded the St. George Cross, 4th Class.
However, there was a general ineptitude of the officers. In November 1916, the Caucausian Cavalry Division was transferred to the Caucasus Front, to fight against the Ottoman Turks, he was involved in a heated confrontation with the squadron sergeant major regarding the officers' poor treatment of the soldiers and the continual lack of food. The sergeant major struck out at Budyonny, who retaliated by punching the ranking officer, knocking him down; the soldiers backed Budyonny during questioning, claiming that the sergeant major was kicked by a horse. Budyonny was stripped of his St. George Cross, though he could have faced death. Budyonny would go on to be awarded the St. George Cross, 4th class, a second time, during the Battle of Van, he received the St. George Cross, 3rd class, fighting the Turks near Mendelij, on the way to Baghdad, he received the St. George Cross, 2nd class, for operating behind Turkish lines for 22 days, he received the St. George Cross, 1st class, for capturing a senior non-commissioned officer and six men.
After the Russian Revolution overthrew the Tsarist regime in 1917, Budyonny was elected chairman of the squadron committee and a member of the regimental committee. When the Caucasian Cavalry Division was moved to Minsk, he was elected chairman of the regimental committee and deputy chairman of the divisional committee. Returning to Platovskaya, Budyonny was elected deputy chairman of the Stanista Soviet of Workers', Peasants', Cossacks' and Soldiers' Deputies on 12 January 1918. On 18 February, he was elected to be a member of the Salsk District Presidium and head of the District Land Department. On the night of 23 February, Budyonny organized a force of 24 men to retake Platovskaya from the white guards, but Budyonny was soon joined by a large number of new recruits. By morning, they had killed 350 White Russian soldiers, his force now consisted of 520 men, of which he formed a cavalry squadron of 120. He was elected battalion commander. In October 1918, the 1st Socialist Cavalry Regiment was formed, with Budyonny as deputy commander.
He first met Stalin and Voroshilov in July 1918. Budyonny's cavalry regiment was reorganized as a cavalry brigade on 7 August; the Civil War broke out in 1918, Budyonny organised a Red Cavalry force in the Don region, which became the 1st Cavalry Army. This Army played an important role in winning the Civil War for the Bolsheviks, driving the White General Anton Denikin back from Moscow. Budyonny joined the Bolshevik party in 1919 and formed close relationships with Stalin and Voroshilov. In 1920 Budyonny's Cavalry Army took part in the invasion of Poland in the Polish–Soviet War, in which it was successful at first, pushing Polish forces out of Ukraine and breaking through Polish southern frontlines; however the Bolsheviks forces sustained a heavy defeat in the Battle of Warsaw because Budyonny's Army was bogged down at Lviv. After his army was defeated in the Battle of Komarów, Budyonny was sent south to fight the Whites in Ukraine and the Crimea. Despite the defeat in Poland, he was one of Soviet Russia's military heroes by the end of the Civil War.
In 1920, Soviet songwriter Dmitry Yakovlevich wrote the song "Budyonny's March", one of the first songs to become popular throughout the Soviet Union. From 1921-1923, Budyonny was deputy commander of the North Caucasian Militar