Case Blue was the German Armed Forces' name for its plan for the 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and 24 November 1942, during World War II. The operation was a continuation of the previous year's Operation Barbarossa, intended to knock the Soviet Union out of the war, it involved a two-pronged attack: one from the Axis right flank against the oil fields of Baku, known as Operation Edelweiss, one from the left flank in the direction of Stalingrad along the Volga River, known as Operation Fischreiher. Army Group South of the German Army was divided into Army Groups A and B. Army Group A was tasked with crossing the Caucasus mountains to reach the Baku oil fields, while Army Group B protected its flanks along the Volga. Supported by 2,035 Luftwaffe aircraft and 1,934 tanks and assault guns, the 1,370,287-man Army Group South attacked on 28 June, advancing 48 kilometers on the first day and brushing aside the 1,715,000 Red Army troops opposite, who falsely expected a German offensive on Moscow after Blau commenced.
The Soviet collapse in the south allowed the Germans to capture the western part of Voronezh on 6 July and reach and cross the Don river near Stalingrad on 26 July. Army Group B's approach toward Stalingrad slowed in late July and early August owing to constant counterattacks by newly deployed Red Army reserves and overstretched German supply lines; the Germans defeated the Soviets in the Battle of Kalach and the combat shifted to the city itself in late August. Nonstop Luftwaffe airstrikes, artillery fire and street-to-street combat destroyed the city and inflicted heavy casualties on the opposing forces. After three months of battle, the Germans controlled 90% of Stalingrad on 19 November. In the south, Army Group A captured Rostov on 23 July and swept south from the Don to the Caucasus, capturing the demolished oilfields at Maikop on 9 August and Elista on 13 August near the Caspian Sea coast. Heavy Soviet resistance and the long distances from Axis sources of supply reduced the Axis offensive to local advances only and prevented the Germans from completing their strategic objective of capturing the main Caucasus oilfield at Baku.
Luftwaffe bombers destroyed the oilfields at Grozny but attacks on Baku were prevented by the insufficient range of the German fighters. The possibility that the Germans would continue to the south and east, link up with Japanese forces in India, was of great concern to the Allies. However, the Red Army defeated the Germans at Stalingrad, following Operations Uranus and Little Saturn; this defeat forced the Axis to retreat from the Caucasus. Only the Kuban region remained tentatively occupied by Axis troops. On 22 June 1941 the Wehrmacht had launched Operation Barbarossa with the intention of defeating the Soviets in a Blitzkrieg lasting only months; the Axis offensive had met with initial success and the Red Army had suffered some major defeats before halting the Axis units just short of Moscow. Although the Germans had captured vast areas of land and important industrial centers, the Soviet Union remained in the war. In the winter of 1941–42 the Soviets struck back in a series of successful counteroffensives, pushing back the German threat to Moscow.
Despite these setbacks, Hitler wanted an offensive solution, for which he required the oil resources of the Caucasus. By February 1942 the German Army High Command had begun to develop plans for a follow-up campaign to the aborted Barbarossa offensive – with the Caucasus as its principal objective. On 5 April 1942, Hitler laid out the elements of the plan now known as "Case Blue" in Führer Directive No. 41. The directive stated the main goals of the 1942 summer campaign on Germany's Eastern Front: holding attacks for Army Group Centre, the capture of Leningrad and the link-up with Finland for AG North, the capture of the Caucasus region for Army Group South; the main focus was to be the capture of the Caucasus region. The Caucasus, a large, culturally diverse region traversed by its eponymous mountains, is bounded by the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east; the region north of the mountains was a production center for grain and heavy farm machinery, while its two main oilfields, at Maykop, near the Black Sea, Grozny, about halfway between the Black and the Caspian Seas, produced about 10 percent of all Soviet oil.
South of the mountains lay Transcaucasia, comprising Georgia and Armenia. This industrialized and densely populated area contained some of the largest oilfields in the world. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, was one of the richest, producing 80 percent of the Soviet Union's oil—about 24 million tons in 1942 alone; the Caucasus possessed plentiful coal and peat, as well as nonferrous and rare metals. Manganese deposits at Chiaturi, in Transcaucasia, formed the richest single source in the world, yielding 1.5 million tons of manganese ore annually, half of the Soviet Union's total production. The Kuban region of the Caucasus produced large amounts of wheat, sunflower seeds, sugar beets, all essential in the production of food; these resources were of immense importance to the German war effort. Of the three million tons of oil Germany consumed per year, 85 percent was imported from the United States and Iran; when war broke out in September 1939, the British naval blockade cut Germany off from the Americas and the Middle East, leaving the country reliant on oil-rich European countries such as Romania to supply the resource.
An indication of German reliance on Romania is evident from its oil consumption.
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
Western Front (Soviet Union)
The Western Front was a front of the Red Army, one of the Red Army Fronts during World War II. The Western Front was created on 22 June 1941 from the Western Special Military District; the first Front Commander was Dmitry Pavlov. The western boundary of the Front in June 1941 was 470 km long, from the southern border of Lithuania to the Pripyat River and the town of Włodawa, it connected with the adjacent North-Western Front, which extended from the Lithuanian border to the Baltic Sea, the Southwestern Front in the Ukraine. The 1939 partition of Poland according to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact established a new western border with no permanent defense installations, the army deployment within the Front created weak flanks. At the outbreak of war with Germany, the Western Special Military District was, in accordance with Soviet pre-war planning converted into the Western Front, under the District's commander, Army General Dmitry Grigorevich Pavlov; the main forces of the Western Front were concentrated forward along the frontier, organized in three armies.
To defend the Białystok salient, the front fielded the 10th Army, under Lieutenant General Konstantin Dmitrievich Golubev, supported by the 6th Mechanized Corps and 13th Mechanised Corps, under Major Generals Mikhail Georgievich Khatskilevich and Petr Nikolaevich Akhliustin. On 10th Army's left flank was 4th Army, under Lieutenant General Aleksander Andreevich Korobkov, supported by the 14th Mechanised Corps, under Major General Stepan Ilich Oborin. To the rear were 13th Army, under Lieutenant General Petr Mikhailovich Filatov; this army existed as a headquarters unit only, with no assigned combat forces. Among forces of Frontal designation were the 2nd Rifle Corps, 21st Rifle Corps, 44th Rifle Corps, 47th Rifle Corps, 50th Rifle Division, 4th Airborne Corps commanded by Aleksei Semenovich Zhadov at Minsk, the 58th, 61st, 63rd, 64th and 65th Fortified Regions. Mechanised forces in reserve included the 20th Mechanized Corps under Major General Andrei Grigorevich Nikitin at Minsk and the 17th Mechanized Corps, under Major General Mikhail Petrovich Petrov further forward at Slonim.
Altogether, on 22 June the Western Special Military District fielded 671,165 men, 14,171 guns and mortars, 2,900 tanks and 1,812 combat aircraft. The Western Front was on the main axis of attack by the German Army Group Centre, commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock. German plans for Operation Barbarossa called for Army Group Centre's Second Panzer Group, under Colonel General Heinz Guderian, to attack south of Brest, advance through Slonim and Baranovichi, turning north-east towards Minsk where it would be met by Colonel General Hermann Hoth's Third Panzer Group, which would attack Vilnius, to the north of the Białystok salient, turn south-east. In addition to the two panzer groups. Army Group Centre included Field Marshal Günther von Kluge's Fourth Army and Colonel General Adolf Strauss' Ninth Army. Air support was provided by Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's Luftflotte 2 which contained more than half the German aircraft committed to the attack on the Soviet Union; the war started disastrously for the Western Front with the Battle of Białystok-Minsk.
The German Ninth and Fourth Armies of Army Group Centre penetrated the border north and south of the Białystok salient. The Front's tanks and aviation at airfields were annihilated by German air strikes. Soviet command and control suffered complete breakdown, worst hit was 4th Army which failed to establish communications both with headquarters above and below it. Attempts to launch a counter-attack with 10th Army on 23 June were unsuccessful; that same day the German Third Panzer Group captured Vilnius after outflanking 3rd Army. On 24 June Pavlov again attempted to organize a counter-attack, assigning his deputy Lieutenant General Ivan Vasilevich Boldin the command of 6th and 11th Mechanized Corps and 6th Cavalry Corps, commanded by Major General Ivan Semenovich Nikitin. With this mobile force Boldin was to attack northward from the Białystok region towards Grodno to prevent encirclement of Soviet forces in the salient; this attempted counter-attack was fruitless. Without any interference from Soviet fighters, Fliegerkorps VIII's close support aircraft were able to break the backbone of Western Front's counter-attack at Grodno.
6th Cavalry Corps was so badly mauled by this aerial onslaught against its columns that it was unable to deploy for attack. Jagdgeschwader 53's Hermann Neuhoff recalled: "We found the main roads in the area congested with Russian vehicles of all kinds, but no fighter opposition & little flak. We caused terrible destruction on the ground. Everything was ablaze by the time we turned for home." This air operation continued until nightfall on 24th June, resulting in 105 Tanks destroyed by German aircraft. Successful attacks were made by the Dornier 17's of KG 2. In effect Pavlov's counter-attack was routed. Of 6th Mechanized Corps' 1212 tanks, only about 200 reached their assembly areas due to air attacks and mechanical breakdowns, they ran out of fuel by the end of the day; the same fate awaited the 243 tanks of 11th Mechanized Corps, ordered to attack towards Grodno on 25 Ju
Timofey Timofeyevich Khryukin was a Soviet aviator, Spanish Civil War volunteer, colonel-general of the Soviet Air Force. Emerging from an impoverished working-class background, he rose to command the 8th Air Army and 1st Air Army during the Second World War, being twice decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union before his death following a period of illness caused by a road accident. Khryukin was born on June 21, 1910 in the southern town of Yeysk in the Kuban Oblast of Imperial Russia into a poverty-stricken family. Khryukin's father worked a mason. At the age of eight, Khryukin began working for well-off cossacks, but ran off, spending several years wandering the countryside in the years preceding the Bolshevik Revolution, his formal education, which did not began until at age 15 in the midst of the socialist campaigns to eradicate illiteracy. After joining the Komsomol at age 16, the young Khryukin made his way to regional secretary of the organization and joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1929.
Following a brief stint at a school of agriculture he joined the Soviet armed forces in 1932 and was sent to for training to an army aviation school in Luhansk, which he completed the following year. Khryukin went to Spain as a volunteer for the Spanish Republican Air Force in August 1936. There he participated in the Spanish Civil War as a Tupolev SB bomber pilot, remaining until March 1937 and receiving the Order of the Red Banner upon his return to the Soviet Union; the following year he went to China to lead a squadron of Soviet-piloted Tupolev SB-2 with the Chinese Air Force, sent by the Soviet Union to aid the Chinese forces in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Khryukin received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union on February 22, 1939, he served as the Air Forces commander of the 14th Soviet Army during the Soviet Army's Finnish campaign in 1939-1940 before being named Assistant General Inspector of the Air Force in 1940. In May 1940 Khryukin was promoted to division commander – becoming Major-General Khryukin of the Air Force when the classic generals' ranks, abolished following the October Revolution, were brought into the Red Army the following month.
Khryukin was appointed commander of the Air Forces of the 12th Soviet Army on 27 May 1941, twenty-six days before to the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Khryukin was placed in charge of the air units attached the Karelian Front in August 1941: these were tasked with securing the Murmansk Railway and the Kirov Railway, significant to the Soviet military and war effort as the connection between Karelia and the rest of the European territory of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In June 1942 he was reassigned to the Soviet Southwestern Front, just in time for the Nazi advance against Stalingrad; the Air Force units of the Southwestern Front were subsequently reformed as the Eighth Army Airmy under Khryukin, as announced by the People's Commissar for Defense on June 9. Khryukin's Eight Army participated in the Battle of Stalingrad from the beginning of the German assault. Stalin ordered General Vasily Gordov of the Stalingrad Front to instruct Khryukin to launch a massive aerial assault against the Germans to the right flank of the Soviet forces during a conversation by direct wire on July 23, 1942.
A less-than-desirable number of aircraft translated into insufficient resources for aerial reconnaissance, while Il-2 Shturmovik units had to fly without fighter escort. Although it could not stop the German forces from advancing into the city, the Eighth Air Army would continue to provide key support during the Battle of Stalingrad until the battle turned in the Soviets favor. In early October Khryukin decided to form an Eighth Air Army unit of elite fighter pilots, to be led by World War II ace Lev Shestakov, a fellow Spanish Civil War veteran. By the end of 1942, Khryukin increased the count of enemy aircraft pilots had to destroy in order to attain the status of ace. On December 30, 1942 the Eighth Air Army became part of the Southern Front. With successful Soviet advances in the Donbas, Khryukin's airmen won praise from Stalin, who called for artillery salvoes to commemorate the Soviet triumph in Moscow in September 1943. After supporting the Red Army on the Mius River and in the retaking of the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, the Eighth Air Army lent air superiority to the Soviet liberation of the Crimea in April 1944.
Khryukin took charge of the 1st Air Army from Colonel-General Mikhail Gromov's command in July 1944, following his promotion to colonel-general in May. Its performance under the freshly transferred Khryukin during Operation Bagration in Belarus was noted as "excellent" by Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasilevsky, an eyewitness, in his memoirs, The Matter of My Whole Life. Khryukin commanded the 1st Air Army for the remainder of the war, leading it for the remainder of the war and commanding it during the key Battle of Königsberg in the last stages of the war, his second Hero of the Soviet Union title was awarded on April 19, 1945
1st Guards Tank Army (Russia)
The 1st Guards Tank Army is a tank army of the Russian Ground Forces. The army traces its heritage back to the 1st Tank Army, formed twice in July 1942 and in January 1943 and converted into the 1st Guards Tank Army in January 1944; the army fought as part of the Red Army on the Eastern Front during World War II. The army was commanded throughout most of the war by Mikhail Katukov, it fought in the early defense during the Battle of Stalingrad, Operation Uranus participated at the Battle of Kursk, Proskurov-Chernovtsy Operation, Lvov-Sandomierz Operation, Vistula-Oder Offensive and the Battle of Berlin. After the war, the army was stationed in East Germany as part of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. After the end of the Cold War and the resultant withdrawal of Soviet units in Germany, the army was relocated to Smolensk, disbanded in 1999; the army was reformed in 2014 as part of a Russian military expansion. The 1st Tank Army was first formed within the Stalingrad Front from 38th Army in July 1942, under the command of Major General Kirill Moskalenko.
The army was encircled and destroyed, was disbanded as a result in August 1942, its headquarters becoming the Southeastern Front headquarters. The 1st Tank Army was formed a second time on 30 January 1943 from the headquarters of the 29th Army, under the command of famous armoured troops commander Lieutenant General of Tank Troops Mikhail Katukov appointed by Stalin; the army was transferred to the North-Western Front. 3rd Mechanised Corps and 6th Tank Corps joined it on formation, served with the army throughout the war. It was transferred to Voronezh Front for the defense of the Kursk salient's southern shoulder, it was awarded a Guards title and became the 1st Guards Tank Army in April 1944, Katukov was promoted to Colonel General. On 1 January 1945, the Army's principal combat formations were: 8th Guards Mechanized Corps 19th Guards Mechanized Brigade 20th Guards Mechanized Brigade 21st Guards Mechanized Brigade 1st Guards Tank Brigade 48th Guards Separate Tank Regiment 353rd Guards Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment 400th Guards Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment 265th Guards Mortar Regiment * 405th Guards Mortar Battalion * 358th Guards Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment 8th Guards Motorcycle Battalion 11th Guards Tank Corps 40th Guards Tank Brigade 44th Guards Tank Brigade 45th Guards Tank Brigade 27th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade 399th Guards Heavy Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment 362nd Guards Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment 1454th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment 350th Light Artillery Regiment 270th Guards Mortar Regiment * 53rd Guards Mortar Battalion * 1018th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment 9th Guards Motorcycle Battalion Army Troops 64th Guards Tank Brigade 11th Guards Separate Tank Regiment 19th Light Self-Propelled Artillery Brigade 197th Light Artillery Brigade 79th Guards Mortar Regiment * 17th Motorised Engineer Brigade 191st Guards Liaison Aviation Regiment 6th Motorcycle Regiment 12th Guards Motorcycle Regiment* Guards Mortar Regiment was the overt designation used for Katyusha rocket launcher units.
It participated in the Battle of Kursk, the Lvov-Sandomierz Operation, the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Battle of Berlin. The 1st Guards Tank Army was awarded the Order of the Red Banner postwar, became part of the Soviet occupation force in Germany, known as Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, with its headquarters in Dresden. In 1968, it, along with the 11th Guards Tank and 20th Guards Motor Rifle Divisions, took part in the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, but immediately returned to their respective garrisons. In the late 1980s the Army included the 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division, 9th Tank Division, 11th Guards Tank Division; the headquarters was withdrawn to Smolensk, in the Moscow Military District in the early 1990s, lost the'Tank' from its title in 1995. In its last period within the Russian Army it comprised the 4th Guards'Kantemir' Tank Division and the 144th Motor Rifle Division, it was disbanded in 1998. 9th Red Banner Order of Suvorov Babruysk-Berlin Tank Division, Riesa. Withdrawn to Smolensk 11th Red Banner Order of Suvorov Carpathian-Berlin Guards Tank Division, Dresden.
Withdrawn to Slonim 20th Red Banner Order of Suvorov Carpathian-Berlin Guards Motor Rifle Division, Grimma. Withdrawn to Volgograd After a 15-year break, the Army was reconstituted in November 2014 on 13 November 2014; the army was formed as the main ground forces manoeuvre and reserve operational formation of the Western Military District in addition to the 6th Combined Arms Army and the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army. It is considered the elite of the Russian Ground Forces; the army carries on the traditions of the chronologically first army of the Soviet Union to reach'Guards' status. Further it has the 2nd Motor Rifle and the 4th Tank guards divisions, which are considered the elite formations of their respective combat arms; the most decorated divisions of the Soviet Army, they were garrisoned the closest to Moscow. Due to their proximity to the capitol their personnel was put to extra scrutiny, they were considered a prestigious posting, received the latest hardware and thus known as the'household' divisions of the Soviet Army.
Their loyalty to the regime was demonstrated by their involvement in the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt. The divisions retained their elite status wit
The Soviet Union the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were centralized; the country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Minsk, Alma-Ata, Novosibirsk, it spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, steppes and mountains; the Soviet Union had its roots in the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government which had replaced Tsar Nicholas II during World War I. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed by a treaty which legalized the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian and Byelorussian republics that had occurred from 1918. Following Lenin's death in 1924 and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s.
Stalin committed the state's ideology to Marxism–Leninism and constructed a command economy which led to a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization. During his rule, political paranoia fermented and the Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in at least 600,000 deaths. In 1933, a major famine struck the country. Before the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, agreeing to non-aggression with Nazi Germany, after which the USSR invaded Poland on 17 September 1939. In June 1941, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the effort of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk; the territories overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Soviet Union.
The post-war division of Europe into capitalist and communist halves would lead to increased tensions with the United States-led Western Bloc, known as the Cold War. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced Stalin and began the de-Stalinization; the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Khrushchev's rule, among the many factors that led to his downfall in 1964. In the early 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed with the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. In 1985, the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika, which caused political instability. In 1989, Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist governments; as part of an attempt to prevent the country's dissolution due to rising nationalist and separatist movements, a referendum was held in March 1991, boycotted by some republics, that resulted in a majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the union as a renewed federation.
Gorbachev's power was diminished after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's high-profile role in facing down a coup d'état attempted by Communist Party hardliners. In late 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union; the remaining 12 constituent republics emerged as independent post-Soviet states, with the Russian Federation—formerly the Russian SFSR—assuming the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and being recognized as the successor state. The Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many significant technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, the first humans in space and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus; the country had the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, it was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Federation of Trade Unions and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
The word "Soviet" is derived from a Russian word сове́т meaning council, advice, harmony and all deriving from the proto-Slavic verbal stem of vět-iti, related to Slavic věst, English "wise", the root in "ad-vis-or", or the Dutch weten. The word sovietnik means "councillor". A number of organizations in Russian history were called "council". For example, in the Russian Empire the State Council, which functioned from 1810 to 1917, was referred to as a Council of Ministers after the revolt of 1905. During the Georgian Affair, Vladimir Lenin envisioned an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Joseph Stalin and his supporters, calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union, which he named as the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia. Stalin resisted the proposal, but accepted it, although with Lenin's agreement changed the name of the newly proposed sta
The Volga is the longest river in Europe with a catchment area of 1,350,000 square kilometres. It is Europe's largest river in terms of discharge and drainage basin; the river flows through central Russia and into the Caspian Sea, is regarded as the national river of Russia. Eleven of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including the capital, are located in the Volga's drainage basin; some of the largest reservoirs in the world are located along the Volga. The river has a symbolic meaning in Russian culture and is referred to as Волга-матушка Volga-Matushka in Russian literature and folklore; the Russian hydronym Volga derives from Proto-Slavic *vòlga "wetness, moisture", preserved in many Slavic languages, including Ukrainian volóha "moisture", Russian vlaga "moisture", Bulgarian vlaga "moisture", Czech vláha "dampness", Serbian vlaga "moisture", Croatian vlaga "moisture" and Slovene vlaga "moisture" among others. The Slavic name is a loan translation of earlier Scythian Rā "Volga" "wetness", cognate with Avestan Raŋhā "mythical stream" and Vedic Sanskrit rasā́ "dew, juice.
The Scythian name survives in modern Mordvin Rav "Volga". The Turkic peoples living along the river referred to it as Itil or Atil "big river". In modern Turkic languages, the Volga is known as İdel in Tatar, Атăл in Chuvash, Idhel in Bashkir, Edil in Kazakh, İdil in Turkish; the Turkic peoples associated the Itil's origin with the Kama. Thus, a left tributary to the Kama was named the Aq Itil "White Itil" which unites with the Kara Itil "Black Itil" at the modern city of Ufa; the name Indyl is used in Adyge language. Among Asians, the river was known by its other Turkic name Sarı-su "yellow water", but the Oirats used their own name, Ijil mörön or "adaptation river". Presently the Mari, another Uralic group, call the river Jul, they called the river Volgydo, a borrowing from Old East Slavic. The Volga is the longest river in Europe, its catchment area is entirely inside Russia, though the longest river in Russia is the Ob–Irtysh river system, it belongs to the closed basin of the Caspian Sea, being the longest river to flow into a closed basin.
Rising in the Valdai Hills 225 meters above sea level northwest of Moscow and about 320 kilometers southeast of Saint Petersburg, the Volga heads east past Lake Sterzh, Dubna, Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan. From there it turns south, flows past Ulyanovsk, Samara and Volgograd, discharges into the Caspian Sea below Astrakhan at 28 meters below sea level. At its most strategic point, it bends toward the Don. Volgograd Stalingrad, is located there; the Volga has many tributaries, most the rivers Kama, the Oka, the Vetluga, the Sura. The Volga and its tributaries form the Volga river system, which flows through an area of about 1,350,000 square kilometres in the most populated part of Russia; the Volga Delta has a length of about 160 kilometres and includes as many as 500 channels and smaller rivers. The largest estuary in Europe, it is the only place in Russia where pelicans and lotuses may be found; the Volga freezes for most of its length for three months each year. The Volga drains most of Western Russia.
Its many large reservoirs provide hydroelectric power. The Moscow Canal, the Volga–Don Canal, the Volga–Baltic Waterway form navigable waterways connecting Moscow to the White Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. High levels of chemical pollution have adversely affected its habitats; the fertile river valley provides large quantities of wheat, has many mineral riches. A substantial petroleum industry centers on the Volga valley. Other resources include natural gas and potash; the Volga Delta and the nearby Caspian Sea offer superb fishing grounds. Astrakhan, at the delta, is the center of the caviar industry. A number of large hydroelectric reservoirs were constructed on the Volga during the Soviet era, they are: Volgograd Reservoir Saratov Reservoir Kuybyshev Reservoir – the largest in Europe by surface Cheboksary Reservoir Gorky Reservoir Rybinsk Reservoir Uglich Reservoir Ivankovo Reservoir Volgograd Nizhny Novgorod Kazan Samara Saratov Tolyatti Yaroslavl Astrakhan Ulyanovsk Cheboksary Tver The area downstream of the Volga believed to have been a cradle of the Proto-Indo-European civilization, was settled by Slavs and other Turkic peoples in the first millennium AD, replacing the Scythians.
The ancient scholar Ptolemy of Alexandria mentions the lower Volga in his Geography. He calls it the Rha, the Scythian name for the river. Ptolemy believed the Don and the Volga shared the same upper branch, which flowed from the Hyperborean Mountains; the Russian ethnicity in Western Russia and around the Volga river evolved among other tribes, out of the East Slavic tribe of the Buzhans. Several localities in Russia are connected to the Buzhans, like for example Sredniy Buzhan in the Orenburg Oblast and the Buzan river in the Astrakhan Oblast. Buzhan is a village in Nishapur, Iran. Subsequently, the river basin played an important role in the movements of peoples from Asia to Europe. A powerful polity of Volga Bulgaria once flourished where the Kama jo