Moldova the Republic of Moldova, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north and south. The capital city is Chișinău. Most of the Moldovan territory was a part of the Principality of Moldavia from the 14th century until 1812, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Ottoman Empire and became known as Bessarabia. In 1856, southern Bessarabia was returned to Moldavia, which three years united with Wallachia to form Romania, but Russian rule was restored over the whole of the region in 1878. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Bessarabia became autonomous and the independent Moldavian Democratic Republic until it was integrated into Romania in 1918 following a vote of its assembly; the decision was disputed by Soviet Russia, which in 1924 allowed the establishment, within the Ukrainian SSR, of a Moldavian autonomous republic on partial Moldovan-inhabited territories to the east of the Dniester. In 1940, as a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Romania was compelled to cede Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, leading to the creation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, which included the greater part of Bessarabia and the westernmost strip of the former MASSR.
On 27 August 1991, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was under way, the Moldavian SSR declared independence and took the name Moldova. The Constitution of Moldova was adopted in 1994; the strip of the Moldovan territory on the east bank of the Dniester river has been under the de facto control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990. Due to a decrease in industrial and agricultural output following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the service sector has grown to dominate Moldova's economy and is over 60% of the nation's GDP, its economy is the poorest in Europe in per capita terms and has the lowest Human Development Index in the continent. Moldova is the least visited country in Europe by tourists with only 11,000 annually recorded visitors from abroad. Moldova is a parliamentary republic with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government, it is a member state of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and aspires to join the European Union.
The name "Moldova" is derived from the Moldova River. The origin of the name of the river remains unclear. According to a legend recounted by Moldavian chroniclers Dimitrie Cantemir and Grigore Ureche, Prince Dragoș named the river after hunting an aurochs: following the chase, the prince's exhausted hound Molda drowned in the river; the dog's name, given to the river, extended to the Principality. For a short time in the 1990s, at the founding of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the name of the current Republic of Moldova was spelled "Moldavia". After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country began to use Moldova; the name Republic of Moldova is designated by the United Nations. The prehistory of Moldova covers the period from the Upper Paleolithic which begins with the presence of Homo sapiens in the area of Southeastern Europe some 44,000 years ago and extends into the appearance of the first written records in Classical Antiquity in Greece. In 2010 N. K. Anisjutkin discovered Oldowan flint tools at Bayraki.
During the Neolithic stone-age era, Moldova's territory stood at the centre of the large Cucuteni–Trypillia culture that stretched east beyond the Dniester River in Ukraine and west up to and beyond the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. The people of this civilization, which lasted from 5500 to 2750 BC, practised agriculture, raised livestock and made intricately-designed pottery. In antiquity, Moldova's territory was inhabited by Dacian tribes. Between the 1st and 7th centuries AD, the south was intermittently under the Roman, Byzantine Empires. Due to its strategic location on a route between Asia and Europe, the territory of modern Moldova was invaded many times in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, including by Goths, Avars, Magyars, Cumans and Tatars. Friar William of Rubruck, who visited the court of the Great Khan in the 1250s, listed "the Blac", or Vlachs, among the peoples who paid tribute to the Mongols, but the Vlachs' territory is uncertain. Rubruck described "Blakia" as "Assan's territory" south of the Lower Danube, showing that he identified it with the northern regions of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
The Bolohoveni, a Vlach population, is mentioned by the Hypatian Chronicle in the 13th century. The chronicle shows that this land is bordered on the principalities of Halych and Kiev. Archaeological research identified the location of 13th-century fortified settlements in this region. Alexandru V. Boldur identified Voscodavie, Voloscovti, Volcovti and their other towns and villages between the middle course of the rivers Nistru/Dniester and Nipru/Dnieper; the Bolohoveni disappeared from chronicles after their defeat in 1257 by Daniel of Galicia's troops. In the early 13th century, the Brodniks, a possible Slavic–Vlach vassal state of Halych, were present, alongside the Vlachs, in much of the region's territory. On the border between Halych and the
Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet 19–23 November 1942 strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation was executed at the midpoint of the five month long Battle of Stalingrad, was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced in September 1942, was developed with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus; the Red Army took advantage of the German army's poor preparation for winter, the fact that its forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched near Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian troops to guard their flanks. These Axis armies lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor. Due to the length of the front created by the German summer offensive, aimed at taking the Caucasus oil fields and the city of Stalingrad and other Axis forces were forced to guard sectors beyond the length they were meant to occupy.
The situation was exacerbated by the German decision to relocate several mechanized divisions from the Soviet Union to Western Europe. Furthermore, units in the area were depleted after months of fighting those which took part in the fighting in Stalingrad; the Germans could only count on the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, which had the strength of a single panzer division, the 29th Panzergrenadier Division as reserves to bolster their Romanian allies on the German Sixth Army's flanks. In comparison, the Red Army deployed over one million personnel for the purpose of beginning the offensive in and around Stalingrad. Soviet troop movements were not without problems, due to the difficulties of concealing their build-up, to Soviet units arriving late due to logistical issues. Operation Uranus was first postponed from 8 to 17 November to 19 November. At 07:20 Moscow time on 19 November, Soviet forces on the northern flank of the Axis forces at Stalingrad began their offensive. Although Romanian units were able to repel the first attacks, by the end of 20 November the Third and Fourth Romanian armies were in headlong retreat, as the Red Army bypassed several German infantry divisions.
German mobile reserves were not strong enough to parry the Soviet mechanized spearheads, while the Sixth Army did not react enough nor decisively enough to disengage German armored forces in Stalingrad and reorient them to defeat the impending threat. By late 22 November Soviet forces linked up at the town of Kalach, encircling some 290,000 men east of the Don River. Instead of attempting to break out of the encirclement, German leader Adolf Hitler decided to keep Axis forces in Stalingrad and resupply them by air. In the meantime and German commanders began to plan their next movements. On 28 June 1942, the Wehrmacht began its offensive against Soviet forces opposite of Army Group South, codenamed Case Blue. After breaking through Red Army forces by 13 July, German forces encircled and captured the city of Rostov. Following the fall of Rostov, Hitler split German forces operating in the southern extremity of the southern Russian SFSR in an effort to capture the city of Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields.
The responsibility to take Stalingrad was given to the Sixth Army, which turned towards the Volga River and began its advance with heavy air support from the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 4. On 7 August, two German panzer corps were able to flank and encircle a Soviet force of 50,000 personnel and 1,000 tanks, on 22 August German forces began to cross the Don River to complete the advance towards the Volga; the following day, the Battle of Stalingrad began when vanguards of the Sixth Army penetrated the suburbs of the city. By November the Sixth Army had occupied most of Stalingrad, pushing the defending Red Army to the banks of the Volga River. By this stage, there were indications of an impending Soviet offensive which would target Wehrmacht forces around the city, including increased Soviet activity opposite the Sixth Army's flanks, information gained through the interrogation of Soviet prisoners. However, the German command was intent upon finalizing its capture of Stalingrad. In fact, head of Army General Staff General Franz Halder had been dismissed in September after his efforts to warn about the danger, developing along the over-extended flanks of the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army.
As early as September the Soviet Stavka began planning a series of counteroffensives to encompass the destruction of German forces in the south, fighting in Stalingrad and in the Caucasus, against Army Group Center. Command of Soviet efforts to relieve Stalingrad was put under the leadership of General Aleksandr Vasilevsky; the Stavka developed two major operations to be conducted against Axis forces near Stalingrad and Saturn, planned for Operation Mars, designed to engage German Army Group Center in an effort to distract reinforcements and to inflict as much damage as possible. Operation Uranus involved the use of large Soviet mechanized and infantry forces to encircle German and other Axis forces directly around Stalingrad; as preparations for the offensive commenced, the attack's starting points were positioned on stretches of front to the rear of the German Sixth Army preventing the Germans from reinforcing those sectors where Axis units were too overstretched to occupy effectively. The offensive was a double envel
The Jassy–Kishinev Operation, named after the two major cities, Iași and Chișinău, in the staging area, was a Soviet offensive against Axis forces, which took place in Eastern Romania from 20 to 29 August 1944 during World War II. The 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts of the Red Army engaged Army Group South Ukraine, which consisted of combined German and Romanian formations, in an operation to reclaim the Moldavian SSR and destroy the Axis forces in the region, opening the way into Romania and the Balkans; the offensive resulted in the encirclement and destruction of the German forces, allowing the Soviet Army to resume its strategic advance further into Eastern Europe. It forced Romania to switch allegiance from the Axis powers to the Allies; the Red Army had made an unsuccessful attack in the same sector, sometimes referred to as First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, from 8 April to 6 June 1944. In 1944, the Wehrmacht had been pressed back along its entire front line in the East. By May 1944, the South Ukraine Army Group was pushed back towards the prewar Romanian frontier, managed to establish a line on the lower Dniester River, however breached in two places, with the Red Army holding bridgeheads.
After June, calm returned to the sector. Heeresgruppe Südukraine had been, until June 1944, one of the most powerful German formations in terms of armour. However, during the summer most of its armoured units were transferred to the Northern and Central fronts to stem Red Army advances in the Baltic states, northern Ukraine, Poland. On the eve of the offensive, the only armoured formations left were the 1st Romanian Armoured Division, the German 13th Panzer and 10th Panzergrenadier Divisions. Soviet deception operations prior to the attack worked well; the German command staff believed that the movement of Soviet forces along the front line was a result of a troop transfer to the north. Exact positions of Soviet formations were not known until the final hours before the operation. By contrast, the Romanians were aware of the imminent Soviet offensive and anticipated a rerun of Stalingrad, with major attacks against the 3rd and 4th Armies and an encirclement of the German 6th Army; such concerns were dismissed by the German command as "alarmist".
Antonescu suggested a withdrawal of Axis forces to the fortified Carpathian–FNB–Danube line, but Friessner, the commander of Army Group South Ukraine, was unwilling to consider such a move, having been dismissed by Hitler from Army Group North for requesting permission to retreat. 2nd Ukrainian Front – Army General Rodion Malinovsky 6th Guards Tank Army – Major General Andrei Kravchenko 18th Tank Corps – Major General V. I. Polozkov Cavalry-Mechanized Group Gorshkov – Major General S. I. Gorshkov 5th Guards Cavalry Corps 23rd Tank Corps – Lieutenant General A. O. Akhmanov 4th Guards Army – Galanin 27th Army – Lieutenant General S. G. Trofimenko 52nd Army – Koroteev 7th Guards Army – Shumilov 40th Army – Lieutenant General F. F. Zhmachenko 53rd Army – Lieutenant General I. M. Managarov 3rd Ukrainian Front – Army General Fyodor Tolbukhin 5th Shock Army – Lieutenant General Nikolai Berzarin 4th Guards Mechanized Corps – Major General Vladimir Zhdanov 7th Mechanized Corps – Major General F. G. Katkov 57th Army – Lieutenant General N. A. Gagen 46th Army – Lieutenant General I.
T. Shlemin 37th Army – Major General M. N. Sharokhin 6th Guards Rifle Corps 66th Rifle Corps Black Sea Fleet Army Group South Ukraine - Generaloberst Johannes Friessner Army Group Dumitrescu Romanian 3rd Army – Colonel General Petre Dumitrescu 6th Army - General der Artillerie Maximilian Fretter-Pico 13th Panzer Division - Generalleutnant Hans Tröger 306th Infantry Division 76th Infantry Division - General der Infanterie Erich Abraham Army Group Wohler 8th Army – General der Infanterie Otto Wöhler 10th Panzergrenadier Division - Generalleutnant August Schmidt Romanian 4th Army - Lieutenant General Ioan Mihail Racoviță Romanian 1st Armoured Division – Brigadier General Radu Korne Romanian 4th Mountain Division - Brigadier General Alexandru Nasta As of 19 July 1944, the Romanian Army possessed a total of 430 tanks of all types, ranging from tankettes armed with machine guns to Panzer IVs and StuG IIIs. However, only 197 of these could face the mainstay tank of the Red Army, the T-34. From these 197, over 40% were part of the 1st Romanian Armored Division, they are listed below: The division had a dedicated anti-tank battalion.
Its main weapons were of Romanian origin: 10 TACAM T-60 tank destroyers and 24 75 mm Reșița field/anti-tank guns. The 24 guns were the first ones produced of this model; the 1st Romanian Armored Division had lost 34 armored fighting vehicles by 23 August, but claimed 60 Soviet tanks on 20 August alone. Stavka's plan for the operation was based on a double envelopment of German and Romanian armies by the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts; the 2nd Ukrainian Front was to break through north of Iași, commit mobile formations to seize the Prut River crossings before withdrawing German units of the 6th Army could reach it. It was to unleash the 6th Tank Army to seize the Siret River crossings and the Focșani Gap, a fortified line between the Siret River and the Danube; the 3rd Ukrainian Front was to attack out of its bridgehead across the Dniester near Tiraspol, release mobile formations to head north and meet the mobile formations of the 2nd Ukrainian Front. This would lead to the encirclement of the German forces near Chișinău.
Following the successful encirclement, the 6th Tank Army and the 4th Guards Mechanised Corps were to advance towards Bucharest and the Ploiești oil fields. Both the 2nd and the 3rd Ukrainian Fronts undertook a major effort, leading to a double envelopment of the German Sixth
Legionnaires' rebellion and Bucharest pogrom
The Legionnaires' rebellion and the Bucharest pogrom occurred in Bucharest, between 21–23 January 1941. As the privileges of the Iron Guard paramilitary organization were being cut off by the Conducător Ion Antonescu, its members known as the Legionnaires, revolted. During the rebellion and pogrom the Iron Guard killed 125 Jews, 30 soldiers died in the confrontation with the rebels. Following this, the Iron Guard movement was banned and 9,000 of its members were imprisoned. Following World War I Romania gained many new territories, thus becoming "Greater Romania". However, the international recognition of the formal union with these territories came with the condition of granting civil rights to ethnic minorities in those regions; the new territories Bessarabia and Bukovina, included large numbers of Jews, whose presence stood out because of their distinctive clothing and language. Intellectuals together with a wide array of political parties and the clergy led an anti-semitic campaign; the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact gave the Soviet Union a green light to take back Bessarabia and northern Bukovina in June 1940, leading to the June 1940 Soviet Ultimatum and Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina.
In August 1940 Germany and Italy mediated Romanian disputes with Hungary about Transylvania and with Bulgaria regarding Dobruja. Large areas of Romania were ceded to Bulgaria. During the Romanian army's withdrawal from Bessarabia, some local residents celebrated. Attacks on soldiers by locals are documented. Various reports speak of attacks on the retreating soldiers by Jews—though the veracity of those reports is disputed—and some have been proven to be fabrications. Additionally, although the reports defined all of the celebrators and attackers as "Jews", some were Ukrainians, pro-Communists, newly released criminals, ethnic Romanians; these reports, regardless of veracity, did much to incite many Romanians against Jews, strengthening existing anti-Semitic sentiment. The Romanians were traumatized and frustrated by giving up these areas without a war, the regime's position weakened significantly; the government scapegoated the Jews, with the support of the press: Confronted with an serious crisis and doubting their regime could survive, Romanian government officials turned the Jews into a political "lightning rod", channeling popular discontent toward the minority.
Notable in this report is the reaction of the Romanian press, whose rage was directed more toward Jews than the Soviets, the real aggressors. Given that the Romanian press was censored in 1940, the government must have played a role in creating this bias. A typical form of anticipatory scapegoating was to let Jewish leaders know that the Romanian authorities might launch acts of repression against the Jews; the anti-semitic legislation that began with the "Jewish Codex" in Romania, the establishment of the National Legionary State government, set in motion the laws of Romanianization, which deprived Jewish people of their property and distributed it among supporters of the new regime. This created an atmosphere in which anti-semitism was seen as legitimate, sanctioned. Politically, control was in the hands of the Conducător Ion Antonescu, heading the anti-semitic fascist coalition government, together with Horia Sima; the latter commanded the paramilitary Legionnaire militia known as the Iron Guard.
There was a great deal of tension between the two leaders due to Iron Guard seizures of Jewish property. Antonescu thought the robbery was done in a fashion detrimental to the Romanian economy, the stolen property did not benefit the government, only the Legionnaires and their associates. Besides the Jewish issue, the Legionnaires, achieving power after many years of persecution by the former regime of King Carol II, were vengeful toward anyone associated with the regime; the disagreement between Antonescu and the Iron Guard about the robbery of the Jews was not about the robbery itself but about the method, the final destination of the stolen property. Antonescu held that the robbery should be done by way of expropriation through an orderly process of passing anti-semitic laws.... The Legionnaires wanted everything, they wanted it immediately; the leader stated this in an address to Legion-appointed ministers: "Do you think that we can replace all Yids immediately? Government challenges are addressed one like in a game of chess.
The Legionnaires, on the other hand, wanted to rob as much as possible, as as possible, utilizing methods based not in law but in terror and torture. The Legionnaires had an additional quarrel with the German minority in Romania. According to the laws of Romanianization, Jews were forced to sell many of their businesses, a fact used by many Romanians to purchase those businesses for close to nothing; the German minority introduced a level of competition by offering the Jews a better price than the one offered by the Legionnaires. The local Germans had capital received as a loan from Germany, Romanian money paid to the Germans for keeping military units in their territory. Antonescu demanded that the Legionnaires cease their terror tactics, the Legionnaires began plotting to usurp Antonescu and take over sole control of
Ivan Stepanovich Konev was a Soviet military commander who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, retook much of Eastern Europe from occupation by the Axis Powers, helped in the capture of Germany's capital, Berlin. In 1956, as the Commander of Warsaw Pact forces, Konev led the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution by Soviet armoured divisions. Konev was born on 28 December 1897 into a peasant family near Podosinovets in Vologda Governorate, he worked as a lumberjack. In the spring of 1916, he was conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army. Konev was sent to the 2nd Heavy Artillery Brigade at Moscow and graduated from artillery training courses. In 1917, he was sent to the 2nd Separate Heavy Artillery Battalion on the Southwestern Front as a junior sergeant and fought in the Kerensky Offensive; when the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917 he was demobilised and returned home, but in 1919 he joined the Bolshevik party and the Red Army, serving as an artilleryman. During the Russian Civil War he served with the Red Army in the Russian Far Eastern Republic.
His commander at this time was Kliment Voroshilov a close colleague of Joseph Stalin and Commissar for defence. This alliance was the key to Konev's subsequent career. In 1926 Konev completed advanced officer training courses at the Frunze Military Academy, between and 1931 he held a series of progressively more senior commands, becoming head of first the Transbaikal the North Caucasus Military Districts. In July 1938 he was appointed commander of the 2nd Red Banner Army. In 1937 he became a Deputy of the Supreme Soviet and in 1939 a candidate member of the Party Central Committee; when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Konev was assigned command of the 19th Army in the Vitebsk region, waged a series of defensive battles during the Red Army's retreat, first to Smolensk and to the approaches to Moscow. He commanded the Kalinin Front from October 1941 to August 1942, playing a key role in the fighting around Moscow and the Soviet counter-offensive during the winter of 1941–42.
For his role in the successful defence of the Soviet capital, Stalin promoted Konev to Colonel-General. In the summer of 1942 Konev led the Kalinin Front and the Western front in the battle on the Rzhev salient. Konev held "Front" commands for the rest of the war, he commanded the Soviet Western Front until February 1943, the North-Western Front February–July 1943, the 2nd Ukrainian Front from July 1943 until May 1945. He participated in the Battle of Kursk, commanding the southern part of the Soviet counter-offensive, the Steppe Front, where he was an active and energetic exponent of maskirovka, the use of military camouflage and deception. Among the maskirovka measures he adopted to achieve tactical surprise were the camouflaging of defence lines and depots. In David Glantz's view, Konev's forces "generated a major portion of the element of surprise"; the result was that the Germans underestimated the strength of the Soviet defences. The commander of 19 Panzer, General G. Schmidt, wrote that "We did not assume that there was one fourth of what we had to encounter".
After the victory at Kursk, Konev's armies retook Belgorod, Odessa and Kiev. The subsequent Korsun–Shevchenkovsky Offensive led to the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket which took place from 24 January to 16 February 1944; the offensive was part of the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive. In it, the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, commanded by Nikolai Vatutin and Konev, trapped German forces of Army Group South in a pocket or cauldron west of the Dnieper river. During weeks of fighting, the two Red Army Fronts tried to eradicate the pocket. According to Milovan Djilas, Konev boasted of his killing of thousands of German prisoners of war: "The cavalry finished them off.'We let the Cossacks cut up as long as they wished. They hacked off the hands of those who raised them to surrender' the Marshal recounted with a smile." For his achievements in Ukraine, Konev was promoted by Stalin to Marshal of the Soviet Union in February 1944. He was one of Stalin's favourite generals and one of the few senior commanders whom Stalin admired for his ruthlessness.
During 1944 Konev's armies advanced from Ukraine and Belarus into Poland and into Czechoslovakia. In May he participated in an unsuccessful invasion of the Balkans, together with Generals Rodion Malinovsky and Fyodor Tolbukhin. By July he had advanced to the Vistula River in central Poland, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. In September 1944 his forces, now designated the Fourth Ukrainian Front, advanced into Slovakia and helped the Slovak partisans in their rebellion against German occupation. In January 1945 Konev, together with Georgy Zhukov, commanded the Soviet armies which launched the massive winter offensive in western Poland, driving the German forces from the Vistula to the Oder River. In southern Poland his armies seized Kraków. Soviet historians, Russian sources, claimed that Konev preserved Kraków from Nazi-planned destruction by ordering a lightning attack on the city. Konev's January 1945 offensive prevented planned destruction of the Silesian industry by the retreating Germans.
In April his troops, together with the 1st Belorussian Front under his competitor, Marshal Zhukov, forced the line of
Operation Little Saturn
Operation Saturn, revised as Operation Little Saturn, was a Red Army operation on the Eastern Front of World War II that led to battles in the North Caucasus and Donets Basin regions of the Soviet Union from December 1942 to February 1943. The success of Operation Uranus, launched on 19 November 1942, had trapped 250,000–300,000 troops of General Friedrich Paulus' German 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army in Stalingrad. To exploit this victory, the Soviet general staff planned a winter campaign of continuous and ambitious offensive operations, codenamed "Saturn". Joseph Stalin reduced his ambitious plans to a small campaign codenamed "Operation Little Saturn"; the offensive succeeded in smashing Germany's Italian and Hungarian allies, applied pressure on the over stretched German forces in Eastern Ukraine and prevented further German advances to the relief of the entrapped forces at Stalingrad. Despite these victories, the Soviets themselves became over extended, setting up the stages for the German offensives of the Third Battle of Kharkov and the Battle of Kursk.
On 17 May 1942, German Army Groups A and B launched a counteroffensive against advancing Soviet armies around the city of Kharkov, resulting in the Second Battle of Kharkov. By 6 July, General Hermann Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army had taken the city of Voronezh, threatening to collapse the Red Army's resistance. By early August, General Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist's First Panzer Army had reached the oil center of Maykop, 500 kilometres south of the city of Rostov, taken by the Fourth Panzer Army on 23 July; the rapid German advance threatened to cut the Soviet Union off from its southern territories, while threatening to cut the lend-lease supply lines from Persia. However, the offensive began to peter out, as the offensive's supply train struggled to keep up with the advance and spearhead units began to run low on fuel and manpower. Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army and Fourth Romanian armies, portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army.
The operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced as early as September 1942, was developed with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus; the Red Army took advantage of the fact that German forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched around Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian armies to guard their flanks. These Axis armies were deployed in open positions on the steppe and lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor. Operation Winter Storm, undertaken between 12–23 December 1942, was the German Fourth Panzer Army's attempt to relieve encircled Axis forces during the Battle of Stalingrad. In late November, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, which resulted in the encirclement of Axis personnel in and around the city of Stalingrad. German forces within the Stalingrad Pocket and directly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, under the command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein.
As the Red Army continued to build strength, in an effort to allocate as many resources as possible to the eventual launch of the planned Operation Saturn, which aimed to isolate Army Group A from the rest of the German Army, the Luftwaffe had begun an attempt to supply German forces in Stalingrad through an air bridge. However, as the Luftwaffe proved incapable of carrying out its mission and it became more obvious that a successful breakout could only occur if it was launched as early as possible, Manstein decided to plan and launch a dedicated relief effort. After the defeat of the Romanian Army around Stalingrad and the successful encirclement of the German Sixth Army, Stalin started a counter-offensive nicknamed "Operation Little Saturn" in order to enlarge the area controlled by the Soviet Army in eastern Ukraine until Kharkov and Rostov. Zhukov states the South-Western Front was assigned a mission in which the 1st and 3rd Guard armies and the 5th Tank Army "were to strike out in the general direction of Morozovsk and destroy the enemy grouping in that sector."
They would be supported by the 6th Army of the Voronezh Front. The first stage — an attempt to cut off the German Army Group A in the Caucasus — had to be revised when General Erich von Manstein launched Operation Winter Storm on 12 December in an attempt to relieve the trapped armies at Stalingrad. While General Rodion Malinovsky's Soviet 2nd Guards Army blocked the German advance on Stalingrad, the modified plan Operation Little Saturn was launched on 16 December; this operation consisted of a pincer movement. General Fyodor Isidorovich Kuznetsov's 1st Guards Army and General Dmitri Danilovich Lelyushenko's 3rd Guards Army attacked from the north, encircling 130,000 soldiers of the Italian 8th Army on the Don and advancing to Millerovo; the Italians resisted the Soviet attack for nearly two weeks, although outnumbered 9 to 1 in some sectors, but with huge losses. Manstein sent the 6th Panzer Division to the Italians' aid: of the 130,000 encircled troops, only 45,000 survived after bloody fighting to join the Panzers at Chertkovo on 17 January.
To the south the advance of General Gerasimenko's 28th Army threatened to encircle the 1st Panzer Army and General Trufanov's 51st Army attacked the relief column directly. In a dar
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest confrontation of World War II, in which Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in Southern Russia. Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians in air raids, it was the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare. After their defeat at Stalingrad, the German High Command had to withdraw vast military forces from the Western Front to replace their losses; the German offensive to capture Stalingrad began in August 1942, using the 6th Army and elements of the 4th Panzer Army. The attack was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing; the fighting degenerated into house-to-house fighting. By mid-November 1942, the Germans had pushed the Soviet defenders back at great cost into narrow zones along the west bank of the Volga River. On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack targeting the weaker Romanian and Hungarian armies protecting the German 6th Army's flanks.
The Axis forces on the flanks were overrun and the 6th Army was cut off and surrounded in the Stalingrad area. Adolf Hitler ordered that the army make no attempt to break out. Heavy fighting continued for another two months. By the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad had exhausted their ammunition and food; the remaining units of the 6th Army surrendered. The battle lasted one week and three days. By the spring of 1942, despite the failure of Operation Barbarossa to decisively defeat the Soviet Union in a single campaign, the Wehrmacht had captured vast expanses of territory, including Ukraine and the Baltic republics. Elsewhere, the war had been progressing well: the U-boat offensive in the Atlantic had been successful and Erwin Rommel had just captured Tobruk. In the east, they had stabilized their front in a line running from Leningrad in the north to Rostov in the south. There were a number of salients, but these were not threatening. Hitler was confident that he could master the Red Army after the winter of 1942, because though Army Group Centre had suffered heavy losses west of Moscow the previous winter, 65% of its infantry had not been engaged and had been rested and re-equipped.
Neither Army Group North nor Army Group South had been hard pressed over the winter. Stalin was expecting the main thrust of the German summer attacks to be directed against Moscow again. With the initial operations being successful, the Germans decided that their summer campaign in 1942 would be directed at the southern parts of the Soviet Union; the initial objectives in the region around Stalingrad were the destruction of the industrial capacity of the city and the deployment of forces to block the Volga River. The river was the Caspian Sea to central Russia, its capture would disrupt commercial river traffic. The Germans cut the pipeline from the oilfields; the capture of Stalingrad would make the delivery of Lend Lease supplies via the Persian Corridor much more difficult. On 23 July 1942, Hitler rewrote the operational objectives for the 1942 campaign expanding them to include the occupation of the city of Stalingrad. Both sides began to attach propaganda value to the city, based on it bearing the name of the leader of the Soviet Union.
Hitler proclaimed that after Stalingrad's capture, its male citizens were to be killed and all women and children were to be deported because its population was "thoroughly communistic" and "especially dangerous". It was assumed that the fall of the city would firmly secure the northern and western flanks of the German armies as they advanced on Baku, with the aim of securing these strategic petroleum resources for Germany; the expansion of objectives was a significant factor in Germany's failure at Stalingrad, caused by German overconfidence and an underestimation of Soviet reserves. The Soviets realized, they ordered that anyone strong enough to hold a rifle be sent to fight. If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny I must finish this war. Army Group South was selected for a sprint forward through the southern Russian steppes into the Caucasus to capture the vital Soviet oil fields there; the planned summer offensive, code-named Fall Blau, was to include the German 6th, 17th, 4th Panzer and 1st Panzer Armies.
Army Group South had overrun the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1941. Poised in Eastern Ukraine, it was to spearhead the offensive. Hitler intervened, ordering the Army Group to split in two. Army Group South, under the command of Wilhelm List, was to continue advancing south towards the Caucasus as planned with the 17th Army and First Panzer Army. Army Group South, including Friedrich Paulus's 6th Army and Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer Army, was to move east towards the Volga and Stalingrad. Army Group B was commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock and by General Maximilian von Weichs; the start of Case Blue had been planned for late May 1942. However, a number of German and Romanian units that were to take part in Blau were besieging Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. Delays in ending the siege pushed back the start date for Blau several times, the city did not fall until early July. Operation Fridericus I by the Germans against the "Isium bulge", pinched off the Soviet