The Battle of Moscow
This battle had an immense military, political, strategic, and international significance. It started with the advance of the German Army Group Center on September 30, 1941. Within several weeks it inflicted heavy losses on the Red Army and forced it to retreat for 250-300 km. 64 Soviet divisions were encircled near Bryansk and Vyazma. Only part of them managed to break out. In early December 1941, the enemy was at the gates of Moscow. The closest point to the Soviet capital reached by aggressor was the village of Kryukovo, less than 30 km away.
On December 5-6, the Red Army launched a counteroffensive. At that moment it had less troops, guns and tanks than Germans. However, the German Luftwaffe was numerically inferior. It had 60 percent less aircrafts than the Red Army. New soviet divisions from the eastern regions of Russia were well equipped for winter warfare. It gave them an advantage over the enemy, which was not prepared for action in the wintertime. As a result, the Germans were forced to retreat from Moscow. New front line stabilized at the distance from 100 km to 350 km away from the capital. The Moscow Region, the Regions of Kalinin, Tula, Ryazan as well as parts of the Smolensk and Oryol Regions were completely liberated.
The Soviet Union paid an extremely high price for this victory. Over 1,8 million of its soldiers were killed. The enemy lost just about half a million men, but its hope for blitzkrieg offensive was completely shattered. About 40 Red Army detachments were given the Guards (elite) status for their outstanding performance in combat and the valour and courage displayed in the Battle of Moscow. More than one million people received the medals “For the Defense of Moscow”. 110 defenders of the city were awarded with the Hero of the Soviet Union title.
The Moscow militia deserved a page of its own in the history of the People’s Militia formed during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). Civilians began to prepare for the defense of their city from the very beginning of the German invasion. Muscovites voiced their readiness to join militia and fight arms in hand for the Motherland at numerous public rallies held as early as on June 23, 1941. In total, 16 militia divisions were formed in the capital. They included volunteers of different ages and walks of life.
The Decree of the State Defense Committee from October 12, 1941 established the Moscow zone of defense. It comprised a security zone and two defense lines. Over half a million Muscovites, 75 percent of them were women, dug frozen ground to construct fortifications around the capital. The State Defense Committee declared Moscow and adjacent territories in a state of siege on October 19, 1941. The units of Moscow air defense fought heroically against the German Luftwaffe. Out of about 2,000 German aircrafts engaged in the raids 278 were destroyed and only 78 managed to reach the city.