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The Northernmost front of WW2 - Pics from Murmansk

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  • The Northernmost front of WW2 - Pics from Murmansk

    This photo account will look more like a blog record rather than what I've done before, simply for the reason of so many crazy things happening on my journey to the the Far North - or the Transarctic as the Russians call it.

    In late December by English friend who stayed here for several months suggested me to go on a trip somewhere in Russia. We'd already done a New Year's trip to Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Moscow and Ulyanovsk. This January the choice was between Volgograd and Murmansk. I'd already been to Volgograd (although I want to come back and see the battlefields as I was there for just 1 day), and Catherine wanted to see the place where her grandfather sailed with the Arctic Convoys, so the choice was obvious. Besides, anyone would go south in the middle of the winter and seeing Murmansk in the middle of the polar winter seemed just the best time to see the city in its "true environment".

    We got on the train on January 4 (upper shelves in a platzkart carriage were all we could get), and rode for 27 hours along the Murmansk Railroad. Platzkart means open compartment in Russian trains so this means no doors and no privacy but then you can socialise with people easily. Our neighbours were two ladies in their early 50s who started feeding us with all the food they had - one of them appeared to be the director of the artistic troupe of the Murmansk theatre, and another one was an actress. Three days later we got free tickets to a Christmas performance and were taken on a behind the stages tour of the theatre.

    The Murmansk city emblem

    On January 5 we arrived at the Murmansk train station and the next morning we went out to see a bus to Zapadnaya Litsa, the river where the Nazis were stopped in September-October 1941 as the operation Silver Fox failed to reach its strategic objectives.

    Original plan

    Progress of the offensive (couldn't find any better map)

    Positions of troops by 1942. Murmansk is about 50 km to the southeast from where the frontline crosses the river.

    We found a private driver at the local bus station who was looking out to make some money and paid him to get us to the frontline and the war memorials. There are actually two memorial sites next to each other - one built in the Soviet times and the recent one. The difference in approach to historical memory and the attitude to the war was quite telling. Here are the pictures of the older site:

    Map of the Murmansk Defensive Operation

    Map of the Murmansk Offensive, October 1944

    Ye Olde IS-2

    Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

  • #2
    What really surprised and amazed me was that there were signs by the road saying "Stop! Bow your head! Remember!" and that practically all the cars honked as they drove past.

    Some people stopped by to take their children to the site

    Just a hundred meters away from the place, called the "Valley of Glory", another memorial was built a few years ago.

    If one was to match the memorial dates to these memorials, the first one would be dedicated to the Victory Day celebrated on May 9, while the concept of the second one stands much closer to the idea of the Day of Memory and Mourning, June 22.

    "Eternal memory to the fallen heroes"

    The wall lists the units of the 14th Army, the Northern Fleet, pilots, border guards, partisans, merchant marine sailors and other forces which took part in the defense of the Soviet Arctic.

    The wall lists the names of the soldiers who were buried in the mass graves nearby. Every year new remains are dug up and solemnly reburied here.

    "Here lay 148 defenders of the Soviet Arctic"

    "Red Army conscripts Prokhorenko Fyodor Leontievich (1907-1942) and Rubtsov Ivan Ivanovich (1921-1942), and 35 unknown defenders of Lake Kilgis, buried here in 1999"

    Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


    • #3
      A wall of etched copies of Soviet soldiers' notes, written by them before their deaths. The text in printed letters on the left upper plaque reads:

      "Dear people! Brothers and sisters!
      In the fighting for the Soviet Arctic,
      73 887 of us were killed,
      9 365 were reported MIA,
      1 917 were frozen to death

      We loved our life very much, but we loved our Motherland even more. Take care of her."

      My dear ones, in the hour before death I'm writing you... don't offend each other. Daddy. Take care of Tanya and Sasha. 20.06.42. Borodin P.

      (Center) "The Germans killed me on 28.07.43. Revenge for me, for all the dead. M. Gryzun"

      Death to German occupiers (top)
      Comrades, if you find me, report my home address to the HQ. M. Reprintsev. (right)
      Farewell cmds. Avenge the Fascist scum for our death (lower left)
      Comrades, listen to my advice - beat the Germans. Dying for a just cause (lower right)

      Report about our death. There are five of us left. We died for the Soviet Motherland. 12.06.43. (center)

      I've died for the defense of the Motherland. I've got a family of 6 remaining at home, my wife and 5 kids from 1 to 10 years old. Please report about my death. I was called up on August 18, 1941 at Tarnog Military Commissariat. Peshkov (right)

      The Valley of Glory is about 10 kms from the former frontline, where we went next.

      River Zapadnaya Litsa

      "Here passed the line of the defense"

      "From this line our troops started a decisive offensive and drove the invaders away from the Kola land" (Kola peninsula)

      On the way back to Murmansk we stopped at several memorials by the roadside.

      Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour


      • #4
        Fantastic pics and quite a trip you had there!


        • #5
          Amazing as usual! I was especially awed by the monument with the soldiers' letters.

          Thank you for sharing.
          "War is sorrowful, but there is one thing infinitely more horrible than the worst horrors of war, and that is the feeling that nothing is worth fighting for..."
          -- Harper's Weekly, December 31, 1864


          • #6
            Excellent and informative post !

            Thanks for sharing those moving pics with us.


            • #7

              You have taken us to a place most of us could never see.


              • #8
                Quite emotionally moving, my friend!

                Thank You for sharing as always.

                On the Plains of Hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest-and resting... died. Adlai E. Stevenson

                ACG History Today



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