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Historical information on the military operations on the territory of Kalevala (Uhtua) district and the town of Kostamuksha during the Second World War

In October-November 1939, before the Soviet-Finnish war on the territory of Uhtua district there was concentrated the troops of the 163rd infantry division (under command of Corps Commander M.Dukhanov, in December 22nd replaced by Corps Commander V.Chuykov) of 47th corps 9th army with division headquarters stationed in Kem.

According to plans of the Soviet General Headquarters the 163 division should attack in the direction Suomussalmi-Kaani-Oulu and, in contact with the troops concentrated around Reboly and Kandalaksha, also aiming at the Gulf of Bothnia through Kuhmo and Kemijarvi, to cut the Finnish territory in the narrowest place and deprive Finland of the land contacts with Sweden and other western countries.

With the beginning of the war in November 30 81st and 662nd regiments of the 163rd division lounged an attack on the right flank. They started from Lonnka area, crossed the state border and began movement by the Lehtovaara-Juntusranta road towards Kuusalmo-Suomussalmi highway.

On the left flank 759th regiment started from Vazhenvaara and was attacking along the Raate-Suomussalmi road. Initially only one Finnish battalion was opposing the troops of 163rd division, In December 3rd the second battalion took the stand.

At the initial stage of military actions, Soviet troops, using their serious numerical superiority moved quite successfully. After the midday of November 30 the right-wing troops of 163rd division took Juntusranta village and in December 4th got to the Kuusalmo-Suomussalmi highway near Pallovaar. From Pallovaar the 662nd regiment turned to the North along the highway, aiming at Kuusamo. 81st regiment continued the movement to the South and in December 6th reached the northern approaches of Suomussalmi. 759th regiment forced the intermediate defence lines on Purasjoki river (December 3-4) and the ravine between the lakes near Mattila (December 7) and also came to Suomussalmi from the East. In December 8th the Soviet troops met in Suomussalmi. In December 9th Finnish forces had to retreat to the southern and western banks of the Kiantajarvi Lake.

But the temporary capture of Suomussalmi was the first and the last success of the Soviet troops on this sector. In December 9th the Finnish troops at Suomussalmi got the reinforcement from the reserve. The new brigade, formed in December 11th under command of colonel J.Sijlusvo started counterattack and in the result of the flank attack cut the supply lines of the advanced detachments of 163rd division by the Raate-Suomussalmi road. The initiative went to Finns. At the same time Col. Sijlusvo launched the attacks on Suomussalmi from the west. After coming up additional reinforcement (64th and 65th regiments) the forces under command of Col. Sijlusvo were reorganised into 9th division. In December 28th, after heavy fighting Finns dislodged the troops of 163rd division from Suomussalmi and began extermination of Russian strongpoints on the roads. The main part of 81st and 759th regiments began unorganised retreat along the Kiantjarvi Lake to Juntusranta village, suffering heavy losses under constant attacks of Finnish mobile ski detachments. Almost at the same time the newly formed detachment under command of lieutenant colonel Susitajval, consisted of four battalions launched a surprise attack on the positions of 662nd regiment. As a result the latter had to leave all the heavy armament and also retreat to Juntusranta village. At the beginning of January 1940 the remnants of the 163rd division took on the defensive around Juntusranta.

In December 19th when the fighting for Suomussalmi was it its heat the headquarters of the 9th army sent the newly came from Kiev military circuit 44th infantry division for reinforcement of the troops of 163rd division. The 44th division should attack from Vazhenvaara, unlock the Raate-Suomussalmi road and met with 163rd division. But deployment of the 44th division was were slow. On the Raate-Suomussalmi road its detachments stretch out for more than 30 kilometres and failed to drive off relatively weak Finnish covering forces. This allowed Col. Sijlusvo to change the aims of his main forces from pursuing the smashed 163rd division to the Raate-Suomussalmi road. Finns secretly had made passages on the flanks to enable 25-50 km detours.

Then they the cut the road, crammed with the columns of the 44th division, in several places and during the January 5th-7th in heavy fights crushed the troops encircled at Haukila, Karila, Tyynnela and Matilla. The division was almost totally demolished. Small groups of soldiers that could break away from the pockets were assembling at Vazhenvaara. The remnants of the division took the stand on the road to Suomussalmi some 9 km from the border. Since January 10th active operations in Suomussalmi sector practically stopped.

The commander of the 44th infantry division Vinogradov, headquarters commander Volkov and commissar Pohomenko, managed to escape from the encirclement with one of the groups were arrested and prosecuted. According the ruling of the military tribunal they were shot in Vazhenvaara in January 11th.

According to the 1940 Moscow Peace Treaty the borderline in the Uhtua region did not change.

In the great Patriotic War the military operations in the Uhtua sector started in July 1st 1941 with the attack of the troops of the Finnish 3rd infantry division. Already in the border Finns met with stubborn resistance of Soviet boarder guards and avant-garde regiments of the 54th infantry division under command of Major-General I.Panin. Only in the July 10th, after the heavy fight at the border the enemy could reach the first line of the Soviet defence positions along the Voinitsa River. The positions there were held by 81st and 118th regiments. Attempts to force a crossing with a rush failed and the offence of the Finnish troops renewed only in July 14th. The fiercest attacks were on the right flank of Soviet defence, against 81st regiment, but the attempts to break the defence here failed. Then Finns concentrated their attempts to the left flank. In July 17th they forced crossing in the narrow part of Verkhnee Kuito Lake, thrust back the infantry company of 118th regiment, the stayed here and came to the Lashku Lake, treating the road Voinitsa-Uhtua and the rear of the main forces of the 54th division.

General Panin ordered the 81st regiment to retreat to the new defence line along the eastern shore of the Korpijarvi Lake and left shore of Pista River. 118th regiment got the order the fight back Finns from the beachhead near the Lashku Lake. During the counterattack the troops of the 118th regiment pressed enemy to the Verkhnee Kuito Lake, but failed to liquidate the beachhead.

In July 21st under cover of thick fog Finnish troops outflanked the division on the right to the North of Korpijarvi Lake and again endangered the Voinitsa-Uhtua road. To liquidate the breach, substantial part of the forces of the 118th regiment were thrown there. Taking advantage of the situation Finnish 11th infantry regiment attacked the weakened left flank, where only one battalion of the 118th regiment left, and forced it to battering retreat o the Northeast. Once again Finns were threatening the rear of the 54th division and cutting the Kirov railroad. The commander of the 7th army of Karelian front lieutenant general F. Gorelenko had to order the 54th division to retreat to the new defence line. It was built by the field-engineer battalion of the division with the help of 5000 local inhabitants along the isthmuses between the lakes Besymyannoe - Kis-Kis - Cherkijarvi, some 10 km to the west of Uhtua. Here were built three battalion fortified positions and fortifications on flanks.

In July 30th the division took the new stand. Because of the lakes the real front of the division shortened to some 20 km, which allowed to consolidate disposition and to make the front some 4-5 km deep. At the same time Finns twice tried to assault the position but failed. In the middle of the August they renew the persistent attacks, lasted till the end of September, but could not break through. On the line Besymyannoe - Kis-Kis - Cherkijarvi lakes, some 50-60 km from the state border the 54th infantry division stopped to enemy movement in Uhtua sector. The frontline here stabilised till the autumn 1944 and the war here took the trench character.

In July 1944 the Soviet offensive on the Karelian Isthmus forced the Finnish General Headquarters to move the Finnish troops from the Uhtua sector to the South. They were replaced by German forces.

In the result of successful offensive of the Soviet troops in the summer 1944 on the Karelian Isthmus and Southern Karelia in September 4th 1944 Finland was knocked off the war and signed the armistice with the USSR. According to the terms of the armistice Finland demanded to withdraw German troops from its territory by September 15th. German High Command had to order to withdraw its forces from Uhtua, Louhi and Kandalaksha sectors to Norway. To prevent the strengthening the German defence in Norway and taking advantage of the situation the Soviet High Command decided to deliver a preventive blow at the now open southern flank of the German forces in the North. The main strike was blown from Kestenga and Kandalaksha sectors; the attacks in Uhtua sector were mainly subsidiary. The main goals of the 54th division (under command of Colonel N.Degtyarev) and 367th division (under command of Colonel L.Startsev) that was moved here from Louhi sector were "to keep constant reconnaissance, : to have a light-armed pursuit units, do not engage in the heavy fights, act with the short strikes, to pursue the enemy in close contact". The offence also planned outflanking of the main defence lines. The pursuit of the retreating German 7th alpine infantry division began in September 7th. The main blow along the Uhtua-Voinitsa road was stricken by the avant-garde of the 367th division (1219 infantry regiment and 337 self-propelled artillery regiment). At the same time 81st and 337th regiments of the 54th division accomplished the outflanking from the south from Pizmaguba to Lutta-Kujvojarvi. German troops retreated with stubborn resistance, mined the roads, destroyed the bridges, built chevaux-de-frise and other obstacles. All this substantially hampered the offence. Infantry units had to demine and build detours themselves. Only during the period from 7 to 15 September they neutralised about 7 000 mines, 70% of them were anti-tank. Despite all this, on the Second day of offensive 1219th regiment forced crossing of Pista River near Korpijarvi and by the end of the day reached the point 15 km to the north-east of Voynitsa and by the evening of September 17th cross the state border near Lonkka and occupied Junusranta village. Even earlier - at the night from 16 to 17 September the 81st regiment of the 54th division crossed the border at the north-west of Lutta near Kujvojarvi village - first in the North of Karelia. In a day (in September 19th) it reached Suomussalmi. The command of the Karelian Front issued an order to stop further offensive in the Uhtua sector as its goals (expulsion of the enemy from the territory of Karelia) was fulfilled.

Literature:

  1. Winter War of 1939-1940. Vol. 1 Political history. Moscow 1998, pp. 142-176
  2. Karelian Front during the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945, Moscow, 1984, pp. 39, 227-228, 244-247
  3. G.Kozlov. In the forests of Karelia, Moscow 1963, pp. 21-23, 32-38
  4. G.Kuprianov. From the Barents sea to the Ladoga, Leningrad, 1972, pp. 115-123
  5. Suomussalmi-Raate. The history of the battles in the Suomussalmi and on the Raate road during the Winter War 1939-1940, Suomussalmi, 1999
  6. The secrets and the lessons of the Winter War 1939-1940, St-Petersburg, 1992, pp. 180-181, 216-218, 258-260, 270-281
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