May 17, 2017

1943. "Donbas Jubilation"

"Almost Jaded by Celebrating, Moscow Hails Latest Victories"
Victory celebrations in Red Square in Moscow to mark V-E Day in the Soviet Union, May 9, 1945 (source)

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)

From Newsweek, September 20, 1943, pp. 31-32, 35:

Donbas Jubilation

Almost Jaded by Celebrating, Moscow Hails Latest Victories

"The troops of the southern and southwestern fronts have torn from the Germans and returned to our country the Donets Basin, the most important coal and industrial region of our country." In a triumphant Order of the Day Joseph Stalin last week thus hailed the capture of Stalino, the great steel city of the Donbas named for Russia's Man of Steel.

Under Gen. Rodion Malinovsky, sixteen Red Army infantry divisions closed in on Stalino from north and south and swept to its suburbs through burning towns, mine fields, and blasted bridges. Then picked shock troops stormed into the city and hurled the Germans back on their crumbling lines to the west. Two days later, Col. Gen. Fedor Tolbukhin's tanks and cavalry south of Stalino swept along the coast of the Sea of Azov to join Red Navy amphibious forces and seize Mariupol, port of the Donets Basin, metallurgical center, and a big German defense base. The two great victories meant the liberation of the Donbas.

Donbas: North of the Sea of Azov, in the southeastern corner of the Ukraine, the Donbas (Russian contraction of Donets Basin) stretches over nearly 10,000 square miles of rolling plateau land drained by the Donets River, tributary of the Don. It is treeless, monotonous country, but its soil is black and fertile, and farms—mostly growing wheat—stretch across the Donets watershed. Weaving through the fields is the densest railway network in the Soviet, while beneath them lies Russia's greatest mining prize: at least 89,000,000,000 tons of coal.The Donbas deposits, discovered in 1724 when Peter the Great was Czar, produced close to 100,000,000 tons a year—three-fifths of Russia's total during peacetime. The Moscow and Leningrad industrial districts and all the railroads of South Russia depended on the Donbas. When it was overrun by the Germans in 1941, Soviet economy was badly hit and might have collapsed completely without the newly developed Kuznetsk Coal Basin in the east.

Fed by the coal fields and built over them were the great industrial centers of the Southeast Ukraine. Their glass-walled factories and tall chimneys rose between excavation heaps of the mines and their smoke hung over the country in huge clouds. In the big new cities the Russians worked iron and steel mills, metallurgical and chemical plants. These new factories made machine tools and locomotives, and three power stations, run with coal, spread electricity through the whole Basin. Salt, sand for glass-making, zinc, lead, and mercury were other riches of the Donbas, carried by the railroads to the north, and through Mariupol and the Sea of Azov to the south.

When the Germans took over the Donbas, they were quick to organize the region for their own use. Nazi firms sent their agents to the new colony to establish Russian branches, and the great Hermann Göring combine settled in Stalino. Mines and power stations went under government control; a civil administration was set up; and Stalino, its name changed back to pre-Soviet Yuzovka, became the Wehrmacht's main headquarters for the whole southern front.

Last week the Nazi dreams were over and the Dnieper line lay ahead. Despite the first autumn rains the Russians cut through the Ukraine as the Germans had two years ago. Dnepropetrovsk and its railroad to the Crimea were threatened by Red Army troops advancing from Stalino and Mariupol. For the first time Stalin mentioned Kiev as a Russian objective, and Red Army men, under Gen. Konstantin Rokossovsky, smashed down the railways that link it with the east. Even the strong German line at Poltava, midway between the north and south Ukrainian fronts, was cracking as the Germans withdraw their men and material. On the central front a two-pronged drive closed on Bryansk from north and south, while the Germans admitted Soviet landings at Novorossisk in the Caucasus.

Salutes: To hail the victories Moscow artillery roared out salute after salute, with a record twenty salvos from 224 guns for Stalino. Bill Downs, Newsweek and CBS correspondent, cabled this vivid picture of how the victorious capital celebrated the summer triumphs.

"Stalin's orders specifying that Moscow celebrate the Red Army's summer victories has been a popular signal to take a lot of the grimness from ordinary living which for the past two years has characterized Russia's life-and-death struggle. No one can order people to laugh—but rocket displays and booming siege guns are like a shot in the arm to Muscovites, who are usually undemonstrative.

"The first celebration on Aug. 6, signalizing the Orel-Belgorod break-through, was the most colorful. Light anti-aircraft gunners, who had been sitting with nothing to do atop the city's buildings for more than a year and a half, contributed to the demonstration with great bursts of tracer bullets. Added to the ordinary skyrockets and Very lights popping up all over the city, this celebration was a notable night in Moscow.

"All celebrations occur after the daylight factory shifts and when the office workers are home. The Moscow radio—an elaborate public-address system, since the Russians have had no private radios since the war began—announces through the streets and apartment loudspeakers that an important announcement will be made in a half hour. There is great amount of telephoning between friends and some betting on what town will be announced as captured.

"Then the entire city quiets down and crowds gather at the corner speakers to hear the news. There is no cheering but lots of grins and hand-shaking.

"Then there is another brief wait for the fireworks. At the zero hour, the artillery battery at Moscow's western outskirts lights up the sky, and a few seconds later there is a low rumble like distant thunder. The skyrockets, carefully prepared before the announcement, are scattered through every section of the city and are shot off as fast as possible by the members of the security police squads. Red, green, and white, they shoot a couple of hundred feet in the air, filling the sky with colorful designs before burning out.

"The Muscovites, however, have had so many celebrations in a row that they are getting used to them. The first couple of Orders of the Day brought out hidden bottles of wine and vodka from many cupboards for private toasts. But now the string of Red Army victories has got the good citizens of Moscow victory-conditioned. They bring out toasting bottles only for the larger towns these days, and already they are saving up for Smolensk and Kiev."