The term has been used historically to describe the condition in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The word may be translated as the "quagmire season," because during this period, the large flatlands become extremely muddy and marshy, as do most unpaved roads. The term applies to both the spring rasputitsa and autumn rasputitsa seasons, and to the condition of the roads during those seasons. The rasputitsa occurs more strongly in the spring due to the melting snow, but it usually recurs in the fall due to frequent heavy rains.
The rasputitsa seasons of Russia are well known as a great defensive advantage in wartime. Common nicknames in such context are General Mud or Marshal Mud. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Napoleon found the mud to be a very great hindrance.
World War II
During the Second World War, the month-long muddy period slowed down the German advance during the Battle of Moscow, and may have helped save the Soviet capital. The "General Winter" that followed the autumn rasputitsa further slowed them down. The German military vehicle engineers' design choices, from the beginnings of the Third Reich onwards for the Wehrmacht's mechanized forces' vehicles relied greatly on the otherwise innovative Schachtellaufwerk, an overlapped and interleaved road-wheel system, especially for their military half-tracked vehicles from the beginning, and later their fully tracked armored fighting vehicles beginning with the Tiger I heavy tank, but the Schachtellaufwerk suspension/road-wheel system concept could not manage the conditions during the rasputitsa and winter seasons on the Eastern Front. Mud and snow accumulated between the enmeshed road wheels of such vehicles, often immobilizing them when freezing temperatures set in. These severe problems with German military motor vehicle transport on the Eastern Front partly inspired the development and mass production of the Raupenschlepper, Ost, a fully tracked artillery tractor designed for such conditions, which had its quartet-per-side of roadwheels in a simpler inline configuration to support each track.
The corresponding term in Finnish for the mud season is rospuutto, denoting "roadlessness". Most non-paved roads in Finland turn into mud in this season. In olden days, this would make them virtually unusable; modern paved roads can be used but are dangerously slippery. In the Archipelago, the period is known as kelirikko (literally "weather break"), implying the ice is too thin to bear the weight of people or vehicles. Seagoing vessels that are not equipped with icebreaker bows find it heavy going to get through ice. The only practicable vehicles during the kelirikko are hovercraft, hydrocopters or aircraft such as helicopters. Unlike in Russia, where heavy mud occurs in both the spring and fall seasons, the Finnish rospuutto and kelirikko occur mainly in the spring when the snow melts and the spring rains begin.
Village street near Moscow, November 1941
A German Tiger I heavy tank's Schachtellaufwerk road wheel system, vulnerable to fouling during the rasputitsa and winter conditions.
- FAQ regarding what made Napoleon fail in invading Russia, Napoleon -series website
- M. Adolphe Thiers, translated by D. Forbes Campbell and H. W. Herbert (1864). History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon IV. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. p. 243.
whilst it was almost impossible to drag the gun-carriages through the half-frozen mud(regarding November 20, 1812)
- Overy, Richard (1997). Russia's War. London: Penguin. pp. 113–114. ISBN 1-57500-051-2.
Both sides now struggled in the autumn mud. On October 6  the first snow had fallen, unusually early. It soon melted, turning the whole landscape into its habitual trackless state – the rasputitsa, literally the ‘time without roads’. ... It is commonplace to attribute the German failure to take Moscow to the sudden change in the weather. While it is certainly true that German progress slowed, it had already been slowing because of the fanatical resistance of Soviet forces and the problem of moving supplies over the long distances through occupied territory. The mud slowed the Soviet build-up also, and hampered the rapid deployment of men and machines.