Vitsyebsk gate

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"Vitsyebsk gate" or "Surazh gate" (Belarusian: Віцебскія вароты or Belarusian: Суражскія вароты) was the conventional name in the Soviet, later also in Belarusian, historiography, given to the corridor connecting the Soviet and German-occupied territories, which was a 40 km breach (between Velizh and Usvyaty) in the place of contact of the German army groups "North" and "Center". The breach was created by the Soviet offensive by 4th Strike Army in winter 1942, and existed from February 10, 1942 until September 28, 1942. Soviet 54th infantry brigade captured town Usvyaty during night combat, 20 January 1942. Forces of 360th infantry division и 48th infantry brigade have managed to capture only western parts of town Velizh and dig in there. The 249th infantry division and 51st infantry brigade attacked Surazh and Vitebsk with the help from partizans groups lead by Ya.Z.Zakharov, M.F.Biryulin, M.I.Dyachkov, M.F.Shmyrev, S.T.Voronov, V.V.Strelkov.[1] Later front stabilized here and the 40 km gap in German defence line was filled by partizans. They have destroyed local German garrisons in and hold control other villages Tarasenki, Punische, Galevichi, Ozerki, Ukraytzi, Verechje, Kazakove and others.

The corridor opened into the hardly-accessible territory where several partisan units were based and they were later able to control territory around 1600 square km.

Initially, it seems the Soviet political and military command did not realise the possibilities the Gate created, as the contact with the local partisan units was not established until March 1942.[2] But after realising those, and aiming for the overall inclusion of the partisan movement in the overall strategy, and for the disruption of the German rear in the event of the anticipated German 1942 offensive,[3] a resolution had been made, supposedly in March 1942,[4] to create steady logistical and personnel support for the partisan movement and to maintain centralised coordination of its activities. Initially, the North-Western Operational Group was created by the Belarusian Communist Party (1942-03-20), liaisoning with HQs of the Kalinin Front and 3rd and 4th Soviet strike armies. Later, the Headquarters of the Partisan Movement under Ponomarenko was created (1942-05-30), with territorial Headquarters (Belarusian under Pyotr Kalinin) subsequently created in September 1942.

Generally, in the 1942 the partisan numbers grew fast, much helped by the significant influx of the cadre personnel (commanding, political, organisational, specialist) and war material through the Vitsyebsk Gate. Several thousand trained cadre were sent to Belarus, with most of them being native Belarusians, intentionally. The gate was guarded from south - by 1st Belorussian Partizan brigade (M.F. Shmyrev as commander) and from north - by 2nd Belorussian Partizan brigade (M.I. Djachkov as commander).

Anticipating the closure of the Gate, specialists in building of the airstrips were sent to Belarus, and almost 50 covert airstrips and many airdrop sites were built in the course of the war, facilitating the subsequent logistical support of the partisan movement from the "Mainland" (Russian: "Большая земля"). Tens of thousands of firearms, thousands of machineguns, tens of millions of cartridges, hundreds of tons of explosives, millions of copies of Soviet newspapers and other propaganda material were provided through the Gate. About 150 radio stations were moved into Belarus through the Gate in April–September 1942. Material and personnel entering through the Gate into the Vitsyebsk land were subsequently re-routed to the other regions of Belarus according to the instructions issued from headquarters.[5] Notably, about 20 thousand conscripts to the Red Army and 200 thousand other people (refugees) and much grain, potatoes, food products, and livestock (6000), 2500 horses were moved out of the German-occupied territory through the Gate.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Pyotr Kalinin cited in Turonek, p.76.
  3. ^ which was expected in the central front again, like in 1941.
  4. ^ Turonek, p.76.
  5. ^ Turonek p.77,78.