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Rasputitsa (Sea of Mud), 1894, Alexei Savrasov

Rasputitsa (Russian: распу́тица, IPA: [rɐsˈputʲɪtsə]) is a season of the year when travel on unpaved roads or across country becomes difficult, owing to muddy conditions from rain or melting snow.


Rasputitsa is derived from the root: путь (put, [putʼ]), means "road" or "way" or "travel"; + рас- (ras, [ʀas]) - is a word prefix, means "discrepancy" or "divergence"; + -иц (-its, [it͡s]) is a diminutive suffix; + а ([a]) is a feminine noun ending. In Russia, the term refers to two periods during the year – the spring and autumn – and also refers to road conditions during such a period.[1]

The Ukrainian equivalent бездоріжжя, bezdorizhzhia, '"roadlessness"' (pronunciation ) usually refers to spring, and occasionally to autumn, when rain and/or melting snow on unpaved roads, tracks, paths, or any poorly-drained off-road area turns the route into impassable deep mud.[2]

Similar terms are Swedish menföre "bad going" and Finnish kelirikko "broken state of roads", but both also apply to when water is too iced over for boats but not strong enough to cross on foot or in other vehicles. Finnish eastern dialects also have the loanword rospuutto (IPA: [ˈrospuːtːo]), which has the same usage as rasputitsa.[3]


Village street near Moscow, November 1941
Thick snow cover and waterlogged soil in Sokol, Vologda Oblast, October 2012
A Russian tank stuck in mud during Russian invasion of Ukraine in March 2022

The term is applied to muddy road conditions in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, which are caused by the poor drainage of underlying clay-laden soils found in the region. Roads are subject to weight limitations and closures during the period in certain districts of Russia. The phenomenon was a hindrance in the early 20th century in the Soviet Union since 40% of rural villages were not served by paved roads.[1]

Rasputitsa seasons of Russia are well known as a defensive advantage in wartime.[4][5] Common nicknames include "General Mud" and "Marshal Mud". A spring thaw probably saved Novgorod from conquest and sacking during the 13th-century Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus'.[6] The mud was a great hindrance during the French invasion of Russia in 1812.[4][5]

On the Eastern Front during the Second World War, the months-long muddy period slowed the German advance into the Soviet Union during the Battle of Moscow (October 1941 to January 1942) and may have helped save the Soviet capital from German occupation.[7] The advent of Blitzkrieg had the disadvantage that while tanks could operate effectively in summer or in winter, they proved less useful in spring and autumn,[8] when the functioning of an efficient railway system came into its own.[9]

Prior to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, some analysts identified the logistical challenges of the mud season as a likely hindrance to any large-scale invasion in spring.[10] When Russia crossed the border, many of its mobile units found themselves stranded in fields and limited to major roads, where resistance and logistical issues significantly slowed the advance toward Kyiv and elsewhere.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Siegelbaum, Lewis H. (2011). Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801461484.
  2. ^ Hambling, David (2022-04-12). "Mud season in Ukraine leaves Russian tanks stuck in more". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Joki, Leena (June 2011). "Mihin asti ilmoja piisaa?". Kielikuulumisia (in Finnish). No. 3/2011. Institute for the Languages of Finland. Archived from the original on 28 November 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  4. ^ a b FAQ regarding what made Napoleon fail in invading Russia, Napoleon -series website
  5. ^ a b Thiers, M. Adolphe (1864). History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon. Vol. IV. Translated by D. Forbes Campbell; H. W. Herbert. 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)
  6. ^ May, Timothy Michael, ed. (2016). The Mongol Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Empires of the World. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 65. ISBN 9781610693400. During the Mongol invasion of the Rus' principalities in 1238–1240, Novgorod escaped destruction by the Mongols due to an early spring, which transformed the routes to Novgorod into a muddy bog.
  7. ^ 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 [1941] 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.
  8. ^ Pinkus, Oscar (2005). "Death of Barbarossa". The War Aims and Strategies of Adolf Hitler. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 241. ISBN 9780786420544. By the time the Germans approached their major objectives such as Rostov, Moscow, or Leningrad the campaigning season was over and Barbarossa was off his horse. [...] [Hitler] had not planned to fight in Russia during the fall and winter. He had stated in his Directive No. 21 that this was to be a 'lightning campaign' to be won in two to four months maximum. [...] the cause of failure was the proposition that the Soviet Union could and would be defeated in a blitzkrieg.
  9. ^ Willmott, H. P. (1989). The Great Crusade: A New Complete History of the Second World War (revised ed.). Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc. (published 2008). p. 153. ISBN 9781597971911. While the Germans were to blame many factors, and particularly the rasputitsa, for the failure of Operation Taifun, the fact was that logistically the German attack on Moscow was in difficulty before it even began. German rail and road facilities were not sufficient to sustain the offensive beyond Smolensk [...].
  10. ^ "Will Ukraine's muddy ground halt Russian tanks?". The Economist. 7 February 2022. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  11. ^ Roza, David (2 March 2022). "'Tanks and mud are not friends' – Ukraine's terrain is proving to be a problem for Russian armor". Task & Purpose. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  12. ^ "Ukraine: Why has Russia's 64km convoy near Kyiv stopped moving?". BBC News. 4 March 2022. Retrieved 5 March 2022.