The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a river in the Mongolian People’s Republic and China. The Khalkhin-Gol is 233 km long and drains an area of 17,000 sq km. It rises on the western slopes of the Greater Khingan Mountains, where it forms a narrow valley. Farther down, it flows across a plain, where it breaks up into two arms. The left arm empties into the lake Buir-Nur, and the right, into the Orchun-Gol River, which connects the lakes Buir-Nur and Dalainor. The mean flow rate is about 25 cu m per sec. The river is fed by rain. High water occurs in the summer.

From May to September 1939, the Khalkhin-Gol was the scene of fighting in the Mongolian People’s Republic between Soviet-Mongolian and Japanese-Manchurian forces. The fighting was part of the armed conflict begun by the Japanese militarists with the objective of seizing part of Mongolian territory. On May 11 and May 14, the Japanese command carried out acts of armed provocation on the Mongolian border with small groups of Japanese-Manchurian troops. On May 28, it provoked a larger incident, involving about 2,500 men and with artillery and aviation support. Each time, however, the Mongolian and Soviet forces stationed in the Mongolian People’s Republic, acting in accordance with the treaty of mutual assistance, succeeded in pushing the aggressors back into Manchurian territory.

By the end of June, the Japanese command had massed a powerful grouping of forces at the Mongolian border, comprising one infantry division, two infantry regiments, two tank regiments, and three cavalry regiments. The grouping, which numbered 38,000 men, 310 guns, 135 tanks, and 225 aircraft, was directed to surround and wipe out the Soviet-Mongolian forces on the eastern bank of the Khalkhin-Gol. The Soviet-Mongolian forces, including one tank brigade, three motorized armored brigades, one rifle and machine-gun brigade, two motorized rifle regiments, and two cavalry divisions of the Mongolian People’s Republic, were placed under the leadership of Division Commander G. K. Zhukov and took up a defensive position on the eastern bank of the Khalkhin-Gol. They numbered 12,500 bayonets and sabers, 109 guns, 186 tanks, 266 armored vehicles, and 82 aircraft.

On July 2, the Japanese forces, taking advantage of their numerical superiority, passed to the offensive. On the night of July 2, they forced the Khalkhin-Gol and seized Baian-Tsagan mountain, threatening to encircle the Soviet-Mongolian forces. Putting up a stubborn resistance, the Soviet-Mongolian forces counterattacked from three directions the enemy forces that had crossed the river and after bitter fighting on July 4–5 drove them back to the eastern bank of the Khalkhin-Gol and captured a beachhead there. On July 8–11 and July 24–25, the Japanese forces attacked the positions of the Soviet-Mongolian forces, but the attacks failed.

In early August the Japanese command prepared a new offensive. On August 10, all the Japanese-Manchurian forces concentrated in the captured part of Mongolian territory were combined into the Sixth Army under the command of General O. Rippo; the army, comprising two infantry divisions, one infantry brigade, two tank regiments, four detached battalions, and three cavalry regiments, numbered 75,000 men, 500 guns, 182 tanks, and more than 300 aircraft. The offensive was planned for August 24.

The Soviet-Mongolian forces were combined into the First Army Group under the command of Corps Commander G. K. Zhukov; the army group, comprising one motorized rifle division, two rifle divisions, two tank brigades, three motorized armored brigades, one rifle and machine-gun brigade, one airborne brigade, two Mongolian cavalry divisions, and a cavalry regiment, numbered about 57,000 men, 498 tanks, 385 armored vehicles, 542 guns and infantry mortars, and 515 aircraft. The Mongolian troops were commanded by Marshal Kh. Choibalsan. The Soviet-Mongolian command planned to strike at the flanks of the enemy grouping with the objective of encircling and wiping it out in the area between the Khalkhin-Gol and the border. On August 20, the Soviet-Mongolian forces passed to the offensive and by daybreak of August 23, after stubborn fighting, surrounded the main forces of the Japanese Sixth Army. The surrounded enemy grouping was completely destroyed on August 24–25. By August 31, the Mongolian People’s Republic was entirely cleared of enemy forces.

On September 4 and 8, a Japanese infantry division that had been brought up attempted to invade Mongolia again, but it was repulsed with large losses.

During the air battles, Soviet aviation inflicted a major defeat on the Japanese. Between May and September, the Japanese losses numbered 61,000 dead, wounded, and captured, while the Soviet-Mongolian losses were somewhat above 18,500. Japan appealed to the Soviet government for an armistice, and on September 16 all military operations ceased.

Orders and medals were awarded to 17,121 persons, and the title Hero of the Soviet Union was given to 70; the pilots S. I. Gritsevets, G. P. Kravchenko, and Ia. V. Smushkevich were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union twice. Orders were awarded to 24 Soviet units.

The Soviet forces gained significant experience, especially in the use of tanks and aviation and their cooperation with rifle troops. Japan’s defeat strongly affected the foreign policy of the Japanese government and prevented Japan from attacking the USSR during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45).


Istoriia Vtoroi mirovoi voiny, 1939–1945, vol. 2. Moscow, 1974.
Istoriia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny Sovetskogo Soiuza, 1941–1945, vol. 1. Moscow, 1963.
Shishkin, S. N. Khalkhin-Gol, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1954.
Novikov, M. Pobeda na Khalkhin-Gole. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.