Odessa Defense of 1941

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Odessa Defense of 1941


the heroic defense of Odessa from August 5 to October 16 by the troops of the Detached Maritime Army (commanded by Lieutenant General G. P. Safronov; from October 5 by Major General I. E. Petrov) and the forces of the Odessa Naval Base (commanded by Rear Admiral G. V. Zhukov) and the Black Sea Fleet (commanded by Vice Admiral F. S. Oktiabr’skii), with the active participation of the city’s population, against the troops of the Rumanian Fourth Army (commanded by General N. Ciupercă), which was besieging Odessa from the land.

The unfavorable situation that arose in the Ukraine and Moldavia in early August posed the threat of an envelopment of the troops of the Southern Front, including the Detached Maritime Army, which was on the defensive west of Odessa. On August 5 the Headquarters of the Supreme Command (chairman, J. V. Stalin) ordered the troops of the Southern Front to withdraw to the Chigirin-Voznesensk-Dnestr estuary line; they were also ordered not to surrender Odessa and to defend to the bitter end. The troops of the Maritime Army (two rifle divisions and one cavalry division) retreated with continuous resistance to Odessa, holding out under pressure of five infantry and two cavalry divisions and one motorized brigade of the Rumanian Fourth Army. The construction of defensive lines began, including a forward line 20–25 km from Odessa, the main defense belt 10–14 km from the city, a covering line for the city 6–10 km from the main line, and street barricades. To cover Odessa from the sea and to provide artillery support for the troops, a detachment of ships was formed, which included the cruiser Komintern, two destroyers, four gunboats, six minesweepers, various torpedo and patrol boats, and two minelayers.

On August 8 the enemy advanced to the Dnestr estuary and the northern edges of the Khadzhibei and Tiligul’ lagoons. A state of siege was proclaimed in Odessa, two naval infantry regiments were formed, and a people’s volunteer division was recruited. Until August 10 the troops of the Maritime Army fought at the forward approaches to Odessa and then retreated to the forward defense line. On August 13 the enemy succeeded in advancing east of the Tiligul’ Lagoon to the seacoast and completely blocked Odessa by land, cutting the city off from the troops of the Southern Front.

On August 19 the Headquarters of the Supreme Command set up the Odessa Defense Region (ODR), subordinate to the military council of the Black Sea Fleet. Rear Admiral G. V. Zhukov was appointed commander of the ODR, with Lieutenant General G. P. Safronov as his deputy for land defense and Brigade Commissar I. I. Azarov and Division Commissar F. N. Voronin as members of the military council. The ODR was composed of three sectors (southern, western, and eastern) and had four divisions (34,500 men) against the enemy’s 14 divisions and two brigades.

On August 20 the enemy again stormed the city. The defenders of Odessa, displaying unparalleled heroism and self-sacrifice, staunchly repulsed the enemy’s assaults. In September the enemy had already committed to action 17 divisions and two brigades. Late on September 21 the enemy succeeded in advancing to the main defense belt in the western and southern sectors and to the near approaches in the eastern sector and began an artillery bombardment of the port and the approach channel. Ships of Rear Admiral L. A. Vladimirskii’s squadron brought the 157th Rifle Division and reinforcement units from Novorossiisk to Odessa. On September 22 a combined thrust was made in the eastern sector, including an amphibious landing operation in Grigor’evka by the Third Naval Infantry Regiment, which had been brought on warships from Sevastopol’ (the commander of the landing operation was Rear Admiral S. G. Gorshkov), an airborne landing operation in the enemy’s rear, and an offensive from the front by two divisions in the Fontanka-Gil’dendorf sector. As a result, two Rumanian divisions were routed and the enemy was thrown back 5 to 8 km.

On September 30, in view of the threat of a breakthrough by the fascist German troops into the Crimea, Headquarters ordered “the soldiers and commanders of the ODR, who have bravely and conscientiously carried out their mission, to evacuate the troops of the ODR in the shortest possible time to the Crimean Peninsula.” The evacuation was organized precisely and executed without losses. From October 1 to 16, transports and warships evacuated to the Crimea all the troops (86,000 men), 15,000 civilians, 19 tanks and armored vehicles, 462 guns, 1,158 motor vehicles, 3,625 horses, and 25,000 tons of cargo.

The heroic defense of Odessa, which lasted 73 days, pinned down about 18 enemy divisions; moreover, the defenders put out of combat more than 160,000 enemy soldiers and officers, about 200 aircraft, and about 100 tanks. All of this slowed down the eastward advance of the right wing of the Army Group South. On Dec. 22, 1942, the medal For the Defense of Odessa was instituted, and in 1965 the hero city of Odessa was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star Medal.

From 1964 to 1967 the Green Belt of Glory was created along the former lines of the heroic Odessa defense. It includes ten monuments erected in the villages of Grigor’evka, Novaia Dofinovka, and Aleksandrovka; in the area of the Tsentrolit Plant; at kilometer 21 of the Odessa-Balta highway; near the village of Gniliakovo and at Dachnaia station; on the eastern and western outskirts of the village of Dal’nik; and near the village of Prilimanskoe. The most outstanding among the memorial structures is the Mound of Glory in the area of the Tsentrolit Plant, an artificial hill crowned by an obelisk (architects M. N. Beier, G. A. Driker, A. A. Mezhibovskii, and V. L. Fel’dshtein; sculptor A. V. Kop’ev). The Green Belt of Glory also includes the complex of the Museum of Partisan Glory near the Nerubaiskoe catacombs (architects V. F. Golod and V. I. Mironenko, sculptors, M. I. Naruzetskii and K. L. Litvak). The complex consists of the museum building, an obelisk, and the group of sculptures Men of Granite.


Aleshchenko, N. M. Oni zashchishchali Odessu [2nd ed.]. Moscow, 1970.
Godlevskii, G. F., N. M. Grechaniuk, and V. M. Kononenko. Pokhody boevye. Moscow, 1966.
Azarov, I. 1. Osazhdennaia Odessa. Moscow, 1966.
Evstigneev, V. N. 70 geroicheskikh dnei. Moscow, 1964.
Penzin, K. V. Chernomorskii flot v oborone Odessy (1941 g). Moscow, 1956.


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