Smolensk, Defense of 1609–11

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Smolensk, Defense of (1609–11)


the Russians’ heroic defense of the city of Smolensk against Polish invasion. In September 1609, during the foreign intervention of the early 17th century, Smolensk was besieged by a 22,000-man army (12,000 Poles and 10,000 Ukrainian Cossacks, with 30 field guns) under the command of the Polish king Sigismund III. The Smolensk garrison (more than 5,000 men, with 200 field guns) was commanded by the voevoda (military governor) M. B. Shein. From September 25 to 27 the interventionists made the first, unsuccessful assault. Between September 28 and October 4, they bombarded the city, subsequently laying siege to it. On July 19 and 20, Aug. 11, and Sept. 21, 1610, the second, third, and fourth assaults were made, all unsuccessfully.

The siege, shelling, and assaults were periodically interrupted by the interventionists’ attempts to persuade the city to capitulate; however, negotiations in September 1610 and March 1611 proved fruitless. In the summer of 1610 famine and epidemics broke out in Smolensk. The weakened garrison could not repulse the fifth assault, begun on June 3, 1611. After fierce street fighting, about 3,000 people committed suicide by blowing themselves up in the cathedral. The wounded Shein was taken prisoner. The defense of Smolensk long delayed the advance of the interventionists’ main forces and thereby helped the Russian people win their war of national liberation against foreign invasion.


Mal’tsev, V. Bor’ba za Smolensk (X VI-X VII vv.), Smolensk, 1940.

V. D. NAZAROV [23–1848–]

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