When Operation Barbarossa stunned the world with the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. The Nazi blitzkrieg had caught its Soviet allies by surprise that proved to spear a path straight to Moscow. The Soviet Union, adjusting to the new chains of command brought on by Stalinist Purges, was largely unprepared for the offensive. This offensive was divided into four phases, with the fourth being the Battle of Smolensk.
On July 10th, 1941, The Battle of Smolensk was followed by one of the first Soviet counter-offensives. Roughly 1,500 tanks were deployed Lepiel but were quickly wiped out as the German anti-tank capabilities caught the deployment by surprise. Afterwards, the Germans began their own strings of offensives that saw the city encircled. Within the encirclement were the 16 th, 19th, and 20th Armies. In retaliation, the 20th Army managed to break through and assist the remaining offensive until the Nazi forces closed the pocket and encircled the forces once more.
About 300,000 troopers were taken prisoner after the re-establishment of the encirclement. In spite of this catastrophic loss, this battle served as a strong display of the Soviet resistance in the early stages of the war. This spirit of resistance inspired further coordinated counterattacks on the front and left the message of Moscow not being an easy target.
by Y. Kotlovskiy