The rasputitsa are severe weather conditions occurring in Eastern Europe, particularly in areas that were part of the Soviet Union during WW2. The rasputitsa occurs twice a year, in the spring and autumn. The spring rasputitsa occurs when the surface level ice and snow starts to melt over ground that is still frozen. The Autumn rasputitsa occurs because of the rainy season. Although the cause is different the effect is the same. The ground, including unpaved roads, dissolve into mud and rivers can become enlarged. The result is transport bogs down, making troop movement and logistics very difficult. The Russian term ‘time without roads’ very aptly describes the conditions.
On 16 Sep 1941 von Bock issued his operational directive for the capture of Moscow – codenamed ‘Typhoon’ (Braithwaite, 2006). Third Panzer Group (Hoth) would attack from the north, Fourth Panzer Group would attack in the centre, and Second Panzer Group (Guderian) from the south. The operation kicked off on 30 Sep.
Moscow is surrounded by a gently undulating sandy plain (Braithwaite, 2006). Largely thick silver birch and black pine cover the area although some was cleared for agriculture. The Moscow River and tributaries wound through the plain. Most buildings in Moscow were made of wood. Even the grand 18th and 19th century buildings were stucco on a wooden frame.
Many Spanish Republicans found refuge from the Spanish Civil War in the USSR. The Soviets happily drafted these men when the Germans invaded in 1941. For example Rubén Ruiz Ibarruri, the son of La Pasinaria, commanded a machine gun company of 35th Guards Rifle Division (Beevor, 1999). He was killed south of Kotluban; I think this was in Sep 1942.