Rasputitsa – Quagmire on the Eastern Front

Wehrmacht soldiers pulling car from the mud, November 1941

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.

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Geography Around Moscow 1941

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.

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