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Museum Collection

Evidence of the Formidable Era

This photo was made at the beginning of the Great Patriotic war by Georghy Petrusov.

On the hot summer days of 1941, Petrusov, as a press photographer for the Sovinformbureau and newspaper “Izvestiya”, came to the 19th army of I.S.Konev, together with the war correspondents, writers – Mikhail Sholokhov, Alexander Fadeyev and Evgheny Petrov.

Later, after the war, Marshal Konev recalled: “Our meeting on those very hard days, to my mind, was interesting. It was useful for the writers to see the war, for me – to feel that the country understands very well that we have a hard time. And its best writers came to us, soldiers, to the front line, to the military dispositions. I must admit, it was a great moral support. Besides, it proved once again that the progressive Soviet intellectuals are willing to share the fate of their people to the end, and they believe in the ultimate victory”. (Konev I.S. The Forty-Fifth.M., Voenizdat, 1970 ).

This front episode refers to the Smolensk fight near old town of Dukhovshchina, when the fascist tank units, which were accustomed to break through the Red Army defence, were stopped by Konev’s artillerymen. The Commander secretly disposed several batteries of 45-calibre guns, anti-aircraft guns and 122-mm guns in the tank hazardous sector. The artillerymen and anti-aircraft gunners shot without a miss. About half a hundred German fascist tanks were burnt and the rest had to draw back. Wehrmacht offensive was halted, besides, Konev’s army got a precious time for regrouping.

The fight drew attention of the front press. War correspondents joined a special General Headquarters commission sent to Konev’s army disposition for assessment of the situation. It was dangerous even at the command centre as constant shelling was maintained by the fascists.

At the meeting, I.S.Konev gave detailed answers to all the questions. He noted that ”…Sholokhov was the most meticulous questioning about  details of the fight”. The Commander saw the author of “The Quiet Don” for the first time, though he had read and admired his books before. After the talk Konev advised the correspondents to have a talk with the soldiers, artillerymen and commanders.

Owing to the work of the writers-correspondents including M.A.Sholokhov the soldiers of other fronts learned about the success of Konev’s army.

This ordinary black-and-white photograph is a documentary witness of those formidable events. Such photos are very few, and we value them as a part of the chronicle of the Great patriotic war.

Larisa Bukina