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The Stalin and Molotov Lines: Soviet Western Defences 1928-41: Soviet Western Defences 1926-41 (Fortress, Band 77) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 23. September 2008

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"Surveys World War I Soviet Western defenses, considering plans to build fortifications and analyzing Stalin's steps to remedy faults in defenses." -California Bookwatch, November 2008

"This book tells the story of these Soviet defensive systems, their design, construction, and combat history. With excellent illustrations, it describes the standard types of construction and the weapons they contained. The text is a model of clarity, which puts the complicated history into a coherent narrative, and the maps, while not numerous, are effective. The book closes with suggestions for places to visit remains of the Russian defenses. This is one of the best-written books in the series, and is highly recommended even to those unfamiliar with Soviet fortifications." -Bolling Smith, Coast Defense Journal (November 2008)

"Author Neil Short covers the design and development of these [sites], some of which were simply machine gun, some of which had artillery and some that used old tank turrets ... The book will be especially useful to the modeler who likes to do dioramas as there are a nearly unlimited number of possibilities shown in these pages." -Scott Van Aken, (September 2008)

"[This book] has more details and information than any other book on the topic written in English, German or French. The author includes a history of the development of both fortified lines and describes the types of structures used from machine positions to the forts that consisted of several combat blocks. The photos and drawings provide good detail on these fortifications along with maps showing the fortified sectors... Both the history buff, and those especially interested in fortifications, will want this book in their library." -J.E. Kaufmann (September 2008)


In the years following the Civil War, plans were drawn up to build a major set of fortifications along the Russian western border. Work began in 1926, leading to a front that stretched over 2,000km from the Baltic to the Black Sea. By the time of the outbreak of World War II, the defences of the Stalin Line, as it was known, were largely complete - but were also now too far behind the new Soviet border to be of any use in potential offensives. Stalin took steps to create a new defensive line inside Poland, which came to be known by the name of the Soviet Foreign Minister, Molotov. This book details the development of these lines, and the fighting that took place around them in 1941.

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A Good Look Inside Stalin's Border Defenses 23. September 2008
Von R. A Forczyk - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Osprey's Fortress No. 77, The Stalin and Molotov Lines: Soviet Western Defences 1928-41 written by Neil Short, provides a great deal of fresh information about some of the least well-known fortifications of the Second World War. In that these two fortified lines were overrun by the Germans in the early weeks of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, they generally get little more than a nod from most histories of the Eastern Front. This volume demonstrates the role that fortifications played in Soviet mobilization planning (to provide a delaying shield) as well as strategic planning (to provide a base for future offensive operations), neither of which worked out in reality. Instead, the failure of Soviet border fortifications to inflict any appreciable delay upon the German invasion forced the Red Army to throw one poorly trained and equipped unit after another at the Wehrmacht in order to buy time for full mobilization. Overall, this volume is quite useful.

The author begins with an opening section that describes the lessons about fortifications learned from the First World War and the Russian Civil War that influenced Stalin's decision to authorize construction of a series of fortified regions on the Soviet border in 1928, which eventually became known as "the Stalin Line." Once the Soviets annexed eastern Poland and the Baltic States in 1939-40, Stalin authorized another round of fortification building on the new border, which was dubbed "the Molotov Line." The author describes the various phases of construction of these lines and some of the costs. This opening section has a map of each line, as well as a tactical map of one of the Molotov Line positions and several color plates depicting various types of bunkers and casemates. Throughout, the text is supplemented by period B/W photos as well as color photos of the sites today.

In subsequent sections, the author then describes the brief operational histories of these two fortified lines. Much of the Stalin Line was dis-assembled or moth-balled once construction began on the Molotov Line, where construction was hindered by shortages of steel and concrete. Thus, neither line was combat-ready when the Germans invaded and the incomplete Molotov Line was only lightly manned in most sectors, except the Ukraine. Much of the operational narrative is too high level to reveal much detail about individual fortifications, although some of the photo captions do reveal details about the garrison or fighting around a particular position. A diagram depicting German tactics for reducing fortified positions is also included. By late July 1941, both lines were pretty well overrun and in most places, they had proved to be only a minor nuisance to German operations although the author points out that there were a few exceptions. By and large, the Soviet efforts to fortify their borders were inadequate in the face of the Blitzkrieg and pre-war Soviet thinking that the fortifications would buy time while the Red Army proved faulty. Throughout, this volume benefits from the wealth of information released about Soviet fortifications that was not available before the end of the Cold War, as well as the author's ability to visit these sites.
Well researched, analyzed and beautifully illustrated 16. November 2013
Von Yoda - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Unfortunately, there have been little written on either the Stalin or Molotov fortification lines despite their considerable length and even though archives have been opened on the topic since the fall of the Soviet Union. This book fills that gap to a large degree, despite the limitations imposed by the Osprey Fortification series of which it is a part (primarily short length of only 64 pages, about over a third of which consist of illustration).

The book starts off with the factors that influenced the design and construction of the Stalin line. This was primarily the experience of the Soviet leadership during the Russian civil war of the 1920s and fear of British or French inspired invasion from one of the Soviet Union’s bordering states plus the fact that tanks were not a primary threat at that period. Hence the emphasis on machine gun oriented fortifications as opposed to anti-tank.

The fortification system was also not intended as a continuous fortification wall but instead was concentrated at a variety of “choke” points on the Western approaches into the Soviet Union. The book also mentions that one of the primary functions of the Stalin Wall was to delay invaders to buy time for a full Soviet mobilization as well as wear down an invader’s force to allow a successful counter attack. Hence the wall as just not a propaganda Potemkin village. This was not, at least, in intent. The problem was that, unfortunately for the Soviets, that is what ended up happening.

The main reason for this was that after the Soviet Union de facto annexed Eastern Poland, it diverted all construction resources and efforts to the build-up of the Molotov Line. This included not just construction labor and building materials but also actual parts of the near completed Stalin Line (i.e, guns, turrets, etc.). The belief among Soviet leadership was that the war in the Western Front between Germany, on the one hand, and Britain and France and their allies on the other, would be long and would permit the completion of the Molotov Line (after which resources could again be shifted to the completion of the near complete Stalin Line). Unfortunately for the Soviet Union the war in the Western Front ended very quickly and, as a result, neither the Molotov or Stalin Line were anywhere near completion by the time of the German invasion. Not only that but they were not even properly equipped with the needed garrison. Hence, by attempting to build both the Molotov and Stalin lines instead of concentrating on only completing the Stalin Line, the Soviets engaged in a serious error. This was especially important considering that both the Soviets and Germans both thought (as shown through research provided in the book) that a completed line, both physically and in terms of being properly manned, could have slowed down the Germans considerably and inflicted considerable casualties. This is the main jest of the book. However, it is not the only one.

The book also covers the physical characteristics of the fortifications in considerable detail. The accompanying illustrations are also very impressive. This is, unquestionably, one of the best illustrated of Osprey’s fortification series. The book not only by concentrating on individual fortifications but also on how they worked as an integrated system. The book also provides case studies of how the Germans, tactically, tackled these fortification. The book concludes with a very good tour guide discussion for those fortification aficionados with the time, money and inclination to actually visit the sites.

Despite these strengths the book does have a significant weakness that prevents this reviewer from granting it a five star rating. That is that the book pretty much ignores costs. The reader, in the end, has no idea what these lines costs. This is especially in regard to their opportunity costs in terms of other military forces that could have been procured in their place and how such alternatives could have performed vis-à-vis the fortifications actually procured. The expenditures on these lines would have, instead, went to purchase many tanks and infantry division as well as upgrading equipment. Could not this have been a much better use for the budget consumed by these fortification lines? This is very important question that book unfortunately does not discuss, despite what seems like the enormous cost of these fortification lines.
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