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The Stalin Line as a line of fortified regions

The Stalin Line as a line of fortified regions

The Stalin Line is a line of fortified regions along the former western border of the USSR from the Karelian Isthmus to the Black Sea coasts. The defence line was being built from 1928 to the autumn of 1939.

Pillboxes were long-term reinforced concrete structures intended for accommodation of soldiers, adjustment of weapons and machine guns, and formed the basis of these fortified regions’ fighting power. More than 7 thousand pillboxes were constructed along the distance of 1835 km. Four fortified regions (Polotsk, Minsk, Slutsk, Mozyr) were situated on the territory of our republic.

Why was this great defence system built?

After the end of World War I it became clear for almost every European country that fortresses were not suitable for border strengthening and that the best strategic pathway was to build fortified regions or defence lines.

During the 1920s - 1930s many European countries started to hastily fortify their borders. The famous Maginot Line was constructed in France between 1929 and 1936, and it was a system of long-term fortifications on its borders with Germany, Luxembourg and partially Belgium. Germany was building the ‘Westwall” (the Siegfried Line) and the East Wall, Finland was erecting the Mannerheim Line and the Greeks were constructing the Metaxas Line. Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania were also strengthening their borders. The mere fact of fortification in Europe was the sign of a very complicated political situation, the intensification of national and territorial issues, and preparation for war.

Based on the experience of World War I and the Russian Civil War the Soviet fortification scientists suggested to build a number of fortified regions composed of pillboxes on the western border of the Soviet Union.

In the mid 1930s there were 13 fortified regions in the European part of the USSR: the Karelian Fortified Region (next to Finland); the Kingisepp and Pskov Fortified Regions (next to Estonia and Latvia); the Polotsk Fortified Region (next to Lithuania); the Minsk, Mozyr, Korosten, Novohrad-Volynskyi, Letychiv, Mogilev-Yampil Fortified Regions (next to Poland); the Rybnitck and Tiraspol Fortified Regions on the border with Romania. A separate fortified region - the Kiev Fortified Region - was built to protect Kiev. The length of the fortified regions along the front line was mostly about 60-140 km.

In 1938-1939 eight more fortified regions started being built along the western border - the Ostrovsky, Sebezhsky, Izyaslavsky, Shepetovsky, Starokonstantinovsky, Ostropolsky, Kamenets-Podolsky and Slutsky fortified regions. That is how the USSR got its own defence line which is unofficially called the Stalin Line similar to the famous Maginot Line and the Mannerheim Line.