The Battles of Rzhev were a series of battles fought during WW2 between the Soviet Union and Fascist Germany centered around the region of Rzhev, Russia, from 1942 to 1943. It is known in Soviet history as one of the most tragic and costly operations ever undertaken by any army on its own soil, some also refer to it as the “Rzhev meat grinder” especially when taking into account that it was a strategic dead end with no territorial gains. The operation ended in a stalemate, with Germany losing hundreds of thousands of men while the Soviets lost millions of men in comparison.

Image of Rzhev Salient | Source: Wikipedia

As part of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany began its attacks against the USSR on June 22, 1941. With its fierce blitzkrieg strategy, it was able to secure many wins on the battlefield early on but, they were unsuccessful in their attempt to capture Moscow. In their attempts to secure Moscow, German troops occupied towns surrounding Moscow, Rzhev being a major one. They constructed extensive defenses around his perimeter positions at Rzhev and brought up reinforcements.

German Soldiers 1942 | Source: Wikipedia

The first USSR offensive took place from January – April 1942 and although it seemed like an initial success for the Soviet Union they failed to liberate Rzhev and only secured small positions around the town of Zharkovsky. By July 1942, the Germans had recuperated and launched a counteroffensive on the Soviet positions around Zharkovsky and regained the zone. Then from July – August, 1942 the USSR launched another offensize to retake the Rzhev salient but, came up short and only liberated the town of Zubtsov on August 23, 1942. Another crucial Soviet offensive happened from November – December 1942 (operation Mars) when Soviet forces broke through the Rzhev salient but, were immediately pushed back and they suffered massive losses.

Family in front of their destroyed house after being liberated from Germany | Source: Wikipedia

By January 1943 the German army began collapsing after massive losses on other fronts and started losing territory in the Rzhev region. By March the Germans had decided to strategically abandon their positions in the Rzhev salient during Operation Büffel and they destroyed everything on their way out. On their retreat the Soviet army tried to launch an offensive against outgoing German forces but, it was unsuccessful. The Battles of Rzhev were some of the bloodiest battles on the Eastern Front during World War II. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but it was ultimately a stalemate as neither side could achieve their objectives.

Rzhev Memorial to the Soviet Soldier | Source: AS

In 2020 Russia inaugurated the Rzhev Memorial to the Soviet Soldier which was built in honor of the lives lost in the Battles of Rzhev. It was inaugurated by Russia President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko along with veterans from WW2. In 2022 Russia released a new Russia 100 Ruble banknote that has been redesigned and it features an image of the new Rzhev Memorial to the Soviet Soldier.

Russia 100 Rubles | 2022 | Source: Banknote World

Russia 100 Rubles, 2022. The banknote is colored in shades of yellow and white. The obverse side of the banknote features an image of the Kremlin, the Ostankino Tower, the Moscow State University building and Zaryadye Concert Hall. In the upper left hand corner is an image of the Russian coat of arms. While the lower right hand corner features a QR code that will take you to the Bank of Russia page where you can verify the banknote design and security features. The reverse side features an image of the Rzhev Memorial to the Soviet Soldier which is located in the Rzhevsky District of the Tver Oblast. There is also a map of Russia and birds in flight.


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