A Soviet Slowdown: Battle of Narva

HISTORY

Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Fueled by Stalin's rage and a thirst for vengeance, the Soviets fought back against the Germans in World War II. How much do you know about the Battle of Narva?

In which year did the World War II Battle of Narva take place?

World War II had already been raging for years before the Battle of Narva began on the Eastern Front. It pitted Germany versus the Soviet Union.

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Where did the battle take place?

The battle raged on the Narva Isthmus in Estonia. Much of the area was inhospitable to armies, making fighting especially difficult for the aggressors.

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How long did the battle last?

Battles on the Eastern Front were often long, hard clashes. The Battle of Narva was no exception -- it lasted for about six months.

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What was the name of the initial Soviet offensive?

The initial Soviet attack was called the Kingisepp–Gdov Offensive. The USSR saw immediate success and its forces captured a town called Kingisepp early in the offensive.

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Which side initiated offensive operations at the beginning of this battle?

In February 1944, the Soviets were on the march against the Germans. The Battle of Narva was part of a larger offensive that had begun in January.

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With regard to troop movements, what was NOT a vital aspect of the terrain in this area?

The isthmus was full of swamps and trees, making it very hard for both the Germans and Soviets to mount any sort of large-scale troop movements. The difficulty made it challenging for either side to gain the upper hand.

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As the Soviets approached Narva, how did Hitler respond?

Hitler wanted to retain his grasp on the strategically important isthmus. He ordered reinforcements and told his Nazi troops to dig in for a fight.

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What was the condition of the German 3rd SS Panzer Corp before the Battle of Narva began?

The 3rd SS Panzer Corp had just finished retreating more than 100 miles, and the men were weary and wounded. At Narva, the Nazis decided to make a stand against the Soviets.

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How many troops did the Soviets deploy at the Battle of Narva?

No one (in the West, anyway) really knows how many men the Soviets had on hand for this battle. Some historians estimate that there may have been around 200,000 troops there as the battle began.

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How many total casualties did the USSR suffer during this battle?

Soviet troops suffered mightily during this long engagement -- they incurred nearly half a million casualties stemming from the clash.

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What were the aims of the Estonian resistance fighters?

The Estonians were tired of both German and Soviet influence in their country. They gathered tens of thousands of resistance fighters -- many men fought for the Germans, but their ultimate aim was Estonian independence.

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When did the Soviets annex Estonia?

Estonians were not predisposed to assist the Soviets during the war. In 1940, the USSR decided to annex Estonia, taking the land for themselves.

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Many Estonian civilians fled the country in anticipation of Soviet attacks. Where did most of these refugees go?

Most of the fleeing civilians went to Sweden. Sweden was a neutral country during World War II.

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Hitler wanted to win this battle in order to reassure which of his allies regarding Germany's war prospects?

In 1944, the tide of the war was turning against Germany. Hitler saw Narva as an opportunity to reassure Finland that the Nazis still had the ability to win the war.

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How many total casualties did the Nazi troops suffer during this battle?

German losses were high, with 70,000 casualties. But as the battle dragged on, the Soviets fared far worse.

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How did Soviet troops treat the Estonian civilians during this battle?

The Soviets often purposely killed the Estonians in a futile effort to turn them against the Nazis. If anything, the indiscriminate slaughter hardened the Estonians against the Soviets.

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In mid-March, the Germans issued a draft call for Estonian men. Why did many of the men happily participate in the conscription process?

In March, the Soviets continued their assaults on Estonian civilians, and the bombing of Tallinn (the Estonian capital) incensed the locals, making them more willing to fight for the Nazis.

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As the battle commenced, the Nazis still held several major areas in traditional Russian territories.

As the battle began, the Soviets were quickly pushing the Germans out of traditional Russian grounds. Stalin knew that if he could force the Nazis from Narva, the USSR would have huge political and military momentum.

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On February 14, the Soviets conducted the Mereküla landing operation. How did the operation fare?

Long before the battle began, the Nazis anticipated an assault at this area, and thus, they trained their guns right on the landing locations. The Soviets troops were completely decimated.

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Why did the Soviets struggle to move supplies in February?

In addition to relentless German attacks, the winter weather began to warm and the ground began to thaw. As the roads warmed, they turned to mud, which made supply transport much more difficult.

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All of the Estonians were motivated to fight off the Soviet incursion.

The Estonians were largely in a lose-lose situation during this battle, and many didn't want to fight for the Germans. The Germans forced unwilling Estonians to fight or face immediate death.

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What was the condition of the 20th SS Estonia Division prior to the battle?

The 20th Estonia Division had just been rushed through German training procedures when the men were flung into battle against combat-hardened Soviet troops. In spite of their inexperience, the men managed to push back Soviet attackers.

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In the middle of March, most of the town of Narva was destroyed. How was the town ruined?

The Soviets were determined to take the town regardless of the area's inhabitants. They used massive air attacks, along with artillery, to level the town.

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In late March, what was the purpose of the Nazi Strachwitz offensive?

The Soviets had managed to establish a bridgehead at Krivasoo. The Germans planned the Strachwitz offensive to take back that bridgehead as the beginning of a larger attack.

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How did the Soviets motivate their troops to stand against Nazi attacks?

Many battle-hardened Soviet troops (which included women) were tired of fighting. But they refused to retreat from the Nazis, in part because their own leaders threatened to kill them if they gave up ground to the Germans.

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In April, what was the status of the battle?

After two months of back-and-forth clashes, both the Germans and Soviets were tired and depleted. By late April, the battle had bogged down into a stalemate.

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The Soviets hoped to use the area around Narva to attack which country?

The Soviets knew that Narva was a gateway of sorts to attack Finland, one of Germany's allies in the war. Finnish politicians anxiously waited for the battle to come to an end, hopeful that the Nazis would prevail.

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When did the Soviets finally capture Narva?

The Soviets began their offensives in February, but stout German resistance prevailed for months. Finally, in July the Soviets forced the Germans out of their defenses and set them on the run.

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When did Finland finally give up its support of the Nazi regime?

After the fall of Narva in July, it was clear to Finnish politicians that the Third Reich was doomed. In September, Finland signed an armistice with the Soviets.

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In 1949, the Soviets fully occupied the areas around Narva and then decided to deport many civilians. Where did the USSR place those civilians?

The Soviets decided that the Estonians were enemies of the state. Tens of thousands of the locals -- already traumatized by the war -- were ripped from their lands and exiled to Siberia.

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