The events of recent days show the European Union is concerned over the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Belgrade. What if he takes Serbia away? Some Serbian media outlets have even rebuked the government for «reshaping the historic calendar». The big military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Serbian capital’s liberation from Nazi Germany’s forces is scheduled to take place on the very day of the Russian President’s visit. The European Union told Belgrade on October 7 that it should prove its credentials as a future member during an upcoming visit by Vladimir Putin to Serbia. EU spokeswoman Maja Kojicancic directly linked the prospects for Serbia’s EU membership with adherence to «European values». As she put it, «Serbia, as all candidate countries... has made a commitment for a convergence (of policies)... including the positions on restrictive measure».
Brussels accordingly expects that Serbia's «pro-EU direction will also be confirmed during this visit», she said. The EU officials have a good reason to express concern as Belgrade stood tall against extremely hard pressure coming from Washington, Brussels and Berlin and refused to support the Western sanctions against Russia. The visit makes remember the historic times as the two peoples joined together in the fight against Nazism coming from Europe. 70 years ago Russians and Serbs were united by the same goal – to liberate Belgrade and make the hated enemy flee!
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…In early September, 1944 the 75th Corps of the 46th Army, 2d Ukrainian Front crossed the Danube near Turnu-Severin, located on the border between Romania and Yugoslavia, to seize a springboard on Yugoslavian soil. Now the Soviet Union could render direct aid to the National Liberation Army (NLA) of Yugoslavia which had already liberated a large part of the country by the time.
Josip Broz Tito, the Supreme Commander of NLA, issued an order on September 8 stating that the day expected by Yugoslav soldiers for three and a half years of hard struggle against the enemy finally arrived. He appealed to the Soviet Committee of Defence through the Soviet war mission in Yugoslavia asking the Soviet Army to enter the country. He had secured a positive response meeting Stalin personally in Moscow.
The Soviet Supreme Command prepared the plan of Belgrade Offensive or the Belgrade Strategic Offensive Operation (September 28 – October 20, 1944). The joint Soviet and Yugoslav army group was to advance to Belgrade while another Yugoslavian-Bulgarian force was to move forward to Nis and Skopje. The mission was to rout the German forces concentrated in and around Belgrade and liberate the whole Serbia, including the capital. The 3d Ukrainian Front (under the command of Marshall Fyodor Tolbukhin) with Bulgarian forces under its command and the 2d Ukrainian Front (Marshall Rodion Malinowski) were to strike from east at the very same time as the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia started offensive from west and south. Before the operation started the joint Soviet, Yugoslav and Bulgarian forces enjoyed superiority over the enemy in manpower (4:1) and hardware with an over 4 to 1 advantage in tanks and aircraft.
The Belgrade Offensive had a specific feature. It united three allied militaries to carry out the same mission. At that the offensives at key directions were to be launched at different times. The 2d and 3d infantry divisions of Ukrainian fronts were to start the operation 10-12 days earlier than the 1st Army Group of Yugoslav National Liberation Army. The operation was to result in heavy losses suffered by the enemy to create proper conditions for Yugoslav army to concentrate, deploy and start advance to Belgrade.
It was the consistent policy of Stalin. He wanted to let the allied anti-fascist forces free the capitals of their respective countries themselves supported by the Red Army. The 1st Army of the Polish Armed forces (Wojsko Polskie) took Warsaw, the Romanian 1st Volunteer Infantry Division «Tudor Vladimirescu - Debrecen» took part in liberating Bucharest, the Yugoslav National Liberation Army freed Belgrade.
It’s worth to pay more attention to the final phase (starting from October 14) of the Belgrade Offensive. The left flank units of the 46th Army advanced to Belgrade from west. They protected the right flank of the 57th Army. Having crossed the Danube River on board of the Danube flotilla ships the force got hold of a 10 km beachhead to the north-east of Belgrade to launch the offensive to free the capital. It its turn, the 3d Ukrainian Front routed the enemy’s army group encircled to the south-east of Belgrade.
As preparations for liberating Belgrade went on the issue of who would enter the capital first came to the fore. On October 5, 1944 Marshall Broz Tito ordered General Peko Dapčević, the commander of Yugoslav 1st Army, to take part in the liberation of Belgrade. He said it was a joint decision with the Soviet command that the Yugoslav units should enter the capital first.
The command of the 3d Front ordered to provide Yugoslav military with transport upon request so that they could come in time to the battle area. For instance, on October 11 Marshall Tolbukhin gave an order to the commander of the 4th Guards Mechanized Corps to provide the 23d infantry division of the Yugoslav 14th Army Corps with the means of transport. The Soviet command let the Yugoslav Army enter the capital first while providing support with tanks and artillery to pave the way for liberating the city by Yugoslav national forces.
The battle for Belgrade started on October 14, 1944. Defended positions changed hands several times. Local people fought along with Soviet and Yugoslav soldiers. On October 20 the continuous offensive actions by Soviet troops together with the Yugoslav National Liberation Army units that had approached from south-west broke the resistance of the German Belgrade garrison. The city was liberated by the end of the day.
With the Yugoslav capital liberated the Soviet troops received an order from the High Command to take positions along the Belgrade-Batocina-Paracin-Knjaževac line and not move further into Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav National Liberation Army got replenishments: arms and material delivered upon the decision of the Soviet government, and advanced to the Drina River (100 km to the west of Belgrade).
With the Belgrade Offensive over, the enemy’s losses were up to 45 thousand dead or taken prisoners. It lost 53 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces, 184 guns and mortars, 66 combat aircraft. The Soviet troops’ death toll was 4350 men with 14488 wounded. 2953 soldiers of the Yugoslav National Liberation Army and around 1000 Soviet troops lost lives in the city’s street fighting.
The command of Yugoslav National liberation Army highly appreciated the contribution of the Red Army in the liberation of the capital. According to Broz Tito, the liberation of Belgrade had historic significance especially «because the country of the peoples who suffered hard was liberated by the heroic sons of the Great Soviet Union and Yugoslavia who shed blood together».
With Belgrade and Serbia liberated the Yugoslav National Liberation Army had a reliable rear – the source of replenishment. It became possible to establish an unbroken front line. With the support of the Soviet Union, it proceeded to liberate the rest of the country. Broz Tito emphasized that the victory over the fascist conquerors and the creation of new Yugoslavia were impossible to achieve without the Soviet Union.
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… 70 years have passed since those days. Our grandfathers were sure that Nazism was defeated in Europe once and for all. Could they imagine that it could revive? In an interview with Serbian Politika newspaper on the eve of the visit to Serbia on October 16 Vladimir Putin said with great regret that «Unfortunately, the vaccine against the Nazi virus, developed at the Nuremberg trials, is losing its effectiveness in some European countries. A clear sign of this trend is open manifestations of neo-Nazism, which have become common in Latvia and other Baltic states».
It’s quite understandable that the forces exerting pressure on Belgrade to make it join anti-Russia sanctions support the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev. In October 1944 the Soviet and Yugoslav soldiers fought the enemy together under the slogan «Liberate Belgrade!» It won’t be a surprise if this call will be heard again.