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"Russians do not surrender ! ". The defense of the fortress Osovets
Material posted: Publication date: 02-07-2013

You all probably know this heroic story of Russian arms. I also heard many times in General terms. Now I want to learn more about it, come with me ...

Where the world ends,
Stands the fortress Osovets,
There is a terrible bog,
The Germans go into them reluctantly.

From the song of defenders


From the beginning of the great European war, a number of fortresses was taken by the Germans in a very short time. This created the impression of the impossibility of enduring resistance of the fortresses in the presence of powerful siege artillery, which had Germans.

In further voluntary waiver of certain fortresses and the rapid fall of other, often after a short bombardment, even without imposing them, many adopted the view of the uselessness of fortresses. Eventually, in the course of the war only two fortresses on duration of defence had served its purpose: Verdun in the West, and Osowiec on the East. The first survived until the end of the war, the second was completely evacuated and destroyed after 6½ months after the start of the fighting near the fortress for reasons of an operational nature, and then, when the force of resistance is considerably increased due to work carried out in the fortress. But Verdun, on the mass of the troops who took part in the struggle over the composition of the garrison, by the nature of the struggle, which resulted in a number of counter stolknovenii at the front, on which the fortress was only a small area and due to the use of the defenders powerful heavy artillery is not an example for drawing up the report about the defense of the fortress itself and its role and significance in the General progress of operations on the Verdun — Paris.

Meanwhile Osovets, representing a fortress of the 3rd class, unfinished buildings, fought alone, holding the front for the defense of routes miles 20 — 25.

However, the composition of its garrison remained unchanged, but the numbers are always inferior to the enemy, as well as supply, technical means of struggle, and the largest caliber of artillery were the 6-inch guns, while the enemy had no artillery to 16½ inch caliber, inclusive, and the same technical means of struggle, which used them at the siege and other first-class fortresses on our and on the Western front.

The city Osowiec (Osowiec, Ossowitz) currently located in the North-East of the Republic of Poland at a distance of about 50 km to the North-West of białystok. It is divided into two parts by the river Beavers (Biebrza). In Poland comes from 1918, after the restoration of independence. Prior to that, in 1795, after the third partition of Poland, this territory was part of tsarist Russia. It is the latter started the construction of fortifications near the town of Nosovice, which was prepared for the role of defense of the corridor between the rivers Neman and Vistula-Narew-bug river, with the most important strategic directions of the St. Petersburg-Berlin and St. Petersburg-Vienna. In addition to the Osowiec to the same period belongs the construction or upgrading fortresses in Kovno, Grodno, Rovno, Lutsk, Ivan-city, best-Litovsk, Warsaw and Novo-Georgievsk.

According to the new strategic plan of the Russian General staff from 1873 Osowiec fortress was to protect the crossing of the river Beavers, and consequently, a transportation hub in Bialystok from possible German strike North (East. Prussia), and to be the Eastern stronghold fortified line between the rivers Narew and Beavers. To perform this task, in 1874, commenced the design work for the construction of the fortress in reference Asovice under the guidance of famous Russian fortifier of General E. I. Totleben. However, in 1877, even before construction began, the war began with Turkey, and all work stopped. Work only resumed in 1882 under the direction of General R. V. Krassovskogo, when started the construction of the support Fort, also known as the "Central Fort" or Fort No. 1. Construction work continued until 1891, as a result the South Bank of the river Beavers, at a distance of about 2 km from the railway bridge, there arose a fortified object in plan an irregular hexagon with an area of about 1 sq. km. the Main battle positions of the Fort were located on two different shafts: inner height of 14-16 m (open artillery positions), and external (infantry positions). The thickness of both shafts at the base was more than 50 m. the Entire Fort was surrounded by a moat, protected by revetments or angular firing positions on the shafts and filled with water from three sides, except North. The Northern part of the Fort a few towered above the others and was separated from them relatively low shaft, forming a fortified redoubt. In addition, with the North-Eastern side of the Fort was protected by a Ravelin extended pentagonal. In the courtyard of the Fort housed a number of infrastructure facilities, primarily barracks, ammunition depots, protected by strong earthworks coasting, and garrison Church. The garrison of the Fort consisted of 4 rifle companies and artillery polybutylene serving about 60 guns on the shafts.

Even before finishing construction of the Central Fort, it was decided to reinforce the strategic importance of the fortress Osovets additional objects. Therefore, under the guidance of the same General Krassovskogo were built two FORTS. On the North Bank of the river Beavers to protect the railway bridge was built Fort No. 2 with two shafts in the form of five-pointed lunati size 400 x 500 m, surrounded by a water moat, protected by three small caponiers at the corners of the front and flanking sides. In the courtyard of the Fort was located a fortified barracks for 1 infantry company and 1 artillery platoon. The isthmus of the Fort was protected only by a low earthen rampart without side-impact protection. Besides the Fort No. 2 in 1886, about 2 km West of Central Fort began construction of Fort No. 3, is structurally different from the previous one. It was a fortified facility with one shaft with strelkovyi and artillery positions. The dry moat surrounding the Fort, defended by caponiers internal. Fort No. 3 was called "Swedish" because it was located near a bridge over the river, induced here by Charles XII in 1708, and whose protection was its primary function. A little later Fort No. 3 was connected to the Fort No. 1, two earth mounds height of about 3 m and a trench width of 20-30 m. as a result of work in the middle of the town appeared Osowiec fortified region, which is located inside the main warehouses of ammunition and provisions, barracks, hospital, gun shops, cemetery, etc.

After 1885, European armies gradually shifted to highly effective artillery ammunition, filled with melinita, which has almost devalued existed at that time fortified objects. The same applies to the fortress Osovets. For this reason, the war Ministry of the Russian Empire adopted a plan to increase the defense capability of all castles and build new ones. Existing brick walls were reinforced with additional concrete thickness up to 2 m on a sand cushion depth more than 1 m. the Construction of all new venues were constructed entirely from concrete.

In connection with the implementation of these measures in 1891 was begun the construction of another castle about 3 km West of fornt No. 3. According to the project of ing. N. And.Buinickij here was built using the terrain W/W of the object, later designated as Fort No. 4, or "New Fort". The Fort was surrounded by a rather flat and strongly dissected by an earthen rampart with strelkovyi positions and a deep dry moat. Only from the West the moat was filled with water. Inside the Fort there were concrete barracks with deep cellars with vaulted ceilings that housed shelters and ammunition stores. By 1914, the project was not yet completed, mainly due to insufficient funding. As a result, during the First World war, the Fort served as an auxiliary object. Communication between FORTS Nos. 3 and 4 on the South side were covered with earth subject is complex, the so-called redoubt Lomza.

After 1900 the construction of the fortress Osovets continued. North of the railway and road bridges were built of concrete fortifications had been strengthened with concrete and Central Fort No. 1. In the same period on the shafts and inside of them was built navigation, which was connected to other parts of the Fort's underground galleries. An interesting feature is that these galleries leading from the yard to the low shaft and the caponier, at the same time was a small position for a flag protection low shaft and the approaches to it. For flank protection of the main ditch were built new revetments and the existing ones have been rebuilt. As a novelty, all the caponiers were equipped with power dynamos that supply power to arc searchlights for illumination of the ditch. After 1905 Fort No. 2 and the strengthening of the railway bridge were connected by a water moat and rampart with strong concrete casemates.

Further construction of the fortress Osowiec was conducted using reinforced concrete and bronzeitalia, which at that time (after 1910) have been used in the construction of the Russian fortification as a result of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 and the experiments conducted in 1908 in the fortress of Kronstadt. In addition to upgrading existing facilities strengthened with reinforced concrete and filling the space between the shelters and artillery positions gene.-Lieutenant N. And.Buinickij has proposed the construction of a modern fortified group 4 km East of the main fortress. She was supposed to consist of two FORTS triangular in shape and fortified positions for two batteries of howitzers cal. 152 mm. because of the military threat and lack of funds the project was never implemented. However, in 1912-14, on the South Bank of the river Beavers, North-East of Fort No. 1 on Skobelevskaya hill was built fairly modern fortified position. The top of the hill was fortified strelkovyi positions with a strong reinforced concrete shelters designed for infantry company and equipped with two Supervisory bronekolpakov. In the Northern part of the positions was located a battery of field artillery, and in the center was built only in Russia armored artillery pillbox. It was equipped armor the tower system. Gallopin production of the firm Schneider-Creusot (France) under the gun cal. 152 mm, which was widely used in the fortresses of Verdun, Toul, Epinal and Belfort, on the border of Lorraine. Not far from the Bunker was built an ammunition depot for up to 2,000 charges.

The main objective of the fortress was, wrote party defense Osovets S. Khmelkov, "to block the enemy nearest and most convenient way to Bialystok... to force the enemy to lose time or to conduct a long siege, or to search for detours". Bialystok – transport hub, the capture of which opened the way to Vilna (Vilnius), Grodno, Minsk and Brest. So for the Germans through Osovets lay the shortest way to Russia. Bypass the fortress was impossible: it was located on the banks of the river Beavers, controlling the whole district, in the vicinity – swamps were everywhere.

"In this area there are almost no roads, very few villages, individual courtyards are interconnected by rivers, canals and narrow paths – so described the terrain edition of people's Commissariat of defense of the USSR already in 1939. – the Enemy will not find here no roads, no housing, no closure, no positions for artillery."

The first onslaught of the Germans launched in September 1914: moving from königsberg guns of large caliber, they bombarded the fortress for six days.

The Activity approached 40 German battalions – almost as much as a huge Novogeorgievske.

Having multiple numerical superiority, the enemy advanced to the attack. They succeeded in driving the Russian company so that the German artillery was able to shoot the Osowiec – from Koenigsberg were taken 60 heavy guns up to 203 mm. to Most readers this says nothing, so let us explain on this example. When in Grozny during the assault the presidential Palace Dudayev our army made a gun of this caliber, the air rushed panicked shouting, they say, the Russians have used nuclear weapons.

After two days of intense shelling, the Germans decided that the enemy is shocked enough to become easy prey. They again attacked, but heavy fire of our artillery forced them to lie. The next day was followed by an even more unpleasant surprise. Russian infantry allegedly demoralized enormous superiority of Germans and brutal bombardment, suddenly rushed into flanking counterattacks. The Germans hastily retreated, taking his artillery. It became clear that unceremoniously there is nothing to achieve.

These days, despite the fact that the fortress was located in a field of fire of enemy artillery, Osowiec visited our Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich. Garrison was delighted, and the commandant – General Shulman – completely confused. He feared for the life of the monarch, suddenly appeared at the front. The king visited one of the FORTS and the Church of the intercession, the victim in the bombardment. Crossed himself before the icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who presented to this Church in a peaceful 1897. When talking to the priest asked, whether it was terrible in the bombardment. He replied:

– No, Your Imperial Majesty. Just me bored, when shells began to go near the Church, and I went to the temple.

The Emperor smiled and left the castle very happy. He had the inexplicable ability to visit key sites of the Russian defense ahead of some of the most severe tests for them. So it was with a visit to Sarikamish, where a handful of our soldiers soon broke down the impact of the Turkish army. Where is Petersburg, where is lake sarakamysh? About him and most of the generals never heard. Suddenly there appears in the mind of the enemy King, encourages, inspires the fighters, and soon the whole world is repeating the name of this type of village, the legendary town. So it was with SOVCOM.

After the September failure of the Germans several months pondered what had happened. Waited freeze the river and marshes. Prepared. Too needed them Osovets, behind which lay Bialystok, Grodno, Minsk...In the middle of February 1915 the Germans were still full of optimism. The main hope was pinned on the battery of heavy guns, which the Germans called "Big Bertha". This siege cannon were 420-mm caliber, has no equal in the world. We already told about 203-mm caliber, – and so amid the new monsters, still looked the Lapwings. 800-pound projectile "Big Bertha" left a crater 4-5 meters deep and 12-15 metres in diameter – a real pit!

There were other gun cyclopean dimensions, such as siege mortars, Skoda 305 mm caliber was fired the volleys on 360 shells every four minutes – a volley. At this time, on top of the fortress was bombed by German airplanes.

It was assumed that the intensive bombing, the Russians will surrender in a day, maximum two. General staff, believing that demands the impossible, asked the defenders to hold out at least 48 hours. The idea that the fortress will stand for another six months, and a total of 190 days from the beginning of the siege, no one came to mind.

"The enemy February 25, opened fire on the fortress, drove him on 27 and 28 February before the hurricane, and so continued to destroy the fortress until March 3" – recalled S. Khmelkov. According to his calculations, this week the horrific attack on the fortress was released only 200-250 thousand heavy shells. If you take their explosive force, the Russian army was spending so much on all fronts about a couple of months. And here is a small fortress with a small garrison.

"The brick buildings collapsed, – we read in the memoirs of Sergei Alexandrovich, – wood burning, weak given the huge concrete spalling in the vaults and walls; wire communication was interrupted, ruined highway funnels; the trenches and all of the improvements on the shafts, such as roofs, machine gun nests, light bunkers were erased from the face of the earth."

Places hit were so thick that large areas of upturned funnels were merged. Central Fort, Skobeleva mountain, Zarechny Fort disappeared in huge clouds of dust. There must've been left nothing alive. Suddenly from the clouds spoke, among others, two 150-mm gun Kane, transferred from Kronstadt. German intelligence missed their elementary, which cost the Germans dearly. Explosion – and broke off one of the "Big Bertha", which was unattainable, it seemed to the enemies, the distance to the Russian guns. Explosion – and the second beast ordered to live long. After blowing up an ammunition dump.

It stunned the enemy. The Germans must have gone crazy. Instead of trying to push the remaining "Bertha" at a safe distance and keep firing, they dragged them to the rear. I must say that the fortress no fortress that can withstand the impact of a projectile weighing a little less than a ton. Solid brick warehouse that belonged to the gunners, one of these bombs turned up in ruins. Several dozen successful hits can undermine our defenses. But the Germans had for their power symbols of some religious awe and over them against the Osowiec was not used.

The second line of defense, which was outside the fortress, the Germans Russian infantry to shoot down failed. The bombings she was used so that the soldiers reasoned, "Let him shoot, at least get some sleep". They were tired of fighting the beginning of February and works to strengthen the fortress. After that, the shelling really seemed to be to something ephemeral.

On the territory of Osowiec after the February assault was found on 30 thousands of craters. Hundreds of thousands of projectiles were swallowed by the river and Beaver swamps. However, and more or less accurate hits had several for each defender. Until that moment it was believed that the man to withstand, in principle, not capable of. Who will not kill a direct hit, that will damage the concussion; who is not to shock, he will feel a shock that will shiver until the end of days. Mathematics and physiologists considered, measured and wrote reports on that. "At least get some sleep," he said all this Russian infantryman.

For the Germans ideal situation: the Beaver river is covered with ice, the Russian soldiers are exhausted, and their fresh parts in excess. Had to throw them into battle, but the German command believed in the power of his artillery. Ice into the bowl. Russians slept off and were glad. The assault failed."Terrible was the appearance of a fortress, the whole castle was shrouded in smoke, through which in one and then in another place, escaped the huge tongues of fire from the explosion of shells, pillars of earth, water and whole trees flew up; the earth trembled, and it seemed that nothing could withstand such a hurricane of fire. The impression was such that no one will come out unharmed of this hurricane of fire and iron" – so wrote the foreign correspondents.

Command, believing that requires almost impossible, asked the defenders to hold out at least 48 hours. The fortress was half a year.

In the spring of 1915 the enemy started a major offensive. Russian front was broken at first in the Baltic States, and then in Galicia. It was the biggest disaster of our army. And Osowiec kept. The victory encouraged its defenders, they believe in themselves. Grew and anger at the Germans, who always threw the letters, which said that Russian Germans are not able to resist and will soon be under the rule of the Kaiser.

August 6 (July 24 old style) started the third assault. In fact, he wrote the name of the fortress in history not only of Russia but of humanity.

For the destruction of the garrison of Germans used poison gas. Gas attack they prepared carefully (10 days), patiently waiting for the right wind. Launched 30 gas cells, several thousand cylinders. August 6 at 4 am on the Russian positions flowed dark green mist mixture of chlorine and bromine, which reached them for 5-10 minutes. Gas wave 12-15 meters in height and width of 8 km penetrated to a depth of 20 km, and Masks from the defenders was not.

"All live outdoors at the bridgehead of the fortress was poisoned to death – recalled Sergey Khmelkov, himself the victim of poisoning. – All the herbs in the fortress and in the immediate area along the path of movement of gases has been destroyed, the leaves on the trees turned yellow, curled and sunken, the grass turned black and fell to the ground, flower petals flew around. All copper items in the bridgehead of the fortress – parts of guns and shells, wash basins, tanks and so on – was covered with a thick green layer of chlorine monoxide; food items stored without hermetic sealing, meat, oil, fat, vegetables turned out to be poisoned and unfit for consumption".

Full of George knight beside an unexploded German shell"the Morning was cold, misty; moderate strength was blowing North wind... wrote military historian B. Schwarz. – The action of the gases, despite the measures taken, on Tosnenskiy positions in the rear and it was awful – about half of the fighters were poisoned to death. Polyethylene walked back and thirsty, bent down to the water source, but here, in the low places, the gases were delayed, and secondary poisoning led to the death. In General, the time of approach of Germans to the position of the number of its defenders were determined in some 160-200 people, able to operate weapons.

Extended from Zarechny Fort to counterattack three companies of temlyantsev also along the way have lost up to 30 percent among the poisoned gases. Some time later, by the release of gases the Germans started simultaneously along the entire front red missiles and opened heavy fire..."

9, 10 and 11th company of regiment Zemlyansky were lost entirely, from the 12 th company there are about 40 people with a single machine gun; from three companies, defending Palogrande, there were about 60 people at two guns. The German command was so confident in the success of what I was told, harness carts. Pay attention to figure 160-200 people; the remains of another three companies were few in number, have suffered from gas and reinforcements. They had to fight with the 8th German army.

Here words of the German General Ludendorff: "the 8th army has dvinulas in the narrow space between the Narew and Bialystok to score from the South of Osowiec". 14 battalions of Landwehr, no less than 7 thousand people, followed by a wave of gases. They were not in the attack. On the sweep. Being sure that the living will not meet. What happened next is beautifully described by journalist Vladimir Voronov:

"When the German chain approached the trenches of deep-green chlorine fog descended on them... counter-attacking Russian infantry. The sight was horrifying: the men went to the bayonet with people wrapped in rags, shaking with terrible cough, literally spitting out pieces of light on the bloody shirt. These were the remains of 13-th company of the 226-th infantry regiment Zemlyansky, little more than 60 people. But they plunged the enemy in such horror that the German infantrymen, not accepting the fight, rushed back, trampling each other and hanging on their own barbed wire. And by him with clubs wrapped chlorine Russian batteries began to beat, it seemed, already deceased artillery. Several dozen half-dead Russian soldiers to flight three German infantry regiment! Anything like the world martial art is not known. This battle will go down in history as the “attack dead”".

Who gave this attack a name, it is now difficult to install, but it's swept the world press. And the Germans for the first time clearly realized that to take the fortress can't. Bare hands can take the garrison, which confused, not strong physique.

Extremely difficult – when it's formed in a single body, is used to winning. Unless the fighters, moreover, find that their enemies – the monsters, the monsters of the human race. The heaviest impression on the defenders of Osovets poisoning of peasants from the nearest to the fortress of villages and desecration of dead bodies from gases comrades. "Bear, dreadful beast, and he touches the dead, – said hands, – and these are worse than beasts; wait, let me swing".

The Germans quieted down.

Osovets Russian troops still left, but later on the orders of command, when his defense has lost its meaning. The evacuation of the fortress is also an example of heroism.

In early August our army, retreating from the Beaver, the Narev and the Vistula, continued the retreat to the line Bialystok — Brest-Litovsk and in the next few days were required, pursuant to the General retreat further to the East, to pass it.

Under these conditions further hold in our hands the Activity has lost its significance, whereas its garrison and mainly heavy artillery and ammunition was of great value to the army and the Supreme Commander was ordered to prepare for evacuation and eventual destruction of the fortifications.

From August 4 to 8 was used for the hauling of property and firearm supplies, were performed all preparatory work for a thorough explosion of the fortifications and developed the plan of evacuation of the fortress in the shortest possible time.

On the night of 8th / 9th August was a complete cleaning of the fortress from the weapons, were left with only 4 guns which fire had to lead the enemy astray.

August 9 at nightfall the garrison was to leave the fortress and when the convoy of troops had passed the southern gates of the fortress were undermined by the guncotton, the remaining 4 guns and blasted all brick, stone and concrete structures and wooden buildings set on fire. Recollecting himself, the enemy opened heavy fire late garrison inflicted negligible losses.

The next day the garrison had already occupied the land army, and the position of commandant of the fortress gen. Brzozowski, who took the case, he sent the report to the Supreme Commander about the defence, on which was superimposed a Sovereign Emperor following resolution: "I Express my deepest gratitude to all the valiant garrison of the Osowiec".

The commandant of the fortress in its order noted, among other things, committed the event in the following terms: "In the ruins of ash explosions and fires proudly rested a fabulous rock, and dead it became even scarier the enemy, hourly talking to him about valor security. Sleep peacefully, not knowing defeat, and teach the Russian people a desire for revenge to the enemy to its complete destruction. Nice, clean high and your name will go into the care of future generations. Will be held for a short time, will heal the Mother wound their homeland in unprecedented greatness will manifest to the World its Slavic force; remembering the heroes of the great war of Liberation, not on the last place put it and us the defenders of Osovets".

Osowiec shook undeserved glory of the German crushing technology and proved the possibility of successful, long-lasting protection even in such a small and significant portion, not a modern fortress as it was.In 1924, European Newspapers wrote about a certain Russian soldier (his name is unfortunately not known), discovered by the Polish authorities in the fortress Osovets. As it turned out, during the retreat of the sappers directional explosions peppered the underground fortress warehouses with ammunition and food. When the Polish officers descended into the basement, out of the darkness in Russian was heard: "Stop! Who goes there?" The stranger was a Russian. Time surrendered only after he explained that the country, which he served, is long gone. 9 years old soldiers ate tinned meat and condensed milk, losing track of time, and adapted to life in the dark. After he was taken, he lost his eyesight from the sunlight and was taken to hospital, then handed over to the Soviet authorities. On this his trail is lost in history. Read more about this legend CAN be READ HERE.

This defense was expensive for the Russian army. But even higher price paid by the Germans. Was thwarted a serious attack of the German army and thwarted the plans of the German command in the long term.

Nobody is forgotten.... Nothing is forgotten...



  1. - B. SCHWARZ. Military historian.
  2. - Master of history Vladimir Kupka
  3. - Vladimir Voronov
  4. - Vladimir GRIGORYAN


Based on the book by S. A. Khmelkova "the Struggle for Osowiec", Schwarz W. "a Brief sketch of defence of the Osowiec fortress in 1915," and other materials.


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