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Dukla, Battle of/Carpathian-Dukla Campaing

Dukla, Battle of/Carpathian-Dukla Campaing — World War II Soviet military campaign against the German Army and its allies for control of the Dukla/Duklia Pass connecting Poland and Slovakia, lasting from September 8 to the end of October 1944. The campaign was led by Soviet forces of the First Ukrainian Front, including the 38th Army under General Kirill S. Moskalenko and the *Czechoslovak Army Corps under Brigadier General Ludvik Svoboda. The official goal of the Soviet campaign was to take control of the Dukla Pass and then to link up with troops in revolt within the Slovak Army and with partisans in eastern Slovakia.

Originally planned to last a week, the battle for the Dukla Pass took a month and resulted in great loss of life. The Soviet Army alone lost 95,000 dead or wounded; German casualties were estimated at some 52,000. The Czechoslovak Army Corps incurred 1,844 dead and 4,700 wounded, a high percentage of whom were Rusyns from *Subcarpathian Rus’. The Dukla Battle caused as well numerous casualties among the Lemko/Rusyn civilian population living on both slopes of the Carpathians. Several of their villages were totally destroyed or severely damaged, a situation which prompted many surviving Lemkos to opt for emigration to the Soviet Union.

The campaign also had a secret political aspect. Dragging out the military operations reduced the possibility of any effective assistance to the Slovak army revolt (Slovak National Uprising) with the result that its participants were thereby doomed to isolation and defeat. The Soviet Army had a few weeks earlier reacted in the same way to the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944. Quite simply, Stalin did not want either the Polish or Slovak uprisings to be successful.

The Rusyn soldiers in the Czechoslovak Army Corps were not permitted to participate in the liberation of their Subcarpathian homeland. As early as summer of 1944, the Czechoslovak Corps was on the threshhold of the eastern Carpathian passes, yet despite the request of the corps commander to include his forces with Soviet troops crossing into Subcarpathian Rus’ (the 18th Army), they were instead sent to southern Poland to participate in the Dukla Campaign, where most were killed. The Soviet security service (NKVD), in particular L.I. Meklis, who had already arranged for the “re-unification of Transcarpathia with Mother Ukraine,” could not allow Rusyn troops, who had previously experienced Soviet reality in the prison camps of the Gulag (1939-1942), to return to their homeland. Thus, they were dispatched and destined to be laid to rest in the fields of the Dukla “human meat-grinder.”

Bibliography: Daniil M. Proektor, Cherez Duklinskii pereval (Moscow, 1960); Ludvik Svoboda, Z Buzuluku do Prahy, 6th ed. (Prague, 1970; Ukrainian ed., 1964, 1968); K.S. Moskalenko, Na iugo-zapadnom napravlenii (Moscow, 1975); O. Kvapil, Boure v Karpatech (Prague, 1989); V. Sacher, Pod rozstrilenym praporem (Prague, 1990); Ludvik Svoboda, Cestami zivota, Vol. II (Prague, 1992).

Bogdan Horbal

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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