17 November 1941

The experience of the past month of the war has shown that the German army is poorly equipped for war in winter conditions, does not have warm clothing and, having experienced enormous difficulties because of the onset of freezing weather, is hunkered down in populated areas in the front-line zone. The impudently conceited enemy intended to pass the winter in the warm buildings of Moscow and Leningrad, but the actions of our forces have prevented this. German troops, having encountered the stubborn resistance of our units, have been forced over to the defense in broad sectors of the front and have taken up positions in populated areas along the roads to depths of from 2 to 30 kilometres to both sides. Throughout this area German soldiers are living in towns and townships, villages, peasant huts, sheds, barns, and community bathhouses near the front line, and the headquarters of German units are quartering in larger populated areas and cities, hiding in basements and using them as cover from our aviation and artillery. The German occupiers normally evict and drive away the Soviet populace from these locales.

Our urgent task, the resolution of which will largely condition the rapid defeat of the enemy and the dissipation of his army, is to deprive the German army of the possibility of settling into our villages and towns, to drive the German occupiers from all the populated areas into the cold fields, to smoke them out of all lodgings and warm housing and force them to freeze under the open sky.

Stavka of the Supreme High Command ORDERS:

1. To destroy and burn to the ground all populated areas in the rear of German forces to a distance of 40-60 kilometers in depth from the forward edge and 20-30 kilometres to the left and right of roads.

For the destruction of populated areas in the indicated radius of actions, immediately commit aviation, broadly employ artillery and mortar fire, and send in teams of scouts, ski troops, and partisan-diversionary groups equipped with bottles with burning substance [Molotov cocktails- J.Gebhardt], grenades, and explosive devices.

2. In each regiment create hunter teams of from 20 to 30 men each for blowing up and burning populated areas in which enemy forces have taken shelter. Select the bravest and strongest in the political-morale sense fighting men, commanders, and political workers for these hunter teams. Carefully explain to them the mission and significance of this measure for defeating the German Army. Recommend for government decorations the daredevils who distinguish themselves in courageous actions for the destruction of populated areas in which the German forces are displaced.

3. During the forced withdrawal of our units in one or another sector, take the Soviet population with you and be sure to destroy without exception all populated areas so that the enemy cannot use them. For this purpose first of all employ the hunter teams that have been designated in regiments.

4. Military Councils of fronts and separate armies are systematically to confirm how the missions for the destruction of populated areas are being carried out in the above indicated radius from the front line. Every 3 days report to Stavka by separate summary how many and which populated areas have been destroyed during the preceding days and by what means these results were achieved.

Stavka Supreme High Command


See also Concerning measures undertaken in fulfillment of Stavka Order No. 0428

Translated by:
James F. Gebhardt
TsAMO, collection 208, index 2524, item 1, sheets 257-58. True copy.

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