After the end of World War I, a rush to fortify seized all of Europe, including the Soviet Union. Given the advent of long-range, large-caliber guns, tanks and aircraft, the European states started actively preparing for and defending against war in new ways. The best strategic direction for defense was to build fortified regions or defensive lines. The famous Maginot Line was constructed in France, Finland was erecting the Mannerheim Line, and Soviet Union was also strengthening its western borders. In mid-1930s the USSR had 13 fortified regions with several dozen fortified areas, known as the Stalin Line. It ran from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and consisted of more than 3,000 separate forts, machine gun and antitank positions, as well as observation and command posts. The reinforced-concrete pillboxes (in Ukrainian – DOT), 500-600 meters apart, enabled joined up radius’ of fire. The largest fortified region (ukreprayon) was built in Kyiv in 1928-1937. It included a defensive line 6 m deep, with a total length of 85 km.


DOTs became the main structures of KyUR.

Concrete DOTs were combined into fire zones that formed 14 battalion area with connecting roads and river gates that could, if necessary, flood the land. DOTs became the main structures of KyUR – from single story reinforced concrete buildings to two story blockhouses that could hold out without re-supply of food and munitions for 7-10 days. This grand project was carried out in the strictest secrecy, without the involvement of local people. Hundreds of decoys were also built. Construction work at the KyUR then suddenly stopped for several years and all documentation was destroyed. Then in the late 1930s, an inspection commission found the fortifications overgrown and ineffective: out of 257 facilities, only 5 were combat ready. Most pillboxes could not provide radius fire, the distances between firing points were too far, and the 15 km distance of the fortifications from Kyiv, made bomb attacks on the capital a threat. Restoration of the KyUR, including the reequipping and arming of the pillboxes and construction of more field fortifications, began on June 24, 1941. For these tasks, the whole population of Kyiv was mobilized and 200,000 workers were involved by the final days of construction. However the defenses were not complete and not fully manned when the first battle occurred on July 11, 1941 and they were swept aside by experienced, well-trained and well-equipped German forces. The order to withdraw the troops was given too late, and more than 600 thousand solders of 5th, 26th and 37th armies protecting Kyiv were trapped. It was the largest entrapment in the history of war. But the KyUR still heroically defended the capital and battles along and within the Kyiv Fortified Region lasted for 72 days. The story of “Iron DOT” No. 131 is well known. The soldiers did not surrender and resisted fiercely even when their section of the frontline became totally isolated. Eventually, German flame throwing tanks burned them alive in their bunkers. On July 12, 1941 garrison DOT No. 402 brought the advance of German troops from the south to a grinding halt. And there are many such heroic stories. Nowadays, enthusiasts have renovated surviving structures and re-tell the history of the defenders. They arrange re-enactments of the battles and guided excursions. They keep alive the memory of those who were unflinching in performing their duty during the terrifying years of World War II.

Victoria Ugryumova


This article was published in the book Interesting Kyiv.
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© Sky Horse Publishing House (Kyiv) / Nahs Haus, 2019
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