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Georgians in the World War II

During the World War II, Georgia mobilized some 700,000 Georgian residents (out of total population of about 3.5 million), who served with the Red Army on all fronts of the war; over 300,000 of them perished in the war, matching (if not exceeding) the war losses of such major powers as the United States and Britain. Over 240,000 Georgians received various medals and orders for their actions during the war and 137 of them were conferred the highest award of the Hero of the USSR.

The home front concentrated on the production of mineral resources and increased the output of manganese at the Chiatura mining plants, coal at Tkibuli and Tkvarcheli plants and metals at the Zestaponi factory. In 1941, Tbilisi Aviation Factory was established and began producing fighter planes for the Red Army. Georgia also served as an evacuation center for thousands of refugees from German-occupied areas in Byelorussia and Ukraine.

In 1943, three Georgian divisions participated in the battles in the Crimea and the Caucasus and several Georgian officers rose to prominence, among them Konstantine Leselidze, Vladimir Naneishvili, Ermaloz Koberidze, Porpirius Chanchibadze, etc. Georgians also took active part in the guerilla warfare and commanded units throughout western USSR and Eastern Europe, notably David Bakradze, Ivane Shubitidze and Vladimir Talakvadze’s units in Ukraine and Byelorussia, those of Vladimir Dzneladze and Shalva Kobiashvili in Poland, of Stefane Khatiashvili, Nikoloz Tabagua and Otar Chkhenkeli in France, and of Pore Mosulishvili and Noe Kublashvili in Italy.

At the same time, the Georgians also fought in the ranks of the German Wehrmacht. The Georgian social-democrats, who escaped the rigors of sovietization in Georgia, rallied in Germany and, ignoring the dangers of German national socialism, they sought to use the German war machine to liberate Georgia. Members of the intelligentsia in Georgia also considered cooperating with the Nazi authorities in order to overthrow the Soviet regime. However, the Soviet secret service effectively suppressed them and, between 1941-1942, widespread arrests were made leading to the execution of ringleaders. In 1942-1943, as the number of captured Georgian troops increased, the German command established the so-called Georgian Legion under the leadership of Major General Shalva Maghlakelidze as part of the Eastern Legions (Ostlegionen). The Legion eventually consisted of 8 Georgian battalions participating in campaigns in the Caucasus, Ukraine and Byelorussia; one of them was later deployed on the strategic island of Texel in the German “Atlantic Wall,” where it fought what is often described as Europe's last battle in late May 1945.

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