The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

46 years ago, in March 1969, the two most powerful socialist powers at that time — the USSR and the PRC — almost started a full-scale war because of a piece of land called Damansky Island.

In our photo story we tried to restore the chronology of events.

1. The Damansky Island on the Ussuri River was part of the Pozharsky District of the Primorsky Territory and had an area of ​​0.74 km². It was located a little closer to the Chinese coast than to ours. However, the border did not pass along the middle of the river, but, in accordance with the Beijing tract of 1860, along the Chinese coast.

Damansky - view from the Chinese coast1
2. The conflict in Damansky occurred 20 years after the formation of the People’s Republic of China. Until the 1950s, China was a weak country with a poor population. With the help of the USSR, the Celestial Empire not only managed to unite, but began to develop rapidly, strengthening the army and creating the conditions necessary for the modernization of the economy.However, after the death of Stalin began a period of cooling in the Soviet-Chinese relations. Mao Zedong now claimed almost the role of the world’s leading leader of the communist movement, which Nikita Khrushchev could not agree with. At the same time, the policy of the Cultural Revolution pursued by Zedun constantly demanded to keep society in suspense, to create new images of the enemy both inside and outside the country, and the process of "de-Stalinization" in the USSR in general threatened the cult of the "great Mao", which gradually evolved in China. As a result, in 1960, the CPC officially announced the “wrong” course of the CPSU, relations between the countries deteriorated to the limit and conflicts often began to occur on the border of more than 7.5 thousand kilometers.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"2
3. On the night of March 2, 1969, about 300 Chinese soldiers crossed over to the Damansky. For several hours they went unnoticed; Soviet border guards received a signal about an armed group of up to 30 people only at 10:32 in the morning.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"3
4. 32 border guards, commanded by the commander of the Nizhne-Mikhailovskaya outpost, senior lieutenant Ivan Strelnikov, left for the scene.Approaching the Chinese military, Strelnikov demanded that they leave Soviet territory, but in response small arms fire was opened. Senior Lieutenant Strelnikov and the border guards who followed him were killed, only one soldier managed to survive.

So began the famous Damansky conflict, about which for a long time they did not write anywhere, but about which everyone knew.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"4
5. The shooting was heard at the neighboring outpost "Kulebyakiny sopki". Senior Lieutenant Vitaly Bubenin left for help with 20 border guards and one armored personnel carrier. The Chinese actively attacked, but after a few hours they retreated. Residents of the neighboring village of Nizhnemikhaylovka came to the aid of the wounded.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"5
6. On that day, 31 Soviet border guards died, another 14 soldiers were injured. According to the KGB commission, Chinese losses were 248 people.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"6
7. On March 3, a demonstration took place near the Soviet Embassy in Beijing, and on March 7, the Chinese Embassy in Moscow was picketing.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"7
8. Weapons seized from the Chinese

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"8
9.On the morning of March 15, the Chinese again launched an offensive. They brought the number of their forces to the infantry division, reinforced by reservists. Attacks by the "human waves" lasted for an hour. After a fierce battle, the Chinese managed to press the Soviet soldiers.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"9
10. Then, to support the defenders in the counterattack, a tank platoon headed by the head of the Imansky border guard detachment, which included the outposts of Nizhne-Mikhailovskaya and Kulebyaki sopki, Colonel Leonov.10
11. But, as it turned out, the Chinese were prepared for this turn of events and had a sufficient amount of anti-tank weapons. Because of their tight fire, our counterattack failed.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"11
12. The failure of the counterattack and the loss of the newest T-62 combat vehicle with secret equipment finally convinced the Soviet command that the forces brought into the battle were not enough to defeat the Chinese side, which was prepared very seriously.

Photo: archive of the magazine "Spark"12
13. Then the forces of the 135th motorized rifle division deployed along the river, commanded by command of their artillery, including a separate division of BM-21 Grad, came into action to open fire on the positions of the Chinese on the island.This was the first case of the use of Grad rocket launchers in combat, the blow of which decided the outcome of the battle.13
14. The Soviet troops retreated to their shore, and the Chinese side did not take any more hostile actions.14
15. In total, during the clashes, Soviet troops lost 58 soldiers and 4 officers killed and dead from wounds, 94 soldiers and 9 officers wounded. The losses of the Chinese side are still classified information and, according to various estimates, range from 100-150 to 800 and even 3,000 people.15
16. For their heroism, four servicemen received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union: Colonel D. Leonov and Senior Lieutenant I. Strelnikov (posthumously), Senior Lieutenant V. Bubenin and Junior Sergeant Y. Babansky.

In the photo in the foreground: Colonel D. Leonov, lieutenants V. Bubenin, I. Strelnikov, V. Shorokhov; in the background: the personnel of the first frontier. 1968

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  • The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island

    The largest Soviet-Chinese armed conflict: Damansky Island