Azov, Sea of

Azov, Sea of

Azov, Sea of, Gr. Maiotis, Lat. Palus Maeotis, ancient Rus. Surozhskoye, northern arm of the Black Sea, c.14,000 sq mi (36,300 sq km), shared by S European Russia and E Ukraine. The shallow sea (maximum depth 45 ft/13 m) is connected with the Black Sea by the Kerch Strait. Its chief arms are the Gulf of Taganrog (in the northeast) and the Sivash Sea (in the west), which is nearly isolated from the Sea of Azov by Arabat Tongue, a narrow sandspit. The Don and Kuban rivers flow into the sea, supplying it with an abundance of freshwater but also depositing the silt that tends to make the sea more shallow. The Sea of Azov has important fisheries and accounts for a large portion of the freshwater catch of Russia and Ukraine. The major ports are Rostov-na-Donu, Taganrog, Zhdanov, Kerch, and Berdyansk. The sea's importance increased with the opening of the Volga-Don Canal; the Manych Canal connects the Sea of Azov with the Caspian Sea.

The Battle of the Sea of Azov was a battle between elements of the German, Italian and Rumanian armies (all under the command of the German Eleventh Army, commanded by the German Erich von Manstein), against the forces of Soviet Russia (specifically the Soviet 9th and 18th Armies, under the commands of Generals Cherevichenko and Smirnov respectively); during September-October 1941, in World War II. The battle took place during the German Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Soviet Russia and attempted conquest by Nazi Germany, and happened in a location near to the Russian coast with the Sea of Azov, near the Crimea.

The battle was originally an attempt by the Russians to rupture the northern flank of the Seventeenth Army as it advanced along the coastline, and into the steppes of Russia proper. However, even though the Russians were successful in causing turmoil amongst some of the Rumanian troops who were in the path of the advance of the 9th and 18th Armies, the line held for the most part due to the tenacity of the German resistance, limited objectives set by the Russian command, and poor co-ordination and logistical support. Whilst the Russians were held in place along the front, the German 1st Panzer Group under the command Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist flanked the Russian positions, cut them off along their lines of communications, and surrounded them when the Panzer Group advanced to meet with the German forces of the Eleventh Army. The 9th and 18th Armies were crushed in the resulting pocket, and over 106,000 Russian POWs were sent into captivity, 212 Soviet tanks were destroyed, and 766 Russian guns of various assortments were put out of service. The battle lasted from the 26th September, to the 7th October 1941.

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