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War memorial to honor WWII reindeer battalions

The Arctic town of Naryan-Mar has raised a memorial to honor the more than 1000 Nenets reindeer herders that participated in WWII.

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During World War II the Soviet Army established the world’s only reindeer transport battalion. More than 1000 reindeer herders and 6000 reindeer were mobilized from Nenets Autonomous Okrug to the Karelian Front.


The memorial was opened on February 23, the Defender of the Fatherland’s Day. Photo: Andrey Vokuev

In addition to the Nenets, also reindeer herders from Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Komi districts were mobilized to the front.

During 1944, the Karelian Front participated in the final offensive against Finland which led to the Soviet-Finnish armistice. In October 1944 it conducted the Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation, capturing parts of northern Finland and liberating the easternmost parts of Norway from German occupation.

The Karelian Front conducted the only successful major military operation ever undertaken in an Arctic environment in modern warfare. Reindeer proved to be very useful in Arctic operations. One reindeer can pull up to 50 kg on a sledge behind it. They transported not only food and ammunition, they also carried urgent orders to officers and they carried mail, wounded soldiers and pilots from downed aircrafts back to their lines. The reindeer were even successfully used to pull downed aircrafts back to sites and units where they could be repaired.

Read more about ethnic minorities and warfare at the Arctic front 1939-1945 here.