By mid-August, the situation on the Eastern Front had changed as the Red Army started a general offensive, beginning with the Belgorod-Kharkov offensive operation (Белгородско-Харьковская наступательная операция)(Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev) (операция "Румянцев" - 03-23.08) and the Orlov offensive operation (Орловская наступательная операция) (Operation Polkovodets Kutuzov) (операция "Кутузов" - 12.07-18.08) known in German history as the Kursk, and continuing with the Wehrmacht's defensive Battle of the Dnieper line in the North Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Wehrmacht command was still reinforcing its troops around Smolensk and Roslavl, withdrawing several divisions from the Oryol region. As a result, the two Soviet counteroffensives that followed the Kursk defensive operation (Курская оборонительная операция 05-23.07) proceeded relatively easily for the Red Army around Oryol, creating a large salient south of Smolensk and Bryansk.
In this situation, the former attack axis, directed southwest towards Roslavl and Bryansk, became useless. The Stavka decided instead to shift the attack axis west to Yelnya and Smolensk.
The Yelnya-Dorogobuzh offensive operation (Ельнинско-Дорогобужская наступательная операция) was considered the "key" to Smolensk and Wehrmacht troops created a massive fortified defense position around the city. Swampy areas on the Desna and Ugra rivers were mined and heavy guns set up on hills overlooking the city.
The Soviet armies, aware of the Wehrmacht preparations, were reinforced with tanks and artillery during the week from 20 August to 27 August.
The offensive finally commenced on 28 August by the 10th Guards Army, 21st Army and the 33rd Army ), supported by 3 Tank, a Mechanized corps and the 1st Air Army. These 4 armies were covering a front of only 36 kilometers (22 mi), creating a very high concentration of troops. The troops, however, had fuel and supplies for 2 weeks at most.
Soviet troops moved forw...