Rasputitsa (Russian: распу́тица, IPA: [rɐsˈputʲɪtsə]) is a Russian language term for two periods of the year (or "seasons") when travel on unpaved roads or across country becomes difficult, owing to muddy conditions from rain or thawing snow. That is, it is applied to both spring and autumn. The word "rasputitsa" is also used to refer to the condition of roads during both periods.
The term is applied to muddy road conditions in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, which are caused by the poor drainage of underlying clay-laden soils found in the region. Roads are subject to weight limitations and closures during the period in certain districts of Russia. The phenomenon was a hindrance in the early 20th century in the Soviet Union since 40% of rural villages were not served by paved roads.
Rasputitsa seasons of Russia are well known as a great defensive advantage in wartime. Common nicknames include General Mud and Marshal Mud. A spring thaw probably saved Novgorod from conquest and sacking during the 13th-century Mongol invasion. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Napoleon found the mud a great hindrance.
On the Eastern Front during the Second World War, the months-long muddy period slowed down the German advance during the Battle of Moscow (October 1941 to January 1942) and may have helped save the Soviet capital from German occupation. The advent of motorised warfare had the disadvantage that while tanks could operate effectively in summer or in winter, they proved less useful in spring and autumn, when the functioning of an efficient railway system really came into its own.
- Siegelbaum, Lewis H. (2011). Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 309. ISBN 9780801461484. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
- FAQ regarding what made Napoleon fail in invading Russia, Napoleon -series website
- M. Adolphe Thiers (1864). History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon. IV. Translated by D. Forbes Campbell; H. W. Herbert. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. p. 243.
whilst it was almost impossible to drag the gun-carriages through the half-frozen mud(regarding November 20, 1812)
May, Timothy Michael, ed. (2016). The Mongol Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Empires of the World. 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 65. ISBN 9781610693400. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
During the Mongol invasion of the Rus' principalities in 1238-1240, Novgorod escaped destruction by the Mongols due to an early spring, which transformed the routes to Novgorod into a muddy bog.
- Overy, Richard (1997). Russia's War. London: Penguin. pp. 113–114. ISBN 1-57500-051-2.
Both sides now struggled in the autumn mud. On October 6  the first snow had fallen, unusually early. It soon melted, turning the whole landscape into its habitual trackless state – the rasputitsa, literally the ‘time without roads’.... It is commonplace to attribute the German failure to take Moscow to the sudden change in the weather. While it is certainly true that German progress slowed, it had already been slowing because of the fanatical resistance of Soviet forces and the problem of moving supplies over the long distances through occupied territory. The mud slowed the Soviet build-up also, and hampered the rapid deployment of men and machines.
Pinkus, Oscar (2005). "Death of Barbarossa". The War Aims and Strategies of Adolf Hitler. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 241. ISBN 9780786420544. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
By the time the Germans approached their major objectives such as Rostov, Moscow, or Leningrad the campaigning season was over and Barbarossa was off his horse. [...] [Hitler] had not planned to fight in Russia during the fall and winter. He had stated in his Directive No. 21 that this was to be a 'lightning campaign' to be won in two to four months maximum. [...] the cause of failure was the proposition that the Soviet Union could and would be defeated in a blitzkrieg.
Willmott, H. P. (2008) . The Great Crusade: A New Complete History of the Second World War (revised ed.). Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc. p. 153. ISBN 9781597971911. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
While the Germans were to blame many factors, and particularly the rasputitsa, for the failure of Operation Taifun, the fact was that logistically the German attack on Moscow was in difficulty before it even began. German rail and road facilities were not sufficient to sustain the offensive beyond Smolensk [...].