In the closing stages of World War II, during late 1944, the Soviet army launched a massive push into Slovakia intended to occupy a line running between the country's main eastern cities, Košice and Prešov, and north to Bardejov and Zborov, thereby protecting the flanks of a simultaneous advance into Hungary, to the south.
But at the Dargov Pass, east of Košice - as at Dukla, north of Prešov (see Svidník article in Prešov Region section) - the Red Army ran into stiffer Nazi German resistance than they had anticipated.
In a remarkably short time (the German army had only entered Slovakia in force in August 1944) the Wehrmacht had established a well-planned system of bunkers and minefields in the Slanské Hills overlooking Košice.
As the bombardment began on December 9, the Soviet commander, Lieutenant General Grechko, expected to clear the pass within a day; it eventually took more than 40. A huge stone war memorial now stands by the roadside at the top of the pass in memory of the more than 20,000 Red Army soldiers who fell in the battle, one of the biggest ever on Slovak soil.