The Siege of Leningrad (Russian: Блокада Ленинграда) was a prolonged military blockade undertaken from the south by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany against the Soviet city of Leningrad (Modern Saint Petersburg) on the Eastern Front in World War II. The Finnish army invaded from the north, co-operating with the Germans until they had recaptured territory lost in the recent Winter War, but refused to make further approaches to the city.
The siege started on 8 September 1941, when the last road to the city was severed. Although the Soviet forces managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on 18 January 1943, the siege was not lifted until 27 January 1944, 872 days after it began. It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, and possibly the costliest in casualties suffered. Some historians classify it as genocide.
|Siege of Leningrad|
|Part of the Eastern Front of World War II|
Air raids on Leningrad near St. Isaac's Cathedral, 1941
|Commanders and leaders|
W. Ritter von Leeb|
Georg von Küchler
|Casualties and losses|
Army Group North: 1941: 85,371 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)|
1942: 267,327 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)
1943: 205,937 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)
1944: 21,350 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)
Total: 579,985 casualties
1,017,881 killed, captured or missing
2,418,185 wounded and sick
Total: 3,436,066 casualties
642,000 during the siege, 400,000 at evacuations
Leningrad's capture was one of three strategic goals in the German Operation Barbarossa and the main target of Army Group North. The strategy was motivated by Leningrad's political status as the former capital of Russia and the symbolic capital of the Russian Revolution, its military importance as a main base of the Soviet Baltic Fleet, and its industrial strength, housing numerous arms factories. By 1939, the city was responsible for 11% of all Soviet industrial output.
Although various theories have been put forward about Germany's plans for Leningrad, including renaming the city Adolfsburg (as claimed by Soviet journalist Lev Bezymenski) and making it the capital of the new Ingermanland province of the Reich in Generalplan Ost, it is clear Hitler's intention was to utterly destroy the city and its population. According to a directive sent to Army Group North on 29 September, "After the defeat of Soviet Russia there can be no interest in the continued existence of this large urban centre. [...] Following the city's encirclement, requests for surrender negotiations shall be denied, since the problem of relocating and feeding the population cannot and should not be solved by us. In this war for our very existence, we can have no interest in maintaining even a part of this very large urban population."
Army Group North under Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb advanced to Leningrad, its primary objective. Von Leeb's plan called for capturing the city on the move, but due to Hitler's recall of 4th Panzer Group (persuaded by his Chief of General Staff, Franz Halder, to transfer this south to participate in Fedor von Bock's push for Moscow), von Leeb had to lay the city under siege indefinitely after reaching the shores of Lake Ladoga, while trying to complete the encirclement and reaching the Finnish Army under Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim waiting at the Svir River, east of Leningrad.
Finnish military forces were north of Leningrad, while German forces occupied territories to the south. Both German and Finnish forces had the goal of encircling Leningrad and maintaining the blockade perimeter, thus cutting off all communication with the city and preventing the defenders from receiving any supplies – although Finnish participation in the blockade mainly consisted of recapture of lands lost in the Winter War. Thus, it is argued that much of the Finns participation was merely defensive. The Germans planned on lack of food being their chief weapon against the citizens; German scientists had calculated the city would reach starvation after only a few weeks.
On Friday, 27 June 1941, the Council of Deputies of the Leningrad administration organised "First response groups" of civilians. In the next days, Leningrad's civilian population was informed of the danger and over a million citizens were mobilised for the construction of fortifications. Several lines of defences were built along the city's perimeter to repulse hostile forces approaching from north and south by means of civilian resistance.
In the south, the fortified line ran from the mouth of the Luga River to Chudovo, Gatchina, Uritsk, Pulkovo and then through the Neva River. Another line of defence passed through Peterhof to Gatchina, Pulkovo, Kolpino and Koltushy. In the north the defensive line against the Finns, the Karelian Fortified Region, had been maintained in Leningrad's northern suburbs since the 1930s, and was now returned to service. A total of 306 km (190 mi) of timber barricades, 635 km (395 mi) of wire entanglements, 700 km (430 mi) of anti-tank ditches, 5,000 earth-and-timber emplacements and reinforced concrete weapon emplacements and 25,000 km (16,000 mi) of open trenches were constructed or excavated by civilians. Even the guns from the cruiser Aurora were moved inland to the Pulkovo Heights to the south of Leningrad.
The 4th Panzer Group from East Prussia took Pskov following a swift advance and managed to reach Novgorod by 16 August. The Soviet defenders fought to the death, despite the German discovery of the Soviet defence plans on an officer's corpse. After the capture of Novgorod, General Hoepner's 4th Panzer Group continued its progress towards Leningrad. However, the 18th Army – despite some 350,000 men lagging behind – forced its way to Ostrov and Pskov after the Soviet troops of the Northwestern Front retreated towards Leningrad. On 10 July, both Ostrov and Pskov were captured and the 18th Army reached Narva and Kingisepp, from where advance toward Leningrad continued from the Luga River line. This had the effect of creating siege positions from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, with the eventual aim of isolating Leningrad from all directions. The Finnish Army was then expected to advance along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga.
Of these, the 14th Army defended Murmansk and 7th Army defended Ladoga Karelia; thus they did not participate in the initial stages of the siege. The 8th Army was initially part of the Northwestern Front and retreated through the Baltics. (The 8th army was transferred to Northern Front on 14 July).
Zhukov states, "Ten volunteer opolcheniye divisions were formed in Leningrad in the first three months of the war, as well as 16 separate artillery and machine-gun opolcheniye battalions.":421,438
On 6 August, Hitler repeated his order: "Leningrad first, Donetsk Basin second, Moscow third." From August 1941 until January 1944, anything that happened between the Arctic Ocean and Lake Ilmen concerned the Wehrmacht's Leningrad siege operations. Arctic convoys using the Northern Sea Route delivered American Lend-Lease and British food and war materiel supplies to the Murmansk railhead (although the rail link to Leningrad was cut off by Finnish armies just north of the city), as well as several other locations in Lapland.
Finnish intelligence had broken some of the Soviet military codes and read their low-level communications. This was particularly helpful for Hitler, who constantly requested intelligence information about Leningrad. Finland's role in Operation Barbarossa was laid out in Hitler's Directive 21, "The mass of the Finnish army will have the task, in accordance with the advance made by the northern wing of the German armies, of tying up maximum Russian (sic – Soviet) strength by attacking to the west, or on both sides, of Lake Ladoga". The last rail connection to Leningrad was severed on 30 August, when the Germans reached the Neva River. On 8 September, the road to the besieged city was severed when the Germans reached Lake Ladoga at Shlisselburg, leaving just a corridor of land between Lake Ladoga and Leningrad which remained unoccupied by Axis forces. Bombing on 8 September caused 178 fires.
On 21 September, German High Command considered how to destroy Leningrad. Occupying the city was ruled out "because it would make us responsible for food supply". The resolution was to lay the city under siege and bombardment, starving its population. "Early next year we enter the city (if the Finns do it first we do not object), lead those still alive into inner Russia or into captivity, wipe Leningrad from the face of the earth through demolitions, and hand the area north of the Neva to the Finns." On 7 October, Hitler sent a further directive signed by Alfred Jodl reminding Army Group North not to accept capitulation.
By August 1941, the Finns advanced to within 20 km of the northern suburbs of Leningrad at the 1939 Finnish-Soviet border, threatening the city from the north; they were also advancing through East Karelia, east of Lake Ladoga, and threatening the city from the east. The Finnish forces crossed the pre-Winter War border on the Karelian Isthmus by eliminating Soviet salients at Beloostrov and Kirjasalo, thus straightening the frontline so that it ran along the old border near the shores of Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga, and those positions closest to Leningrad still lying on the pre-Winter War border.
According to Soviet claims, the Finnish advance was stopped in September through resistance by the Karelian Fortified Region; however, Finnish troops had already earlier in August 1941 received orders to halt the advance after reaching their goals, some of which lay beyond the pre-Winter War border. After reaching their respective goals, the Finns halted their advance and started moving troops to East Karelia.
For the next three years, the Finns did little to contribute to the battle for Leningrad, maintaining their lines. Their headquarters rejected German pleas for aerial attacks against Leningrad and did not advance farther south from the Svir River in occupied East Karelia (160 kilometres northeast of Leningrad), which they had reached on 7 September. In the southeast, the Germans captured Tikhvin on 8 November, but failed to complete their encirclement of Leningrad by advancing further north to join with the Finns at the Svir River. On 9 December, a counter-attack of the Volkhov Front forced the Wehrmacht to retreat from their Tikhvin positions in the River Volkhov line.
On 6 September 1941, Germany's Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl visited Helsinki. His main goal was to persuade Mannerheim to continue the offensive. In 1941, President Ryti declared to the Finnish Parliament that the aim of the war was to restore the territories lost during the Winter War and gain more territories in the east to create a "Greater Finland". After the war, Ryti stated: "On August 24, 1941 I visited the headquarters of Marshal Mannerheim. The Germans aimed us at crossing the old border and continuing the offensive to Leningrad. I said that the capture of Leningrad was not our goal and that we should not take part in it. Mannerheim and Minister of Defense Walden agreed with me and refused the offers of the Germans. The result was a paradoxical situation: the Germans could not approach Leningrad from the north..." There was little or no systematic shelling or bombing from the Finnish positions. Mannerheim had spent most of his career in the Imperial Russian Army stationed at old St. Petersburg.
The proximity of the Finnish border – 33–35 km (21–22 mi) from downtown Leningrad – and the threat of a Finnish attack complicated the defence of the city. At one point, the defending Front Commander, Popov, could not release reserves opposing the Finnish forces to be deployed against the Wehrmacht because they were needed to bolster the 23rd Army's defences on the Karelian Isthmus. Mannerheim terminated the offensive on 31 August 1941, when the army had reached the 1939 border. Popov felt relieved, and redeployed two divisions to the German sector on 5 September.
Subsequently, the Finnish forces reduced the salients of Beloostrov and Kirjasalo, which had threatened their positions at the sea coast and south of the River Vuoksi. Lieutenant General Paavo Talvela and Colonel Järvinen, the commander of the Finnish Coastal Brigade responsible for Ladoga, proposed to the German headquarters the blocking of Soviet convoys on Lake Ladoga. The German command formed the 'international' naval detachment (which also included the Italian XII Squadriglia MAS) under Finnish command and the Einsatzstab Fähre Ost under German command. These naval units operated against the supply route in the summer and autumn of 1942, the only period the units were able to operate as freezing waters then forced the lightly equipped units to be moved away, and changes in front lines made it impractical to reestablish these units later in the war.
The Leningrad Front (initially the Leningrad Military District) was commanded by Marshal Kliment Voroshilov. It included the 23rd Army in the northern sector between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga, and the 48th Army in the western sector between the Gulf of Finland and the Slutsk–Mga position. The Leningrad Fortified Region, the Leningrad garrison, the Baltic Fleet forces, and Koporye, Pulkovo, and Slutsk–Kolpino operational groups were also present.
According to Zhukov, "Before the war Leningrad had a population of 3,103,000 and 3,385,000 counting the suburbs. As many as 1,743,129, including 414,148 children were evacuated" between 29 June 1941 and 31 March 1943. They were moved to the Volga area, the Urals, Siberia and Kazakhstan.:439
By September 1941, the link with the Volkhov Front (commanded by Kirill Meretskov) was severed and the defensive sectors were held by four armies: 23rd Army in the northern sector, 42nd Army on the western sector, 55th Army on the southern sector, and the 67th Army on the eastern sector. The 8th Army of the Volkhov Front had the responsibility of maintaining the logistic route to the city in coordination with the Ladoga Flotilla. Air cover for the city was provided by the Leningrad military district PVO Corps and Baltic Fleet naval aviation units.
The defensive operation to protect the 1,400,000 civilian evacuees was part of the Leningrad counter-siege operations under the command of Andrei Zhdanov, Kliment Voroshilov, and Aleksei Kuznetsov. Additional military operations were carried out in coordination with Baltic Fleet naval forces under the general command of Admiral Vladimir Tributs. The Ladoga Flotilla under the command of V. Baranovsky, S.V. Zemlyanichenko, P.A. Traynin, and B.V. Khoroshikhin also played a major military role in helping with evacuation of the civilians.
By Monday, 8 September, German forces had largely surrounded the city, cutting off all supply routes to Leningrad and its suburbs. Unable to press home their offensive, and facing defences of the city organised by Marshal Zhukov, the Axis armies laid siege to the city for "900 days and nights".
The air attack of Friday, 19 September was particularly brutal. It was the heaviest air raid Leningrad would suffer during the war, as 276 German bombers hit the city killing 1,000 civilians. Many of those killed were recuperating from battle wounds in hospitals that were hit by German bombs. Six air raids occurred that day. Five hospitals were damaged in the bombing, as well as the city's largest shopping bazaar. Hundreds of people had run from the street into the store to take shelter from the air raid.
Artillery bombardment of Leningrad began in August 1941, increasing in intensity during 1942 with the arrival of new equipment. It was stepped up further during 1943, when several times as many shells and bombs were used as in the year before. Against this, the Soviet Baltic Fleet Navy aviation made over 100,000 air missions to support their military operations during the siege. German shelling and bombing killed 5,723 and wounded 20,507 civilians in Leningrad during the siege.
To sustain the defence of the city, it was vitally important for the Red Army to establish a route for bringing a constant flow of supplies into Leningrad. This route was effected over the southern part of Lake Ladoga and the corridor of land which remained unoccupied by Axis forces between Lake Ladoga and Leningrad. Transport across Lake Ladoga was achieved by means of watercraft during the warmer months and land vehicles driven over thick ice in winter (hence the route becoming known as "The Ice Road"). The security of the supply route was ensured by the Ladoga Flotilla, the Leningrad PVO Corps, and route security troops. Vital food supplies were thus transported to the village of Osinovets, from where they were transferred and transported over 45 km via a small suburban railway to Leningrad. The route would also be used to evacuate civilians from the besieged city. This was because no evacuation plan had been made available in the chaos of the first winter of the war, and the city was completely isolated until 20 November 1941, when the ice road over Lake Ladoga became operational.
This road was named the Road of Life (Russian: Дорога жизни). As a road it was very dangerous. There was the risk of vehicles becoming stuck in the snow or sinking through broken ice caused by the constant German bombardment. Because of the high winter death toll the route also became known as the "Road of Death". However, the lifeline did bring military and food supplies in and took civilians and wounded soldiers out, allowing the city to continue resisting the enemy.
The two-and-a-half-year siege caused the greatest destruction and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city. On Hitler's direct orders the Wehrmacht looted and then destroyed most of the imperial palaces, such as the Catherine Palace, Peterhof Palace, Ropsha, Strelna, Gatchina, and other historic landmarks located outside the city's defensive perimeter, with many art collections transported to Germany. A number of factories, schools, hospitals and other civil infrastructure were destroyed by air raids and long range artillery bombardment.
The 872 days of the siege caused extreme famine in the Leningrad region through disruption of utilities, water, energy and food supplies. This resulted in the deaths of up to 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of 1,400,000 more (mainly women and children), many of whom died during evacuation due to starvation and bombardment. Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery alone in Leningrad holds half a million civilian victims of the siege. Economic destruction and human losses in Leningrad on both sides exceeded those of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, or the bombing of Tokyo. The siege of Leningrad ranks as the most lethal siege in world history, and some historians speak of the siege operations in terms of genocide, as a "racially motivated starvation policy" that became an integral part of the unprecedented German war of extermination against populations of the Soviet Union generally.
Civilians in the city suffered from extreme starvation, especially in the winter of 1941–42. From November 1941 to February 1942 the only food available to the citizen was 125 grams of bread per day, of which 50–60% consisted of sawdust and other inedible admixtures. In conditions of extreme temperatures (down to −30 °C (−22 °F)), and with city transport out of service, even a distance of a few kilometres to a food distribution kiosk created an insurmountable obstacle for many citizens. Deaths peaked in January–February 1942 at 100,000 per month, mostly from starvation. People often died on the streets, and citizens soon became accustomed to the sight of death.
While reports of cannibalism appeared in the winter of 1941–42, NKVD records on the subject were not published until 2004. Most evidence for cannibalism that surfaced before this time was anecdotal. Anna Reid points out that "for most people at the time, cannibalism was a matter of second-hand horror stories rather than direct personal experience". Indicative of Leningraders' fears at the time, police would often threaten uncooperative suspects with imprisonment in a cell with cannibals. Dimitri Lazarev, a diarist during the worst moments in the Leningrad siege, recalls his daughter and niece reciting a terrifying nursery rhyme adapted from a pre-war song:
NKVD files report the first use of human meat as food on 13 December 1941. The report outlines thirteen cases, which range from a mother smothering her eighteen-month-old to feed her three older children to a plumber killing his wife to feed his sons and nieces.
By December 1942 the NKVD had arrested 2,105 cannibals – dividing them into two legal categories: corpse-eating (trupoyedstvo) and person-eating (lyudoyedstvo). The latter were usually shot while the former were sent to prison. The Soviet Criminal Code had no provision for cannibalism, so all convictions were carried out under Code Article 59–3, "special category banditry". Instances of person-eating were significantly lower than that of corpse-eating; of the 300 people arrested in April 1942 for cannibalism, only 44 were murderers. 64% of cannibals were female, 44% were unemployed, 90% were illiterate, 15% were rooted inhabitants, and only 2% had any criminal records. More cases occurred in the outlying districts than in the city itself. Cannibals were often unsupported women with dependent children and no previous convictions, which allowed for a certain level of clemency in legal proceedings.
Given the scope of mass starvation, cannibalism was relatively rare. Far more common was murder for ration cards. In the first six months of 1942, Leningrad witnessed 1,216 such murders. At the same time, Leningrad was experiencing its highest mortality rate, as high as 100,000 people per month. Lisa Kirschenbaum notes that rates "of cannibalism provided an opportunity for emphasizing that the majority of Leningraders managed to maintain their cultural norms in the most unimaginable circumstances."
On 9 August 1942, the Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" by Dmitri Shostakovich was performed by the Leningrad Radio Orchestra. The concert was broadcast on loudspeakers placed throughout the city and also aimed towards the enemy lines. The same day had been previously designated by Hitler to celebrate the fall of the city with a lavish banquet at Leningrad's Astoria Hotel, and was a few days before the Sinyavino Offensive.
The Sinyavino Offensive was a Soviet attempt to break the blockade of the city in early autumn 1942. The 2nd Shock and the 8th armies were to link up with the forces of the Leningrad Front. At the same time the German side was preparing an offensive to capture the city, Operation Nordlicht (Northern Light), using the troops freed up after the capture of Sevastopol. Neither side was aware of the other's intentions until the battle started.
The offensive began on 27 August 1942 with some small-scale attacks by the Leningrad front, pre-empting "Nordlicht" by a few weeks. The successful start of the operation forced the Germans to redirect troops from the planned "Nordlicht" to counterattack the Soviet armies. The counteroffensive saw the first deployment of the Tiger tank, though with limited success. After parts of the 2nd Shock Army were encircled and destroyed, the Soviet offensive was halted. However, the German forces also had to abandon their offensive.
The encirclement was broken in the wake of Operation Iskra (Spark), a full-scale offensive conducted by the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts. This offensive started in the morning of 12 January 1943. After fierce battles the Red Army units overcame the powerful German fortifications to the south of Lake Ladoga, and on 18 January 1943, the Volkhov Front's 372nd Rifle Division met troops of the 123rd Rifle Brigade of the Leningrad Front, opening a 10–12 km (6.2–7.5 mi) wide land corridor, which could provide some relief to the besieged population of Leningrad.
The siege continued until 27 January 1944, when the Soviet Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive expelled German forces from the southern outskirts of the city. This was a combined effort by the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts, along with the 1st and 2nd Baltic Fronts. The Baltic Fleet provided 30% of aviation power for the final strike against the Wehrmacht. In the summer of 1944, the Finnish Defence Forces were pushed back to the other side of the Bay of Vyborg and the Vuoksi River.
The siege was also known as the Leningrad Blockade and the 900-Day Siege.
During the siege, 3,200 residential buildings, 9,000 wooden houses were burned, and 840 factories and plants were destroyed in Leningrad and suburbs.
Historian Michael Walzer summarized that "The Siege of Leningrad killed more civilians than bombing of Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined." The US Military Academy evaluated that Russian casualties during the siege were bigger than combined American and British casualties during the entire war.
Almost all Finnish historians regard the siege as a German operation and do not consider that the Finns effectively participated in the siege. Russian historian Nikolai Baryshnikov argues that active Finnish participation did occur, but other historians have been mostly silent about it, most likely due to the friendly nature of post-war Soviet–Finnish relations.
The main issues which count in favour of the former view are: (a) the Finns mostly stayed at the pre-Winter War border at the Karelian Isthmus (with small exceptions to straighten the frontline), despite German wishes and requests, and (b) they did not bombard the city from planes or with artillery and did not allow the Germans to bring their own land forces to Finnish lines. Baryshnikov explains that the Finnish military in the region was strategically dependent on the Germans, and lacked the required means and will to press the attack against Leningrad any further. Although the Finnish Army had no other intentions besides regaining their own land lost in the Winter War, the advances made contributed greatly to the war efforts of Germany.
Deportations of Finns and Germans from the Leningrad area to inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union began in March 1942 using the Road of Life; many of their descendants still remain in those areas today. However, the situation in Leningrad during the blockade was worse in comparison with the eastern areas where most of the city residents were evacuated. Inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union hosted millions of the evacuees; many factories, universities, and theatres were also evacuated there.
Even during the siege itself, war artifacts were collected and shown to the public by city authorities, such as the German airplane that was shot down and fell to the ground in Tauricheskiy Garden (ru: Таврический сад). Such objects were displayed as a sign of the people's courage, and gathered in a specially allocated building of the former 19th century Salt Warehouses (Соляной городок). The exhibition was soon turned into a full-scale Museum of Leningrad Defence (now Государственный мемориальный музей обороны и блокады Ленинграда).
Several years after World War II, in the late 1940s – early 1950s, Stalin's supposed jealousy of Leningrad city leaders caused their destruction in the course of politically-motivated show trials forming the post-WWII Leningrad Affair (the pre-war purge followed the 1934 assassination of the popular city ruler Sergey Kirov). Now another generation of state and Communist Party functionaries of the city was wiped out, supposedly for publicly overestimating the importance of the city as an independent fighting unit and their own roles in defeating the enemy. Their brainchild, the Leningrad Defence Museum, was also destroyed, and many valuable exhibits were destroyed.
The museum was revived in the late 1980s with the then wave of glasnost, when new shocking facts were published, showing both heroism of the wartime city and hardships and even cruelties of the period. The exhibition opened in its originally allocated building, but has not yet regained its original size and area, most of its former premises having been given before its revival over to the military and other governmental offices. Plans for a new modern building of the museum have been suspended due to the financial crisis, but under the present Defence Secretary Sergey Shoigu promises have been made to expand the museum at its present location.
Commemoration of the siege got a second wind during the 1960s. Local artists dedicated their achievements to the Victory and memory of the war they saw. A leading local poet and war participant Mikhail Dudin suggested erecting a ring of monuments on the places of heaviest siege-time fighting and linking them into a belt of gardens around the city showing where the advancing enemy armies were stopped forever. That was the beginning of the Green Belt of Glory (ru: Зелёный пояс Славы).
On 29 October 1966, a monument entitled Broken Ring (of the Siege, ru:Разорванное кольцо) was erected at the 40th km of the Road of Life, on the shore of Lake Ladoga near the village of Kokkorevo. Designed and created by Konstantin Simun, the monument pays tribute not only to the lives saved via the frozen Ladoga, but also the many lives broken by the blockade.
The monument is a huge bronze ring with a gap in it, pointing towards the site that the Soviets eventually broke through the encircling German forces. In the centre a Russian mother cradles her dying soldier son. The monument has an inscription saying "900 days 900 nights". An exhibit underneath the monument contains artifacts from this period, such as journals.
During the siege, numerous deaths of civilians and soldiers led to considerable expansion of burial places later memorialised, of which the best known is Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery.
Every year, on January 27, as part of the celebrations of the lifting of the siege, a military parade of the troops of the Western Military District and the St. Petersburg Garrison on Palace Square takes place. Close to 3,000 soldiers and cadets take part in the parade, which includes historical reenactors in Red Army uniforms, wartime tanks such as the T-34 and color guards carrying wartime flags such as the Banner of Victory and the standards of the different military fronts. Musical support is provided by the Massed Military Bands of the St. Petersburg Garrison under the direction of the Senior Director of Music of the Military Band of the Western Military District.
The parade, which is usually led by the Chief of Staff of ZVO riding on a GAZ Tigr (a parade variant used since May 9, 2009), begins to the tune of March "Parad" by Semyon Tchernetsky. At this point, the ground column begins, starting with the corps of drums of the Kronstadt Sea Cadet Corps, followed by the following units:
Со сслылкой на Барышников В. Н. "Вступление Финляндии во Вторую мировую войну. 1940–1941 гг." СПб, 2003, с. 28
More civilians died in the siege of Leningrad than in the modernist infernos of Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, taken together.
|the Siege of Leningrad|
|Russian map of the operations around Leningrad in 1943 The German and allied Finnish troops are in blue. The Soviet troops are in red.[a 1]|
|Russian map of the lifting of the siege on Leningrad The German and allied Finnish troops are in blue. The Soviet troops are in red.[a 2]|
The First Baltic Front was a major formation of the Red Army during the Second World War. It was commanded by Army General Andrey Yeryomenko, succeeded by Army General Bagramyan. It was formed by renaming the Kalinin Front in October 12, 1943, and took part in several important military operations, most notably Bagration in the summer of 1944. The 1st Baltic Front also assisted in lifting the Siege of Leningrad on January 27, 1944, as well as in Operation Samland, at that time known as the Samland Group, captured Königsberg in April 1945.21 cm Kanone 39
The 21 cm Kanone 39 (K 39) was a Czech-designed heavy gun used by the Germans in the Second World War. Two were built before the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and seized the rest of the guns and kept it in production for their own use, eventually building a total of 60 guns for themselves. They saw action in Operation Barbarossa, the Siege of Odessa, Siege of Leningrad and the Siege of Sevastopol and were used on coast defence duties.268th Rifle Division
The 268th Rifle Division (Russian: 268-я стрелковая дивизия) was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II.
Formed in the summer of 1941, the 268th fought on the Leningrad Front until the end of the Siege of Leningrad in 1944. In June and July of that year, it participated in the Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive against Finland, then was relocated to the Baltic states, where it fought in the blockade of the Courland Pocket. Postwar, the division was disbanded in the fall of 1945.281st Rifle Division
The 281rd Rifle Division (Russian: 281-я стрелковая дивизия) was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II. Formed in the summer of 1941, the division fought in the Siege of Leningrad until the end of the siege in early 1944, when it advanced into eastern Estonia. The 281st was soon moved north to fight against Finland during the summer of that year, and after Finland's withdrawal from the war fought in battles in East Prussia and Poland during early 1945. The division was disbanded in the summer of 1945.285th Rifle Division
The 285th Rifle Division (Russian: 285-я стрелковая дивизия) was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II. Formed in the summer of 1941, the division entered combat during the fall of that year, fighting in operations attempting to break the Siege of Leningrad. The division fought in the same area until the relief of Leningrad in February 1944, when it began advancing into the Baltic states. The division served in the Baltic states until October, when it transferred south to Poland, where it fought in the Vistula–Oder Offensive and Silesian Offensives in early 1945. The division was disbanded soon after the end of the war in the summer of 1945.286th Rifle Division
The 286th Rifle Division (Russian: 286-я стрелковая дивизия) was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II. Formed in the summer of 1941, the division entered combat during the fall of that year, fighting in operations attempting to break the Siege of Leningrad. The division fought in the same area until the relief of Leningrad in February 1944, when it was transferred northwards to fight in the Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive, which ended the Continuation War. The division was transferred to Poland with the end of the Continuation War, and fought in the Vistula–Oder Offensive and the Prague Offensive in early 1945. The division was disbanded soon after the end of the war in the summer of 1945.288th Rifle Division
The 288th Rifle Division (Russian: 288-я стрелковая дивизия) was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II. Formed in the summer of 1941, the division was sent into combat on the Volkhov Front in the fall of that year. The division served in the area until early 1944 when the Siege of Leningrad was ended and the 288th advanced into the Baltic states. The division spent the final months of the war blockading trapped German troops in the Courland Pocket before being disbanded in early 1946.35.5 cm Haubitze M1
The 35.5 cm Haubitze M1 was a German siege howitzer. It was developed by Rheinmetall before World War II to meet the German Army's request for a super-heavy howitzer. Eight were produced between 1939 and 1944. It saw service in the Battle of France and spent the rest of the war on the Eastern Front, saw action in Operation Barbarossa, the Siege of Sevastopol, the Siege of Leningrad and helped to put down the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.Battle of Krasny Bor
The Battle of Krasny Bor was part of the Soviet offensive Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda. It called for a pincer attack near Leningrad, to build on the success of Operation Iskra and completely lift the Siege of Leningrad, encircling a substantial part of the German 18th Army. The offensive near the town of Krasny Bor, formed the western arm of the pincer. The Soviet offensive began on Wednesday, 10 February 1943. It produced noticeable gains on the first day but rapidly turned into a stalemate. The strong defense of the Spanish Blue Division and the German SS Polizei Division gave the German forces time to reinforce their positions. By February 13, the Soviet forces had stopped their offensive in this sector.City of Thieves (novel)
City of Thieves is a 2008 historical fiction novel by David Benioff. It is, in part, a coming of age story set in the World War II Siege of Leningrad. It follows the adventures of two youths as they desperately search for a dozen eggs at the behest of a Soviet NKVD officer, a task which takes them far behind enemy lines.Effect of siege on Leningrad
The 872-day Siege of Leningrad, Russia, resulted from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad in the Eastern Front (World War II). The siege lasted from September 8, 1941 to January 27, 1944 and was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, causing considerable devastation to the city of Leningrad.Ilya Rabinovich
Ilya (Elias) Leontievich Rabinovich (Rabinowitsch, Rabinovitch, Rabinovitz, Rabinowicz, Rabinovici) (Russian: Илья Рабинович; 11 May 1891, Saint Petersburg – 23 April 1942, Perm) was a Russian / Soviet chess master, among the best Russian and Soviet players for three decades, from 1910 to 1940. His best result was a shared first place in the 9th Soviet Championship of 1934-35. He was also a chess writer.Leningrad City Chess Championship
The Leningrad City Chess Championship is a chess tournament held officially in the city of Leningrad, Russia starting from 1920. The city was called Petrograd from 1914 to 1924, then Leningrad until 1991, and Saint Petersburg afterwards. Only players born or living in or around the city were allowed to participate in this event.
The championship continued to be played, in spite of tremendous difficulties, also during the Siege of Leningrad in the Second World War, though the tournament of 1941 could not be finished and that of 1942, the most difficult year of the blockade, could not be organized.
The winners include World champions Mikhail Botvinnik (1931 and 1932), Boris Spassky (1959 and 1961) and FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman (1996 and 1997).Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive
The Leningrad–Novgorod strategic offensive was a strategic offensive during World War II. It was launched by the Red Army on January 14, 1944 with an attack on the German Army Group North by the Soviet Volkhov and Leningrad fronts, along with part of the 2nd Baltic Front, with a goal of fully lifting the Siege of Leningrad. Approximately two weeks later, the Red Army regained control of the Moscow–Leningrad railway, and on January 26, 1944 Joseph Stalin declared that the Siege of Leningrad was lifted, and that German forces were expelled from the Leningrad Oblast. The lifting of the 900-day-long blockade was celebrated in Leningrad on that day with a 324-gun salute. The strategic offensive ended a month later on 1 March, when Stavka ordered the troops of the Leningrad Front to a follow-on operation across the Narva River, while the 2nd Baltic was to defend the territory it gained in pursuit of the German XVI Army Corps.The Germans had suffered nearly 72,000 casualties, lost 85 artillery pieces ranging in caliber from 15 cm to 40 cm, and were pushed back between 60 and 100 kilometers from Leningrad to the Luga River.Lyuban Offensive Operation
Lyuban Offensive Operation (7 January 1942 – 30 April 1942) (Russian: Любанская наступательная орерация) was a Soviet offensive operation during the Battle of the Volkhov. It was conducted by the Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts of the Red Army with the goal of relieving the siege of Leningrad and encircling and destroying the German forces carrying out the siege.The offensive used no tanks because of the terrain, therefore it was down to the infantry and the artillery. The attacking Soviet forces found themselves under intense fire from German defensive positions, and the Red Army lacked proper artillery support against the German lines. The offensive had been stalled and the Soviets were up to the defensive. Field Marshal Georg von Küchler counterattacked with an operation called 'Wild Beast" and the Soviet 2nd Shock Army was cut off and surrounded. It was destroyed in June 1942 and its commander Andrey Vlasov was taken prisoner.Operation Iskra
Operation Iskra (Russian: операция Искра) was a Soviet military operation during World War II, designed to break the Wehrmacht's Siege of Leningrad. Planning for the operation began shortly after the failure of the Sinyavino Offensive. The German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 had weakened the German front. By January 1943, Soviet forces were planning or conducting offensive operations across the entire German-Soviet front, especially in southern Russia, Iskra being the northern part of the wider Soviet 1942–1943 winter counter offensive.The operation was conducted by the Red Army's Leningrad Front, Volkhov Front, and the Baltic Fleet from 12 to 30 January 1943 with the aim of creating a land connection to Leningrad. Soviet forces linked up on 18 January, and by 22 January the front line was stabilised. The operation successfully opened a land corridor 8–10 kilometres (5.0–6.2 mi) wide to the city. A railroad was swiftly built through the corridor which allowed more supplies to reach the city than the Road of Life across the frozen surface of Lake Ladoga, significantly reducing the possibility of the capture of the city and a German–Finnish linkup.The success led to Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda less than two weeks later, which aimed to decisively defeat Army Group North, lifting the siege altogether. The operation was a failure, achieving only minimal progress. Soviet forces made several other attempts in 1943 to renew their offensive and completely lift the siege, but made only modest gains in each one. The corridor remained within range of German artillery, and the siege was not finally lifted until a year later, on 27 January 1944.Oranienbaum Bridgehead
The Oranienbaum Bridgehead (Ораниенбаумский плацдарм in Russian) was an isolated portion of the Leningrad Oblast in Russia, which was retained under Soviet control during the siege of Leningrad in World War II. It played a significant role in protecting the city.Ropsha
Ropsha (Russian: Ропша) is a settlement in Lomonosovsky District of Leningrad Oblast, Russia, situated about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of Peterhof and 49 kilometres (30 mi) south-west of central Saint Petersburg, at an elevation of 80 metres (260 ft) to 130 metres (430 ft). The palace and park ensemble of Ropsha are included in the World Heritage list as a constituent of Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments.Tanya Savicheva
Tatyana Nikolayevna Savicheva (Russian: Татья́на Никола́евна Са́вичева), commonly referred to as Tanya Savicheva (23 January 1930 – 1 July 1944) was a Russian child diarist who endured the Siege of Leningrad during World War II. During the siege, Savicheva recorded the successive deaths of each member of her family in her diary, with her final entry indicating her belief to be the sole living family member. Although Savicheva was rescued and transferred to a hospital, she succumbed to intestinal tuberculosis in July 1944 at age 14.
Savicheva's image and the pages from her diary became symbolic of the human cost of the Siege of Leningrad and she is remembered in St. Petersburg with a memorial complex on the Green Belt of Glory along the Road of Life. Her diary was used during the Nuremberg Trials as the evidence of the Nazis’ crimes.
Leningrad and the Baltics 1941–44
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