Siege of Leningrad | World War II

Siege of Leningrad | World War II

Overview

The siege of Leningrad was a long-term military blockade initiated from the south by Nazi Germany's Army Group North against the Soviet city of Leningrad on the Eastern Front during World War II (now Saint Petersburg). From the north, the Finnish Army attacked, collaborating with the Germans. After August 1942, the Spanish Blue Division also collaborated with the Germans. It was moved to the southeastern edge of the Leningrad siege, immediately south of the Neva near Pushkin, Kolpino. Its primary intervention was in the Krasny Bor region of the Izhora River. The Wehrmacht shut off the city's only route on 8 September 1941, and the siege started. The blockade was not ended until 27 January 1944, 872 days after it began, even though Soviet forces could open temporary land access to the city on 18 January 1943. The blockade became one of the world's longest and most devastating sieges, and it may have been the most expensive siege in history owing to the large number of casualties incurred over its length. Because of the systematic starvation and purposeful devastation of the city's civilian population, some historians have categorised it as genocide in the twenty-first century.

Background

The liberation of Leningrad was one of three strategic aims of the German Operation Barbarossa and Army Group North's primary objective. Leningrad's political prominence as the former city of Russia and the symbolic capital of the Russian Revolution, its military importance as the significant base of the Soviet Baltic Fleet, and its economic might as the home of several armaments companies all influenced the plan. By 1939, the city accounted for 11% of total Soviet industrial production. According to reports, Adolf Hitler was so specific in his ability to capture Leningrad that he had invitations made for victory celebrations at the city's Hotel Astoria. However, Hitler's ultimate goal was to level Leningrad and hand over the territory north of the Neva River to the Finns. 

Preparations

German Plans

Army Group North, led by Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb, marched on Leningrad, its principal target. Army Group North was severely over-extended by early August, having marched on a broadening front and distributed its men along many axes of advance. Leeb predicted that he would require 35 divisions to complete his chores, but he only had 26. On 10 August, the onslaught resumed but was met with stiff resistance in the area of Luga. On the other hand, Leeb's soldiers were victorious in capturing Kingisepp and Narva on 17 August. On 20 August, the army group arrived in Chudovo, cutting the rail link between Leningrad and Moscow. Tallinn was conquered on 28 August. Military forces from Finland were stationed north of Leningrad, while German troops were stationed south. The goal of both German and Finnish soldiers was to encircle Leningrad and maintain the blockade perimeter, effectively cutting off all communication with the city and preventing the defenders from receiving supplies – even though Finnish participation in the blockade was mostly limited to reclaiming lands lost during the Winter War. The Germans intended to use food scarcity as their primary weapon against the inhabitants; German experts estimated that the city would starve in only a few weeks.

Leningrad Fortified Region

The Leningrad administration's Council of Deputies organised "First response units" of citizens on Friday, 27 June 1941. The civilian population of Leningrad was warned of the risk in the following days, and over a million people were mobilised to help build defences. Several lines of defence were constructed around the city's perimeter to fend off enemy forces advancing from the north and south via civilian resistance. The fortified line in the south went from the Luga River's mouth to Chudovo, Gatchina, Uritsk, Pulkovo, and ultimately through the Neva River. Another line of defence connected Gatchina, Pulkovo, Kolpino, and Koltushy via Peterhof. The Karelian Fortified Region has been revived in the north, a defensive line against the Finns upheld in Leningrad's northern suburbs since the 1930s. Civilians built or excavated 306 kilometres (190 miles) of timber barricades, 635 kilometres (395 miles) of wire entanglements, 700 kilometres (430 miles) of anti-tank ditches, 5,000 earth-and-timber emplacements and reinforced concrete weapon emplacements, and 25,000 kilometres (16,000 miles) of open trenches. Even the cruiser Aurora's weapons were taken off the ship and deployed to protect Leningrad.

Establishment

East Prussia's 4th Panzer Group captured Pskov and arrived in Novgorod on 16 August following a quick advance. General Hoepner's 4th Panzer Group continued its march towards Leningrad after capturing Novgorod. Despite 350,000 soldiers being behind schedule, the 18th Army pushed its way to Ostrov and Pskov when the Soviet forces of the Northwestern Front withdrawn to Leningrad. On 10 July, both Pskov and Ostrov were seized, and the 18th Army reached Narva and Kingisepp, from where the Luga River route was used to continue the drive against Leningrad. This resulted in the formation of siege fortifications stretching from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, with the ultimate goal of isolating Leningrad from all sides.

 The Finnish Army was after that anticipated to move towards Lake Ladoga's eastern side. When the German forces reached the Neva River on 30 August, the remaining rail connection to Leningrad was severed. Leeb believed Leningrad was about to collapse in early September. Leeb and the OKH felt the Red Army was about to quit the city after receiving reports of residents and industrial products being evacuated. As a result, on 5 September, he got new instructions, including eliminating Red Army units in the city's vicinity. Panzer Group 4 was to be moved to Army Group Centre on 15 September to take part in a fresh attack against Moscow. The projected capitulation did not occur, even though the German invasion by 8 September had shut off the city. Leeb had to acknowledge that the army group might not be able to seize the town due to a lack of adequate human resources for significant operations, even though heavy combat persisted throughout his front throughout October and November.

Orders of Battle

Germany:

  • Army Group North is a unit of the United States Army (Feldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb)
    • Georg von Küchler's 18th Army
      • Corps XXXXII (Includes 2 infantry divisions)
      • Corps XXVI (Includes 3 infantry divisions)
    • The 16th Army is a unit of the United States Army (Ernst Busch)
      • Mauritz von Wiktorin, XXVIII Corps (Includes 2 infantry and one armoured division)
      • I Corps is a military branch of the United States (Includes 2 infantry divisions)
      • X Corps is a group of mercenaries (Includes 3 infantry divisions)
      • II Corps (Army of the Second) (Includes 3 infantry divisions)
      • (Under the 9th Army, L Corps) (Includes two infantry divisions)
    • The 4th Panzer Group was formed in 1942.
      • XXXVIII Corps (Friedrich-Wilhelm von Chappuis) (One infantry division)
      • XXXXI Motorized Corps (Georg-Hans Reinhardt) (1 infantry, one motorised, one armoured division)
      • LVI Motorized Corps (Erich von Manstein) (Oneinfantry, one motorised, one armoured, one panzergrenadier division)

Finland:

  • HQ of the Finnish Defense Forces (Finnish Marshal Mannerheim)
    • Corps I is a military branch of the United States (Includes 2 infantry divisions)
    • Corps II (Army of the Second) (Includes 2 infantry divisions)
    • Corps IV is a division of the United States Army (Includes 3 infantry divisions)

Italy:

  • Squadriglia XII MAS - Regia Marina

Spain:

  • General Esteban Infantes gained command of this force of Spanish volunteers on the Eastern Front during World War II, formally designated as the 250. Infanterie-Division by the German Military and as the División Espaola de Voluntarios by the Spanish Army.

Soviet Union:

  • Front Lines in the North (Lieutenant General Popov)
    • Seventh (7th) Army
      • Two (2) rifles,
      • One (1) militia division,
      • One (1) naval infantry brigade,
      • Three (3) motorised rifles and
      • One (1) armoured regiments)
    • Eighth (8th) Army
      • The 10th Rifle Corps is a unit of the United States Army (Includes 2 rifle divisions)
      • The 11th Rifle Corps is a unit of the United States Army (Includes 3 rifle divisions)
      • Units that are distinct (Includes three rifle divisions)
    • Fourteenth (14th) Army
      • The 42nd Rifle Corps is a unit of the United States Army (Includes 2 rifle divisions)
      • Units that are distinct (Includes two rifle divisions, 1 Fortified area, one motorised rifle regiment)
    • Twenty three (23rd) Army
      • The 19th Rifle Corps is a unit of the United States Army (Includes 3 rifle divisions)
      • Units that are distinct (Includes two rifles, one motorised division, 2 Fortified areas, one rifle regiment)
    • Luga Operation Group - a military unit based in Russia.
      • The 41st Rifle Corps is a unit of the United States Army (Includes 3 rifle divisions)
      • Units that are distinct (Includes one armoured brigade, one rifle regiment)
    • Operation Group Kingisepp
      • Distinct units (2 rifles, two militia, one armoured division, 1 Fortified area)
    • Distinct units (3 rifle divisions, four-guard militia divisions, 3 Fortified areas, one rifle brigade)

The Soviet Red Army's 14th Army held Murmansk, while the 7th Army protected Ladoga Karelia. Hence they did not take part in the siege's early phases. Originally part of the Northwestern Front, the 8th Army withdrew across the Baltics. When the Soviets fled Tallinn on 14 July, it was given to the Northern Front. The Northern Front was separated on 23 August into the Leningrad Front and the Karelian Front since front headquarters could no longer oversee all between Murmansk and Leningrad.

Communication Serving Lines

"Leningrad first, Donetsk Basin second, Moscow third," Hitler said again on 6 August. Thus, anything that transpired between the Arctic Ocean and Lake Ilmen between August 1941 and January 1944 had to do with the Wehrmacht's Leningrad siege efforts. Arctic convoys via the Northern Sea Route transported American Lend-Lease and British food and war equipment supplies to the Murmansk railhead and various other areas in Lapland (although the rail route to Leningrad was cut off by Finnish soldiers just north of the city).

Leningrad Encirclement

Finnish intelligence had deciphered several Soviet military codes and listened in on low-level communications. This was especially useful for Hitler, who was continually requesting intelligence on Leningrad. On 30 August, as the Germans crossed the Neva River, the last rail link to Leningrad was severed. On 8 September, when the Germans arrived at Shlisselburg on Lake Ladoga, the route to the besieged city was shut off, leaving just a narrow strip of land between Lake Ladoga and Leningrad uninhabited by Axis forces. On 8 September, a bombing resulted in 178 fires. The German High Command deliberated on how to attack Leningrad on 21 September. "Because it would make us accountable for food supplies," occupying the city was ruled out. The plan was to starve the city's populace by putting it under siege and bombing. "We tend to enter the city early next year (if the Finns do it first, we will not complain), lead those who are still alive into interior Russia or captivity, demolish Leningrad, and deliver the land. North of the Neva to the Finns." On 7 October, Hitler dispatched a new instruction to Army Group North, written by Alfred Jodl, warning them not to accept the submission.

Finnish Involvement

By August 1941, the Finns had pushed to within 20 kilometres of Leningrad's northern suburbs near the 1939 Finnish-Soviet boundary, posing a danger from the north; they were also moving into East Karelia, east of Lake Ladoga, posing a threat from the east. By abolishing Soviet salients at Beloostrov and Kirjasalo, the Finnish forces crossed the pre-Winter War border on the Karelian Isthmus, straightening the frontline so that it ran along the old border near the Gulf's shore of Finland and Lake Ladoga, with the positions closest to Leningrad still lying on the pre-Winter War border. The Finnish advance was halted in September, according to Soviet allegations, due to opposition from the Karelian Fortified Region; however, Finnish soldiers had previously received instructions to cease the advance after achieving their objectives, some of which were beyond the pre-Winter War boundary, in August 1941. The Finns paused their advance after achieving their goals and began deploying soldiers to East Karelia. The Finns did nothing to help in the war for Leningrad for the following three years, maintaining their lines. Their leadership turned down German requests for aerial strikes on Leningrad. Instead, it halted their advance south of the Svir River in engaged East Karelia, which they had reached on 7 September. On 8 November, the Germans gained Tikhvin in the southeast, but they could not complete their encirclement of Leningrad by moving north to join the Finns at the Svir River.

On 9 December, the Volkhov Front launched a counter-offensive, forcing the Wehrmacht to withdraw from their Tikhvin positions on the River Volkhov line. Alfred Jodl, Germany's Chief of Staff, paid a visit to Helsinki on 6 September 1941. His primary objective was to encourage Mannerheim to keep the onslaught going. President Ryti told the Finnish Parliament in 1941 that the war's goal was to reclaim the regions lost during the Winter War and win more territory in the east to form a "Greater Finland." "On 24 August 1941, I visited Marshal Mannerheim's headquarters," Ryti said after the war. We were supposed to cross the old border and continue the onslaught to Leningrad, but the Germans had other ideas. I stated that capturing Leningrad was not our aim and that we should not participate in the operation. Mannerheim and Defense Minister Walden agreed with me and turned down the German proposals. The upshot was a perplexing situation: the Germans were unable to reach Leningrad from the north..." The Finnish forces did not engage in systematic shelling or bombing. The nearness of the Finnish border 33–35 kilometres from central Leningrad and the prospect of a Finnish invasion hindered the city's defence. Because reserves against the Finnish troops were needed to strengthen the 23rd Army's defences on the Karelian Isthmus, the defending Front Commander, Popov, could not deploy them against the Wehrmacht. Mannerheim called off the operation on 31 August 1941, when the troops had crossed the border into 1939. On 5 September, Popov felt relieved and redeployed two divisions to the German area. The Finnish forces then suppressed the salients of Beloostrov and Kirjasalo, which had endangered their positions along the coast and south of the Vuoksi River. The blockade of Soviet convoys on Lake Ladoga was recommended to German headquarters by Colonel Järvinen and Lieutenant General Paavo Talvela, the commander of the Finnish Coastal Brigade responsible for Ladoga. The plan was presented to the Germans on their behalf, bypassing both the Finnish Navy and General Headquarters. The Germans were enthusiastic about the proposal and informed the slightly startled Finns who, aside from Talvela and Järvinen, knew nothing about it—that the equipment for the Ladoga operation had already been organised. The 'international' naval detachment was organised under Finnish direction, while the Einsatzstab Fähre Ost was constituted under German leadership. The only time these naval forces were allowed to function was during the summer and fall of 1942 when cold seas required the poorly equipped troops to be pulled away, and changes in front lines rendered it impracticable to recreate these units later in the war.

Defensive Operations

Marshal Kliment Voroshilov led the Leningrad Front (formerly the Leningrad Military District). The 23rd Army was stationed between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga in the northern sector, and the 48th Army was stationed between the Gulf of Finland and the Slutsk–Mga position in the western sector. In addition, the Leningrad Fortified Region, the Leningrad garrison, Baltic Fleet forces, and the functional groups of Koporye, Pulkovo, and Slutsk–Kolpino were also present.

Civilian Evacuees Defence

Zhukov claims that "Leningrad had a population of 3,103,000 people before the war, and 3,385,000 if you include the suburbs. A total of 1,743,129 people were evacuated, including 414,148 children "between 29 June 1941 and 31 March 1943, They were relocated to the Volga River basin, the Ural Mountains, Siberia, and Kazakhstan. Four armies held the defensive sectors: the 23rd Army in the northern sector, the 42nd Army in the western sector, the 55th Army in the southern sector, and the 67th Army in the eastern sector by September 1941, when the link with the Volkhov Front (commanded by Kirill Meretskov) was severed. In collaboration with the Ladoga Flotilla, the Volkhov Front's 8th Army was in charge of sustaining the supply path to the city. The Leningrad military area PVO Corps and Baltic Fleet naval aviation units provided air cover for the town. The Leningrad counter-siege operations, led by Andrei Zhdanov, Kliment Voroshilov, and Aleksei Kuznetsov, included a defensive campaign to safeguard the 1,400,000 civilian refugees. Additional military actions were taken with Baltic Fleet naval forces under Admiral Vladimir Tributs' overall command.

Bombardment

On the night of 23 June, the Leningrad air defence had its first success. The AA weapons of the 15th battery of the 192nd anti-aircraft artillery unit damaged the Ju-88A bomber from the first air corps, forcing it to make an emergency landing. On the ground, all crew members, including the commander, Lieutenant Hans Turmeyer, were apprehended. Lieutenant Alexey Pimchenkov, commander of the 15th battery, was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. German soldiers had predominantly ringed the city by Monday, 8 September, shutting off all supply lines to Leningrad and its environs. The Axis troops lay siege to the city for "900 days and nights," unable to advance their attack and confronting city defences organised by Marshal Zhukov. The airstrike on 19 September was highly devastating. It was the worst air attack on Leningrad during the war, with 276 German aircraft crashing into the city, killing 1,000 people. Many of those slain were being treated for war wounds in hospitals bombed by the Germans. That day, there were six air raids. The blast caused damage to five hospitals and the city's main retail mart. Hundreds of people had rushed into the store from the street to escape the airstrike. The shelling of Leningrad by artillery began in August and intensified throughout 1942 as more weaponry arrived. It was ramped up even further in 1943, with three times as many shells and bombs utilised as the previous year. In response, the Soviet Baltic Fleet Navy's aviation flew nearly 100,000 missions to assist the siege's military operations. During the siege of Leningrad, German artillery and bombing killed 5,723 people and injured 20,507 others.

Supplying Defenders

The Red Army needed to construct a path for sending a continual supply of supplies into Leningrad to maintain the city's defence. This path, which became known as the Road of Life, was effected over the southern section of Lake Ladoga and the strip of territory between Lake Ladoga and Leningrad that remained uncontested by Axis troops. During the summer, watercraft were used to traverse Lake Ladoga, while in the winter, land vehicles were driven over thick ice (hence the route became known as "The Ice Road"). The Leningrad PVO Corps, the Ladoga Flotilla, and route safety soldiers were securing the supply route. As a result, vital food supplies were brought to the village of Osinovets, where they were moved and transported 45 kilometres to Leningrad through a miniature suburban railway. Because no evacuation arrangements had been carried out during the commotion of the first winter of the war, the route had to be utilised to evacuate civilians as well, and the city remained entirely isolated until 20 November, when the ice road across Lake Ladoga became operational. Vehicles risked being stranded in the snow or sinking through cracked ice caused by German bombing. Still, the route brought in the needed military and food supplies and sent people and wounded troops out, helping the city to continue opposing the enemy.

Effect on City

The two-and-a-half-year siege resulted in the most devastation and deaths ever recorded in a modern city. On Hitler's instructions, the Wehrmacht looted and subsequently demolished most of the imperial palaces beyond the city's defence line, including the Catherine Palace, Peterhof Palace, Ropsha, Strelna, Gatchina, and other historic buildings, with many art pieces being taken to Germany. Airstrikes and long-range artillery shelling devastated several enterprises, schools, hospitals, and other urban facilities. The siege of Leningrad lasted 872 days, causing severe hunger in the region due to disruptions in utilities, water, electricity, and food supply. This resulted in up to 1,500,000 troops deaths and civilians and the evacuation of another 1,400,000 people (mostly women and children), many of whom perished due to famine and bombing during the evacuation. In Leningrad's Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery alone, half a million civilians were killed during the siege. Both sides suffered more economical and human casualties in Leningrad than in the Combat of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, or the ferocity of Tokyo. The siege of Leningrad is considered the deadliest siege in history, with some historians describing it as a "racially driven starvation program" that became an essential component of the unparalleled German war of extermination against Soviet Union people in general. Civilians in the city were starved to death, notably during the winter of 1941–42. Between November 1941 and February 1942, the only food accessible to citizens was 125 grams of bread per day, 50–60 per cent of which was made up of sawdust and other inedible admixtures. Even a few kilometres reaching a food distribution kiosk became an impossible challenge for many residents in high temperatures (down to 30 °C (22 °F)) and with city transportation out of operation. Deaths peaked at 100,000 per month in January–February 1942, primarily due to famine. People often died on the streets, and residents were accustomed to seeing death.

Cannibalism

Cannibalism was first reported in the winter of 1941–42, although NKVD data on the issue were not released until 2004. Before this period, the majority of evidence supporting cannibalism was anecdotal. "Cannibalism was a question of second-hand horror stories rather than a direct personal experience for most people at the time," Anna Reid reminds out. Uncooperative suspects were frequently threatened with incarceration in a cell with cannibals, reflecting Leningraders' worries at the time. Human flesh was first used as food on 13 December 1941, according to NKVD data. The research details thirteen examples, ranging from a woman drowning her eighteen-month-old to a plumber murdering his wife to support his kids and nieces. The NKVD had apprehended 2,105 cannibals by December 1942, categorising them into two legal categories: corpse-eating and person-eating.

In most cases, the latter were shot, while the former were imprisoned. Because the Soviet Criminal Code did not cover cannibalism, all convictions were made under Code Article 59–3, "special category banditry." Only 44 of the 300 persons convicted for cannibalism in April 1942 were murderers, indicating that person-eating was far less common than corpse-eating. Sixty-four per cent of cannibals were women, 44 per cent were jobless, 90 per cent were uneducated, 15% were rooted residents, and just 2% had criminal histories. There were more instances in the outskirts of the city than in the town proper. Cannibals were frequently unsupported women with dependent children and no prior convictions, allowing leniency in court processes. Cannibalism was uncommon compared to the scale of widespread famine. Murder for ration cards was far more prevalent. Leningrad saw 1,216 similar killings in the first six months of 1942. At the same period, Leningrad witnessed its most remarkable monthly death rate, which reached 100,000 people. "Cannibalism rates gave a chance to emphasise that the majority of Leningraders managed to retain their cultural standards amid the most inconceivable conditions," writes Lisa Kirschenbaum.

Soviet Relief

The Leningrad Radio Orchestra performed Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" on 9 August 1942. The performance was broadcast over loudspeakers strategically positioned across the city, as well as toward enemy lines. The same day, a few days before the Sinyavino Offensive, Hitler set aside to commemorate the city's surrender with an exquisite luncheon at Leningrad's Astoria Hotel.

Sinyavino Offensive

In early October 1942, the Sinyavino Offensive was a Soviet effort to breach the city's siege. The Leningrad Front's forces were to be linked up with the 2nd Shock and the 8th Army. At that time, the Germans were planning Operation Nordlicht (Northern Light), an operation to conquer the city with forces freed up by the loss of Sevastopol. Neither side knew what the other was planning until the combat began. The attacking began on 27 August 1942, with some small-scale strikes by the Leningrad front, a few weeks ahead of "Nordlicht." The operation's successful start compelled the Germans to divert soldiers from their planned "Nordlicht" offensive to counterattack the Soviet Army. The Tiger tank was used for the first time during the counter-offensive, however, with limited success. The Soviet advance was halted when portions of the 2nd Shock Army were surrounded and destroyed. The German soldiers, on the opposite side, were forced to abort their attack.

Iskra Operation

The encirclement was broken after the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts launched Operation Iskra (Spark), a large-scale attack. On the morning of 12 January 1943, the attack began. After fierce battles, Red Army units defeated the mighty German fortifications to the south of Lake Ladoga. On 18 January 1943, troops from the Volkhov Front's 372nd Rifle Division met troops from the Leningrad Front's 123rd Rifle Brigade, opening a 10–12 km (6.2–7.5 mi) wide land corridor that could provide some relief to the besieged population of Leningrad. In February 1943, the Spanish Blue Division faced a significant Soviet assault with breaking the siege of Leningrad when the Soviet 55th Army, revitalised by the Victory at Stalingrad, attacked Spanish positions along the key Moscow-Leningrad route at the Battle of Krasny Bor. Despite suffering tremendous fatalities, the Spaniards could fend off a Soviet force that was seven times stronger and backed up by tanks. Nevertheless, the Blue Division held off the Soviet attack, and the siege of Leningrad lasted another year.

Lifting the Siege

The siege lasted until the Soviet Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive ousted German soldiers from the city's southern outskirts on 27 January 1944. The Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts and the 1st and 2nd Baltic Fronts collaborated on this. For the decisive blow against the Wehrmacht, the Baltic Fleet delivered 30% of the aviation power. As a result, the Finnish Defence Forces were forced back to the opposite side of the Vyborg Bay and the Vuoksi River in the summer of 1944. The Leningrad Blockade and the 900-Day Siege were other names for the siege.

Later Evaluation

American Evaluation

"The Leningrad's siege killed more civilians than the bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki combined," historian Michael Walzer said. In addition, according to the US Military Academy, Russian losses during the siege were more outstanding than total American and British casualties during the conflict.

Genocide

Due to the systematic starvation and purposeful devastation of the city's civilian population, certain historians in the twenty-first century, such as Timo Vihavainen and Nikita Lomagin, have classed the siege of Leningrad as genocide.

Controversial Matters

Controversy over Finnish Involvement

Almost all Finnish historians believe the siege was a German operation and that the Finns did not play a significant role in it. Although Russian historian Nikolai Baryshnikov claims that active Finnish cooperation occurred, other historians have mostly remained silent on the subject, owing to the peaceful nature of Soviet–Finnish ties after WWII. The main arguments in favour of the former viewpoint are: (a) despite German wishes and requests, the Finns regularly stayed at the pre-Winter War border at the Karelian Isthmus (with a few exceptions to straighten the frontline), and (b) they did not bombard the city with planes or artillery, and they did not allow the Germans to bring their land forces to Finnish lines. According to Baryshnikov, the Finnish military in the region was strategically dependent on the Germans and lacked the necessary means and willpower to continue the onslaught on Leningrad. Even though the Finnish Army's only goal was to reclaim ground lost during the Winter War, the advances gained substantially aided Germany's war operations. 

Soviet Deportation of Civilians – Finns and Germans

The Road of Life was used to deport Finns and Germans from the Leningrad region to hostile parts of the Soviet Union beginning in March 1942; many of their descendants still live in those places today. However, compared to the eastern regions of the city, when most of the city's people were evacuated, the situation in Leningrad during the siege was worse. Millions of refugees were housed in inhospitable parts of the Soviet Union, as were numerous enterprises, colleges, and theatres.

Legacy

Defence Museum & Leningrad Siege

Even throughout the blockade, municipal officials acquired and displayed combat artefacts, such as the German aeroplanes that were crashed and shot down into the ground in Tauricheskiy Garden. Such items were gathered in a specifically designated structure of the former 19th century Salt Warehouses to symbolise the people's fortitude. The display was quickly expanded into a full-fledged Leningrad Defense Museum. After WWII, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Stalin's alleged jealously of Leningrad city officials resulted in their execution in politically driven show trials, establishing the post-WWII Leningrad Affair (the pre-war purge followed the 1934 assassination of the famous city ruler Sergey Kirov). Another generation of municipal officials from the state and the Communist Party has been exterminated, allegedly for openly exaggerating the city's importance as an autonomous combat unit and their contributions to the enemy's defeat. The Leningrad Defence Museum, their brainchild, was also destroyed, along with many significant exhibits. The museum was restored in the late 1980s, during the glasnost movement, when new shocking truths were disclosed, revealing both the city's heroism during the war and the hardships and even cruelties of the time. The exhibition reopened in its old location, although it has yet to restore its full size and area since most of its former space was handed up to military and other government offices before its resuscitation. Moreover, the museum's plans for a new contemporary facility have been put on hold owing to the financial crisis. Still, current Defense Secretary Sergey Shoigu has promised to expand the museum at its current location.

Monuments

During the 1960s, the commemoration of the siege received a new lease on life. Local artists devoted their work to the Victory and the remembrance of the battle they saw. Mikhail Dudin, a prominent local poet and battle participant proposed creating a ring of monuments on the city's most intense siege-time combat sites and connecting them to a belt of gardens around the city to show where the advancing enemy troops were eternally halted. That was the start of the Green Belt of Glory's journey. On the 40th mile of the Road of Life, near the town of Kokkorevo, on the coast of Lake Ladoga, a memorial called Broken Ring was created on 29 October 1966. The Monument, designed and built by Konstantin Simun, pays tribute to the lives spared by the frozen Ladoga and the numerous lives lost due to the blockade. On 9 May 1975, the Monument to the Leningrad Heroic Defenders was unveiled in Saint Petersburg's Victory Square. The memorial is a massive bronze ring with a gap, pointing to the spot where the Soviets ultimately broke through the German soldiers encircling them. A Russian mother supports her dying soldier son in the centre. The inscription on the memorial reads, "900 days, 900 nights." Artefacts from this period, such as journals, are on display underneath the Monument. Smaller-scale items, such as memorial plaques commemorating water supplies – a Siege-time Water-well and a river Ice-hole – were added later.

Memorial Cemeteries

During the siege, countless civilian and military casualties resulted in a significant increase in burial grounds. The most well-known of which is Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery.

Military Parada – Palace Square

A military parade of the Western Military District and the Saint Petersburg Garrison is conducted on Palace Square every year on 27 January as part of the commemorations of the siege's lifting. The parade features historical reenactors in Red Army uniforms, wartime tanks like the T-34, and colour guards carrying wartime banners like the Banner of Victory and the standards of the several military fronts. The St. Petersburg Garrison's Massed Military Bands provide musical support under the Western Military District's Military Band's Senior Director of Music. The parade, which is traditionally headed by ZVO's Chief of Staff on a GAZ Tigr (a parade version used since 9 May 2009), starts with the music of Semyon Tchernetsky's March "Parad." The ground column begins at this point, with the Kronstadt Sea Cadet Corps' drum corps leading the way, followed by the following units:

  • Color Guard (Combined)
  • The Signal Corps Military Academy in Budyonny
  • Army Chief of Staff Military Logistics Academy A. V. Khrulev
  • Military Institute - Physical Fitness, Culture, and Sports in St. Petersburg
  • Artillery Brigade of the 9th Guards
  • Motor Rifle Brigade of the 25th Guards
  • The WMD Military Police
  • National Guard Forces Command Institute in St. Petersburg
  • The State Fire Service of Russia's EMERCOM has a university in Saint-Petersburg.
  • Suvorov Military School is a military school in Russia.
  • Kronstadt Sea Cadet Corps is a cadet corps based in Kronstadt, Germany
  • The Naval Cadet Corps is a group of young people that are interested in
  • Nakhimov Naval School is located in Nakhimov, Russia.
  • Patriotic Cadets Division of the Young Army of St. Petersburg (on behalf of the Young Army Cadets National Movement)
  • Military Space Academy Alexander Mozhaysky
  • Naval Academy of N. G. Kuznetsov
  • Motor Rifle Brigade of the 138th Guards
  • Reenactors are people who dress up as historical figures.
  • The Western Military District's Honour Guard Company
  • Military Academy of the Mikhailovskaya Artillery

Last updated: 2022-January-09
Tags: History World War II
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