Leningrad’s Siege

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The 872-day Siege of Leningrad lauded as a unique example of Soviet courage and endurance started 75 years ago. The citizens did not capitulate to the enemy and managed to hold out against severe hardships. January 27, the day of removing the blockade, is a memorable day of Military Honor in Russia[1].

Although the siege ring was closed around Leningrad on September 8, its residents became aware of that later. Reasonably, it was hard to evaluate the situation relying on the newspapers. However, there was speculation over the tightening of the German stranglehold on the city.

Since citizens got familiar with the facts on the ground, rumor started running rife through Leningrad. At first, people waited for the Soviet troops to be deployed from Siberia. After a while, the Red Army was expected to break the city’s blockade within a short while. Living in hope, people were not thinking of their surrender or capitulation. Germans were not welcome in Leningrad.

The German troops distributed many propaganda leaflets. However, as survivors of the Siege put it, “propaganda materials had been compiled in a somewhat awkward way and impacted upon very few people”.

At the very outbreak of the war, the events came thick and fast only to catch many Soviet citizens off guard. For instance, to be on the safe side, some Leningrad residents moved to the countryside. Yet the German advance was so swift that these people found out that their destination had already been seized when they were on the move.

As those who went through the Siege stated, in July Leningrad’s life was halfway decent. Late August saw people’s more apparent desire to come together. Problems with food supplies came up. When the Badaev warehouses, the main food storage depot for the city, were firebombed and burnt down, the fear of famine gripped the citizens. It is noteworthy that the German forces started shelling the city before bombing it. Bombs were not dropped on Leningrad until September 8, with Moscow being bombarded far earlier. Leningrad’s people got used to the bombardment over time and responded coolly. Exhausted, citizens ceased to pay attention to Germany’s aerial offensive.

“Nobody knew when time will come to join the majority. Gloomy days dragged on. People lived without water, electricity, or heating. And, what is more, without food,” these are the memories the siege survivors have shared with us. However, officials never used the word “famine” to describe the situation. Bread was rationed. Ration schemes were meticulously observed. Later, English and American food aid was supplied little by little. Some products, such as coconut oil, were a novelty for Russians. Nevertheless, vitamin deficiency and malnutrition, in general, began to tell on the citizens. Many people were diagnosed avitaminosis and scurvy, and doctors were very often able to predict one’s survival chances relying on the color of the patient’s lips.

Still, even in such a hell there were no signs of animosity or rancour. People just took the rough with the smooth and acted in concert. The intellectuals turned out to be the most vulnerable group as they had to pay for everything needed with their coupons, the most precious thing in the besieged city. But nobody expected and longed for the Nazi victory. Nor did the ethnic German population which had always dwelt in the city in large numbers. Love to the motherland, to each other, and faith in life protected people.

The only channel which provided access to the besieged city was the Road of Life[2], a transport route across the Ladoga Lake which functioned from 12 September 1941 to March 1943. In winter it was an ice route, and in summer deliveries continued due to the flotilla. The route was difficult and fraught with a lot of dangers.

The Siege of Leningrad was broken on January 18, 1943, and it was completely lifted on January 27, 1944. The siege by the German troops lasted until September 1944. Leningrad was awarded the honorary title of Hero City[3], the highest distinction, for outstanding mass heroism and courage in the defense of the Motherland in the Great Patriotic War, which was demonstrated by the defenders of the city.

[1] The Days of Military Honor are special dates to celebrate historic victories of the Russian army.

[2] The official name of the Road of Life was Military Road № 101 (№ 102)

[3] Hero City was a Soviet honorary title awarded to twelve Soviet cities for their heroic defense during the Great Patriotic War. Besides, Brest was awarded the Hero Fortress title.

Source: историк.рф

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