900-DAY SIEGE OF LENINGRAD (BLOKADA)
This was certainly the most tragic period in the history of this city. It was full of suffering and heroism. For everyone who lives in St. Petersburg the Blokada (the Siege) of Leningrad is an important part of their heritage and for the older generations it brings the memories that they will never forget.
Less than two and a half months after June 22, 1941, when the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany, German troops were already approaching Leningrad. The Red Army was outflanked and on September 8, 1941 the Germans had fully encircled Leningrad and the siege began. It lasted for about 900 days, from September 8, 1941 till January 27, 1944. Two million 887 thousand civilians (including about 400 thousand children) plus troops didn't even consider any calls for surrender. Food and fuel stocks were very limited (1-2 months only). All the public transport stopped. By the winter of 1941-42 there was no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food. In January 1942, in the depths of an unusually cold winter, the lowest food rations in the city were only 125 grams (about 1/4 of a pound) of bread per day. In just two months, January and February, 1942, 200 thousand people (!!!) died in Leningrad of cold and starvation. But some of the war industry still worked and the city did not surrender.
Several hundred thousand people were evacuated from the city across Lake Ladoga via the famous "Road of Life" ("Doroga Zhizni") - the only route that connected the besieged city with the mainland. During the warm season people were ferried to the mainland, and in winter - carried by trucks that drove across the frozen lake under constant enemy bombardment.
Meanwhile, the city lived on. The treasures of the Hermitage and the suburban palaces of Petrodvorets, Pushkin, etc. were hidden in the basements of the Hermitage and St Isaac's Cathedral. Most students continued their studies and even passed finals. Dmitry Shostakovich wrote his Seventh "Leningrad" Symphony and it was performed in the besieged city.
In January 1943 the Siege was broken and a year later, on January 27, 1944 it was fully lifted. At least 641 thousand people had died in Leningrad during the Siege (some estimates put this figure at 800 thousand). Most of them were buried in mass graves in different cemeteries. The Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, where almost 500 thousand people are buried, became one of the most impressive national war memorials.
Next: Post-war reconstruction
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