This year, the people of Leningrad, the pre-revolutionary capital of Russia are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the day (January 27th, 1944) when the Red Army finally broke Hitler's 'Circle of Steel' that held the city prisoner for nine hundred days.
This year, the people of Leningrad, the pre-revolutionary capital of Russia are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the day (January 27th, 1944) when the Red Army finally broke Hitler's 'Circle of Steel' that held the city prisoner for nine hundred days. During the seige, nearly a million people died.
Today there are few reminders of the dreadful seige. A simple monument at Piskarevskoye Cemetery marks the burial place of hundreds of thousands of victims. A stone arch commemorates the landfall point of the city's only lifeline with the outside, the ice road across the vast Lake Ladoka. Within the city a few street corners still bear plaques stating: 'Citizens - in case of shelling this side of the street is most dangerous'.
The city the liberating troops entered in January 1944 was just a shell of the capital Peter the Great built on the shores of the Baltic in 1703 to mark Russia's birth as a European power. From August 28, 1941, when the seige began until January 27, 1944, the encircling German and Finnish forces rained 107,000 bombs and 150,000 heavy shells on Russia's most beautiful city.
When the seige began, leningrad had a population of two and a half million, when it ended, it was just six hundred thousand. Some were evacuated. Some went to the front to fight. The rest -- nearly a million -- starved or died beneath the rain of bombs and shells. The city commands harsh, but effective, policy was to feed those who could fight and those who could work. The rest -- the old and the very young -- had to share what was left. For much of the seige their daily ration was just 125 grams of bread made from flour sweepings, sawdust and cellulose. They died in vast numbers. In one month, April 1942, the city buried one hundred and two thousand bodies.
The horrifying price the people of Leningrad paid gained for Russia and enormous strategic advantage. They prevented Hitler's armies form turning Russia's Northern flank and thereby uniting with the Finns for a drive on the rear of Moscow. For nine hundred says they held hundreds of thousands of Hitler's troops at bay, while to the South his remaining armies, lacking reinforcements, were destroyed by the Red Army.
Today, Leningrad had the largest papulation in its history -- nearly four million people. Its historic buildings -- the Winter Palace, the Smolny Institute, St. Isaac's Cathedral, and Nevsky Prospect -- have been minutely restored. The material scars have healed. The nightmare remains only in the memories of the thousands of survivors who still live there.