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Last Battle of Siege of Leningrad Re-Enacted

Published: January 29, 2008 (Issue # 1343)



  • Enthusiasts recreate a World War II battle between Soviet and German armies near St. Petersburg on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the Siege of Leningrad.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

St. Petersburg on Saturday celebrated the 64th anniversary of the complete end of the Siege of Leningrad perpetrated on the city by Adolf Hitler’s army during World War II.

To mark the date, residents laid flowers at the places connected to the 1941-1944 blockade, including a memorial at 14 Nevsky Prospekt; on Victory Square (Ploshchad Pobedy); and the Piskaryovskoye and Serafimovskokye cemeteries where many of the hundreds of thousands of city residents who perished in the Siege are buried.

Near the village of Nikolskoye outside St. Petersburg, more than 200 people took part in a re-enactment of the battle between Soviet and German soldiers that freed Leningrad from the siege. About 2,000 people gathered to see the performance.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who visited the city on Sunday, also took part in events dedicated to the celebration of the date. Medvedev, who is a native of St. Petersburg, said the government would allocate 2 billion rubles ($81.2 million) to provide siege survivors with apartments.

The Siege of Leningrad by German troops lasted for 872 days beginning Sept. 8, 1941 through Jan. 27, 1944, although in popular memory this has been rounded up to 900 days. The blockade was broken on Jan. 18, 1943, but it took another year before the Germans were forced to retreat. It is thought that about one million people died as a result of the siege — around 3 percent in bombings, and 97 percent of starvation. The courage of the people of Leningrad which helped them to survive the siege is one of the most remarkable episodes of World War II and the event is honored with respect in Russia today.

The German army’s blockade cut food supplies to the city and on Sept.15, 1941, a week after it had begun, the city first cut rations. By November people began to experience real hunger. At that time the first cases of people fainting from hunger were registered — and the first deaths.

At that time it was very hard to deliver food by air, and a connection with the rest of Russia across Lake Ladoga to the east ended as it froze for winter. All transport links were under the constant fire of the enemy.

On Nov. 20, 1941, city authorities reduced the ration to 250 grams of bread for working people daily and 125 grams for children under 12, white-collar workers and the unemployed. At the same time 50 percent of the bread was made of waste, and the bread was almost impossible to eat.

By December, death from hunger had become widespread. People died in the streets. A siege survivor described the time in the following way.

“They now die so easily: first people lose interest in everything, then go to bed and they never wake up,” she said.

Dead bodies laid on the ground for a long time because often there was nobody to take them away.

The mortality rate increased with severe winter weather in 1941-42 when fuel supplies also almost came to an end, and there was no heating in apartment buildings.

In January 1942, more than 4,000 people died every day. On some days as many as 7,000 people died. Men died more quickly than women (for every 100 deaths 63 were men and 37 women).

However, when the ice on Lake Ladoga became thick enough, supplies were transported across it from the rest of Russia. In February the situation in the city improved slightly. In May all the people who were able to do anything came out to clean the streets. In the first year of the blockade about 780,000 people died.

In 1942 the situation improved and trams even began running in the city again.

In January 1943 the Red Army broke the ring of the blockade and built a railway and road link into the city, and in January 1944 the Soviet Army drove the German Army back to a distance of 100 kilometers.





 


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