Siege of Leningrad: 10 facts about the unbroken city
27 January the hero city, that was surrounded by German, Finnish and Italian armies for more than 2 years, celebrates the release. In the Siege Leningrad was isolated from the rest of the country, and the courageous people tried to defend their homes.
872 days of the Siege are known in our history as the most tragic, deserving memory and respect. Courage and high spirit of the defenders, sufferings and patience of the city dwellers will always be something to learn for all the future generations. Here are 10 dreadful and amazing facts about the Siege.
1. “Blue division”
Officially German, Finnish and Italian soldiers took part in the Siege of Leningrad. However, there was one more group known as the “Blue division”. It was considered that it consisted of Spanish volunteers, as Spain officially was not in the state of war with USSR.
The truth is, on the contrary, that the “Blue division” was a part of the giant crime against Leningrad, as it consisted of soldiers, officially employed by Spanish army. For Soviet soldiers it was the weak spot of the aggressors, as historians say that due to poor food and mistreatment of their own command the Spanish soldiers often moved to the Russian side.
2. “Road of life” and “Lane of death”
The “Road of life” helped people in Leningrad to survive in the first harsh winter of the Siege. In the winter of 1941-1942, when the Ladoga Lake was frozen, the ice served as the connection with the “main land” to transport food and evacuate dwellers – over 550 thousand people.
In January 1943 the Siege was first broken, and on the released spot they built a railroad, which was called “the Road of Victory”. A piece of this road was very close to the German territory, so not all trains got through. This piece of the road was nicknamed the “Lane of death”.
3. Harsh winter
The first winter of the isolated city was the hardest in the history. From December to May the average temperature was 18 °C below zero, the lowest – 31 degrees. At some places there was about 50 cm of snow.
In these conditions the city dwellers grabbed every opportunity to get warm. The homes were heated by iron stoves, and the people burnt everything that could burn: books, paintings, furniture. The central heating system of the city was out of function, as well as draining system and running water.
4. Heroic cats
In the modern St Petersburg there is a small statue of a cat. It is not very well-known, but this is the monument to cats, who saved the city twice. In the first year the people ate all their pets, including cats, and thanks to that lots of them did not die of starvation. However, in the following years because of the absence of cats the city was flooded by rats. After the breach of the Siege one of the first trains that came to Leningrad, brought four cars of cats, and they saved people’s supplies.
5. 150 thousand bombs
During the Siege Leningrad suffered innumerous aviation and artillery attacks, which took place a few times a day. Totally, there were about 150 thousand missiles and 107 thousand bombs thrown at the city.
To inform the dwellers about the attacks, there were 1500 dynamics installed on the streets. The signal was metronome: the fast rhythm meant the beginning of an attack, slower rhythm – the end of it. Now the sound of metronome is one of the symbols of the Siege and the courage of Leningrad’s people.
6. Three waves of evacuation
In the years of war the Soviet soldiers performed three evacuation campaigns in the blocked and starving city. Totally they evacuated about 1.5 million people, which was almost half of the population.
The first campaign was arranged in the beginning of war – 29 June 1941. However, the people did not want to leave their homes, so only 400 thousand people were taken away. The second campaign took place from September 1941 to April 1942, and the main way of evacuation was the “Road of life”, which saved about 600 thousand people. In the third campaign in May-October 1942 about 400 people were taken out of Leningrad.
7. Minimal food kit
The main problem of the blocked Leningrad was starvation. The crisis began in September 1941, when the food supplies were bombed. The peak of starvation was from November to December 1941, when soldiers at the front got 500 grams of bread daily, the workers of hot shops at factories get 375 grams, the workers of other industries – 250 grams, and the rest of the people – 125 grams (3 small and thin pieces). The bread was made of rye and oat flour and waste, it was black and had bitter taste.
8. The case of scientists
In the first 2 years of the Siege about 200 to 300 employees of the universities and their families were sentenced for “anti-soviet, contra revolutionary and treasonable actions”. As the result, 32 highly qualified specialists were sentenced to death, 4 of them were shot, and others sent to labor camps where a lot of them died. They were rehabilitated in 1954-55 and there was another case against those who sentenced them.
9. Duration of the Siege
The Siege of Leningrad was 872 days long (8 September 1941 – 27 January 1944). It was first broken in 1943. 17 January the town of Shlisselburg was released by Soviet soldiers, and the overland corridor between Leningrad and the main land was created.
After the release of the Siege the city was surrounded for another half a year, as the German troops were located in Vyborg and Petrozavodsk. They left only after the campaigns in July and August 1944.
At the process in Nuremberg the Soviet Union announced 630 thousand victims of the Siege of Leningrad, however, the historians doubt this number. The real number can be up to 1.5 million people.
Apart from the number of deaths it is absolutely dreadful why those people died. Only 3% of all victims died in bombings and aviation attacks – the rest did not survive starvation. Dead bodies lying on the streets were usual thing in the days of the Siege.
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