The Siege of Leningrad

January 27th, 2014 Sections: Monuments, Soviet Union
In besieged Leningrad

In besieged Leningrad

Seventy years ago, 27th January, 1944, saw the end of the great battles of the Second World War … the Siege of Leningrad.

It was one of the the longest and most destructive and costly sieges in all human history, (according to some estimates there were as many as one and a half million casualties), lasting 872 days from 8th September 1941,  (that’s 2 years, 4 months, 2 weeks and 5 days).

Following the launch of Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 – one of the main objectives given to the the Northern Army Group was to capture Leningrad … or St. Petersburg as it is now known.  The former Russian capital city had not only a symbolic significance, it was also a strategic target as the base of the Soviet Baltic Fleet and the heart of an industrial zone.

The German forces pushed forward and the city was encircled with Finnish troops to the North  – aiming to recover lands lost in a previous conflict – and Germans to the South.   All communication with the city was cut off – there was no way in which those inside the cordon could receive food or supplies.  The battle plan called a siege – in the expectation that shortage of food and the resultant hunger would force the collapse of any resistance.

The residents had had a couple of months to prepare defenses and start the evacuation of something like two and half million civilians (mainly women and children) …  although they had been replaced by refugees fleeing from the path of the advancing armies.  Fortifications had been strengthened and even the guns of the Aurora had been taken from the battleship into the hills to the south of the city.   At the end of August the last rail link with the outside world was cut and just over a week later the last road link.  The only way supplies could reach the city way across Lake Lagoda to the East, but German and Finnish naval forces operated in these waters during 1942 hampering the resupply and evacuation operations.

The population (civilian and military) had to cope with dwindling food supplies, the largest food depot being destroyed in an air raid as early as in September 1941; artillery bombardments and bombing raids and freezing temperatures in Winter.  Birds, rats and pets were caught and eaten and there were cases recorded of cannibalism.

Although Soviet forces made attempt to relieve the city in 1942, their advance was halted.  In January 1943 Operation Iskra (Spark) brought some relief to the city, creating a corridor which breaches the blockade, but but later attempts to build on this success were foiled and it wasn’t until a year later that the siege was finally lifted.

 

Leningrad is a long way from Kyrgyzstan – but even here it is remembered and commemorated.

The Leningrad Memorial in Southern

The Leningrad Memorial in Southern

In 2012, on 8th May, a monument dedicated to the memory of the victims of the blockade of Leningrad was erected in the Asanov Park at the Southern Gates of the city …

A number of Kyrgyz citizens saw service in the defence of Leningrad … including some who volunteered as soon as the war began … and found themselves posted to Leningrad front.  The newspaper Vecherniye Bishkek has launched an appeal for survivors and relatives to bring them photographs and stories with an aim to publishing them, recognizing their role in what one called “the worst that man can survive”.

In the Knigi Pamiata: Blokada Leningrad 1941-1944, (Book of Memory: Leningrad Blockade 1941-1944), a “remarkable historical document” – 35 volumes with biographical data about the victims of the siege contain entries for many of them … here’s an except taken from the Vecherniye Bishkek appeal:

  • Abduvali Abduzhalimov, Uighur. Killed in action August 10, 1943.  Buried in the Korbusale Mginskogo district of Leningrad region.
  • Ablubait Abdukadyrov, Uzbek.  Called up December 14, 1941. Died of wounds January 12, 1943.  Buried in the village of Marino, Leningrad region.
  • Beyshebek Abdukarimov, Kyrgyz. Died of wounds March 9, 1943.  Buried in the village of Slavstroy Volkhov, in the district of Leningrad region.
  • Egorovich Thomas Averin, Russian. Called up April 3, 1942. Killed in action 26 February 1943. He was buried in the village of Staraya Russa, in the Mefodino district of Leningrad region.
  • Bolot Aitkulov, Kyrgyz. Killed in action November 28, 1943, Buried in the village of Kirvovodtsa, Leningrad region.
  • Toktosun Akmatov, b. 1920, Kyrgyzstan. Lieutenant. Killed in action July 22, 1943. Buried in the Riverlands, Mginskogo district of Leningrad region.
  • Gleb P. Alekhine, born in 1923. Private. Killed in action October 24, 1943 in the village of Pavozem in the Pargolovsky district of Leningrad region.
  • Malabekov Arsamatov, Kyrgyzstan. Killed in action 14 January 1943. He was buried in a workers village in the Mginskogo district of Leningrad region.

Also, between the start of the war and the end of 1942, some 16,000 evacuees from Leningrad, (including 3,500 children), arrived in the Kyrgyz SSR

Apparently, there are still 28 veterans of the blockade still living in Bishkek – and seven more in the regions of Kyrgyzstan.

 

 

Tags: ,
Comment closed.