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1944: Leningrad siege ends after 900 days

The Soviet Army has lifted the blockade of Leningrad that has been besieged since German forces cut the land link to the city on 8 July 1941.

Soviet soldiers broke through the German line of defence at key points and recaptured hundreds of towns and villages in the region, according to a Russian communique issued by General Leonid Govorov, commander of the Leningrad front.

It is believed that hundreds of thousands of Leningrad's population of 2.5 million have died of starvation, exposure, disease or enemy action since 1 September 1941.

The German army reached Leningrad soon after invading Russia on 22 June 1941 but stopped short of taking Russia's second city after facing fierce resistance and decided instead on a blockade.


"We were all issued with arctic clothing, fur-lined coats, sea boots and so on, and a list of instructions on how to avoid frostbite."


All land communication was cut off and the city subjected to air and artillery bombardment.

The harshest winter in decades added to the suffering of Leningrad's starving inhabitants but this was partially eased when Lake Ladoga froze, opening a truck route to bring in food and fuel over the ice.

All able-bodied citizens did their bit to defend the city by working in munitions factories, digging defences and serving in the front line.

Now, one year after General Govorov managed to open a corridor into the besieged city, the blockade has been totally lifted.

"A task of historical importance has been completed," said General Govorov. "The city of Leningrad has been completely freed of the enemy blockade and of the barbaric artillery shelling."

He thanked the troops of the Leningrad front and the sailors of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet and praised the citizens of the city for their "heroic work and steel-like steadiness" in enduring the siege that lasted 872 days.

A salute of 24 salvos from 324 guns was fired in Leningrad to mark the occasion.

The Red Army is advancing further south-west from Leningrad and has taken back the important towns of Krasnogvardeisk, Volosovo and Tosno, according to the Russian High Command.

It said its troops disabled or destroyed 82 German tanks and shot down 16 enemy aircraft yesterday.

But in the fight to recapture the town of Pushkin, some 17th and 18th century buildings of the Imperial Summer Palace were seriously damaged.

In Context
A third of the population of Leningrad - up to one million - died during the blockade.

Leningrad was awarded the title of Hero City for withstanding the siege.

In the immediate aftermath of war, the Soviet Government allocated huge funds to restore the shattered infrastructure of the city and its surroundings and built a museum to commemorate the siege.

But Joseph Stalin was deeply suspicious of Leningrad's leaders who had enjoyed a great deal of autonomy during the war and were regarded as heroes.

In 1950 the Leningrad party organisation was purged and about 2,000 people were imprisoned or exiled.

The siege museum was closed and was only re-opened 40 years later.

Leningrad reverted to its Czarist name of St Petersburg in the 1990s.


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