900 Days! 6 Astonishing Facts about the Nazi Blockade of Leningrad with Dozens of Photos

 
Antiaircraft guns guarding the sky of Leningrad, in front of St. Isaac's Cathedral. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Antiaircraft guns guarding the sky of Leningrad, in front of St. Isaac's Cathedral. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
 
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The siege and defense of Leningrad are one of the most tragic pages of the history of World War II in the USSR, which called it the Great Patriotic War. For several years, Leningrad was in the ring of a Nazi blockade and military formations from other countries. The inhabitants of Leningrad were left without food, running water, heat and electricity, but they did not give up. Below are 6 facts about besieged Leningrad.

The blockade lasted 872 days

Since September 8, 1941, Leningrad was under a military blockade. When the blockade began, there were already insufficient supplies of food and fuel in the city. The only way to the outside world was Ladoga Lake, through which the “highway of life” passed. Some cargoes with food were delivered via the lake, but not enough. On January 27, 1944, 872 days after the siege, Leningrad was liberated from the Nazis.

 

Air Defense Battery in St. Isaac’s Square.
Air Defense Battery in St. Isaac’s Square.

The Harshest Winter

The first winter was the most difficult time for the whole blockade. The air temperature remained extremely low for a long time, practically until May 1942, and repeatedly decreased to -32°C (-25 F). A large amount of snow created problems for the residents of the city. Such weather was considered anomalous because even by April 1942 the average depth of the snow was nearly 20 inches.

People gathering water from shell-holes on Nevsky Prospect, between Gostiny Dvor and Ostrovsky Square. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
People gathering water from shell-holes on Nevsky Prospect, between Gostiny Dvor and Ostrovsky Square. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

Main Enemy: Hunger

The biggest problem of besieged Leningrad was famine. Children and dependents received a serving of 125 grams (about 1/4 lb) of bread a day between November 20 and December 25. Factory workers were supposed to have 250 grams (just over 1/2 lb) of bread, and the personnel of the militarized guards and firefighters were supposed to have 300 grams (2/3 lb) of bread a day.

During the blockade, bread was made from a mixture of oatmeal and rye flour, cake and unfiltered malt. It was black and bitter. According to official figures, 632,253 people died of starvation.

An old woman sledging a starving young man in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
An old woman sledging a starving young man in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

1.5 Million People Evacuated

The evacuation of Leningrad’s residents took place in three stages, during which about 1.5 million people, almost half of the city’s population, were evacuated. Evacuation began a week after the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, but many people did not want to leave their homes. Many had to be persuaded to go.

The second and third stages of the evacuation passed across the “road of life” through Lake Ladoga. In October 1942, the evacuation of residents was completed.

Leningradians leaving their houses destroyed by Nazi bombings. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Leningradians leaving their houses destroyed by Nazi bombings. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

Heartbeat of Leningrad

To alert residents about enemy attacks, 1,500 loudspeakers were installed around the city. They constantly played the sound of a metronome: its slow rhythm meant safety, and its fast rhythm served as the alarm that warned people about the beginning of an air attack.

 

Combat Training in Leningrad 1942
Combat Training in Leningrad 1942

In addition, reports of enemy attacks were broadcast through the city’s radio network, and residents were forbidden to turn off radio receivers in their homes. The sound of the metronome was periodically interrupted by the voice of the announcer with updates about the situation in the city. The beat of the metronome was called the heartbeat of Leningrad.

“Air Raid”. People of Leningrad running through the streets in the early days of the war. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
“Air Raid”. People of Leningrad running through the streets in the early days of the war. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

Cat Heroes

In addition, it is worth noting the role of “cat-saviors” during the siege. In January 1943, some cats were brought to Leningrad to control the rodent population. The cats quickly rose to the occasion, saving the city’s food reserves from pests. Their contribution was so important that in 2000, monuments to the cats Elisei and Vasilisa were installed in St. Petersburg.

Girls on duty on the roof in besieged Leningrad. Air defense. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Girls on duty on the roof in besieged Leningrad. Air defense. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Soviet machine-gunners firing at the enemy near the old train station Detskoe Selo in Pushkin near Leningrad.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Soviet machine-gunners firing at the enemy near the old train station Detskoe Selo in Pushkin near Leningrad.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Antiaircraft-gunners firing at the enemy in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Antiaircraft-gunners firing at the enemy in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Defenders of Leningrad : Great Patriotic War soldiers in attack.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Defenders of Leningrad : Great Patriotic War soldiers in attack.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

A street after a German artillery raid during the Leningrad blockade.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
A street after a German artillery raid during the Leningrad blockade.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

soldiers manning an anti aircraft gun looking for enemy aircraft. By Deror_avi CC BY-SA 3.0
soldiers manning an anti aircraft gun looking for enemy aircraft. By Deror_avi CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Soldiers carrying a wounded soldier. The Leningrad Front. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Soldiers carrying a wounded soldier. The Leningrad Front. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

St. Isaac’s Cathedral and St. Isaac’s Square in Leningrad in 1942 during the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
St. Isaac’s Cathedral and St. Isaac’s Square in Leningrad in 1942 during the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Mobilization in Leningrad in the summer of 1941
Mobilization in Leningrad in the summer of 1941

 

The fire of anti-aircraft guns deployed in the neighborhood of St. Isaac’s cathedral during the defense of Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg, its pre-Soviet name) in 1941.
The fire of anti-aircraft guns deployed in the neighborhood of St. Isaac’s cathedral during the defense of Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg, its pre-Soviet name) in 1941.

 

Two Soviet soldiers, one armed with a DP machine gun, in the trenches of the Leningrad Front on 1 September 1941. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Two Soviet soldiers, one armed with a DP machine gun, in the trenches of the Leningrad Front on 1 September 1941. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Supplies being unloaded from a barge on Lake Ladoga to a narrow-gauge train in 1942. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Supplies being unloaded from a barge on Lake Ladoga to a narrow-gauge train in 1942. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Destroyed German bomber in Leningrad.
Destroyed German bomber in Leningrad.

 

The sign on the wall says: Citizens! This side of the street is the most dangerous during the artillery barrage.
The sign on the wall says: Citizens! This side of the street is the most dangerous during the artillery barrage.

 

Bronze Horseman camouflaged from the German aircraft during the Siege of Leningrad
Bronze Horseman camouflaged from the German aircraft during the Siege of Leningrad

 

Children crippled by Nazi shells in hospital.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Children crippled by Nazi shells in hospital.  By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Soldiers pulling camouflaged artillery on muddy roads. The Leningrad Front. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Soldiers pulling camouflaged artillery on muddy roads. The Leningrad Front. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Tanks going to the front from Palace Square in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Tanks going to the front from Palace Square in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Workers of the Kirov plant and young sailors on the bridge. Defenders of Leningrad during the siege. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Workers of the Kirov plant and young sailors on the bridge. Defenders of Leningrad during the siege. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Soviet soldiers fighting in Pushkin. The breakthrough of Leningrad’s siege.By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Soviet soldiers fighting in Pushkin. The breakthrough of Leningrad’s siege.By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Leningradians on Nevsky avenue during the siege. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Leningradians on Nevsky avenue during the siege. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Women casting metal in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Women casting metal in besieged Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Leningradians cleaning the street after the first winter in the besieged city. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Leningradians cleaning the street after the first winter in the besieged city. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Cutters carrying foodstuffs to besieged Leningrad on Ladoga Lake. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Cutters carrying foodstuffs to besieged Leningrad on Ladoga Lake. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

The anti-aircraft gun crew of Sergeant Fyodor Konoplyov shooting at enemy planes in Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
The anti-aircraft gun crew of Sergeant Fyodor Konoplyov shooting at enemy planes in Leningrad. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Air defense balloons on St. Isaac’s Square
Air defense balloons on St. Isaac’s Square

 

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Red Army soldiers. Leningrad defenders. Leningrad, October 1942. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
Red Army soldiers. Leningrad defenders. Leningrad, October 1942. By RIA Novosti archive CC BY-SA 3.0
 
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