On September 4, 1941, the encirclement of Leningrad by Nazi forces entered its final phase with the start of a relentless artillery bombardment. On September 8, in tandem with the occupation of Shlisselburg, the artillery was joined by a massive air attack that would completely cut off the city from the outside world. The Siege of Leningrad had begun.
Throughout the siege, the city and its people endured significant devastation. The Nazis dropped over 5,000 time bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs and fired approximately 150,000 artillery shells. Enemy aircraft and artillery destroyed over 3,000 buildings and damaged around 7,000 more. Starting September 12, 1941, Soviet troops perilously transported supplies to the city via Lake Ladoga, even under enemy fire. From November 16, due to the interruption of navigation, civil aviation planes became the sole means of supply.
On September 8, 1941, the population’s rations were reduced by four times, reaching its nadir between November 20 and December 25, 1941, at a mere 250 grams of bread for workers and 125 grams for employees, protected family members, and children. Tragically, 641,803 people succumbed to starvation due to the blockade, while over 17,000 perished from bombing and artillery fire.
On November 22, 1941, after valiant efforts by military units and volunteer citizens, the “road of life,” an artery constructed on the frozen Lake Ladoga, was established. The supplies transported via this lifeline doubled the bread ration for the besieged population, facilitating the liberation of approximately one million residents of Leningrad, primarily elderly, children, and wounded.
Finally, on January 27, 1944, after 872 days, the Soviet army liberated Leningrad from the blockade, pushing Nazi forces back 65-100 kilometers from the city. Recognizing the immense valor displayed during this ordeal, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR established the “For the Defense of Leningrad” medal on December 22, 1942, which they would award to over 930,000 individuals.
The triumph of the people of Leningrad over the brutality of the Nazi army was a victory not only for the Soviet Union but for all of humanity. The world will never forget their sacrifice.