Dates and facts
On June 22, 1941, in the course of the Second World War, troops under the military command of Germany slipped across the border of the USSR and launched an attack along the entire Eastern front. This day marked the beginning of the Great Patriotic War pitting the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany and its allies (1941–1945).
Within two and a half months, enemy forces were within a hair’s breadth of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and had encircled it. On September 8, 1941, the city’s overland connections with the rest of the country were completely cut off. On the same day, the Badaevsky Supply Depot was bombed out and burnt down: Leningrad had been stripped of virtually all its food supplies.
The card system of food rationing that was put in place was unable to provide the city’s residents with even the bare necessities. In November and December of 1941, public servants, non-workers and children up to the age of 12 received only 125 grams of bread a day. To survive, people ate household pets and stray animals from the streets; in addition, they consumed carpenter’s glue, cottonseed cake, edible cellulose, wood pulp, fir needles, moss and other substitute foods. There were incidents of cannibalism.
And the winter of 1941-42, which was one of the coldest on record, made matters even worse. On top of that, the water and electricity supplies had been cut off in residential buildings.From October 11, 1941 through April 7, 1942, the temperature in Leningrad did not rise above the freezing point. The minimum temperature in January was –32° Celsius; in December and February, it was as low as –25°. In the winter of 1942, the mortality rate surpassed 100,000 people a month.
Many Leningraders perished or were left without a roof over their heads due to the aerial bombardment and prolonged artillery attacks, which recurred two out of every three days during the Siege. As a result, more than 7,000 residential buildings were left in ruins or destroyed by fire.
From September 12, 1941 to March 30, 1943, the city was provided with food and raw materials along the one and only transport route, which traversed Lake Ladoga – by boat during the ice-free months, when it was navigable, and by truck when it was frozen over in the winter. This route, connecting Leningrad with the rest of the country, was dubbed the Road of Life. It was also used to evacuate residents of the city, above all children. After the war, many families that had been separated during the time of the Siege were never reunited.
On January 18, 1943, Soviet troops managed to break through the Siege. In the months that followed, the city was connected with the “Main Land” by a small strip of land that was around 10 kilometers wide. It was completely liberated from the siege a year later, on January 27, 1944. The Siege of Leningrad lasted for 872 days, almost two and a half years.
There is still no definitive figure for the number of deaths among the civilian population during that time. Different sources quote figures from 600,000 up to 1,500,000, or even more.