80 years ago, on September 8, 1941, the 872-day siege of the city on the Neva began
From the first days of the Great Patriotic War, Leningrad found itself between two fires. From the southwest through the Baltic states the German Army Group North (commanded by Field Marshal V. Leeb) rushed to the city. From the north and north-west, the Finnish army (Marshal K.-G. Mannerheim) aimed at the city together with German troops. According to the Barbarossa plan, the capture of Leningrad was to precede the capture of Moscow.
There is not much to say about the importance of the city on the Neva for the USSR. According to the formula “cradle of revolution”, it was the largest political, economic and cultural center of the country. The need to reduce the danger of its capture due to its proximity to the state border became one of the factors of the war with Finland in 1939-1940.
I.V. Stalin to the last, despite even military-strategic considerations, did not agree to surrender Kiev to the Germans. Moreover, he demanded at any cost to prevent the capture of Leningrad by the enemy. The leader’s acute concern for the fate of the city was conveyed by his telegram dated August 28, 1941 addressed to the members of the State Defense Committee V.M. Molotov and G.M. Malenkov, when German troops approached Leningrad at 50 km – the distance of a one-day tank throw. “If this continues, I am afraid that Leningrad will be surrendered stupidly stupidly, and all Leningrad divisions risk being captured. What are Popov doing (Lieutenant General M.M. Popov – Commander of the Leningrad Front, created on August 23 – Yu.R.) and Voroshilov (Marshal K.E. Voroshilov – Commander-in-Chief of the North-West Direction. – Yu.R.)? … Why is the rich Leningrad technique not used in this decisive sector? … What, in fact, is Voroshilov busy with, and in what way is his help to Leningrad expressed? “…
The first attempt to capture the city on the move was made by the command of Army Group “North” on 10 July. However, the 11th Army of Lieutenant General V.I. Morozov succeeded, inflicting a counterattack and partially encircling the enemy troops, to detain the enemy. The pause formed in the offensive against Leningrad was used by the Soviet command to strengthen the defense of the city. In the first week of the war alone, the military registration and enlistment offices received 212 thousand applications from the townspeople with a request to send them to the front. The creation of the Leningrad army of the people’s militia was underway. On the distant and near approaches, the construction of several defensive zones began. On June 29, the evacuation of children, women, the elderly began from the city, but on an insufficient scale due to the unjustified confidence that the enemy would be stopped at the distant approaches to the city.
The most dangerous for Leningrad was the German group operating in the Novgorod direction. In order to take the city in a short time, Hitler even went to weaken the Moscow direction and ordered to regroup as many forces of the 3rd Panzer Group from Army Group Center as possible for Leningrad.
Having decided to understand the activities of the commander-in-chief K.E. Voroshilov, the Supreme Command Headquarters sent a commission to Leningrad consisting of V.M. Molotov, G.M. Malenkov and a number of military leaders. The mandate given to her made it possible, on behalf of the State Defense Committee, to resolve all issues of defense and evacuation of the city.
Meanwhile, on August 25, Lyuban fell. Formations of the 48th Army of Lieutenant General S.D. Akimov could not hold back the onslaught of five German divisions and retreated to Kirishi and Pushkin. Three days later the enemy occupied Tosno. A little less than 50 km remained to Leningrad. It was then that the Stalin telegram quoted above was born.
On August 30, the invaders seized the Mga railway station, and on September 8, seizing Shlisselburg, standing at the source of the Neva, they reached Lake Ladoga and blockaded Leningrad from land. Only the island, on which the Shlisselburg fortress rises, remained in the hands of the Soviet troops. From that day the countdown of the Leningrad blockade began.
The commander-in-chief of the North-West direction Voroshilov was removed from the command of the troops in the Leningrad region. In the evening of the same day, the commander of the Reserve Front, General of the Army G.K. Zhukov, who had just successfully completed the Yelninsk offensive operation, was summoned to the Kremlin. After a short conversation, he left Stalin’s Kremlin apartment with a note addressed to Voroshilov: “Transfer command of the front to Zhukov, and fly to Moscow immediately.”…
All day on September 9, German troops tried to cross the Neva in order to connect with the Finnish army on the Karelian Isthmus, which was only 60 km away. Enemy attacks from the left bank of the Neva were repulsed by a specially created Neva operational group of forces. South of Leningrad, in a narrow section from Kolpino to Ropsha, events developed more dramatically. On September 12, the enemy drove out the 42nd Army of Lieutenant General F.S. Ivanova from Krasnoe Selo. The Germans had only 10 km to overcome to Leningrad. It seemed that it would not be possible to keep the city. The alarm gripped the civil and military authorities, factories and factories were prepared for the explosion, the ships were prepared for flooding (this order was immediately canceled upon the arrival of General Zhukov).
The Military Council of the Leningrad Front sent some of the anti-aircraft guns to the most dangerous sectors of the defense to fight against German tanks, and also took measures to strengthen the engineering equipment of the defense in the area of the Pulkovo Heights. Part of the troops from the Karelian Isthmus was transferred to the defending this most dangerous sector of the 42nd Army (led by Major General I.I.Fedyuninsky). It was supported by the naval artillery of the Baltic Fleet. The formation of separate rifle brigades began at the expense of sailors and cadets of military educational institutions.
As early as September 2, it was necessary to strengthen the food saving regime. Workers and engineers received 600 grams of bread a day, employees – 400, dependents and children – 300 grams. On September 11, the rate was reduced.
The blockade ring, the front line were located from the city limits at a distance of 2 to 30 km. On September 16, the enemy broke through to the Gulf of Finland, between Strelna and Uritsky (Ligovo). Parts of the 8th Army of Major General V.I. Shcherbakov were cut off from the main forces of the front. To the west of the city, the Oranienbaum bridgehead was formed. The next day, the enemy captured Pavlovsk and broke into the center of Pushkin (Tsarskoe Selo). The situation seemed completely hopeless, and G.K. Zhukov went to the last resort. On September 17, he gave an order, the essence of which was that for leaving the Ligovo – Verkhnee Koirovo – Pulkovo Heights – Shushary – Kolpino line without a written order, all commanders, political workers and soldiers were subject to immediate execution.
The capture of Pushkin on September 17 was the last significant success of the enemy. Hitler issued an order to withdraw the 4th Panzer Group from the battle and transfer it to the Moscow direction. The Wehrmacht could no longer continue the attack on Leningrad. On September 27, the German command signed an order indicating that Army Group North, defending itself and improving the situation in certain sectors, should create conditions for a further offensive with the aim of a closer blockade of Leningrad, as well as connections with Finnish troops west and east of Ladoga.
The invaders began to destroy the city, terrorizing its inhabitants with methodical artillery fire and massive bombing. On September 21, Hitler was presented with a report on the question of Leningrad. It suggested “To enclose the city in a tight ring with a barbed wire fence under electric current and towers with machine guns; destroy it with artillery fire and air strikes … To release women, children, old women through the blockade posts, doom the rest to death by starvation, so that the remnants of the fortress garrison remain there for the winter … “
The next day, the directive “The Future of St. Petersburg” was approved, which said: “The Fuhrer decided to wipe the city of St. Petersburg off the face of the earth … Finland also told us that it is not interested in the further existence of the city near its new borders … It is proposed to tightly block the city and raze it to the ground with the help of artillery of all calibers and continuous bombing from the air.” …
The Soviet troops and population cut off from the mainland faced a many months, arduous struggle for life. The blockade was completely lifted only on January 27, 1944.
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