May 4, 2021
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The road of life of Alexei Kosygin

Dear life, bread came to us,
dear friendship of many to many.
Do not know yet on earth
the road is more terrible and joyful.

Olga Berggolts. “Leningrad Poem”

The amazing story of the fate of A.N. I happened to hear Kosygin during the preparation of the exhibition “The Kosygin Phenomenon”, which was held in 2016 at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation.

Oddly enough, but even professional historians-archivists first learned that A.N. Kosygin was one of the authors and the main organizer of The Road of Life on the ice of Lake Ladoga, which supplied besieged Leningrad during the war. There were no books or articles on this topic during Kosygin’s lifetime. Why Alexey Nikolaevich refused to tell reporters about his contribution to the Victory cause and whether this can only be associated with his modesty will remain a mystery.

A.N. Kosygin was the head of the Soviet government, he showed himself as an effective organizer of the national economy, an economist-reformer, and a prominent diplomat. But I’m not talking about that now. I’m talking about a St. Petersburg boy who saved his hometown during the Great Patriotic War.

Nikolai Ilyich Kosygin with children - Pavel, Maria and Alexei (from left to right).  The family archive of A.N.  Kosygin

Nikolai Ilyich Kosygin with children – Pavel, Maria and Alexey (from left to right). The family archive of A.N. Kosygin

… After the death of his wife, Nikolai Ilyich Kosygin, a worker at the St. Petersburg mine and torpedo plant, raised three children: Pavel, Alexei and Maria. The father tried to provide his children with a decent life and a good education. Pavel and Alexey studied and helped their little sister, who was born sick and needed care. The building of the commercial school, in which Alexei studied, rises on the embankment, which has become the eternal berth of the cruiser Aurora.

The October Revolution was a fateful event for the Kosygin family. Nikolai Ilyich, and after him 15-year-old Alexei, volunteered for the Red Army. Subsequently, in the circle of friends, Aleksey Nikolaevich recalled with interest the instructions of the messenger, which he had to carry out. In 1921, Kosygin was demobilized from Murmansk as he had not reached draft age. In the future, he considered himself a civilian and since then he did not have to wear a military uniform even once. Even during the Great Patriotic War, when he was in charge of the evacuation of industry and the population of the USSR to the east.

Red Army soldier of the 7th Army Alexei Kosygin.  Petrograd, 1919.  The family archive of A.N.  Kosygin.

Red Army soldier of the 7th Army Alexei Kosygin. Petrograd, 1919. The family archive of A.N. Kosygin.

For several years Kosygin was successfully engaged in cooperative work in Siberia and returned to his native Petersburg (by that time Leningrad) to enter the university only in 1930. His choice was the Leningrad Textile Institute, which is now the University of Industrial Technologies and Design and bears his name. Kosygin thoroughly studied all the subtleties of his profession, he had considerable experience in organizational work. Soon he became a foreman, shop manager, then director of the Oktyabrskaya weaving factory in Leningrad. It is believed that the image of the young energetic director of the factory, Kosygin, was reflected in the film “Shining Path”.

Quickly enough, Kosygin entered the Leningrad party leadership. His ascent up the steps of government was rapid. Before the start of the war, he had to change the positions of director of a weaving factory, chairman of the Leningrad City Executive Committee, People’s Commissar of the USSR Textile Industry, Deputy Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. In such a meteoric rise, A.A. Zhdanov, who introduced Kosygin I.V. Stalin. The leader immediately appreciated Kosyga, as he sometimes called him, for his organizational talent, exceptional efficiency and dedication.

War broke out. At the end of June 1941, the State Defense Committee (GKO) was created under the chairmanship of I.V. Stalin, who was in charge of many military and economic issues during the war. The vast majority of GKO decrees related to the evacuation of the population and industry, the mobilization of industry, the release of weapons and ammunition.

The siege of Leningrad became one of the most tragic pages in the history of the Great Patriotic War. At a meeting of the State Defense Committee on January 17, 1942, the situation in Leningrad was considered. It was considered necessary to increase the pace of evacuation of city residents and send Kosygin to Leningrad to make the necessary decisions on the spot on all issues related to the evacuation of the population and equipment, as well as on the defense of Leningrad. So one of the commissioners of the State Defense Committee in besieged Leningrad was 38-year-old A.N. Kosygin, who organized the “Road of Life”.

The road of life

The road of life

Heat supply was disrupted in the city, mass famine began, people were dying in the streets. In the conditions of the blockade and the lack of opportunities for land transport links with the city, a unique, unique in history project “Road of Life” on the ice of Lake Ladoga appeared. A.N. Kosygin and A.A. Zhdanov reported on the plan of the organization “Roads of Life” I.V. Stalin and received approval. The Generalissimo, having supported the proposal to create a military road on the ice of Lake Ladoga, did not really believe in success and made a postscript on the document: “We warn you that this whole business is unreliable and cannot be of serious importance for the Leningrad Front.”

Children of besieged Leningrad

Children of besieged Leningrad

Before the revolution in St. Petersburg, there was such an unusual type of transport that replaced the horse-drawn carriage, as “ice trams”, their paths were laid along the frozen Neva. Sleepers and rails were laid on the ice, the power source was a contact wire stretched over pillars frozen in the ice. The ice tram was a great success among passengers and transported up to 900 thousand passengers per season. The trams of childhood prompted A.N. Kosygin on the idea of ​​organizing the transportation of people and goods on the ice of Lake Ladoga. At first, he suggested using trolleybuses for transportation, but calculations showed that the ice might not support their weight.

The preference was given to light and maneuverable trucks ZIS-5 (three-ton) and GAZ-AA. In the shortest possible time, an underwater pipeline was installed, supplying Leningrad with fuel, the work was supervised by the first female diver, N.V. Sokolova, to whom this idea belonged. All participants in these truly heroic events were well aware that the transportation of goods on ice is associated with great risk. Every fourth car did not return from the flight, falling under an enemy air raid or falling through the ice. The drivers drove with the doors open in order to jump out in time if the car starts to sink. They tried to pull the trucks that had fallen under the ice, but this was not always successful. For some time they continued to shine their headlights from under the ice; these terrible monuments were called “svetlaki”.

By the beginning of February 1942, the “Road of Life” was a huge farm, which included many services. Kosygin visited Borisova Griva station every two or three days, twice traveled on circular routes all points of acceptance and dispatch of people and goods, points of repair and protection from the Germans “Roads of Life”, often visited the front line “, – recalled Kosygin’s assistant A.S. Boldyrev.

The road of life existed from September 12, 1941 to March 1943. During the navigation period, cargo delivery across Ladoga was carried out by ships. Kosygin himself most often proudly recalled the episode of how he was ferried to Leningrad by boat and came under fire. Kosygin appeared in besieged Leningrad more than once. There remained his father Nikolai Ilyich, who categorically refused to leave the city. In 1942, the deputy chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars came to his father and told him in a tone that did not tolerate objections: “We must evacuate!” As a result, Nikolai Ilyich, together with his daughter, spent several years in Novosibirsk with the family of his son Alexei and returned to Leningrad only after the end of the war.

A.N.  Kosygin with the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner.  1943 year.  The family archive of A.N.  Kosygin

A.N. Kosygin with the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner. 1943 year. The family archive of A.N. Kosygin

The report on the work done in the besieged Leningrad is the memorandum of A.N. Kosygina I.V. Stalin on the evacuation of the population and equipment from Leningrad on June 5, 1942: “I am informing you of the results of the evacuation of the population from Leningrad from January 25 to April 11, 1942. During this period, 539,400 people were evacuated from Leningrad … Valuable materials, metals and equipment, intended mainly for the tank and aviation industries, were evacuated from Leningrad in the same period of time. During this time, 15,152 tons were exported from Leningrad … “ On the text of J.V. Stalin’s litter in blue pencil: “Okay, I need to reward him.”

Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Alexei Nikolaevich Kosygin had many awards, but he was always especially proud of this Order of the Red Banner. He considered “The Road of Life” one of the most important things in his life.

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