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Russia commemorates anniversary of lifting Siege of Leningrad

No more than 800,000 residents were remaining in the city by the end of the blockade out of the 3 million that had lived in Leningrad and its suburbs
People flock to the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in St. Petersburg Pyotr Kovalyov/TASS
People flock to the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in St. Petersburg
© Pyotr Kovalyov/TASS

ST. PETERSBURG, January 27. /TASS/. On January 27, Russia marks the 74th anniversary since Soviet troops completely lifted the Nazi blockade of Leningrad (currently St. Petersburg), ending the 872-day siege of the city.

In St. Petersburg, about 30,000 people, including WWII veterans and senior officials, attended memorial events at the city’s Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, where 420,000 civilians and 50,000 soldiers of the Leningrad Front are buried in 186 mass graves.

"In order to honor the victims of the Siege of Leningrad, veterans from 16 countries have arrived to St. Petersburg - from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the United States, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Finland, France and Estonia. Together with residents of St. Petersburg, they brought flowers to the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery and laid them to the Mother Motherland monument," the press service of St. Petersburg’s social policies committee said.

The events at the Piskaryovskoye Cemetery were attended by city Governor Georgy Poltavchenko, presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District Alexander Beglov, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko and other city and district administration officials, members of St. Petersburg legislature and public activists.

Flowers were also laid to mass graves and other WWII memorials - the Serafimovskoye, the Smolenskoye and the Nevskoe military cemeteries, at the Victory Square, the Krasnaya Sloboda memorial and others.

Local youth organizations have prepared a reenactment of the Victory Salute, held in the liberated city on January 27.

"On January 27, 1944, a victory salute was held in the city to mark the lifting of the siege. It was fired from several sites, but the main was at the Field of Mars, that’s why we decided to re-enact it there. All cannons used in reenactment were in service during the WWII, and underwent restoration. Blank shells were used for the original salute, but, in order to add some visual effect and recreate the atmosphere of that day, we also used some pyrotechnics," the city committee for youth policies said.

A fireworks display of 30 salvos was fired by the Western Military District’s 449-th separate guards salute battalion.

In addition, many citizens of St. Petersburg took part in the "Candle in Window" memorial event, during which people turned off electric lights in their houses for one minute and put burning candles in windows of their homes to honor the victims.

Students and volunteers launched 900 black and 900 white balloons, symbolizing days and nights of the siege from the Cathedral Square of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Events to commemorate the date were also held in other Russian cities, including Sevastopol in Crimea, which also survived a 250-day siege during WWII; Arkhangelsk and Vorkuta in Russia’s north; Volga area city of Penza, Urals cities of Yekaterinburg and Perm and Siberia’s Novosibirsk, which accepted the bulk of people evacuated from Leningrad during the siege.

The blockade of Leningrad (currently St. Petersburg) started on September 8, 1941 and lasted 872 days. It was broken on January 18, 1943, in the course of the Iskra strategic military operation during the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany and was completely lifted on January 27, 1944. Leningrad is the only large city in the world’s history that withstood almost 900-day encirclement.

On September 10, German Luftwaffe pilots bombed and burnt the city’s warehouses, as a result of which Leningrad was left without considerable food supplies. Gradually, fuel and water reserves were used up in the city and the supply of electricity and heating was halted. Hunger swept the city in the autumn of 1941. Rationing was introduced in Leningrad to provide residents with food. The bread rations had dwindled to 250 grams a day for workers and to 125 grams for the rest of the population by November 20, 1941.

During the blockade of Leningrad, German pilots dropped over 107,000 incendiary and high-explosive air bombs and more than 150,000 artillery shells. About 10,000 buildings and structures were destroyed.

No more than 800,000 residents were remaining in the city by the end of the blockade out of the 3 million people that had lived in Leningrad and its suburbs before the blockade. According to various estimates, from 641,000 to 1 million Leningraders died as a result of hunger, bombings and artillery shelling. Almost 34,000 people were wounded, 716,000 residents were left without shelter and 1.7 million were evacuated across the Road of Life and by air in 1941-1942.