Defense and the Siege of Leningrad
The German Army Group North under Field Marshal Wilhelm von Leeb began an assault against Leningrad on July 10, 1941. Meanwhile the Finnish army advanced deep into the Karelian Isthmus. The Moscow-Leningrad highway was cut off on August 31, and the German and Finish forces completely encircled the city on September 8, 1941. From that day on, any communication with Leningrad was possible only by Lake Ladoga or by air. Over 2.5 million residents and troops of the Leningrad Front remained in the besieged city.
Every day Leningrad was subjected to artillery bombardments and air raids. The most dreadful ordeal the city residents had to endure was the famine. The siege of Leningrad claimed up to 800,000 lives, 90 % of its people died from starvation.
The Soviet High Command (the Stavka) did everything possible to break the blocked.
It undertook four unsuccessful attempts to lift the siege. The Red Army was able to break through German lines only in January 1943. As a result, a corridor from 8 to 11 km wide was created along the southern coast of Lake Ladoga, where in 17 days a new railroad and a new highway were built. This significantly improved the situation in the city. The siege of Leningrad was finally lifted on January 27, 1944, as a result of successful Leningrad-Novgorod Offensive of the Red Army.
In spite of that desperate conditions Leningrad lived, fought, and worked. Many factories of light and local industries were shut down and their workers were employed in military production as well as employees of communal services and an administrative staff. Also all people unemployed earlier in public sector were mobilized. Females constituted three quarters of the workforce. Since the autumn of 1942 the plants of Leningrad were producing about 100 types of defense-related products, such as tanks, artillery pieces, mortars, machine guns, rifles, shells, and mines.
A remarkable example of heroism was the story of Leningrad militia. It emerged in the summer of 1941 and totaled 15 divisions, one per each city district. Volunteers aged from 18 to 50 years old. They included employees of different enterprises, intellectuals, professors and students of colleges and universities. The basic principles of recruiting and equipping of people's militia divisions were first formulated in Leningrad. The most important of them were principles of voluntariness and of self-reliance.