Editor’s note: The imperialist ruling class puts its plentiful resources into making humanity forget the enormous contribution of the Soviet Union toward defeating Nazi-led German imperialism in World War II. The people of Leningrad made historic sacrifices in that effort that should be commemorated by all supporters of socialism.
Jan. 27 — Seventy years ago today, the Soviet Union’s Red Army broke through the ring of German imperialist troops that had surrounded Leningrad — now called St. Petersburg — for 900 days. During the siege, 1 million people trapped in the city died from disease, starvation and enemy action. The city’s liberation came less than a year after Soviet troops stopped Nazi-led Germany’s advance in Stalingrad and forced the retreat that would end with their surrender in Berlin.
It was the longest siege ever endured by a modern city. It was a time of trial, suffering and heroism that reached peaks of tragedy and bravery that are almost incomprehensible.
For two centuries Petrograd (St. Petersburg) had been the capital of the Russian Czarist empire, the site of the Czar’s Winter Palace, the seat of the Admiralty, the embankments on the Neva River, St. Isaacs’s Cathedral, the Bronze Horseman and the Summer Gardens. It was the center of Russian industrial development in the early 1900s and thus the greatest concentration of the working class, which made it the logical center of both the February-March 1917 revolution that overthrew the Czarist monarchy and the October-November 1917 revolution that for the first time in history handed state power to the working class.
German dictator Adolph Hitler ordered the German Army to invade the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Some 15,000 Leningrad residents showed up at The Great Kirov Works to volunteer for the “Opolicheniye” Brigades to fight them. Starting on July 10, with only two or three days training, three divisions were rushed to the front.
The situation was grim. Voroshilov, the commander in chief of the Northern Armies, and Zhdanov, head of the Leningrad Party organization, were in a truly desperate situation. A “Call To Action and Bravery” went out to all Red Army units in the area beginning: “Comrades Red Army men, officers and political workers! A direct threat of an enemy invasion is now suspended over Leningrad, the cradle of the Proletarian Revolution.”
In the middle of July, the Leningrad Party organization decided to mobilize hundreds of thousands of men and women to build fortifications. Many defensive rings were built around the city in depth. By August, nearly a million people were engaged in the building of defenses; people of the most different trades and professions labored shoulder to shoulder — workers, employees, school children, housewives, scientists, teachers, artists, actors, students, etc., worked with their picks and shovels from morning until night, often under enemy fire.
These defenses, combined with the bravery and determination of the residents and the Red Army, proved essential and sufficient to keep the German invaders from entering the city for 900 days. By withstanding and repulsing the attempt by the Nazis to seize Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad, the multinational working class of the Soviet Union saved humanity from extended Nazi rule.