The Siege of Leningrad

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the siege of Leningrad.

The Siege of Leningrad was one of the deadliest and most destructive sieges in the history of the world – quite possibly the deadliest ever. It would last for 872 days, and there would be more than a million Soviet civilian casualties, plus another million Soviet military casualties and half a million German casualties.

The effect of the siege on the city was devastating . Food shortages were chronic, deaths from starvation, disease and cold were constant and cannibalism occurred throughout the years of the siege. The number of deaths in Leningrad was the single largest loss of life ever known in a modern city.

The Soviets managed to break the siege on 18 January 1943 by opening a narrow land corridor, but it would not be fully lifted until 27 January 1944 when they managed to fully repel the Germans on their drive west.

What is a lesser known fact is that it wasn’t only the Germans who laid siege on Leningrad.

The Finnish army invaded from the north, co-operating with the Germans until Finland had recaptured territory lost in the recent Winter War, but refused to make further approaches to the city. Also co-operating with the Germans after August 1942 was the Spanish Blue Division. It was transferred to the southeastern flank of the siege of Leningrad, just south of the Neva near Pushkin, Kolpino and its main intervention was in Krasny Bor in the Izhora River area.

The population of Leningrad suffered greatly. Despite all the suffering there were still some people who sacrificed their lives to safekeep things that were dear and important to them.

When the German and Finnish forces began their siege of Leningrad, choking food supply to the city’s two million residents, one group of people preferred to starve to death despite having plenty of ‘food.’ The Leningrad seedbank was diligently preserved through the 28-month Siege of Leningrad.

While the Soviets had ordered the evacuation of art from the Hermitage, they had not evacuated the 250,000 samples of seeds, roots, and fruits stored in what was then the world’s largest seedbank. A group of scientists, headed by Nikolai Vavilov, at the Vavilov Institute boxed up a cross section of seeds, moved them to the basement, and took shifts protecting them. Those guarding the seedbank refused to eat its contents, even though by the end of the siege in the spring of 1944, nine of them had died of starvation.

During the siege of Leningrad, a teenage girl Tanya Savicheva, kept a diary. She lost all her family but she herself was eventually evacuated out of the city in August 1942, along with about 150 other children, to a village called Shatki. But whilst most of the others recovered and lived, Tanya, already too ill, died of tuberculosis on 1 July 1944. Below is one her diary entries, it says everything you need to know how awful the siege was.

Zhenya died on December 28th at 12 noon, 1941. Grandma died on the 25th of January at 3 o’clock, 1942. Leka died March 17th, 1942, at 5 o’clock in the morning, 1942

Uncle Vasya died on April 13th at 2 o’clock in the morning, 1942. Uncle Lesha May 10th, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, 1942. Mama on May 13th at 7:30 in the morning, 1942

The Savichevs are dead. Everyone is dead. Only Tanya is left.

sources

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/stalin-vs-science-the-life-and-murder-nikolai-vavilov

https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/the-tragic-tale-of-nikolai-vavilov

https://www.onthisday.com/photos/siege-of-leningrad

Symphony of destruction.

symphony

People who know me, know I am a big Heavy Metal fan ,and one of my favourite tracks is called Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth.But this blog is about a different Symphony, a Symphony which was composed and first performed amidst great destruction.

The piece of music is commonly known as the Leningrad Symphony, It was Dmitri  Shostakovich 7th Symphony.

The disturbing news of the German attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, had reached Leningrad at midday June 22 as Molotov announced the attack via loudspeakers throughout the city.

barbarossa

The 35-year-old composer Shostakovich  was head of the Leningrad Conservatoire’s piano department. He began work on his Seventh Symphony in the first hot days of July.

He had volunteered for the army but was dismissed because of his poor eyesight.

Shostakovich

Instead he became a volunteer for the Leningrad Conservatory’s firefighter brigade. However as a musician he set his talents to work and help the war effort in a different way. I did not research this but as a musician myself I know how powerful music can be, it cam alter moods, lift spirits and boost morale.

When Shostakovich played the first two tacts of his Seventh Symphony to some of his friends, in the besieged city of Leningrad in the summer of 1941, the performance was brutally interrupted by a German bombardment.

Shostakovich endured and worked with an inhuman intensity to finish what would become his best known work. Not because he wanted to become rich from it but because he knew how important art was and especially music in the most dire circumstances.

The first full performance in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) was given in August 1942 by a half-starved orchestra, whose emaciated state is symbolised by the drummer Dzaudhat Aydarov, who had literally been rescued from the dead.

Karl Eliasberg, the conductor on that occasion, stated that Soviet artillery pounded known German battery positions  prior to the start of  concert in order to silence them.

It was the same Eliasberg who went to the morgue looking for the drummer Aydarov,He found his presumed cadaver  still moving and breathing.

Despite the destruction around them and being under siege by the German army, the people of Leningrad still found a bit of comfort by buying a ticket for the mammoth work which lasted for over 78 minutes. 78 minutes where they could forget the war, the hunger and the despair.

ticket

Below is the music  the symphony in its full length.

 

 

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

Sources

Classic FM

The Guardian

BBC

YouTube