900 Days of Hunger


 In early September 1941 the Siege of Leningrad by the German Army Group North began.  The Germans cut off the city from outside aid by severing it’s main rail line from Moscow, thus leaving the citizens of Leningrad to fend for themselves.  The Germans proceeded to attack other rail lines and bombard various targets within the city with artillery in order to terrorize Leningraders with the hopes of eventually provoking a surrender.  In doing so the Germans had encircled the city and cut off Leningrad’s lines of communication.  By November there was virtually no feasible way to transport supplies into Leningrad other than across a frozen lake which was often subject to strafing runs by German planes.

The people of Leningrad were reduced to eating anything they could find (rodents, dogs, cats, bark, glue, and even human flesh) due to the continuous reduction of food rations in the city.  In January of 1943 the inhabitants of Leningrad were able to break the  encirclement of the city during operation Iskra, in which the Red Army was able to destroy German fortifications at the outskirts of the city in order to provide a route through which supplies could be transported.  However, it would be another year before the siege completely ended.  By the time time the siege was finally over in January of 1944, over 1,000,000 people had died as a result of starvation, exhaustion, or defending the city from attacks.

The siege of Leningrad is believed to be the largest loss of life ever incurred on a modern city with death estimates ranging from 1 million to over 4 million.  Despite this massive loss of life, the ability of the inhabitants of Leningrad to keep control of their city combined with the victory at Stalingrad would prove to be a crucial turning point for the Allied forces in the European campaign during the Second World War.

Sources cited:


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 375-382. Print.


Picture source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RIAN_archive_216_The_Volkovo_cemetery.jpg


7 Responses to “900 Days of Hunger”

  1. October 21, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    The awful conditions at Leningrad were just unbelievable. To have that many deaths and not lose complete control of the city say’s a lot about the people of that city. Maybe one reason for that control is because everybody died, just a thought. Good post, a very important part of the war for the Soviet Union.

  2. October 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    The siege at Leningrad shows how resilient the people of the city were. It’s truly astounding that they were able to survive for so long and the fact that the siege eventually ended with the failure of the Germans to occupy it shows that the people had faith and pride in their country. In my post about the deportation of minorities, Stalin chose to deport many of them because he claimed that they had helped the enemy by either supplying information or joining their war effort, whereas, the Soviets at Leningrad remains ever so loyal to the Soviet cause.

  3. October 22, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    It seems like no one will ever learn a crucial lesson of history; you dont invade Russia. Ever. The people are the toughest and most resilient on the planet. There are a ton of them, spread out across a huge swath of land. They have worked the land for generations, fending off brutal winters and harsh weather. They simply will never give up. Leningrad and Stalingrad are both stark examples of the determination and sense of unity that the Russians have when it comes to repelling foreign invaders. The more I read about Russian history (in just the 20th century!), the more I have an amazing sense of respect for the hardships that they have had to endure time and time again. Though I feel like I gotta draw the line at cannabalism. Whoa.

  4. October 22, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    As terrible as the siege of Leningrad was, I think the ability of the Russians to stand tall in the face of adversity is extremely admirable. Granted, the loss of life is mind-boggling, considering most of the deaths could be attributed to starvation and exhaustion. These people had a cause that they were willing to die for and it’s beautiful to see these people uniting in the face of such hardships.

  5. October 22, 2013 at 2:06 am #

    This post really captured my attention. Russian people really are so resilient. Despite suffering such extreme famine and hunger they survived. The Germans really miscalculated the Russians resilience and believed cutting off the city from outside aid by severing it’s main rail line from Moscow would allow them to win. In the end the Germans could not win, and their tactics to weaken Russia failed.

  6. October 22, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    I hate to make light of this post, but I do find it mildly amusing that the Germans had planned to turn Leningrad into their personal Disneyland once the siege had been completed.

    Irregardless of that, this is a testament to the strength of the Russian people to make it through the supply shortages and awful conditions that they had to endure during the siege.

    Good Post!

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    November 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

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