Operation Iskra

*This post was recognized in the Comrades’ Corner (week 7)

Operation Iskra, also known as Operation Spark, was a military operation conducted by the Red Army to break the Leningrad Blockade in 1943.

The Siege of Leningrad began in 1941, as the Germans began surrounding the city and cutting off supply routes for food and goods. Throughout 1942 the Soviets launched multiple offensive attacks to retake Leningrad, but the Germans managed to hold the city. By late 1942, the Soviets were weakening the German fronts during the Battle of Stalingrad. During that same time, plans were drawn up for Operation Iskra, in order to hammer the Germans while they were weak.

The Germans managed to trap thousands of civilians inside the city while they blocked off the supply routes. With hardly enough food to last the upcoming winter, civilians and soldiers began to die of starvation and the harsh winter conditions, “Winter came early, and was one of the coldest winters on record. By November the people were on starvation rations. In December children’s sleds began to appear. But they weren’t carrying kids out having fun . . . ‘The squeak, squeak, squeak of the runners sounded louder than the shelling. It deafened the ears. On the sleds were the ill, the dying, the dead'” (Zimmerman). Some civilians managed to escape and migrate out of the city, but for those that had already lost their lives, their bodies were piled together and burned.

The Red Army launched its operation against the German front on January 12, 1943. It was the Soviet’s third attempt to retake the city, and this time, the Soviets were serious, “At 9:30 am, on January 12, 1943, Govorov and Merestkov opened Operation Spark with the thunder of 4,500 artillery pieces. One gun was positioned for every 20 feet of front line. On top of the artillery, the heavy naval guns of the Red Fleet in Leningrad harbor joined in the bombardment. Bridges, buildings, trenches, and trees exploded and collapsed in showers of steel, earth, and wood” (WHN Staff). The battle lasted until January 30, 1943 with the Soviets making slow but steady advances into the city, day by day.

By January 22, the Soviets began building railroads to connect the city to the rest of the country in order to reestablish supply lines. Within a month, the railroad was complete and the Soviets were able to begin effectively transporting supplies in and out of the city.


“By January 30, it [The Red Army] had reached Leningrad and established a 5 to 6 mile wide corridor along the southern shore of Lake Ladoga. Though supply convoys were within range of German artillery, and the siege had many months yet to go, Leningrad had been saved” (Zimmerman).

Operation Iskra was a success for the Soviet forces. They were able to regain their city and reestablish supply lines for civilian and military personnel, in and outside of the city. Soviet leaders Govorov and Zhukov were both promoted that year following their victory in the operation. While their success with Operation Iskra was crucial, Soviet advances into neighboring cities turned out to be a struggle. The Soviets found themselves only making slow advances with not much to be gained.

Firsthand account of Operation Iskra:



Leningrad & Operation Spark: Breaking the Nazi Stranglehold



7 thoughts on “Operation Iskra

  1. Great post with fantastic detail! The operation seriousness of the situation that must have been felt by the Red Army was captured incredibly well within this post. I personally enjoyed how you used quotations from the event, and good descriptions of the weapons and soldiers used within the conflict. On top of that, the video gives another good account of the conflict, and even more detail to this crucial point of the war. I also liked how you spoke about the Russian’s ability to construct a railroad in a matter of weeks, showing their determination to the conflict.

  2. What a great topic! Even though the siege would not be lifted for another year, the success of Operation Iskra meant everything to the beleaguered city. The video memoir from the blockade survivor is really cool — RT did a wonderful multi-media commemoration of the war last spring (part of the 70th anniversary), and that’s where that clip comes from. Did you come across anything having to do with the “road to life” (the route across Lake Lagoda) and allied support for the civilian population? Check out this film from the US War Department directed by Frank Capra: https://youtu.be/WrKDBFJoo2w

  3. This is very interesting! It’s amazing that the siege lasted for more than two years without the Germans taking the city. I think it also speaks volumes to the Soviets resolve. The name of the operation is rather fitting, as I think it helped to reignite the Soviet drive which eventually turned the war in their favor.

  4. Great post! I wrote more about the struggles of the civilians in Leningrad. I really enjoyed reading your topic it was very informative. With how many citizens and soldiers that were dying in Leningrad it was great that the Red Army got there when they did. Although it obviously would have been better if they succeeded in this operation a lot sooner I don’t think Leningrad could have taken much more from the Germans.

  5. As others said, I like the idea of how resilient this action makes the Soviets look. The detail provided of materials and weaponry is equally interesting. The ending makes a small point about the overall situation and how this operation may have been a sort of isolated success, which is something I’d like to learn more about.

  6. I enjoyed reading this post a lot! You definitely put a lot of effort into it by adding in the photos for a good visual as well the video. I agree that Operation Iskra was a success for the Soviet forces, you showed this well with all of your facts through out the post.

  7. Whenever I read about Leningrad I always find it amazing that anyone managed to survive such a prolonged siege in such awful conditions. It is all very horrible but so interesting as a pretty incredible example of the hardiness of the Soviet people. Both Leningrad and Stalingrad are displays of how tenaciously the Soviets could endure long battles of attrition.

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