When we left off, Leningrad had survived the full assault of the Nazi military machine, and several months of punitive blockade.
Heroic ice truckers brought in supplies, and evacuated civilians, over the frozen Lake Ladoga.
Communist Party leader and Military Committee member Andrei Zhdanov was the leader of the city’s resistance to German attack and occupation.
When spring came and the snow melted, the full extent of the destruction could be seen.
New enemies arose to torment the population: cholera, typhus, dysentery.
Undeterred, the people of Leningrad went out onto the streets in the month of March 1942 and engaged in a major clean-up effort.
The Medical-Sanitary Services of the city showed a high level of professionalism in these efforts, confirming their reputation as one of the best in the nation.
By May, many municipal services were back up and running. The electricity was turned on. The trams were running again.
Every effort was made to serve the cultural needs of the people under these difficult conditions: Concerts were given, the Public Library and the Library of the Academy of Sciences were open to readers.
Even religious needs were taken into account in this officially athestic society: the Orthodox churches were kept open for those wishing to worship. Leningrad’s Mitropolitan Alexii remained in the city and continued to service his flock. (Alexii was to go on, in 1945, to become the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus.) Mitropolitan Alexii recorded patriotic exhortations, which were played over the radio. The Soviet government appreciated his loyalty [yalensis: things could have gone the other way] and awarded him with four Orders of the Red Banner of Labor, and also a medal “For the Defense of Leningrad” and other medals.
The second winter under blockade. On 12 January 1943 was launched Operation Iskra (“Spark”). On that day the Leningrad 67th Army along with the Second Strike Army of the Volkhov Front, went on the counter-offensive. Striking jointly from different angles, they broke through the enemy ring and united in the region of Workers Settlements #1 and #5. Soviet troops were able to fully cleanse the Lake Ladoga shore of all enemy forces, and restore the land bridge. This enabled the construction of a new railway line coming directly into Leningrad. Products and freight began to pour into the city. Leningrad was saved.
The rest of the PolitNavigator piece is a brief biography of Andrei Zhdanov himself. Which gives insight into his personality and how he acquired the excellent leadership qualities which he showed during the Leningrad siege. I will cover that tomorrow in Part III, in order to give Comrade Zhdanov his due.
But first I just wanted to make one brief comment. The history of the Leningrad battles and blockade, like all matters Soviet (or even just Russian, for that matter) is just another piece of raw meat for Sovietophobes and Russophobes of all stripes. Instead of seeing a fascinating history of military and political events, many “historians” and other pundits simply see more fodder for anti-Russian and in fact anti-human propaganda.
If you read Western books and articles, you will find many falsifications and myths. For example, that Stalin “hated” Leningrad (supposedly for its free spirit and/or intelligentsia, or whatever) and thus did little to save it. The reality is that the Soviet government and Communist Party did everything in their power to save this city and its people. Why wouldn’t they — it was the second capital!
You will also see a type of hypocritical propaganda purporting to admire Russians, while focusing on their ability to endure suffering. This type of propaganda (let’s call it “Russian Suffer Porn”) typically sees Russians as “others”, something other than human, and sheds copious crocodile tears over the misfortunes of Russian (and Soviet) people, while pretending to be sympathetic to their woes. And indeed, the Leningrad siege and blockade provides many horrific stories of unendurable human suffering. But then, so does any war. Has everybody read the diary of Jakob Walter, a German foot soldier serving in Napoleon’s army? I read this book a few years back, and it hard for me to even conceive of the sufferings endured by Walter and his peers. But somehow Western historians don’t get too cut up by these issues, when they write about Napoleon’s glorious battles.
And these same Western historians might not willingly emphasize that the suffering of the people of Leningrad was finally ended by such factors as industrial production, decisive political leadership, and competent military action, leading to eventual military victory.
When all is said and done, when it comes to war, it’s really all about WINNING. No?
[to be continued]