The Leningrad Blockade, 1941-1944: A New Documentary History from the Soviet Archives

The Leningrad Blockade, 1941-1944: A New Documentary History from the Soviet Archives

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Based largely on formerly top-secret Soviet archival documents (including 66 reproduced documents and 70 illustrations), this book portrays the inner workings of the communist party and secret police during Germany's horrific 1941–44 siege of Leningrad, during which close to one million citizens perished. It shows how the city's inhabitants responded to the extraordinary demands placed upon them, encompassing both the activities of the political, security, and military elite as well as the actions and attitudes of ordinary Leningraders.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300198164
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 11/12/2013
Series: Annals of Communism Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 552
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Richard Bidlack is professor of history at Washington and Lee University. Nikita Lomagin is professor of economics at St. Petersburg State University.

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The Leningrad Blockade, 1941–1944

A New Documentary History from the Soviet Archives
By Richard Bidlack Nikita Lomagin


Copyright © 2012 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-11029-6

Chapter One

Leningrad During the Second World War and Its Aftermath

On the Eve of Operation Barbarossa

A traveler who happened to return to Leningrad in the spring of 1941, after having left the city at the start of the First World War, at the time of the October Revolution, or even as late as Stalin's rise to power in the late 1920s, would have found it vastly changed. Although building façades in the core of the city, including those of famous historical landmarks, were much the same, almost nothing else was. Most dimensions of life in Leningrad, from political power to the economy, education system, mass media, culture, religious practice, and family relations, had been radically altered by revolution, civil war, rapid industrialization, forced collectivization, purges, and the start of the Second World War.

Almost from the moment that the Bolsheviks came to power, they relied heavily on forced allocation, or mobilization, of materials and personnel to meet their goals. War Communism helped carry the Communists to victory in the Civil War, although in 1921 it gave way to the less coercive New Economic Policy. During the first Five Year Plan and the collectivization of agriculture, which commenced in 1928–29, the USSR built a command economy, in which the state gained control of almost all of the means of agricultural and industrial production. Leningrad occupied an integral part in Stalin's industrialization drive and defense planning, and the city's transformation in the first three Five Year Plans played an important role in shaping how it later responded to the ordeal of the siege. The most significant development was that the city grew substantially; its population doubled from 1.6 million in early 1927 to 3.2 million at the start of 1941. The largest increase was in the industrial work force. By the start of the Soviet-German War, Leningrad employed 1.9 million people, of whom 740,000 worked in factories. Some 608,000 of the industrial employees were classified as workers (rabochie), up from 250,000 in 1928. About 200,000 new laborers, mainly peasants who had fled starvation and loss of their land in the collectivized countryside, entered Leningrad during the shortened first Five Year Plan, which ended in 1932. In 1941 Leningrad, second only to Moscow as the largest industrial center in the USSR, had approximately six hundred factories, which produced about 10 percent of the nation's industrial output. Plants built after 1928, some of which incorporated Western technology, accounted for well over half of what Leningrad produced. Soviet data (which were likely inflated because of pressure to fulfill the industrial plan) show that the level of factory output in Leningrad in 1940 was approximately nine times that of 1928 and roughly one and a half times that of the entire Russian Empire in 1913. In one of the most industrialized parts of the city, Moskovsky raion, fifty-three factories were constructed between 1928 and 1941.

The defense sector of Leningrad's economy grew the quickest in the 1930s, making the city one of the largest producers of weapons and ammunition in the world, while the local economy received less than one-third of the city's industrial production. By 1941, close to half of the city's factory workers were employed in metallurgy (steel production in particular) and metal-based manufacturing and construction (diesel engines, turbines, construction cranes, tools, ships, submarines, tanks, artillery guns, ammunition, railroad cars, and tractors). Leningrad built about one-third of the USSR's industrial machinery and most of the nation's power-generating turbines. The city also manufactured approximately half of the USSR's large warships, especially battleships and submarines.

Ironically enough, as Leningrad's population and industrial output grew rapidly in the 1930s, the city became more subservient to Moscow, in part because national centralized planning elevated the capital over all other regions. Moreover, Stalin appears to have harbored a special antipathy toward the former imperial capital city, or, as he called it (Document 1), the USSR's "second capital," which reflected a mentality from centuries past. During the age of Muscovy, grand princes and tsars had continually worried about the security and political reliability of the northwestern borderlands of the realm. Ivan the Great punished Novgorod in the 1470s with a prolonged and bloody sack after it sought the protection of Catholic Lithuania. Almost exactly one hundred years later, Ivan the Terrible repeated the feat when he became convinced of a treasonous plot in Muscovy's second largest city. Leningrad can be likened to Ivan the Terrible's Novgorod in that Stalin continually saw threats to his power emanating from the city. Moreover, Leningrad was a source of humiliating memories for Stalin. Thoughts of the glorious revolutionary year of 1917 must have made him wince. Although he had been the first prominent Bolshevik to arrive in Petrograd after Nicholas II's fall from power, Lenin rebuked him upon his own return to the city in April for supporting the Provisional Government in Pravda. Even worse, the summer of 1917 reminded Stalin of Trotsky's arrival in Petrograd, his rapid conversion to Bolshevism, and his meteoric rise within the party to the level of Lenin's chief lieutenant. Stalin, the long-time and loyal Leninist, played a relatively minor role in the Bolshevik seizure of power. On the tenth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Grigory Zinoviev had tried to turn the commemorative street demonstration in Leningrad (where he had served as party leader until 1926 when Stalin had forced him out of that position and his seat in the Central Committee) into a protest against Stalin. Stalin may or may not have ordered the murder of the darling of the Seventeenth Party Congress, Sergei Kirov, who had been Zinoviev's replacement as Leningrad's party leader. In either case, Stalin used the murder, which occurred on 1 December 1934, as the excuse for a witch hunt in the Leningrad party and security organs. This operation appears to have been one of several catalysts for the Great Terror of 1937–38, which claimed in Leningrad alone up to forty thousand victims, whose corpses continue to be unearthed in mass graves near the city. In the process, Stalin thoroughly purged and reshaped the Leningrad Party Organization (LPO) in his own image.

Stalin installed Andrei Zhdanov as the replacement for the slain Kirov as first secretary of the Leningrad city and oblast' party committees (gorkom and obkom) (Figure 1). Zhdanov was an Old Bolshevik from 1915 and a loyal Stalinist who had served as leader of the Nizhegorod (Gorky) party committee from 1924 until he was elevated to the Central Committee in February 1934 immediately after the Seventeenth Party Congress. A year later Zhdanov became a candidate member of the Politburo. A beneficiary of the party purges, he acquired full membership in the Politburo in 1939. Many considered Zhdanov to be Stalin's likely successor. Seventeen years younger than his patron, Zhdanov occupied an almost filial role, a reflection of the extent to which Leningrad became increasingly subordinate to Moscow in the 1930s. Zhdanov's second in command in Leningrad was Aleksei Kuznetsov (Figure 2). Nine years younger than his boss, and in considerably better health, Kuznetsov had joined the party in 1925. Although he also had served early on in the Nizhegorod party organization, he built his career in Leningrad's district (raion) party committees (raikomy) and therefore knew the city better than Zhdanov. In September 1937, during the height of the party purge, Kuznetsov rose to the position of second secretary of the Leningrad gorkom and obkom. Other Leningrad political leaders had also advanced rapidly in the city's party organization and escaped the party purge. For example, Yakov Kapustin signed on at Krasny Putilovets in 1925 at the age of twenty-one and became a metalworker and riveter. In 1935–36, the factory sent him to England to study production of steam turbines. By 1938, he served as secretary of the partkom of the factory (which by this time was renamed for Kirov) and the following year was promoted to secretary of the Kirovsky raikom. He became a gorkom secretary in 1940.

Still others who had received their industrial training in Leningrad in the 1930s had advanced quickly by 1941 to important government posts in Moscow. Aleksei Kosygin's career climb was a spectacular example. In 1937, two years after completing studies at Leningrad's Textile Institute, he became director of the Oktiabrskaia textile plant. In October of 1938, he was named chairman of the executive committee of the Leningrad city sovet (Lengorispolkom) and fourteen months later moved to Moscow to take the post of people's commissar (narkom) of the textile industry and commence a tenure of forty-one years in the Central Committee. A talented organizer, he was named deputy chairman of the Sovnarkom in the spring of 1940. Dmitri Ustinov's professional advancement was as striking. He was graduated from Leningrad's Military Mechanical Institute in 1934 and from 1938 to 1941 advanced from engineer to director of the massive Bolshevik arms factory. Less than two weeks before the German invasion, he replaced the arrested Boris Vannikov (see below) as narkom of weaponry. Another prominent national leader who had held a key post in Leningrad, but did not serve as a factory director, was Nikolai Voznesensky. An economist who was transferred to Leningrad following purges after Kirov's murder, he occupied the post of deputy chairman of the Leningrad ispolkom from June to November of 1937. His career path closely tracked Kosygin's. By January 1938, he was named head of Gosplan in Moscow and acquired the post of first deputy chairman of the Sovnarkom in March 1941. During the Soviet-German War he would enter the State Defense Committee (GKO) and serve as chairman of Gosplan.

The expansion of Leningrad's military-industrial sector was directly tied to Soviet foreign policy and concerns over German rearmament and expansionism. Soviet investment in defense industries, which had grown rapidly from the time of the first Five Year Plan, accelerated in the closing years of the 1930s. The refusal of the Western democracies to confront German and Italian forces that intervened in support of General Franco in the Spanish Civil War was cause for concern for the USSR, which sent matériel and combatants to aid the Republican side. In addition, the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936 raised the possibility that the USSR might find itself at war simultaneously with Germany and Japan, which had already occupied Manchuria. Indeed, Soviet and Japanese forces skirmished along the Soviet-Manchuria border in the summers of 1937 and 1938. Germany's annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland in 1938 following the Munich Conference, to which Stalin was not invited, alarmed the Kremlin by raising suspicions that Britain and France, in pursuing politics of appeasement vis-à-vis Germany, were content to let Hitler drive eastward. German intelligence during this period was keenly interested in Leningrad, especially the program that commenced in 1938 to build more battleships, minesweepers, and cutters in the city's shipyards. On 24 July 1938, German airmen photographed all parts of the city and focused their lenses in particular on the sea canal, the harbor, and the Kronstadt naval base, which was located about fifteen miles west of Leningrad in the Gulf of Finland. Then, during the early morning of 15 August 1939, another German overflight occurred, which produced about a hundred photos of the city that featured the harbor, the Kirov factory, and pharmaceutical and chemical factories.

As Soviet and Japanese forces fought at Khalkhin-Gol along the Mongolian-Manchurian border, employing the largest number of aircraft and tanks ever in history up to that time, the Soviet government diminished at least temporarily the danger of having to fight a two-front war by stunning the world with the announcement on 23 August 1939, that it had signed a nonaggression pact with Germany in Moscow. The agreement effectively terminated the Anti-Comintern Pact but did not serve to lessen Soviet armament production. The Kremlin viewed the accompanying trade agreement, which consisted of the Soviet Union sending raw materials and foodstuffs to Germany in exchange for German weaponry and technological expertise, as a way to accelerate the Soviet military buildup. Neither side was willing to trust the agreement to continue indefinitely, despite the fact that the pact's secret protocols divided east-central Europe into Soviet and German spheres, with the Soviet sphere consisting of eastern Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and the Bessarabian part of Romania. (Lithuania was later consigned to the Soviet sphere in compensation for Germany taking more Polish territory than originally agreed upon.)

The Nonaggression Pact led directly to Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September. Sixteen days later, the Red Army began to drive two hundred miles into eastern Poland under the pretext of defending Belorussians and Ukrainians, and, in fact, a large portion of the ethnic minorities living in eastern Poland welcomed the Red Army's advance. On 1 October, three days after the USSR and Germany partitioned Poland, the Politburo decided to incorporate eastern Poland into the Belorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Republics. Zhdanov was deeply involved in exerting Soviet control over the annexed territory, as reflected in the fact that on the same day he was put in charge of a commission that was to determine the fate of Polish POWs. One of Zhdanov's main assistants on the commission was Lavrenty Beria, chief of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD). In April and May of 1940, the NKVD executed 21,857 members of the Polish elite, including military officers, policemen, mayors, priests, and others. They were shot at several locations in the western part of the Russian Republic, including the site in the Katyn Forest, which German forces discovered in April 1943. In the words of historian Kees Boterbloem: "Zhdanov thus became guilty of what were legally defined as war crimes in the Nuremberg trials in 1945 (although at that point the Katyn massacre was cynically pinned by the Soviet prosecutors on the Nazis.)"

The Red Army encountered relatively little resistance in occupying eastern Poland or in taking the other territories between the Baltic and Black seas that were consigned to the Soviet sphere in the secret protocols. Finland proved to be the remarkable exception. The Soviet government sought to enhance Leningrad's security and demanded from Finland territory in the Karelian Isthmus just north of Leningrad and the Hangö naval base that guarded the mouth of the Finnish Gulf. It offered to give Finland in return larger, though far less important, territory in the north along their common border. The Finnish government realized that acceptance of the Soviet proposal would leave Helsinki dangerously exposed and suspected that Moscow would demand further salami slices of Finnish territory. When Finland rejected the land swap proposal, the Red Army invaded on 30 November. Leningrad served as the Red Army's arsenal and staging ground for the Winter War that lasted three and a half months. Zhdanov, as the party official in charge of the region, was deeply involved in planning the invasion and served as the chief of the Regional Military Council during the war. The USSR's victory and annexation of the entire Karelian isthmus and the northern coastline of Lake Ladoga came at a very high price. According to Soviet military documents revealed only in 1993, 127,000 Soviet combatants were killed or went missing in action, in comparison to about 25,000 Finnish war deaths. (Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs Viacheslav Molotov acknowledged in 1940 that approximately 49,000 Soviet troops had perished.) The Soviet Air Force lost about 1,000 aircraft. More important, however, was the impression that the war conveyed abroad. Soviet military weakness had been exposed, which served to embolden Hitler and helped confirm him in his belief that Germany could easily defeat the USSR, and Finland looked for a way to regain the 25,000 square miles of territory that it had lost, as did inhabitants from other areas that the Soviet Union annexed in 1939–40. The Soviet military's high losses and dismal performance against the determined and well-equipped Finns compelled Stalin to quicken the pace of production of war matériel, as did Germany's unexpectedly quick defeat of France in a six-week blitzkrieg in the spring of 1940. Within two days after German troops marched down the Champs-Élysées, Soviet troops occupied Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and toward the end of June, Romania had to cede northern Bukovina, which had not been included in the Soviet sphere in the secret pact with Germany, as well as Bessarabia. A new Special Baltic Military District was headquartered in Riga, and the Baltic Fleet moved its home base from Kronstadt to Tallinn. Stalin's willingness to come to terms with Germany in 1939 had been based on the assumption that an ensuing war between Germany and France would last a long time as in the Great War, which would provide the USSR with ample time to prepare for a possible confrontation with Germany. The USSR would need until 1942 or 1943 to move its defense fortifications forward into the annexed territory, and some of its weapons programs, such as fighter aircraft assembly in Leningrad (see below), were scheduled to go into full production only in 1942. When Germany invaded the USSR, Soviet defenses along the 1939 boundary had been dismantled, but the new forward line, located close to German positions, had not been completed. In several ways, therefore, the USSR was actually better prepared for war with Germany in the summer of 1939 than it was in 1941.


Excerpted from The Leningrad Blockade, 1941–1944 by Richard Bidlack Nikita Lomagin Copyright © 2012 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission of Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

List of Maps ix

Acknowledgments xi

Note on Transliteration xv

Note on the Documents xvii

Soviet Terminology, Acronyms, and Abbreviations xix

List of Documents xxi

Chronology of the Leningrad Blockade xxvii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Leningrad During the Second World War and Its Aftermath 15

Chapter 2 Who Ruled Leningrad? 78

Chapter 3 Policies of Total War 184

Chapter 4 The Struggle to Survive 262

Chapter 5 The Popular Mood 329

Chapter 6 The Question of Organized Opposition 368

Conclusions 404

Appendix A Daily Bread Rations 413

Appendix B Official Monthly Rations for Food Other than Bread 414

Appendix C Rations Actually Distributed Other than Bread, 1 January-31 March 194Z, According to Leningradskaia Pravda 416

Notes 419

Bibliography of Sources Cited 461

Index 475

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