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Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad

Located in St Petersburg, the State Memorial Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad commemorates the blockade of the city, then known as Leningrad, which took place from 8 September 1941 to 27 January 1944. This 872-day siege of the city by joint German, Italian and Finnish forces has been recorded as one of the longest sieges in history. It was also one of the most destructive, resulting in huge numbers of casualties, with Russian losses recorded as one million Red Army soldiers being killed, captured or missing; almost 2.5 million soldiers wounded or ill; and civilian deaths being estimated at more than a million.

Apart from a small corridor of access, which came to be known as the "Road of Life", stretching across the ice of Lake Ladoga in the winter months, the residents of Leningrad and the military forces were cut off from the outside world, resulting in shortages of food and fuel, and creating problems with sanitation that resulted in widespread disease. The extreme deprivation of the people led many to do whatever they could to survive, and by the time the German forces were ousted from the outskirts of the city in January 1944, some residents of the city had reportedly resorted to cannibalism to survive.

At the end of the blockade, a museum was established to commemorate this devastating period in the city's history, and the impact it had on its citizens. The original museum contained a number of confiscated Nazi tanks and aircraft, with exhibits numbering 37,000 including donations from citizens. However, Stalin was not happy with the potential unifying power of the memorial and ordered it to be destroyed when he purged the Leningrad Party in 1948. Exhibits were destroyed, and the museum's director was shot.

In the late 1980s the museum was re-established, albeit on a smaller scale than previously, with many of the exhibits once again coming from citizens. Anti-aircraft guns flank the entrance of the museum, with the main exhibition focusing on both the military and civilian aspects of the blockade. Photographs, newspapers and diaries provide insight into what life was like at that time when a loaf of bread was more precious than gold. While the State Memorial Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad is relatively small, it graphically depicts a tumultuous time in the history of St Petersburg which many of the city's residents believe should not be forgotten.

 



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