On February 7, 1943, the first train arrived at the Finland Station in Leningrad after the beginning of the blockade of the city by the Nazis.
He walked along the highway, which was built in a short time between Polyany and Shlisselburg after the Soviet troops broke through the blockade ring.
As historians note, the Victory Road played an important role in disrupting the plans of the Nazi command to destroy Leningrad.
The road of life
During the attack on the Soviet Union, the leadership of Nazi Germany attached great importance to the capture of Leningrad.
Huge forces of the Wehrmacht and the Finnish army were thrown against the city.
In July 1941, the Nazis launched an offensive on the distant approaches to the city.
Despite the desperate resistance of the Soviet troops, the Nazis were able to encircle the city in early September, completely blocking it by land from the rest of the USSR.
All Nazi attempts to take the city by storm failed.
According to historians, this thwarted the plans of the Nazi command to deploy Army Group North to Moscow and largely predetermined the defeat of the Wehrmacht in an attempt to capture the capital of the USSR.
However, the situation of besieged Leningrad turned out to be extremely difficult.
Back in early September, German aviation bombed the Badaev warehouses in Leningrad, which stored significant food supplies.
Because of this, the city had to drastically reduce the norms for issuing products.
From November 20 to December 25, 1941, the workers were given 250 grams of bread per day, the rest of the city's residents - only 125 grams.
The situation became catastrophic.
According to historians, in the winter of 1941-1942, the number of Leningraders who died from hunger, cold, disease and Nazi bombings was about 4 thousand people a day.
The situation was slightly improved thanks to the transportation of goods along the Road of Life - a path that in the warm season passed through the water of Lake Ladoga, and after the onset of freeze-up - on ice.
Food, fuel, weapons and ammunition were delivered to Leningrad along the Road of Life.
Residents of Leningrad in line for water.
Residents of besieged Leningrad collect water that appeared after shelling in holes in the asphalt.
Russia, Leningrad - Nevsky Prospekt between Gostiny Dvor (building on the left) and Ostrovsky Square
© Wikimedia Commons / Boris Kudoyarov / CC-BY-SA 3.0
The Ladoga route was subjected to air strikes and shelling from heavy guns.
The Nazis tried to cut it, landing troops.
Despite all this, 1615 thousand tons of cargo and about 300 thousand reinforcements were transported across Lake Ladoga from the "mainland" to Leningrad.
At the same time, the possibilities of the Road of Life were limited.
“It was impossible to supply Leningrad with a sufficient amount of everything necessary through Ladoga,” said Vyacheslav Mosunov, a senior researcher at the Russian Railway Museum, in an interview with RT.
The possibilities of supplying Leningrad expanded significantly against the backdrop of Operation Iskra.
The first train from the "mainland"
On January 12, 1943, Operation Iskra began.
The troops of the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts launched a successful offensive against the positions of the Wehrmacht south of Lake Ladoga.
On the morning of January 18, the 136th Rifle Division and the 61st Tank Brigade of the Leningrad Front joined in Rabochey Settlement No. 5 with units of the 18th Rifle Division of the 2nd Shock Army, which was moving towards them.
The blockade ring was broken.
By January 30, the Soviet troops managed to consolidate their success.
A land corridor 8-11 km wide appeared between Leningrad and the "mainland".
Already on the day the blockade was broken, the State Defense Committee decided to build a new railway line between the Shlisselburg station and the Polyany platform on the 71st km of the Leningrad-Volkhovstroy highway.
The head of the board of military restoration works No. 2, Ivan Zubkov, was entrusted with managing the construction.
Before the war, he led the construction of the Leningrad Metro.
On January 22, work began on the construction of the railway, which took place simultaneously from the west and east.
The new line was supposed to pass through the former Sinyavino peat mines.
It was extremely difficult to carry out construction work in swampy, rugged terrain.
Due to lack of time, sleepers and rails were laid directly on the snow.
The base of the path was frozen marshy soil.
I had to work during snowstorms, under artillery and mortar fire of the Nazis.
But from a technical point of view, there were more serious difficulties.
“The biggest engineering problem was the construction of a bridge across the Neva,” said Vyacheslav Mosunov.
The bridge at the Staraya Ladoga Canal was built in 12 days.
Work on its construction was carried out around the clock.
Its length was 1300 m. It was a low-water overpass designed for operation in winter.
The pile supports of the river part were fastened together only by ice and the upper part of the bridge.
On February 2, the flyover successfully passed practical tests - the first train with laying materials passed through it.
Four days later, military trains moved along the flyover.
On February 7, 1943, a train from the “mainland” arrived at the Finland Station in Leningrad for the first time since the beginning of the blockade.
By analogy with the Road of Life, the new line began to be called the Road of Victory.
Meeting of soldiers of the 2nd shock and 67th armies, January 18, 1943, photograph by D. Kozlov
© Wikimedia Commons / Dmitriy Kozlov / CC-BY-SA 3.0
“The food train arrived first, delivering oil to Leningrad,” said Vyacheslav Mosunov.
"In line of sight of the enemy"
After traffic was opened on the line, the builders began the construction of a high-water railway bridge, located 500 meters from the overpass.
At the same time, the technology of pile supports with a fence in the form of a solid wall with stone backfilling, proposed by Academician Grigory Perederiy, was used.
Despite the shelling of the enemy, the bridge was built extremely quickly.
The first break-in train tested it on March 18, and the next day the bridge was opened to full traffic.
The length of the new bridge was 852 m, height - 8.21 m.
The overpass was originally planned to be dismantled.
But due to the constant shelling from the Nazis, it was decided to keep it as an emergency crossing.
For this, a number of changes were made to its design.
Soldiers of the Volkhov Front on the offensive during the breakthrough of the blockade of Leningrad, January 1943
© Wikimedia Commons
“The railway was in direct line of sight of the enemy.
She was constantly being shot at.
People died, the path was destroyed, ”said Alexander Voitsekhovsky, a senior researcher at the Road of Life Museum and Memorial Complex, in an interview with RT.
On March 19, 1943, the Military Council of the Leningrad Front decided to build an additional bypass.
It passed two to three kilometers to the north and was better hidden from the enemy by the terrain.
From February 8, 1943, four pairs of trains were supposed to run around the clock along the Victory Road.
However, such a schedule could not be maintained.
Steam locomotive EM−721-83, installed at the Petrokrepost railway station in the Leningrad Region in memory of the railroad workers of the Victory Road
© Wikimedia Commons / Sergey Kudryavtsev
“Due to the fact that at first it was not possible to suppress enemy artillery, it was possible to start trains at first only at night,” Andrey Gorbunov, head of the scientific and methodological department of the Victory Museum, said in a conversation with RT.
According to historians, at night they tried to let three pairs of trains pass: three in the direction of Leningrad and three in the opposite direction.
However, the management of the railway did not give up and was looking for ways to increase its throughput: a special system of traffic lights was developed, trains were allowed to flow - one day in the direction of Leningrad, others - in the direction of the "mainland".
On some nights, up to 20-25 trains passed between Shlisselburg and Polyany.
After the frosts receded, the erosion of the paths began.
The workers constantly strengthened and repaired the railway under Nazi shelling.
Thanks to the efforts of the railway workers, in October the number of trains that went to Leningrad in a month reached 436. In total, 3105 trains were allowed to Leningrad in 1943, and 3076 from Leningrad. They carried food, fuel and ammunition to the city, and to the "mainland" disabled people and factory equipment were evacuated.
Stele "Steel Way", dedicated to the Victory Road, installed at the Petrokrepost station
© Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
According to Alexander Woitsekhovsky, Soviet troops guarded the railway and tried to push the Nazis away from it.
In September 1943, the Red Army captured the Sinyavinsky heights, depriving the enemy of the opportunity to observe the movement of trains.
To protect the highway, special counter-battery and anti-aircraft units were created.
On the bridges across the Neva, smoke control measures were organized.
The exact volumes of transportation between Shlisselburg and Polyany are unknown to historians.
But in total, more than 4 million tons of cargo, including 630 thousand tons of food, were delivered along the Road of Life and the Road of Victory (and before that - along the October Railway) in 1943.
In January 1944, in connection with the complete lifting of the blockade from Leningrad, the Victory Road lost its importance in supplying the city, but its role in the events of 1943, according to historians, is difficult to overestimate.
“Leningrad could not provide for itself and lived on imports.
Therefore, the opening of the Victory Road is one of the most important events in 1943 in the northwestern direction.
After that, Hitler's plan to destroy Leningrad finally failed, ”Vyacheslav Mosunov emphasized.