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Hero Cities of the Soviet Union

Russian Hero Cities of the Great Patriotic War.

Leningrad World War II blockade monument

The hero city is a Soviet honorary title 13 cities of the Former Soviet Union were awarded for outstanding heroism during the German-Soviet War (World War II) of 1941 to 1945. They are: Moscow, Leningrad (today's Saint Petersburg), Stalingrad (today's Volgograd), Kiev, Minsk, Odessa, Sevastopol, Novorossiysk, Kerch, Tula, Smolensk, Murmansk, the city- fortress Brest. 7 of them are now the cities of Russian Federation and the sites of glorious battles of the Red Army and heroic resistance of the population during the war.

Leningrad (Saint-Petersburg)

The 900-day Siege of Leningrad (The Leningrad Blockade) began in on the 8th of September in 1941, less than two and a half months after the Soviet Union had been attacked by Nazi Germany. The Siege became the most tragic period in the history of the city. After more than 65 years the Siege evokes painful memory for the population's older generations

The Siege of Leningrad was one of the longest, most destructive and most lethal sieges of a major city in modern history. It isolated the city from most supplies except those provided through the Road of Life across Lake Ladoga and resulted in deaths of more than a million civilians, mainly from starvation. Many others were eventually evacuated or escaped by themselves, so the city became largely depopulated. Leningrad however refused to surrender.

Leningrad’s war industries still continued to work and helped the front, while its citizens lived in inhuman conditions with no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food under the constant bombardment by German artillery.

On January 27 1944 the siege was fully lifted. Leningrad was awarded the title Hero City in 1945, being the first city to receive that distinction. Economic destruction and human losses in Leningrad on both sides exceeded those of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The image and the spirit of modern Saint Petersburg are forever connected with most tragic page of its history. Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery is a resting place to over 500,000 people buried during the Siege. The memorial complex, the eternal flame and magnificent Mother Motherland monument reminds that "no one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten". Hero-City Obelisk, Monument to the 'Road of Life', the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad and others symbols of Saint-Petersburg glorious and tragic history are the essential part of this magnificent city’s heritage.

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Mamayev Kurgan - "The Motherland Calls" statue

Stalingrad (Volgograd)

The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II, Germans' first major land defeat and the turning point of the war in Europe. It was the largest battle on the Eastern Front and was marked by brutality and disregard for military and casualties. The combined casualties estimated at nearly two million. So great were Soviet losses that at times, the life expectancy of a newly arrived soldier was less than a day, and the life expectancy of a Soviet officer was three days.

The capture of Stalingrad was a part of the Operation Blau (Case Blue) - 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia. Stalingrad was not only a major industrial city on the Volga River - a vital transport route between the Caspian Sea and Northern Russia, blocking the way to oil-rich Caucasus region, but also bore the name the USSR leader Joseph Stalin. Thus its capture would become an ideological and propaganda coup.

The battle lasted for 6 months between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943 and involved the 3 periods of the German offensive to take Stalingrad, the battle inside the city, and the Soviet counter-offensive, that trapped the Axis forces in and around the ruined city and resulted in final surrender of the German army. The battle had a devastating effect on the city. Heavy German bombardment, killing thousands of civilians, had turned the city into a landscape of ruins.

For the heroism of the Soviet defenders of Stalingrad, the city was awarded the title Hero City in 1945. Twenty-four years after the battle, in October 1967, a colossal monument, Mother Motherland, was erected on Mamayev Kurgan, the hill overlooking the city. The statue forms part of a War memorial complex which includes ruined walls deliberately left the way they were after the battle.

Moscow

The defense of Moscow, ususally referred to as "Battle of Moscow" became a symbol of Soviet resistance against the invading Axis forces. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942

Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler planned to capture the gates to the Soviet Union and its major city as a result of strategic offensive named Operation Typhoon. However the Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow and the following Soviet counter-offensive drove Germans back out of reach of Moscow. Battle of Moscow appeared to be first defeat of German army in 1941.

Total casualties between 30 September 1941, and 7 January 1942, are estimated to be between 248,000 and 400,000 for the Wehrmacht and between 650,000 and 1,280,000 for the Red Army which makes the Battle of Moscow one of the most lethal battles in world history. Moscow was awarded the title of "Hero City" in 1965 to commemorate the battle.

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Novorossiysk

The city of Novorossiysk on the Eastern coast of the Black Sea provided a stronghold against the German summer offensive of 1942 and didn’t let the enemy get to the Caucasus.

Intense fighting in and around the city lasted from August until it was captured by the Germans in mid-September 1942. A small unit of the Soviet navy defended an area in the town known as Malaya Zemlya. They held it for 225 days until the Red Army arrived to liberate the Port of Novorossiysk in late 1943. In 1973, the Port of Novorossiysk was awarded the title of Hero City in recognition of this valiant effort.

WWII monument in Murmansk, Russia

Tula

For 45 days from to October 24 to December 5, 1941 Tula held off a major Nazi assault while the German army was trying to proceed to Moscow. The city was besieged and resisted German artillery and aviation bombardments. Its heroic defense stopped the German army and probably saved the Soviet capital of Moscow. Tula was awarded the title Hero City in 1976.

Murmansk

The strategically important sea port and industrial city of Murmansk became the site of German offensive in June 29, 1941. Planned Operation Silver Fox meant that mixed German and Finnish forces would seize Murmansk and cut the city and the Kola Peninsula from the rest of the Soviet Union. This would spare the USSR of the vital knot that provided the transport of supplies to the South. However, the offensive quickly ran out of steam and by the time the winter arrived the Germans were heavily outnumbered and had been successfully countered by superior Soviet forces.

The tenacious defense of the Soviet never let Allies gain control of the port. Murmansk remained in Russian hands throughout the war, and around a quarter of all Lend Lease material was received through this port, and the port of Arkhangelsk. The supplies coming through this Murmansk helped the Soviets quickly recover from the disasters of 1941. Murmansk was awarded the title Hero City in 1985.

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