Sunday 22 June 2008

Leningrad - The North

 The Karelian Fortified District (KaFD) existed from 1928 as a line of defence for Leningrad from the north (Leningrad was only 30 - 50 kms from the border). It played a pivotal role during the period 1941-1944 when the Finnish army approached the city from the north. After WW2 the KaFD didn’t lose it's role: from the end of the 1940s and until the middle of 1950s intensive rearmament and building took place.

The Fortified Districts contained one line of fortifications from 3 to 5 km depth. In places a second fortified line was constructed at a depth of 10-15 km from the first line. Special attention was given to the construction of anti-tank defences. The builders used anti-tank ditches and took advantage of the prevailing topography.

The most common type of pillbox in the area was a small construction with 2 or 3 embrasures. All were one-storied, 8 to 9 metres long and 6 metres wide. The thickness of the wall was from 1 metre to 1.5 metres covering an area of 12 - 15 square metres.

Large pillboxes were slightly less common. These had from 3 to 6 embrasures and were two-storeyed. These constructions sometimes covered an area of up to one hundred sq.metres. These larger types often have two exits plus in addition to the main entrance.

The pillboxes with thicker walls could withstand several hits from 203-mm shells or a few hits from 280-305-mm shells. The pillboxes with thinner walls could withstand several hits from 152-mm shells and a few hits from 203-mm shells. Inside walls and ceilings were originally covered with steel, five to seven mm thick.

Pillboxes had a very wide arcs of fire – not less then 180 degrees. Pillboxes with 6 embrasures had arcs of fire of 360 degrees. There were stores of food and water in pillboxes and smoke and gas filters for ventilation.

There was electricity in all the pillboxes and stoves for heating & cooking in bigger ones. There was no sewer system in most of them, buckets with waterproof covers were used. There were telephones and radio stations (in the bigger ones) and speaking tube for interior communication.
Machine-gun pillboxes were located 300-500 m far from each other. Buried MS-1(T-18) tanks were used like additional weapon emplacements. 160 written off tanks were given to the Leningrad district in 1934-1937.

After the war there was no further construction in the KaFD. However, there was some modernization of equipment and arms in 1950-1955 and the ventilation system was improved. In the beginning of 1960s all of the buildings were closed down and the machine-guns were taken away.

The photographs below show the memorial complex at the Lembolovo Heights Note (actually the name 'Lembalovo' is more exact in historical terms because in 1920-1950 it was used).

The complex is located 31st km from the Priosersk arterial road. These heights were originally the scene of a series of battles during the 1918-1920 conflict when soldiers of the Red Army succesfully fought against the White Army. In commemoration of this feat a small granite plate was installed here.

In 1941 the divisions of 23d Army and several Brigades of Seamen - Frontier Guards fought against the Fins here. my friend Natalya says that "On the 6/09/1941 they stopped the fascist divisions here and didn’t let them pass to Leningrad".

She went on to say "From this site the deliverance of the Karelian Isthmus began in 1944. The memorial complex was built on the site of the former front line of defence and the memorial symbolises the courage and the bravery of the victors".

The inscription on the stone (far right) translates as follows: 'This time was lost from us but now it stays with us forever'(Boris Lavrenev, Russian writer).

The architects of this memorial complex were Yu.Tsarikovsky, B.Svinin, N,Sedov. Sevent nine enterprises from the city participated in it's construction.