In the north of Saint Petersburg lies an astoundingly large and somber memorial complex dedicated mostly to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad carried out by Nazi soldiers during World War II. This siege—considered a genocide by some historians—was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history. It was also perhaps the costliest in terms of casualties, with estimates totaling around 1,000,000 deaths, many of them civilians from starvation and exposure between September 8, 1941 and January 27, 1944.
Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery contains 186 mass graves with the bodies of about 420,000 civilians and 50,000 soldiers of the Leningrad Front. By the street is a small (one-room) museum, where tours can be arranged, and an eternal flame lies near the entrance. In the center of the memorial complex stands a bronze statue known as “The Motherland,” smaller than her namesake in Volgograd (formerly and more famously Stalingrad), which remains the tallest statue in Europe. The granite wall behind the statue features a poem by the Soviet writer Olga Berggolts, who spent almost every day of the blockade working at the radio, encouraging the city’s hungry and depressed citizens with her speeches and poems. This poem reads as follows:
Here lie Leningraders
Here are city-dwellers, men, women, and children
And next to them, Red Army soldiers.
They defended you, Leningrad,
The cradle of the Revolution
With all their lives.
We cannot list their noble names here,
There are so many of them under the eternal protection of granite.
But know this, those who regard these stones:
No one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten.