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The creation and function of the ice route. The winter of 1941-1942

As winter came closer, the issue of providing with food the citizens of Leningrad and the forces of the front line, of the evacuation of the citizens and transportation of products intended for the army at the front line manufactured in the besieged city in the absence of navigation. The only solution of the problem was to build a route on the ice of Lake Ladoga. The organization of the ice route demanded a thorough preparation, a study of the ice regime of the lake and its peculiarities. Massive work was performed in short time and several projects of the ice route were prepared. The exposition displays the hydrographic work tools that were used during the construction of the route.

On November 19, 1941 order No. 00172 "On the organization of an auto and tractor route via Lake Ladoga" was issued to the forces of the Leningrad front line. On November 20 a caravan of sledges and carts left for the East bank. 350 carts went in the direction of Kobona where the food supplies for the starving citizens of Leningrad had been collected. On November 21, 1941 first food supplies were delivered to Osinovets, amounting to 63 tons of flour. The next day a caravan of 60 GAZ-AA cars left the West bank. Thus the famous Military Auto Route (VAD) No.101 across Ladoga came into existence. Soon this road became a part of Military Auto Route No. 102 created at the end of November 1941 and was given under the administration to the commander responsible for route No. 102. At first VAD-102 was a long ice-and-land motorway. It included the motorways of the Leningrad front line, warehouses, reloading bases and different services. But the main link of this chain was the ice route that passed directly on the ice of Lake Ladoga from the Kobona village at the East bank to the Kokarevo village at the West bank of the Shlisselburg bay.

Numerous exhibits, pictures and documents tell the story of the self-sacrificing work and fearlessness of the car drivers in the horrid conditions of the winter of 1941-1942. In order to evacuate children, old people and women from the besieged Leningrad 100 trucks with two-driver teams were additionally sent to Leningrad from the Moscow city council. Gorky sent 80 trucks, Yaroslavl sent 60. The exposition displays models of the cars of "The Road of Life": GAZ-AA, GAZ-AAA, ZIS-5 and the ZIS-8 bus. In January 1942 the citizens of Moscow sent 40 of these buses to Leningrad. Among the exhibits telling about the heroic work of the car drivers you can see the trip ticket and the route card for the ZIS-5 car of the driver I. I. Yamkov and the articles that belonged to the ice route drivers A. P. Petrov and G. I. Kostylev.

All services called to defend the ice route kept watch on it night and day. Two defense ranges were constructed on the ice at a distance of 8-12 km from the bank occupied by the enemy. Mines were planted in the area around them. 10 noninegrated artillery divisions provided the air defense. The exposition holds the battle banner of the 225th nonintegrated anti air artillery division. The fleet aviation also protected the ice route from air, together with the land artillery. The 39th destroyer air division, the 123rd destroyer air regiment and the 5th and 13th destroyer aviation regiments of the Air Force of the Baltic fleet protected "The Road of Life". The exposition displays parts of the destroyer plane that belonged to the Hero of the Soviet Union A. T. Sevastyanov. They were found and delivered by the Red rangers 29 years after the death of the pilot.

Big white tents were installed along the whole ice route – these were the so-called “ice hospitals”. Each of them had a small potbelly stove and a kettle with boiling water. Freezing drivers, soldiers defending the route and traffic controllers came into the “ice hospitals” in order to get warm.

Some exhibits in the exposition are dedicated to the hard work of medical personnel at the ice route. At the heated medical facilities those who had injuries or chilblain could receive help, and in evacuation points and evacuation hospitals the medics performed their work with excellence.

Starting from the end of March 1942 a very difficult period began in the work of the ice route – this was a period of struggle to keep it functioning. Thanks to the bravery of the drivers and the tireless efforts of all the people working at the route it kept working until April 21. On April 24 all movement of transport on the route had to stop.

During the 152 days when the ice motorway functioned Leningrad received more than 361 tons of different cargo, including 262.5 tons of food supplies. More than 550 thousand citizens of Leningrad were evacuated to the mainland.