Germany invaded the USSR without warning in the Spring of 1941 and quickly isolated the northern city of Leningrad -- formerly and currently St. Petersberg -- from the rest of Russia. The siege that followed was terrible. All supplies ran out. There was no drinking water, no fuel, no food. Bodies were scattered around the streets. Some were cannibalized. Some living children were murdered and eaten.
Within the city, the authorities did what they could. As one fell ill, another succeeded him. Continuous attacks by ill-trained Russian troops finally broke through the German lines and the siege was relieved.
However, by this time almost a year had passed since the city was cut off from the rest of Russia. In Moscow, Stalin feared that the citizens had developed a sense of independent thought and had become, as he put it, "ideologically loose." A quiet purge followed in which the leaders of Leningrade, including especially the heroes, were spirited away into exile or execution. This film devotes about equal time to the suffering of Leningrad and the machinations of Stalin. The main elements are newsreel footage and the testimony of eyewitnesses, with one or two experts.
The film doesn't mention it but Stalin pulled the same stunts elsewhere in Russia after the victory of the Great Patriotic War. Cossack guerrillas were arrested and killed. Heroes of the Ukraine were hauled off to death. In the end, Stalin managed to kill more Russians than Hitler.
Curiously, today, he's not remembered as the paranoid tyrant that he was, but more as the man who had saved Russia from the invading Germans and the threatening Japanese. He was stupid at the outset but then he learned, although he was no less ruthless. He's no longer a cult hero but his dwellings and property have been turned into museums that are regularly visited by tourists.
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