1st Sinyavino Defensive Operation

This was the Soviet first attempt to lift German pressure on the eastern side of Leningrad by retaking the Sinyavino heights and thereby reopening the line of communication along the southern shore of Lake Ladoga (10/26 September 1941).

The Soviet offensive was executed by Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Grigori Kulik’s 54th Army, which had been created on 5 September 1941 with the task of securing the shores of Lake Ladoga to prevent the Germans from encircling Leningrad.

Leningrad had become isolated from the rest of the USSR on 8 September when German forces of Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb’s Heeresgruppe 'Nord' captured Schlüsselburg (Petrokrepost in Russian) at the point where the Neva river debouches into the south-western corner of Lake Ladoga. On the following day General Georgi K . Zhukov assumed command of the task of co-ordinating the defence of the Leningrad from Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Kliment Ye. Voroshilov. The 54th Army was under direct command of the Stavka, and on Zhukov’s recommendations ordered into the attack on 10 September.

In this first attempt to break the blockade of Leningrad, the 54th Army attacked from the east with the support from the west by the Leningrad Front’s 115th Division and 4th Marines Brigade, which attacked from the region of Nevskaya Dubrovka in Leningrad. The 54th Army’s offensive achieved gains of between 3.75 and 6.1 miles (6 and 10 km) in the course of 16 days of intermittent heavy fighting but failed to secure the intended corridor, and was itself driven back, surrounded and almost wholly destroyed, while the Leningrad Front’s troops made a forced crossing over the Neva river and occupied the Neva river bridgehead, but failed to advance any further.

Kulik came under heavy criticism from the Stavka and Zhukov for this dismal performance. When the Germans pushed back even some of these meagre gains, Kulik was replaced by General Leytenant Mikhail S. Kozhin, court-martialled and reduced in rank to general major. Kozhin, a protégé of Zhukov, was promoted to command of the Leningrad Front in place of Zhukov on the latter’s switch to high command levels, and succeeded by General Major Ivan I. Fedyuninsky, another of Zhukov’s protégés.