During World War II, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) underwent a 900-day siege by the Nazis. The people of Leningrad bravely defended their city, withstanding the lengthy siege and valiantly protecting the Bronze Horseman (as Peter the Great's monument is known). They also prevailed despite of hunger, cold and nonstop bombardment. Russia eventually triumphed against the Nazi Attacks. For their courage, strength of spirit and sense of nationality, a monument was built in their honor. This is called the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad.
The concept and design of the monument came from an open competition announced in 1958. Of the 44 entries, it was Sergei Speransky's work that stood out. Speransky is a renowned Russian architect. He is also known for building structures with a World War II theme, such as a World War II monument in Minsk. A second contest was announced, this time with over 80 applicants. But it was still Speransky's design that won. He called this design 'Eternal Flame of Our Memory.' Speransky worked with another architect, Kamensky.
The monument serves as the focal point of the Victory Square (Ploshchad Pobedy). It has the Arch of Victory Triumph (which was erected in 1945). There are two granite pylons with sculptures. On the right pylon, there are sculptures of guerilla warriors and soldiers, foundry women, and members of the emergency volunteer corps. On the left pylon are sculptures of snipers, scouts, war pilots and seamen, and builders of the defense line. The sculptures are supposed to symbolize the ties between the people and the army. The bronze sculptures are creations of People's Artist M. Anikushin.
The bronze statues are arranged around an obelisk that is raised 48 meters high. The obelisk is engraved with the dates '1941 – 1945'. The monument and the memorial complex were unveiled during the 30th anniversary of the Victory during the Great Patriotic War. During that time, 30 spruce fir-trees were placed in the entrance front. The monument also has an underground memorial hall, which is an exhibition featuring the siege, including artifacts, documentary films and photos of the event. The hall was opened in February 1978, during the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Armed Forces. The outside of the hall is lit with gas torches. There are also engravings on the walls of the monument. These recognize the deeds of the defenders of Leningrad. Inside the memorial hall, you can see mosaics on the western and eastern walls. There is also a detailed map of the defenses of Leningrad.
The exhibition hall is open from 10 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon, except for Tuesdays and Fridays, when it is open only until 5 in the afternoon. The hall is closed on Wednesdays. Admission is free.