Writing the Siege of Leningrad: Women's Diaries, Memoirs, and Documentary Prose (Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies ) / Edition 1

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Silver Winner, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year, History

From September 1941 until January 1944, Leningrad suffered under one of the worst sieges in the history of warfare. At least one million civilians died, many during the terribly cold first winter. Bearing the brunt of this hardship—and keeping the city alive through their daily toil and sacrifice—were the women of Leningrad. Yet their perspective on life during the siege has been little examined.

Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina have searched archival holdings for letters and diaries written during the siege, conducted interviews with survivors, and collected poetry, fiction, and retrospective memoirs written by the blokadnitsy (women survivors) to present a truer picture of the city under siege. In simple, direct, even heartbreaking language, these documents tell of lost husbands, mothers, children; meager rations often supplemented with sawdust and other inedible additives; crime, cruelty, and even cannibalism. They also relate unexpected acts of kindness and generosity; attempts to maintain cultural life through musical and dramatic performances; and provide insight into a group of ordinary women reaching beyond differences in socioeconomic class, ethnicity, and profession in order to survive in extraordinary times.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“While hundreds of books on the subject spout official Soviet dogma, this volume has emerged since the fall of communism, and it offers the voice of the people. The authors successfully capture women’s battle for survival and heroic struggle to maintain a semblance of municipal life during the siege. ... A very touching account of these women’s remarkable accomplishments.”
Library Journal

“ ... profoundly important, deeply moving, insightful collection of human experience and a strongly recommended addition to Russian History, European Studies, and Women’s Studies supplemental reading lists and academic reference collections.”

Library Journal
The Siege of Leningrad contains some of the darkest history of World War II. The German army, unable to complete a direct assault on the city, resorted to a 900-day blockade during which approximately a million civilians died. Most of the men and boys were sacrificed to the war effort, leaving mainly women and children to endure the horrors of extreme deprivation caused by the blockade. Simmons (Slavic studies, Boston Coll.) and Perlina, a survivor of the siege and now a professor of Slavic languages and literature, have collected memoirs and oral histories from women who lived through this ghastly drama and melded them into a powerful narrative. While hundreds of books on the subject spout official Soviet dogma, this volume has emerged since the fall of communism, and it offers the genuine voice of the people. The authors successfully capture women's battle for survival and heroic struggle to maintain a semblance of municipal life during the siege. The library, for instance, never missed a beat, circulating more than a million and a half books and documents. As this account details, the physical struggles were enormous. In winter, most citizens lived without heat as temperatures fell to 40 degrees below zero. Grass and leaves, along with glue and anything leather, were the staples of their diet, as all dogs and cats had long ago been eaten. Cannibalism saved many from starving. A very touching account of these women's remarkable accomplishments, this book is recommended for all libraries. Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Although Russian women were the ones who disproportionately had to cope with the German army's World War II blockade of Leningrad, their voices have rarely been heard in Russian or English. Perlina (Indiana U.), a survivor of the 900-day siege, and Simmons (Boston College), another professor of Slavic studies, present the first accounts in English of female perspectives on the infamous siege. Includes a chronology, glossary, maps, and photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822958697
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2005
  • Series: Pitt Russian East European Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 638,302
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Simmons is associate professor of Slavic Studies at Boston College.
Nina Perlina, who survived the siege of Leningrad as a young child, is a professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Indiana University.

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Table of Contents

Chronology of the Siege
Table of Rations
Map: Front Line around Leningrad, 21 September 1941
Map: Leningrad, with Points of Interest
Introduction 1
Diaries and Letters 19
Diary of Liubov' Vasil'evna Shaporina, hospital nurse during Siege; later an artist 21
Diary of Anna Petrovna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, artist 25
Letter from Leningrad: El'za Greinert to children 33
Letter from Leningrad: Germany family remembered 37
Diary and letters of Evgeniia Shavrova, introduced by her sister, Elena Fassman, librarian 39
Diary of Vera Sergeevna Kostrovitskaia, ballerina and dance teacher 47
Diary of Mariia Viacheslavovna Kropacheva, school teacher 53
Diary of Anna Ivanovna Likhacheva, doctor 58
Diary to Tamara Petrovna Nekliudova, entertainer at the front 62
Ol'ga Mikhailovna Freidenberg, classicist scholar, first woman department chair in a Soviet university, The Race of Life 64
Memoirs and Oral Histories 77
Vera Vladimirovna Miliutina, artist, Evacuation and The Scottish Album 79
Valentina Nikolaevna Gorokhova, doctor, The War, the Blockade, the Military Hospital 87
Sof'ia Nikolaevna Buriakova, housewife, A Half-Century Ago 95
Ol'ga Nikolaevna Grechina, literary scholar, "Saving, I Am Saved" 104
Interview with Natal'ia Borisovna Rogova, librarian, archivist 116
Interview with Valentina Fedorovna Petrova, archivist 120
Oral history of Natal'ia Vladimirovna Stroganova, child during the Siege; later philologist 127
Interview with Valentina Il'inishna Bushueva, factory worker 133
Avgusta Mikhailovna Saraeva-Bondar', art historian, Silhouettes of Time 141
Interview with Kseniia Makianovna Matus, oboist in the Leningrad Symphony 147
Yuliia Aronovna Mendeleva, doctor, memoir excerpts from The Defense of Leningrad 156
Lilia Solomonovna Frankfurt, librarian, "The Saltykov-Shehedrin National Public Library" 163
Interview with Ol'ga Il'inichna Markhaeva, museum researcher, and Ol'ga Anatol'evna Trapitsina-Matveenko, chemist 170
Documentary Prose 175
Elena Oskarovna Martilla, artist, Grave Months for the Blockaded City 177
Lidiia Samsonovna Razumovskaia, university student, "To the People" 183
Irena L'vovna Dubitskaia, Cold Sun: Stories 188
Liudmila Ivanovna Veshenkova, "Sweet Earth" 193
Antonina Emel'ianovna Maslovskaia, "Blockade Lullaby" 197
Vera Vladimirovna Miliutina, artist, "Vitamins, or Ode to Grass" 198
Liubov' Borisovna Beregovaia, The Joyous, the Inimitable 201
Conclusion 209
Notes 213
Index 239
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