The Siege of Leningrad: A New Perspective from Personal Diaries
by Anna Reid
GB RUSSIA SOCIETY PROGRAMME
Language: In English
Wed 25 April 2012 – 7.00pm
Talk at Pushkin House, London
‘28 December 1941 at 12.30 pm – Zhenya died. 25 January 1942 at 3pm – Granny died. 17 March at 5am – Lyoka died. 13 April at 2am – Uncle Vasya died. 10 May at 4pm – Uncle Lyosha died. 13 May at 7.30 am – Mama died. The Savichevs are dead. Everyone is dead. Only Tanya is left.’
Thus wrote a twelveyear- old girl in the pages of a pocket address book during the siege of Leningrad, the deadliest blockade of a city in human history.
When Hitler made his surprise attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, he meant to capture Leningrad before turning on Moscow. In early September he changed strategy, deciding to concentrate his tanks on the attack on Moscow, andstarve Leningrad out. Leningrad did not surrender, but for the next two winters no food was able to reach the city except by air or across Lake Ladoga. By January 1944, when the German armies finally began their long retreat, about three-quarters of a million civilians – between a quarter and a third of Leningrad’s pre-siege population – had died of hunger.
Drawing on newly available diaries and government records, Anna Reid describes Leningrad’s descent into mass death: the shrinking of the bread ration; the breakdown of electricity and water supply; the consumption of pets, joiner’s glue and face cream; the withering of emotions and family ties; looting, murder, and cannibalism – and at the same time, extraordinary endurance and
Today, twenty years after the fall of Communism, memories of Leningrad’s suffering are still suppressed, as are those of the cruelty and incompetence of Russia’s wartime leadership. Stripping away decades of Soviet myth-making, Reid gives Tanya Savicheva and thousands like them back their voice.
Anna Reid read law at Oxford and Russian history at London University’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. From 1993-5 she lived in Kiev, reporting on Ukraine for the Economist and Daily Telegraph. From 2003-7 she ran the foreign affairs programme at the centreright think-tank Policy Exchange. Her previous books are The Sham an’s Coat: A Native History of Siberia, and Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine.
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