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The siege of Leningrad, Historical Memory, Urban Space, Literature, Modernity
Lasting 872 days and leaving more than one million men, women, and children dead, the Nazi Siege of Leningrad (1941–1944) is considered one of the most important events of the Second World War. Despite its significance to the collective and cultural memory of the inhabitants of postwar Leningrad, later Saint Petersburg, the siege and its consequences have only recently become the object of examination from the perspective of memory studies. Starting with the pioneering works of the 2000s that were mostly concerned with the mutual interaction of victims’ individual memories and state-oriented mythmaking and using as their primary sources oral history and discussion of official sites of commemoration (Kirschenbaum 2006; Loskutova 2006), in recent years this field has been enriched by a set of works offering new approaches more focused on narrative dimensions of siege texts (diaries, memoirs, fiction, poetry, medical books, etc.) (Barskova and Nicolosi 2017; Sandomirskaia 2013), as well as the shaping of cultural and individual trauma in the “after siege” period (Barskova 2019). These works also cover visual representation and visual control of the siege, for example, in Soviet films or in depictions of ruins (Barskova 2015; Schönle 2011); reconstruction of the severely damaged city in the postwar years (Maddox 2014); and even late-Soviet imaginaries of the siege among non-Leningraders that shaped not only Leningrad’s but the entire Soviet space’s shared grief, compassion, and sympathy (Kaspe 2018). In this context, both of the reviewed books—Polina Barskova’s
Besieged Leningrad and Pomnit’ po-nashemu by Tatiana Voronina—make significant contributions to understanding the Soviet and contemporary Russian “cultural archive” of the Siege of Leningrad, demonstrating the narrative schemes, symbols, and spatial metaphors which, unfortunately, are often forgotten or unpopular, or, alternatively, “hypernormalized” and taken for granted.
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