Northern Illinois University Press


Besieged Leningrad

Aesthetic Responses to Urban Disaster

Polina Barskova

Besieged Leningrad is a sophisticated, immensely rich exploration of what the author calls ‘siege spatiality.’ The core analytical chapters present fascinating treatments of aspects of the Leningrad Blockade, and the prose is lively, precise, and elegant.” —Andreas Schönle, coeditor of The Europeanized Elite in Russia, 1762–1825

During the 872 days of the Siege of Leningrad (September 1941 to January 1944), the city’s inhabitants were surrounded by the military forces of Nazi Germany. They suffered famine, cold, and darkness, and a million people lost their lives, making the siege one of the most destructive in history. Confinement in the besieged city was a traumatic experience. Unlike the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp, for example, who were brought from afar and robbed of their cultural roots, the victims of the Siege of Leningrad were trapped in the city as it underwent a slow, horrific transformation. They lost everything except their physical location, which was layered with historical, cultural, and personal memory.

In Besieged Leningrad, Polina Barskova examines how the city’s inhabitants adjusted to their new urban reality, focusing on the emergence of new spatial perceptions that fostered the production of diverse textual and visual representations. The myriad texts that emerged during the siege were varied and exciting, engendered by sometimes sharply conflicting ideological urges and aesthetic sensibilities. In this first study of the cultural and literary representations of spatiality in besieged Leningrad, Barskova examines a wide range of authors with competing views of their difficult relationship with the city, filling a gap in Western knowledge of the culture of the siege. It will appeal to Russian studies specialists as well as those interested in war testimonies and the representation of trauma.

October 2017 200 pp., 6x9
ISBN 978-0-87580-772-0
$49.00s paper

Polina Barskova was born in Leningrad. She received a BA from Saint Petersburg State University and an MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. She is associate professor of Russian literature at Hampshire College, and has published eight books of poetry in Russian and three in English translation. She is also the author of Living Pictures, which received the 2015 Andrey Bely Prize, and the editor of Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad.

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ISBN: 9780875807720
paper $49.00