“All our lives we will remember what bread is”: How young women in Soviet Leningrad documented 872 days under siege

Caroline Fernandez


2021 David C. Evans Awards Winner


This paper analyzes common themes found in 13 Russian-language diaries written by women age 17 to 25 during the Siege of Leningrad in WWII. The siege lasted for 2.5 years and had horrific humanitarian consequences; an estimated 40% of the city’s prewar population died, many from starvation. Some Leningraders documented, or attempted to document, the siege experience in diaries. Over the years, some of those diaries have been closely examined, including in Alexis Peri’s seminal book The War Within. However, no study has focused exclusively on diaries written by young women, despite the fact that Leningrad’s population was majority female during the siege. This project begins to fill that gap. In particular, it considers whether themes Peri identifies in The War Within were truly universal. Some themes, such as the enormous influence of food, seem ubiquitous; others, such as the importance of family to combat isolation, have been previously overlooked.

Department:

History, Global Studies

Mentor(s):

David Brandenberger