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Domesticity and the siege of Leningrad

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The importance of holidays, both religious and secular.
  3. The importance of day to day domesticity.
  4. Conclusion.

One of the most tragic and at the same time heroic episodes of the Second World War, or as it is referred to in the Soviet/Russian context The Great Patriotic War, is the Siege of Leningrad. The siege itself, although not a key strategic event on the Eastern front, holds an important place in the national memory of war. At the same time, it is one of the events of the war that was commonly overlooked by scholars. The first book addressing the topic of the blockade emerged only in 1958, fourteen years after the siege was lifted. The siege is even more overlooked in Western sources. While textbooks often mention the heroics of the Battle of Stalingrad, Leningrad is rarely mentioned. The city had once been the capital of Imperial Russia. At the time that hostilities broke out between the Soviet Union and Germany it was still a major center despite the face that it had been somewhat relegated to secondary status after Moscow. Leningrad had a significant value as an industrial center. Even in the face of abysmal odds and a dramatically weakened labor pool the factories of the city remained open throughout the blockade. In addition, the naval base of Kronshtadt was a major military installation, but it too, like the city, never succumbed to the Nazi onslaught.

[...] Their book Writing the Siege of Leningrad: Women's Diaries, Memoirs, and Documentary Prose is a collection of primary sources and brief introductory chapter which illustrate how the Siege of Leningrad was, in effect, a women's war. The fact that this theme is rarely addressed in the other works is the primary shortcoming of the secondary sources. The secondary sources, integrate women into the greater picture of the blockade instead of addressing them separately. The memoirs on the other hand present the reader with a clearer depiction of everyday problems that are, for the most part, overlooked in the secondary sources. [...]


[...] It is those practices, the importance of the family during the blockade, and the underlying implications of domesticity which will be examined in this thesis. The first chapter of this thesis deals with holidays and the role that they played in people's lives. The various special occasions were important in different ways. All of the celebrations, both secular and religious, acted as anchors in people's lives, particularly their family lives. They helped give people's lives some semblance of normality, even though a war was raging around them. [...]


[...] Another description of religious life in besieged Leningrad comes from an interview recorded in Writing the Siege of Leningrad. Valentina Fedorovna Petrova, who survived the blockade as a teenager, recalls, ?Nikol'skii Cathedral was open throughout the war Our first Patriarch was Aleksei; later he was sent to Moscow. But I remember very well. He served in our church for the entire war in Nikol'skii Cathedral.? Moreover a point is made that she and her family were believers, further solidifying the role religion played in family activities. [...]

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