University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Slavonic Studies > Sense of Place lecture series: "Representations of the Besieged Leningrad (1941—44)"

Sense of Place lecture series: "Representations of the Besieged Leningrad (1941—44)"

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Abstract: This talk introduces the audience to the voluminous corpus of the urban images created during the Nazi Siege of Leningrad—both textual and visual. During the Siege, the city and its people, surrounded by the military forces of Nazi Germany, suffered 872 days of famine, cold, and darkness, and lost around 1,000,000 to hunger. The Siege experience and its representations are unique. Unlike victims of other twentieth-century political and social disasters such as the Soviet Gulag and the Nazi Holocaust, the inhabitants of Leningrad were for the most part neither displaced nor instantly robbed of their familiar urban environment. Their ties with the city were broken but not demolished; they were doomed to continued contact with Leningrad while it underwent gradual but grave changes. My study asks how people subjected to catastrophic events relate to their cultural and physical environment: the inhabitants of Leningrad lost virtually everything in the disaster except their place, and this place served them as an inexhaustible source of contemplation and writing. Readers of Siege urban representations confront a challenge: they have to untangle the many layers and agendas of these works, as they attempt to perceive representations of the shattered city as a site of unique complexity.

Bio: Polina Barskova was born in Leningrad in 1976, began writing poetry at the age of eight and since then during many years had been attending studio (“kruzhok”) for writing children led by poet Viacheslav Leikin. She published her first book of poetry “Christmas” in 1991. Currently, her eighth book of poetry “Master of the Garden” is in print in St. Petersburg. Barskova received her BA from St. Petersburg State University in Classics for a diploma on Catullus, and her MA and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley where she arrived in 1998 and studied cultural history of Petrograd-Leningrad. Her scholarly publications include articles on Nabokov, Bakhtin brothers, early Soviet film, and, lately, on culture of the besieged Leningrad. Now Barskova lives in Amherst (MA) with her daughter Frosia where she is teaching Russian literature at Hampshire College, working on a project entitled “The Ruin Screams: Culture in the Besieged Leningrad (1941-44),” and on new books of her poetry and prose both in Russian and in English translation. At the end of 2015 Barskova received Andrey Bely Prize for her book of prose “Living Pictures”

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