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Leningrad during World War II

Leningrad during World War II.
66th Anniversary of the Lifting of the Siege of Leningrad

Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibition marking the 66th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad was drawn from the collection "Leningrad during the Great Patriotic War and Siege" (Leningrad was the name for St. Petersburg in 1924-1990). The collection, held within the Russian holdings, consists of diverse publications related to the defence and the 900-day blockade of Leningrad and printed in the city besieged by the German Wehrmacht from 8 September 1941 until 27 January 1944. It encompasses a wide variety of material, including books and booklets, periodicals and newspapers, single-sheet broadsides and proclamations, posters and playbills, advertisements and postcards, food and invitation cards, match-box labels, music etc. This material is a valuable primary research source for the study of the history of the defence of Leningrad, which documents the events, public and national life throughout the period of the World War II. The collection is intended both for scholars-historians, writers, poets, artists, producers, and for the most general public interesting in the history of the Siege of Leningrad. The collection is described by alphabetical and thematic catalogues.

The exhibition "Leningrad during World War II. Blockade Сollection of NLR" took place on 4 May, 2010 in the New Building of the National Library. Speaking at its opening, the poet A.V. Molchanov , whose childhood was spent during the siege of Leningrad, described the exhibition as the "display of the blockade little things that talk about the great tragic era". After all, these "little things" - various kinds of publications from the wartime: billboards, posters, photographs, postcards, brochures, announcements and much more - are evidences of events that went down in history. An example is the poster that informed citizens of Leningrad that the Orchestra conducted by K.I. Eliasberg would performed Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony in the Philharmonic Concert Hall on Sunday, August 9, 1942, at 7:00 pm, "for the first time" as was said in the brackets.

The exhibits best tell about what remained "in brackets", what was not included in the volumes of official "Bulletins of News from the Soviet Information Bureau". They allow you to recreate the life of the inhabitants of the besieged city, whether it is a brochure entitled "How to make tea and coffee from cultivated and wild plants of Leningrad" or ration cards with calendar days neatly crossed out by someone's hand in terrible December of 1941. The exhibition covers all aspects of society's life under the most difficult conditions of blockade: begginning with survival, when hastily published brief guidances were intended to teach citizens of Leningrad how to make stoves or how to stop up holes in the walls, and ending with work for the future, when there were issued calls for enrolment of students in the I.P. Pavlov Medical Institute and M.A. Bonch-Bruevich Electro-Technical Institute of Communications. Begginning with agitation and propaganda: for instance, the poster with a picture of "a security officer" appealed to "Learn to Hate the Germans", and ending with sports and entertainment events (a film billboard with the Hollywood beauty Sonja Henie invited to the demonstration of the film "Sun Valley Serenade" featuring jazz orchestra of Glenn Miller).

At the opening, A.V. Molchanov who dedicated his poetry to the exploit of besieged Leningrad, read the poem starting with the lines:

Everyone who survived in the siege
Had a good guardian angel.
He was not from the heaven, but nearer -
an Earth's Leningrad resident.

Materials of the exposure give us an idea of a variety of daily duties, which the "guardian angels" had to carry out to save the lives of their wards. In the photos, they are shown replacing the burnt out light bulbs in December 1942, working in the garden on St. Isaac's Square, fishing on the Neva ... People learnt how to become "a guardian angel" from the brochure issued during the siege, whose names speak for themselves: "How to protect your baby's health in wartime," "How to protect yourself and comrade from frostbite ", and similar titles. The Young Avenger newspaper for the kids of the occupied areas of Leningrad recalls the responsibility that each Leningrad citizens had to take, not only to save the lifes of the younger generation, but also to give them moral and cultural values of "peacetime".

These publications were brought to us by the members of the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library ( the former name for our library), which served for readers throughout the siege. Indeed, Leningrad citizens consider the creation of a living memory of the era, of its victims and heroes to be part of their responsibility. The Library staff (M.A. Briksman, J.A. Mezhenko, V.A. Karatygina and many others) were gathering material for a collection "Leningrad in World War II" at a time when the war was a daily reality for them. However, as Doctor of Historical Sciences, the specialist in the history of the siege of Leningrad, Professor G.L. Sobolev said at the opening that 'in connection with the post-war repressions, the collection had long been inaccessible to researchers'.

Today, thanks to the blockade collection of NLR, we can learn about the realities of life in wartime Leningrad and appreciate the great spiritual conquest of the common people from that extraordinary era.

Vera Yarmakovich

Other exhibitions on the theme:
Road to Victory. World War II posters and postcards

See also the Internet resource:
Search the Book of Memory "Siege. 1941-1944. Leningrad"