I am a Ph.D. candidate in Late Modern European History at the University of California, Berkeley. I am spending my Fulbright year in several of Saint Petersburg's archives and museums writing a dissertation on diaries from the Leningrad Blockade. The Blockade was the longest siege of a city since biblical times. More people perished there than in any other city at any one time in modern history. During the siege, Leningraders were confronted with the deterioration and transformation of virtually every aspect of daily life, the defamiliarization of all that was known, the depersonalization of all that was intimate.
Diaries from the siege illustrate how Leningraders struggled to make sense of the Blockade, to reconcile their experiences under siege with their prewar experiences. For this reason, their personal reflections are striking not only for what they reveal about wartime experience, but for what they reveal about Leningraders' understandings of Soviet life in general. In coming to terms with the tragic and the extraordinary, these diarists also redefined the normal and mundane. Based on this premise, my dissertation approaches the siege as a frame through which to analyze Leningraders' changing historical and political perspectives on the Soviet system in general.
My dissertation examines these diaries in order to understand how Leningraders understood and actively interpreted the Blockade as they lived it. I hope my project will shed light on how the Blockade refracted Leningraders' historical and political visions of the Soviet system, leading many to reevaluate ordinary, everyday life in the Soviet Union.