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18 November 2018

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Book Review

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In Leningrad, Anna Reid explores one particularly inexcusable horror: the Siege of Leningrad. And she focuses mainly on the first winter of 1941-2.

One might wonder what new there is to write about the Seige, given Harrison Salisbury’s monumental 900 Days. But that was published in 1969, and much more has become known since then, archives have been opened, diaries discovered or disclosed. And it is on diaries and the words and memoirs of those who experienced the Siege first-hand, that Reid’s moving documentary is based, stripping away encrusted ideological interpretations.

While Reid does seek to understand how the Siege could have been allowed to happen, and to show that it might have been far less deadly had Russia been ruled by a different regime, her main intent is for the Siege to be a prism for examining the human experience, “to remind ourselves of what it is to be human, of the depths and heights of human behavior.”

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Sep/Oct 2011