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Authors: Harrison Salisbury

The 900 Days

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THE
900
DAYS
The Siege of Leningrad
Harrison E. Salisbury
THE
900
DAYS
The Siege of Leningrad
NEW INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR

Copyright © 1969 by Harrison E. Salisbury
New introduction copyright © 1985 by Harrison E. Salisbury

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written
permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States of America.

Cataloging-in-Publication data for this book is
available from the Library of Congress.

Maps by Daniel Brownstein and Andrew Sabbatini of
The New York Times

Portions of this book first appeared in
The Reader’s Digest
in somewhat different form.

The lines on each of the six part-title pages in this book
were drawn from a poem by Yuri Voronov, “Blockade Jottings.”
They were translated by Harrison E. Salisbury.

Second Da Capo Press edition 2003
ISBN 0-306-81298-3   ISBN-13: 978-0-306-81298-9
eBook ISBN: 9780786730247

This Da Capo Press paperback edition of
The 900 Days
is an
unabridged replication of the edition published in New York in
1969, here supplemented with a new introduction and corrections
by the author, by arrangement with whom it is reprinted.

Published by Da Capo Press
A Member of the Perseus Books Group
http://www.dacapopress.com

Da Capo Press books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases
in the U.S. by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more
information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus
Books Group, 11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, or call
(800) 255-1514 or (617) 252-5298, or e-mail
[email protected]
.

To the people of Leningrad

Introduction

EACH PASSING YEAR DEEPENS OUR REALIZATION OF THE triumph of man’s spirit marked by the survival of the great city of Leningrad under the 900-day siege imposed by Hitler’s legions in World War II.

Nothing can diminish the achievement of the men and women who fought on despite hunger, cold, disease, bombs, shells, lack of heat or transportation in a city that seemed given over to death. The story of those days is an epic which will stir human hearts as long as mankind exists on earth.

This narrative has itself come to play a role in the Leningrad drama. Published on the 25th anniversary of the lifting of the siege, it has been printed in translation in almost every country around the world. It has been hailed in America, in Europe, and in Asia for its celebration of the extraordinary heroism of the people of Leningrad, whose conduct shines like a beacon in a world which is often murky and not precisely heroic.

Only in one great country has
The 900 Days
not been published. That country is the Soviet Union. True, a Russian-language paperback edition was published —but in the United States. True, there are few citizens of Leningrad who are not aware of
The 900 Days
and tens of thousands of them have read its words and treasure them. Nowhere has
The 900 Days
been read more avidly and with deeper insight and appreciation than in Leningrad. But it has not been published there. Instead it was instantly attacked by the official Soviet propaganda agencies.
Pravda
published a full-page attack, charging that
The 900 Days
besmirched the heroism of Leningrad and demeaned the role of the Communist Party in the city’s defense. It was, Pravda declared, one more volley in America’s cold-war attack on the Soviet. The name of the venerable Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov was signed to these words—an ironic touch since Zhukov himself had been one of the most savage critics of the blunders and misjudgments (of Stalin and the Party) which led to Leningrad being subjected to the terrible siege.

The drumfire of fatuous polemics was kept on for several years in article after article. In fact, with the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II this theme reappeared in several Soviet commentaries on American “distortions” and “disinformation” about the war on the Eastern Front in World War II. For many years the author was unable to obtain a visa to return to the Soviet Union, and Leningrad specifically. He was for practical purposes declared “persona non grata.”

This, as
Pravda
itself would say, “was not accidental.” Although the great bulk of information in
The 900 Days
is drawn directly from Soviet sources, supplemented by the author’s personal observations of Leningrad when he went there in the days of the lifting of the siege and from interviews of survivors, the valuable and often surprisingly frank reminiscences of military figures published in Moscow and Leningrad at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s quickly dried up.

That source of accurate and revealing information about the siege was a byproduct of the relative liberalism of the regime of Nikita S. Khrushchev. When he was supplanted in 1964 by Leonid Brezhnev, it halted. The lid was hammered down. From that day forward the revelations about what happened at Leningrad were suppressed. The story was tidied up. No more blunders. No more intrigue. No more stupidity by Stalin and his generals. Death tolls and suffering were soft-pedaled. In fact, for a long time nothing of consequence was published about Leningrad. Leningrad writers who wanted to write about the heroic event found endless difficulties with their own literary censors. Several Leningraders who assisted with materials for
The 900 Days
encountered special handicaps. One elderly historian found his own work held up until a rival writer published a potboiler on the same subject. A prescription for medicines to treat his heart condition was blocked until he was near death.

Copies of
The 900 Days
sent to residents in Leningrad who helped with the book were seized by customs. American tourists who brought it in their baggage found it again and again confiscated. When I congratulated a young Soviet diplomat who proudly said he possessed a copy, I asked him how he got it. “Oh,” he said, “I have a friend in customs.” One Leningrader who had contributed time and material to
The 900 Days
first saw the finished book in the hands of an American tourist walking down Nevsky Prospekt. He shyly asked if he could look at the book and then asked the tourist if he would part with it. Unfortunately the tourist, not understanding what was at stake, declined to part with it even when the elderly Leningrad man said: Tm in that book.”

After all these years no work like
The 900 Days
has been published in Leningrad, There was a flurry of reminiscences, some very touching, a fine collection of interviews of individuals, some sensitive poetry —but the best historical and personal accounts came out twenty-five years ago and are drawn on in this volume.

Leningrad did not fit the propaganda picture of the war. Its epic was
sui generis
. The people played more of a role than the Party (this was one of the major criticisms of
The 900 Days
in Moscow). It suffered not only from poor planning and conflicts among high military and party figures but also from Stalin’s prejudice against or even fear of Leningrad. Historically, Stalin seems to have felt that because Leningrad (under the name of Petrograd) gave birth to the 1917 Revolution, the city might ultimately rise against him. In a sense, this reflected an historic prejudice of Moscow against the new capital which Peter the Great built to be his “window on the west.”

Nor has Moscow’s antagonism toward Leningrad declined with the death of Stalin, the fall of Khrushchev, and a succession of lesser Soviet leaders. There is considerable evidence that it exists to this time. During the regime of Politburo member G. V. Romanov as Party Secretary of Leningrad, extraordinary hostility toward the survivors of the 900 Days began to be manifest. It was widely believed in Leningrad that Romanov hoped to remove from the city its very large number of invalids, disabled, and prematurely retired citizens —the victims and survivors of the blockade. They were regarded as an economic drag on the city, unable to take their places at the work benches and on the assembly lines—costing the city heavily, moreover, in medical expenses and pensions.

At the same time hundreds of millions of rubles were spent in restoration and rehabilitation operations of the great palaces and structures destroyed by the Germans. None of these restorations was more impressive than the extraordinary work carried out at Peterhof. This magnificent palace and its grounds had been almost totally demolished. The wrecked palace was still burning when the writer first saw it in the early days of February, 1944. Today it is hard to believe that it had ever been touched by Nazi hands. Not only has the façade been put back just as it was in the heyday of the Czarist regime, but the gutted interior has been done over as nearly as possible, even down to the bric-a-brac. Many Americans and Russians who saw the burning palace in 1944 felt it should be left in ruins as a monument to Nazi brutality.

Peterhof is not alone. Work still goes forward in a program which obviously has as its goal the restoration of Leningrad to its past beauty and glory—but this time only as a kind of living museum. The important governmental, party, artistic, and scientific functions have for the most part (except for the Palace and Hermitage collections) long since been transferred to Moscow. Even the famous Kirov ballet has become kind of a feeder station for the Bolshoi in Moscow.

Historically speaking, no really new revelations have been turned up about Leningrad and the siege. Details have slipped out here and there, but nothing of even secondary consequence. The story as told here is complete. Of course, the details of human suffering and sacrifice can never be collected in toto. Many Leningrad survivors have come forward with their stories since the original publication of
The 900 Days
. Some day there may be a revised edition which will take account of these.

There has been one major development. The great Piskarevsky cemetery, with its hundreds of thousands of Leningraders buried in the mass grave, has become a place of genuine national popular pilgrimage. And a new popular custom has come into being. Young couples with their wedding parties come straight from the marriage “palaces” in their bridal gowns and formal dress to lay wreaths in tribute to the dead. Thus, the living generation pays tribute to the dead. And so the generations go on. Leningrad and the siege will not be forgotten. As Olga Berggolts cautioned, “Let no one forget; let nothing be forgotten.” And nothing will. The stones of Piskarevsky make that certain and, in the words of one man born in Leningrad and a survivor of the siege: “Your book is destined to be a monument to our dead, more fine and durable than the stone statues in Piskarevsky Cemetery” That is a tribute which to this author is finer than any prize in the world.

HARRISON E. SALISBURY
New York City        
April, 1985              

Principal Personages

A
KHMATOVA
, A
NNA
: Leningrad poetess, victim of oppression after World War II.

B
ERGGOLTS
, O
LGA
: Leningrad poetess and vivid diarist, survivor of the blockade.

B
ERIA
, L
AVRENTI
P.: Stalin’s chief of secret police.

B
UDYONNY
, M
ARSHAL
S
EMYON
: Early Red Army cavalry commander, named to head “Reserve Army” the night the Nazis attacked Russia.

B
YCHEVSKY
, C
OLONEL
B. V.: Chief of Army Engineers in Leningrad.

D
UKHANOV
, G
ENERAL
M
IKHAIL
: Former Leningrad staff commander, chief of Sixty-seventh Army.

F
EDYUNINSKY
, M
ARSHAL
I
VAN
I.: Commander of important Leningrad front operations.

G
OVOROV
, M
ARSHAL
L
EONID
: Artillery specialist and commander of Leningrad front from April, 1942.

I
NBER
, V
ERA
: Moscow writer who spent the blockade in Leningrad, diarist,.

K
ETLINSKAYA
, V
ERA
: Leningrad writer, close friend of Olga Berggolts.

K
OCHETOV
, V
SEVOLOD
: Cub reporter on
Leningradskaya Pravda
at start of war, diarist.

K
UZNETSOV
, A
LEKSEI
A.: Party Secretary in Leningrad, No. 2 to Leningrad’s Party boss, Andrei A. Zhdanov.

K
UZNETSOV
, G
ENERAL
F. I.: Commander of Special Baltic Military District (Northwest Front) at start of war.

K
UZNETSOV
, Admiral N. G.: Naval Commissar at start of war, prolific writer of memoirs.

L
UKNITSKY
, P
AVEL
: Leningrad correspondent of Tass news agency, diarist.

M
ALENKOV
, Georgi M.: Member of Communist Party Secretariat, alternate member of Politburo, bitter rival of Leningrad Party leader Andrei A. Zhdanov.

M
ERETSKOV
, M
ARSHAL
K
IRILL
A.: Leading commander on Leningrad front.

M
IKHAILOVSKY
, N
IKOLAI
: War correspondent attachéd to Baltic Fleet.

M
OLOTOV
, V
YACHESLAV
M.: Member of Politburo, close associate of Stalin.

P
ANTELEYEV
, L. (A
LEXEI
) : Resident of Leningrad, writer, diarist.

P
ANTELEYEV
, A
DMIRAL
Y
URI
A.: Chief of Staff of Baltic Fleet.

P
AVLOV
, D
MITRI
V.: Leningrad food chief, chronicler of the blockade.

P
OPKOV
, P
ETER
S.: Mayor of Leningrad, associate of Zhdanov.

R
OZEN
, A
LEKSANDR
: Writer, diarist.

S
AYANOV
, V
ISSARION
: Leningrad writer, diarist.

S
HTEIN
, Aleksandr: Leningrad playwright, diarist.

S
TALIN
, Iosif: Soviet dictator.

T
ARASENKOV
, A. K.: Soviet war correspondent, Leningrad diarist.

T
IMOSHENKO
, M
ARSHAL
S
EMYON
K.: Soviet Defense Commissar at war’s start.

T
RIBUTS
, A
DMIRAL
V
LADIMIR
F.: Commander of Baltic Fleet.

V
ISHNEVSKY
, V
SEVOLOD
: Naval correspondent, playwright, diarist.

V
ORONOV
, M
ARSHAL
N
IKOLAI
N.: Soviet chief of artillery, adviser on Leningrad front.

V
OROSHILOV
, M
ARSHAL
K
LIMENT
: Associate of Stalin’s, commander of the Leningrad front until September u, 1941.

Z
HDANOV
, A
NDREI
A.: Party Secretary and boss of Leningrad, leading candidate to succeed Stalin.

Z
HUKOV
, M
ARSHAL
G
EORGI
K.: Leading Soviet commander, in chargé of Leningrad front September 12-October 7, 1941.

BOOK: The 900 Days
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