The Siege of Leningrad 75 Years Later

osipova-siege graffiti

The inspiring Petersburg artist and political activist Yelena Osipova has drawn this graffiti to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad during the Second World War.

The piece is dedicated to her late friend Lenina Nikitina, another wonderful artist, who lived in the building on whose walls Osipova drew her work.

Nikitina lost her entire family during the Siege, which lasted nearly 900 days, from September 8, 1941 to January 27, 1944.

nikitina-cold bathLenina Nikitina, Cold Bath. Pencil on paper. Courtesy of ArtGuide and the Museum of Nonconformist Art, St. Petersburg

As many as a million civilians are believe to have died during the Siege.

The other evening, an arts program on one of the regional German channels broadcast a segment about Daniil Granin and Ales Adamovich’s Blokadnaya kniga (Book of the Siege), which has recently been translated into German by Helmut Ettinger and Ruprecht Willnow, and published as Blockadebuch: Leningrad 1941–1944.

Blokadnya kniga was translated into English by Clare Burstal and Vladimir Kisselnikov, and published in 2007 as Leningrad under Siege: Firsthand Accounts of the Ordeal.

If you don’t have time to read Blokadnaya kniga or any of the other hundreds of books about the Siege, please watch Jessica Gorter’s stunning 2011 documentary film 900 Days. {TRR}

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The Siege of Leningrad Ended 75 Years Ago Today: Here Are Nine Films and Books about the Siege Worth Watching and Reading
Anton Dolin and Galina Yuzefovich
Meduza
January 27, 2019

[…]

Once There Was a Girl
Viktor Eismont, 1944

Eismont began shooting this unique picture while the Siege was still underway. It premiered a year to the day after the Siege was lifted. The Siege is shown through the eyes of two children, five-year-old Katenka and seven-year-old Nastenka. Natalya Zashchipina, who played Katenka, would go on to star in children’s films such as The Elephant and the Rope and First-Grader in the late 1940s, while Nina Ivanova, who played Nastenka, would star in Spring on Zarechnaya Street in 1956.

Baltic Skies
Vladimir Vengerov, 1960

The best film about wartime Leningrad and Leningrad during the Siege, when Baltic Skies premiered, it outraged Nikolai Chukovsky, whose novel inspired the film and who is credited as the screenwriter. The movies features a star-studded cast, including Pyotr Glevov, Mikhail Ulyanov, Mikhail Kozakov, and Rolan Bykov. The film’s young lovers were played by Oleg Borisov and Liudmila Gurchenko, who would later act in Alexei German’s war films. German considered Vengerov one of his teachers.

We Looked Death in the Face
Naum Birman, 1980

A picture about the founding of the Frontline Youth Ensemble. In one of his final roles, Oleg Dahl played the former choreographer. The film features poems by Olga Bergholz and music by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Blockade
Sergei Loznitsa, 2006

A documentary film consisting of footage shot by cameramen during the Siege, it features rare scenes, including the execution of Germans. Loznitsa added a soundtrack to the film, bringing viewers closer to the events.

We Read the Book of the Blockade
Alexander Sokurov, 2009

Less a film and more an impressive project by Sokurov, We Read the Book of the Blockade shows Petersburgers both famous and unknown reading aloud Daniil Granin and Ales Adamovich’s book, a compilation of eyewitness accounts of the Siege. The readers include actors Vladimir Retsepter and Leonid Mozgovoi, and Sokurov himself.

Celebration
Alexei Krasovsky, 2019

[Posted on January 2, 2019, by Alexei Krasovsky. “Attention! This film was made without state financing or grants. The filmmakers paid for its production themselves. Please do not show Celebration without listing the information about how you can donate money to us.  It is the only we can cover the costs of this film and start working on a new one. Thank you.

Sberbank Visa/Mastercard Card (in Russia): 5469 3800 7030 3101 (Aleksei Olegovich Krasovskii)

DonationAlerts (featuring viewer poll): https://www.donationalerts.com/r/alkras

PayPal: https://paypal.me/alkras (alkrasss@gmail.com)

Yandex Money: https://money.yandex.ru/to/410013518953856

Cameraman’s Yandex Money account: money.yandex.ru/to/410013518953856 (Sergei Valentinovich Astakov, cameraman-sa@yandex.ru)

Ehterium address: 0xbA2224ba22f2f4494EF01C6691824A178651d615

Don’t forget to mark your contribution as a “donation” so that we’ll have any easier time making films in the future.

Happy New Year!

Screenwriter and director: Alexei Krasovsky

Cinematographer: Sergei Astakhov

Starring: Alyona Babenko, Yan Tsapnik, Timofei Tribuntsev, Anfisa Chernykh, Pavel Tabakov, and Asya Chistyakov

Executive producer: Yuliya Krishtofovich

Art director: Yevdokia Zamakhina

Sound: Nelly Ivanovna and Anastasia Anosova

Assistant director: Zhanna Boykova

Editing: Vladimir Zimin and Alexei Krasovsky

The song ‘Field, O My Field’ was written by Iosif Kovner in 1937 and first recorded in 1941.”]

Filmmaker Alexei Krasovsky shot this controversial, intimate, tragicomic film at his own expense and uploaded it to YouTube during the New Year holidays. The picture deals with the privileged classes during the Siege and contains transparent illusions to the present. Starring Alyona Babenko, Yan Tsapnik, and Pavel Tabakov.

Polina Barskova, Zhivye kartiny [Living pictures], St. Petersburg: Ivan Limbakh, 2014 

Written by poet and academic Polina Barskova, this book is a miscellany of strange, heterogeneous, and genre-bending texts (several stories and essays on the verge of poetry, capped off with a short, semi-absurd play) that interweave the author’s own experiences as a researcher and human being with the real stories of people during the Siege.

Significant historical figures who survived the Siege (poet and literary scholar Dmitry Maximov, writer Vitaly Bianchi, playwright Yevgeny Schwartz) meet on the the pages of Living Pictures with other, unknown shades, such as the art historian Totya and the artist Moses, who made the mistake of falling for each other on the eve of the war, or six-year-old Katya, who plays a gloomy game of  bouts-rimés with her mother, composing a poem about people stricken by hunger-induced dystrophy. The famous, the nameless, Barskova’s other characters, and Barskova, some of whom did not experience the Siege themselves, ring the changes on the book’s main point, as voiced by one of the characters: the Siege was a peculiar civilization with all the qualities of other human communities. This civilization did not disappear without a trace. It has germinated anew in subsequent generations, who continue to feel its icy breath.

Sergey Yarov, Leningrad 1941–42: Morality in a City under Siege, trans. Arch Tait, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017

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“The ethic of sympathy demands the gaze not linger on mournful scenes of human agony,” writes historian Sergey Yarov in his book, seemingly ruthlessly violating this ethic. Instead of charitably averting his gaze from the most horrific aspects of the Siege of Leningrad, Yarov peruses as keenly and closely as possible theft and deception, monstrous, incurable physical deformities and people’s aversion to them, assaults on children (it was easier to take food from them since they were weaker), indifference to the suffering and deaths of other people, willingness to endure any humiliation, the collapse of community, and cannibalism.

As he plunges into the abyss of diaries, memories, and official records, uncovering truly unimaginable things, Yarov nevertheless hits upon an impeccable tone for discussing them, managing to maintain in each episode the perfect balance between scholarly scrupulousness and supreme humaneness.

Olga Lavrentieva, Survilo, St. Petersburg: Boomkniga, 2019 

This graphic novel by the young artist Olga Lavrentieva is a laconic, black-and-white account of the life of her grandmother, Valentina Survilo. Survilo’s happy Leningrad childhood ended in 1937 with her father’s arrest. She was exiled to a village in Bashkiria, where her mother died, before making a long-awaited return to her beloved Leningrad. This was followed by the most important and terrible chapter in her biography, the Siege, which the still very young Survilo endured in a prison hospital, the only place willing to employ the daughter of an “enemy of the people.”

The relentless hunger, cold, bombings and artillery attacks, treachery of friends, and rare, miraculous instances of kindness left a deep wound in Survilo’s heart, causing her to suffer nightmares and be constantly anxious about family members during the relatively prosperous postwar years. Lavrentiev uses the rather typically tragic story of one Leningrad woman as a lens through which she and her readers can look at the history of her hometown and the entire country.

Survilo will be published in March 2019.

Thanks to Giuliano Vivaldi for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader. I have replaced the trailers used in the original article with full-length videos of the films themselves. Please take note of filmmaker Alexei Krasovsky’s appeal for donations. If you watch Celebration, please consider making a donation to him and his crew via Sberbank, PayPal, Yandex Money or Etherium.

 

Children 404

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/children-404

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Short Summary

In the Fall of 2013 a Russian documentary filmmaker contacted numerous LGBTQ activists and filmmakers from Canada and the United States with whom they had worked with in previous years to screen their films.  The message they sent was a request to help fund a film that they believe desperately needs to be made: a documentary by Russian LGBTQ identified people about the impact of the recent anti-gay propaganda law on LGBTQ identified young people.  They reached out to us because this film will be impossible to make without the financial support from the international LGBTQ community since funding for such a project is not only impossible, but illegal within the Russian Federation.  So it is on behalf of our Russian colleague and their co-director that we are asking for your trust and support to help fund this vital project entitled Children 404.

Ryan Conrad, part-time faculty, Concordia University; Co-founder Against Equality
Thomas Waugh, full-time faculty, Concordia University Research Chair in Sexual Representation and in Documentary
Ezra Winton, part-time faculty, Concordia University; Co-founder and Director of Programming, Cinema Politica
Svetla Turnin, Co-founder and Executive Director, Cinema Politica

Film Description from the Russian co-directors:

Currently there are about 2.5 million LGBT children and teenagers in Russia. In June of 2013 Vladimir Putin signed into law a new bill that forbids “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”. LGBT young people are now defenseless because of this “gay propaganda” law. It is now forbidden to tell them that they are healthy and not sick, sinful, or abnormal. Psychologists, teachers, and even parents could be fined or imprisoned for supporting LGBT young people. These LGBT young people are now being bullied and harassed even worse than ever before by peers, teachers, and parents in school and out. This climate of anti-LGBT violence and harassment is permissible because of Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law.

The main character of this documentary project is eighteen-year-old Pasha, who survived much anti-LGBT harassment and intimidation at school.  After recently finishing school he became an LGBT activist. Later this year he enters a Canadian university and moves to Canada for the foreseeable future. This film will also contains anonymous interviews with young people, parents, psychologists, teachers, and priests on both sides of the issue in Russia.

What We Need

All funding we gather will be transferred directly to our colleagues in Russia.  We keep nothing, nor do we act as traditional producers where we influence the content and outcome of the film.  We are simply conduits for funding since their lives would be at risk if they were to create an appeal themselves.

The simple timeline and budget shared with us by our Russian colleagues is as follows (in USD $):

Timeline:

  • Currently: Fundraising, development, pre-production
  • 01/09/2013 – 30/12/2013: Shooting, fundraising, production
  • 01/01/2013 – 31/03/2014: Post production
  • 31/03/2014: Film release

Budget:

  • Research period: $500
  • Travels around Russia $7000
  • Overhead charges $3000
  • Materials $2000
  • Editor $2000
  • Sound editor $1000
  • Color grade $1500
  • Translations $800
  • Digital media $1000

TOTAL BUDGET: $18,800.00

As you can see, we are trying to raise a significant portion of their total budget ($10,000 USD or $10,300 CAD) while they are carefully raising funds from within their own communities to make up the difference.  Anything we raise over the goal set here will only alleviate the necessity to find funds amongst their own community in these dangerous and demoralizing times for LGBTQ people in Russia.

The Impact

Directly from the mouths of our colleagues:

The Importance

“В этом году 2,5 миллиона ЛГБТдетей в России оказалось без возможности поддержки. Теперь, согласно новому закону «о запрете пропаганды нетрадиционных сексуальных отношений среди детей» сказать им что они нормальны – это преступление.”

“This year an estimated 2.5 million LGBT children and teenagers in Russia no longer have any support. Now according to the new bill which forbids ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors’ supporting them and telling them that they are not abnormal is a crime.”

The Impact

“Документальный проект «Дети 404» – это возможность для ЛГБТ-подростков перестать наконец быть невидимыми и рассказать свои истории зрителям фильма.”

“The documentary project “Children 404″ is an opportunity for LGBT young people to cease being invisible by telling their stories in their own words.”

Other Ways You Can Help

Some people just can’t contribute financially, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help:

  • Send this link on to your networks to help get the word out.
  • Stay informed about what is happening in Russia, especially the news and information coming directly from the mouths of LGBT Russians.

*press inquiries can be made via rconrad<at>meca<dot>edu*