Irina Kaspe 1
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Site of Death: The Meanings of the Siege of Leningrad in Late Soviet Culture

2018, vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 59–105 [issue contents]
The article attempts to discover the place of besieged Leningrad on a “cognitive map” of late Soviet culture from 1960s to the 1980s. The images of the blockaded city which were reproduced during those decades are considered by the author in connection with the issue of spatial perception. The study focuses on the Piskarevskoye cemetery, a peculiar space located outside of the “historic center of Saint Petersburg” and established for a memorial purpose. However, the author refuses to formulate her tasks in terms of “collective memory,” and explores the symbolically-charged and existentially-meaningful practices hidden behind the memorial rhetoric, although not related to the mnemonic processes. The article relies on two types of sources. The first source is Soviet albums and tourist brochures dedicated to the Piskarevskoye cemetery, and the second source is the memories of the respondents of their visits to this memorial in late Soviet times. In the first case, we talk about a normative view of the regimentation of affects, and setting the modes of mourning. The second case is about the possibilities of the reconstruction of the complex personal experience, often involving, as the article shows, a deep emotional shock. In complementing each other, these sources allow us to see the images of the Siege of Leningrad as a kind of projection of the notions about death, and as a symbolic “hell” that is located on the opposite pole from the symbolic “paradise” promised in a utopian Communist future.
Citation: Kaspe I. (2018) Mesto smerti: o znachenii Leningradskoy blokady v pozdnesovetskoy kul'ture [Site of Death: The Meanings of the Siege of Leningrad in Late Soviet Culture]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 17, no 1, pp. 59-105 (in Russian)
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