Conversation with a Neighbor

The Siege of Leningrad

The Siege of Leningrad is considered to be the longest and bloodiest siege in modern day history.  The siege lasted a total of 872 days and is commonly referred to as the “900-day siege”.  All in all, over one million people died as a result of the siege.

The capture of Leningrad was considered to be one of the strategic goals of the Germans during Operation Barbarossa.  Hitler wanted to take Leningrad due to its political and strategic importance.  The city held the name of the revolutionary Vladimir Lenin while also attributing to 11% of all Soviet industrial output.  The city acted as a base for the Russian Baltic fleet as well.  Initially Operation Barbarossa was a tremendous success.  The Germans had conquered the Baltic states and reached Novgorod in only a few short months.  Leningrad was quickly surrounded and cut off from the outside world.

Hunger quickly set in.  Many people had to resort to eating horses, dogs, and even household items such as wallpaper in order to survive.  Instances of cannibalism were also rumored to have occurred.  When the winter came some supplies were able to be trucked into the city over the frozen Lake Ladoga.  The supplies that were sent over this lake played such an essential role to the survival of the city that the supply route was ultimately nicknamed the “road of life”.

With a population of over 2.5 million just prior to Operation Barbarossa, over one third of the population would end up dying from the siege.  To put these numbers into perspective, the total U.S. and British deaths in the entire war are less than the deaths that occurred during the siege of Leningrad.  This particular siege along with the Battle of Stalingrad are considered to be pivotal moments both in WWII and in Russian history.

Conversation with a Neighbor:

Conversation with a Neighbor was written in 1941 during the Siege of Leningrad.  The poem is about two women sitting down and talking about the peace that they long for so dearly.  They talk about the struggle that they have endured over the past six months of the siege as well as the rationing of food that is taking place.  They mention the frequent bombings and air attacks that occur by the Germans.  These women paint a picture of death being everywhere and a present part of life.  They dream of the day that the siege ends, and that they can celebrate their survival.  Unfortunately for the women, the siege lasts several more years.

It is poems like this that shows the resilience of the Soviet people.  Even when the women question if they can survive this siege, hope stays alive that one day peace will break out and their lives will return to normal.  Despite this poem being written in the beginning of the siege, the women talk of grand monuments being erected to commemorate their struggle.  It is truly incredible that the city of Leningrad was able to survive.


  • Images: Google Images
  • Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Conversation with a Neighbor
  • Siege of Leningrad Documentary:
  • MSU:




11 thoughts on “Conversation with a Neighbor

  1. Leningrad, to me, is one of the most fascinating conflicts in modern war history because of the situation seeming impossible to survive. It truly is an amazing, impressive Soviet feat and definitely indicative of Soviet resilience. I really liked how you used some statistics of the conditions soldiers and civilians lived through. The poem is very moving and helps add emphasis to the emotional struggle of Leningrad.


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