St Petersburg 17

St Petersburg Episode 17 Finding Leningrad in Literature

What the works of Russian and British authors tells us about Soviet-era Leningrad

For the final episode in the series, we are ‘leaving’ St Petersburg for Leningrad, as the city became during the Soviet era, and discovering it through the work of three very different authors. First, the poet Anna Akhmatova whose writing was largely banned from the 1917 revolution onwards, but whose very Russian, free-spirited poetry means she is remembered as a symbol of opposition to the state. Then Helen Dunmore, whose two novels The Siege and Betrayal are set in 1940s and 50s Leningrad. Their heart-rending plots are set against the difficulties of life in Soviet times, when the moral choices to be made were so consequential. And finally, Sergei Dovlatov, whose short story collection ‘The Suitcase’ casts a wry, critical, yet amusing look at the trials of being a Leningrad citizen in the 1960s.