Episode 17: Finding Leningrad in Literature

Last Updated on February 22, 2023 by Hannah Henderson

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.


More information about St Petersburg coming soon.

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Links & Reading

Useful websites for tourists
St Petersburg City Tourist Information Bureau
St Petersburg.Com (Tourist Information)

2 guidebooks to St Petersburg
Eyewitness Travel Guide to St Petersburg
Lonely Planet Guide to St Petersburg

Travel Book
Among the Russians by Colin Thubron

Russian History, a Very Short Introduction by Geoffrey Hosking
The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

Peter the Great by Lindsey Hughes
Peter the Great by Derek Wilson
Catherine the Great by Simon Dixon
Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie
Rasputin by Frances Welch
Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport (the 4 daughters of Czar Nicholas II)
The Diary of Lena Mukhina (A diary of the Siege of Leningrad)

Art and Culture
A Short Life of Pushkin by Robert Chandler
Nijinsky by Lucy Moore
Rudolf Nuryev The Life by Julie Kavanagh
Anna of all the Russias The Life of Anna Akhmatova by Elaine Feinstein

St Petersburg A Traveller’s Companion by Laurence Kelly
City Pick St Petersburg edited by Heather Reyes
Literary St Petersburg by Elaine Blair

Novels set in St Petersburg
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Siege by Helen Dunmore
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov