Alexis Peri "The Siege, Rescripted: the Postwar Lives of Vera Inber’s Blockade Diary"
In many ways, the diary was the quintessential genre of the Leningrad Blockade. Party officials, professional writers, and ordinary citizens were drawn to diary writing as a way to document the daily ordeal of life under siege. Leningradskaia Pravda regularly published excerpts of diaries from the front, and many of the siege’s most famous literary figures, including Vera Inber, Vsevolod Vishnevsky, Aleksandr Fadeev, Konstantin Simonov, Ol’ga Friedenberg, and Ol’ga Berggol’ts, crafted accounts of the Blockade that they either labeled as diaries or claimed were based upon them. Moreover, in November 1941--just two months after the siege began--Leningrad party officials began a campaign to encourage diary writing. By the end of the war, Leningrad’s Institute of Party History (Istpart) had amassed more than a hundred diaries from which it planned to write a “people’s history” of the Blockade.
But this was not to be. The postwar repression of Leningrad’s military, political, and cultural leaders--including the heads of Istpart--culminating in Leningrad Affair, meant that most of these diaries languished in the archives. The journals that were published in the postwar period mostly came from well-known writers and were heavily modified. Scholars tend to assume that these revisions were made solely at the behest of the editors in order to substantiate the emerging Blockade Myth sanctioned by the regime. Undoubtedly, there is an element of truth to this. However, many of these changes were initiated by the authors themselves and for a variety of personal and professional reasons.
This paper investigates the phenomenon of the revised siege diary. It focuses on one author, the poet and war correspondent Vera Inber, whose published diary, Pochti tri goda, became an instant bestseller in 1945. By working with numerous archival and published editions of her diary, I chart how Inber’s narrative of the siege and of her wartime self evolved over time. Through a comparison of the various iterations of her journal, I hope to shed light on how the legacy of the Blockade shifted based on the postwar political climate as well as to demonstrate how, through her diary, Inber fashioned herself a public persona as a party writer. Without arguing that any one version of the diary is “authentic,” this essay makes the case for treating the set of Inber’s diaries as one larger project devoted to the tasks of self-transformation and self-presentation.
OR RNB f. 312, dd. 44-46. Inber, Vera Mikhailovna, “dnevniki, poemy, i blok noty.” Notebook 1: 22/VII/41-25/I/42, Notebook 2: 26/I/42-3/X/42; Notebook 3: 6/X/42- 8/VIII/43; d. 47: “dnevnik voennykh let: 13/II/42-30/IX/42, 2/VIII/44;”
OR RNB f. 312, d. 50: “dnevnik voennykh let: 28/VIII/42-30/I/44;”
OR RNB f. 312, d. 12: “glavy iz ee leningradskogo dnevnika: 4/XII/43-21/III/44.”
RGALI, f. 1072, op. 1, d. 73. Inber, Vera Mikhailovna. “dnevnik, 28/IV/44-23/IV/47.”
RGALI, . 1072, op. 1, d. 32, Inber, Vera Mikhailovna. Pochti tri goda (leningradskii dnevnik). 10/XI/1941-25/XII/1944. “
Inber, “Pochti tri goda (leningradskii dnevnik)”, Znamia, 1 (1945): 65-181.
Inber, Pochti tri goda: Leningradskii dnevnik (Moskva: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1947.
Inber, “iz dnevnikov voennykh let,” Za mnogo let (Mosvka: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1964)
Inber, Pochti Tri Goda (Moskva: Sovetskaia rossiia izd. 1968).