Staying alive in besieged Leningrad: Motivational factors for survival



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



By analyzing personal diaries, memoirs, and recollections, this work aims to establish and classify motivational factors that triggered survival mechanisms and resistance to physical and psychological stress during the first year of Nazi Germany’s blockade of Leningrad from June 22, 1941 to August 9, 1942. Survival in extreme settings—the psychological pressure of anticipated air raids, bombings, the five-month-long near-total absence of nutrition and semi-starvation that continued for the next 2 years coupled with unusually severe winter and the absence of basic living needs—greatly depended on the psycho-emotional endurance of each individual. In a city of nearly 3- million inhabitants, mass starvation claimed over one million lives. One million of those who were starving managed to survive; only 557,760 of them lived through all 872 days of the siege. Leningraders’ survival tactics were the manifestation of individual and collective behavior. This thesis defines five major sources that motivated the behavior: patriotism (with the collective as its integral part), family, religion, an exclusive focus on the self, and culture. The thematic chapters are tentatively arranged in descending order from the most significant and widespread stimulus to the less common and less frequent stimuli.



Leningrad, Siege, Blockade, blokadniki, Hunger, Starvation, Diaries, Distrofiia, USSR, Soviet Union, Nazi, Germany, Great Patriotic War, World War II, Second World War, Operation Barbarossa