Blockade of Leningrad: Mercy Code of Mortal Time
Turning our minds to those terrible days, we again and again ask ourselves the question: how did these people survive, where did they get their strength, what kept them from falling into the abyss of brutality?
I think that real life is hunger, everything else is a mirage. In hunger, people showed themselves, naked, freed themselves from all sorts of tinsel: some turned out to be wonderful, unparalleled heroes, others - villains, scoundrels, murderers, cannibals. There was no middle ground. Everything was real. The heavens opened and God was seen in the heavens. He was clearly seen by the good ones. Miracles were happening.
The first to die were those muscles that did not work or worked less.
If a person began to lie down, he could no longer stand up.
D. S. Likhachev
The siege of Leningrad … Almost 900 days in the enemy ring, in the merciless stranglehold of hunger, when the desire to eat is the main motive for the actions of two and a half million people who turn into shadows before our eyes. The living dead roam in search of food. The dead dead, having bent their legs and tied them somehow, are taken on a children's sled to the People's House, where they are left to lie sewn in sheets or naked. To bury like a human is an impermissible luxury: three loaves of bread. Let's divide by 125 grams of blockade in the winter of 1941 and try to imagine the price of life. Will not work. We, well-fed, have no such experience. There is no such measure.
Turning our minds to those terrible days, we again and again ask ourselves the question: how did these people survive, where did they get their strength, what kept them from falling into the abyss of brutality? There are different versions and different stories recorded in several blockade diaries that have come down to us. People who write for a long time and habitually wrote - scientists, writers, poets. Those who had never before had the experience of keeping a diary also wrote. For some reason, they wanted, exhausted from hunger and cold, to tell others about their experiences. For some reason, they believed that it was very important to know how to remain human when there was nothing human around, and inside there was only a beast hungry for food:
Of bread! Give me some bread! I'm dying …
They gave it. They stuffed their precious "makeweights" with stiff fingers into other people's powerless mouths, took away from their emptiness in order to fill someone else's gaping lack of life. Receiving of course. Recoil has no boundaries. The tenacious gaze of the blockade eagerly fixed the slightest manifestation of this unthinkable bestowal, incredible beyond the boundaries of understanding - Mercy.
The old doctor, barely climbing the icy stairs to the patient's apartment, refuses the royal reward - Bread. In the kitchen they cook food for the patient - jelly from wood glue. The horrible smell does not terrify anyone. The difference between pleasant and bad smells has changed. Anything you can eat smells good. The doctor advises immersing the patient's palms in warm water. There are no other drugs. A page in small handwriting in the diary of the patient's son is dedicated to this event. He will outlive his father and write a book of memories of "mortal time." This will be a book about nobility. People need to know. Otherwise, brutality and death.
A 9 year old boy goes to a bakery. He is one of the family still walking. The life of his mother and sister depends on whether the boy sells bread cards. The boy is lucky. The seller gives him a portion with a makeweight - a reward to the one who drags the heavy burden of many hours of queues in the cold. The boy cannot eat the appendage without sharing it with those who are weaker. He will be found only in the spring, in a snowdrift near the house. He will fight to the last.
Mercy for the strong
To preserve heat, water, a piece of grupa (the upper, not edible cabbage leaves) for tomorrow meant continuing the life of the body a little more. To preserve mercy was to remain human. This was the law of survival in besieged Leningrad. Mercy is the prerogative of the strong, those who are able to tear away from themselves and give to the weaker, not out of condescension or satiety, but by their true desire to ensure the future of the kind of "man".
Urethral mercy in the structure of the psychic is given to few. But in the collective unconscious of our people, this quality dominates, forming the mentality of all those who think in Russian. To cross the line of mercy means to violate the unwritten law of life of the mentally urethral pack, to become an outcast, to zero for the future.
Leningrad is a special city where visual culture has always been represented by a special kind of intelligentsia. It is not without reason that even now, at the time of globalization, the words "he (a) from St. Petersburg" have a special meaning for the Russian ear, like a sign of belonging to a special caste of people with a developed top. The Leningrad-Petersburgers brought this sign and this meaning out of the blockade hell, where only the most mentally developed had a chance to remain human. Death from hunger was not as terrible as running wild, complete annihilation of visual culture, transformation into a wretched shaking creature, ready for anything for a piece of duranda (oilcakes: the remains of oil seeds after squeezing oil out of them).
In everyday life, the degree of mental development of a person is not always clearly defined. Everyone seems to be moderately cute and intelligent, moderately "cultured". Only real tests show who is who, only under conditions of a direct threat to life is revealed the "code of survival" hidden in the psychic unconscious. Each has its own in strict accordance with the level of development of vector properties.
Self-sacrifice or selfishness
"At every step there is meanness and nobility, self-sacrifice and extreme selfishness, theft and honesty," Academician DS Likhachev recalled about the blockade "death time". It is systematically clear that in the ranking conditions of hunger, insufficient development of mental properties in return leads to an animal type of behavior: consumed-isolated-consumed. This turns a person into a being outside the pack, i.e. dooms him to death.
Smart snobs, hysterical egoists, egocentrics isolated into a sound shell, other consumers for the sake of consuming themselves ingloriously died or remained to smoke the sky with fed little animals. Those who stole from the dying, profited from the common grief, devoured orphans, by any means arranged themselves at the feeding troughs - there are only annoying mentions of them in the blockade diaries. It's a pity to waste your energy on trash. Telling about worthy people - only this task was worth the incredible effort that dying people spent on their diaries.
Bread for children
There are no other people's children. This postulate of urethral self-awareness was felt as clearly as never before in besieged Leningrad. The words "Bread for Children!" became a kind of password, a spell against selfish motives.
A sled with soy sweets - New Year'sts for orphans - was overturned near the Narva Gate. The hungry shadows walking beside them stopped spellbound, the ring around the sled and the woman-forwarder slowly tightened, dull cries of joy were heard. "This is for orphans!" the woman cried out in despair. The people who surrounded the sled joined hands. They stood like that until all the boxes were packed . One by one it would not be possible to cope with the beast in oneself, together they did it.
The children of the blockade in their diaries recall with great gratitude the mercy of strangers to them. Not a single given crumb of bread was erased from memory. Someone gave their lunch to an exhausted girl, someone shared bread.
An old woman came to the state farm to get a job. She can barely stand on her feet, pale, her face with deep wrinkles. And there is no work, winter. Come, grandma, in the spring, they tell her, and then it turns out that the old woman is … 16 years old. Found a job, procured a card, rescued a girl. Many blockade diaries are a continuous listing of gifts. Someone warmed, gave tea, gave shelter, gave hope, work. There were others. Their lot is oblivion.
Collective coercion to give back
Not everyone willingly shared with others. The cutaneous psychic, taken to the extreme by deprivation and multiplied by the dystrophy of the body, gave pathological greed. Everyone, young and old, jealously watched the division of food, control over the distribution of food was strict not so much from the authorities as from the townspeople themselves. Social shame, in conditions when good and evil are utterly exposed and there is not the slightest possibility of self-justification, was the main controller.
“How dare you think of yourself alone”? - reproached the boy caught trying to steal cards. Any deed was assessed "by the code of mercy", any deviation was scrupulously recorded in the diaries . The one who showed joy from hitting a bomb in the house (you can get hold of firewood) was called a "scoundrel", and a "barmaid with a face bursting with fat" was sparingly recorded. No ratings, no judgment, just a description that leaves no doubt that the recipient is merciless for the sake of receiving.
The collective compulsion to surrender in the pack was very strong. Some with vexation, some with insult, but were forced to recognize the right of another to receive help, were forced to give. They tried to send those who could not work, and therefore receive rations, to hospitals, they determined the disability of the third (working) group to everyone who could somehow move around. Almost all the blockade were deeply disabled. Official disability meant the absence of a working ration card and certain death.
Hunger sharpened the perception. People were willing to see deception and theft everywhere. It was impossible to hide one's prosperity at the expense of others: everything is written on a well-fed face. There was no better barrier against money-grubbing. To paraphrase Tyutchev, we can say that hunger, like a staunch beast, looked at each of the bush. Social shame, even in the face of a lowering of the bar for what was permitted, kept many from looting, theft, and meanness.
Deceit for the sake of survival was not condemned. Hiding the death of a child in order to preserve his card for other family members was not condemned. Theft for the sake of profit - that was unforgivable, incompatible with the concept of "man" (buy a piano for a loaf of bread, bribes for evacuation). People not only noticed the "warming hands", they wrote complaints to the city leaders, right up to A. Zhdanov, demanding to deal with the "storekeepers-saleswomen-house managers" who were fat at someone else's expense. They refused to share a room with the student who stole the cards in the hostel.
In such conditions, only individuals who had hopelessly fallen into the archetype of brutality were capable of appropriating what belonged to everyone. For them, there was not even hatred in human souls, only contempt. With bitterness and despair, people confessed their "crimes": he brought bread to his wife, could not resist, ate it myself … it turned out that I received something for my services … my insides are yearning for porridge … Why did they write about it in their diaries? You could have hidden it. They didn't hide it. “I ate 400 grams of candy hidden for my daughter. Crime ".
Fascism was the embodiment of evil, cruelty, death. An external enemy rallied the flock, neutralizing individual outbreaks of atrocity within it. “We didn’t want our boys and girls to be taken to Germany, poisoned with dogs, sold in slave markets. Therefore, we were demanding”. They forced the half-dead, swollen from hunger to go out to clean the streets of snow and corpses (“put on a shovel”), otherwise there was an epidemic in the spring. They drove stinking heaps of rags out of the apartments into the streets, made them move, forced them to live, as measured out, but by man. Forced to wash, look after themselves, maintain cultural skills.
To force the hungry to do what is painful, cruel to him, would be sorry. But there was another "pity" that sometimes looks like cruelty. Her name is mercy, which is often understood through the visual series as pity, compassion for the individual. And this is different. The inability to admit that someone is stronger than you, therefore, must give more. Urethral recoil of the leader of the pack: if not me, then who? There are no personal motives. The fate of Leningrad, the fate of the country - this is the common motive.
A woman sledges her husband. He constantly collapses from weakness, and the woman has to sit him down again and again. Barely catching her breath, the unfortunate woman continues her journey along the icy embankment. Fall and sit down again. Suddenly a bony old woman with a bared hungry mouth. Coming close to the man, she threw two words in his face through the open-air cursing that did not know the boundaries: “Sit or die! Sit or die !! " The scream does not work, it is rather a hiss, a whisper, in the very ear. The man does not fall anymore. The olfactory meanings of survival, by all means, are conveyed to the subconscious by the oral word.
In separation, death
Only the highest development of vision can designate the bombing of hospitals and kindergartens with the urban word "hooliganism". The Leningrad intellectual chic remained the same at the bottom of hell. “The shelling of the civilian population is nothing more than impudent hooliganism of the enemy, because the enemy does not achieve any benefit for himself”.
Before an external threat, the previous scores and strife became insignificant. Former communal "irreconcilable enemies" survived together, shared the last, the surviving adults took care of orphans. There is death in separation. It was well understood then. Together they collectedts for the soldiers, bought cigarettes for big money, knitted mittens, socks, and visited the wounded in hospitals. Despite all the horror of their situation, they understood: at the front, in the trenches, a common fate is being decided, there are wounded, orphans, there are those who are even harder, who need help.
There were also those who tried to sit out, hiding behind their own affairs. It is difficult to condemn these people, for many, many then the desire for food was the only sign of life. This position was not welcomed. And not because the state, like Moloch, demanded sacrifices. Participation in the common cause of bestowal was necessary for everyone, not everyone could realize this. The termination of work for the benefit of the pack meant death, not only and not so much physical (the muscles that were not used were the first to fail). The loss of the ability to freely choose to receive for the sake of bestowal meant, in visual terms, the loss of a human face, and in sound terms - exclusion of oneself from the group, which is worse than the death of the body.
Girls, can I have your addresses?.
Visits to the wounded, visits to active units, communication with soldiers filled the starving Leningraders with faith in the inevitability of our victory. They were always happy to meet the blockade, trying to feed them. The request of the wounded to the girl: “Come, wash your handkerchiefs, sit next to, talk” … And she recalled that besides food and fear, there is the pleasure of giving, love. "Girls, can I have your addresses?" - with an unsewn belly, the young soldier was thinking about the future peacetime, about returning to normal life. And the hungry girl next to her was thinking the same, albeit as unrealizable. A miracle happened, about which DS Likhachev wrote - "the good saw God," they felt the possibility of salvation.
Letters were sent from besieged Leningrad to the front, letters from soldiers returned to the besieged hell from the front. Often the correspondence was collective - a list of gratitude and obligations, confessions, declarations of love, promises, vows … The besieged city and the front line were united, this gave confidence in victory, in liberation.
Survived because they worked for the whole
People survived because they worked for a common cause, for Victory. “More than 4,100 pillboxes and bunkers were built in the city, 22,000 firing points were equipped in buildings, over 35 kilometers of barricades and anti-tank obstacles were installed on the streets. Three hundred thousand Leningraders participated in the local air defense units of the city. Day and night they carried their watch at factories, in the courtyards of houses, on roofs. The besieged city provided the front with weapons and ammunition. From Leningraders, 10 divisions of the people's militia were formed, 7 of them became regular ones”.
People survived because they resisted the blockade chaos with their last strength, did not allow the evil in themselves to take over. Preserving the consistency of collective actions, they remained in the “man” paradigm, providing a future for the homo sapiens species.
Whether we can keep up with this challenge depends on each of us.
List of references:
- Kotov V. Orphanages of besieged Leningrad
- Yarov S. Blockade Ethics
- Gorshkov N. Blockade diary
Siege of Leningrad, history of 900 days of siege. Electronic resource.