March 04, 2021

Lesser-Known Art of the Siege of Leningrad On Display



Lesser-Known Art of the Siege of Leningrad On Display
Anti-aircraft guns deployed in front of St. Isaac's Cathedral in Leningrad, 1941. Wikimedia Commons, The Eastern Front in Photographs, John and Ljubica Erickson

Yelena Oskarovna Marttila had just reached adulthood when the Blockade of Leningrad descended. As a student at the Leningrad Art School, she sketched the blockade winter, a city covered in snow, and bombed buildings filled with people with emaciated faces.

Her drawings are on display at the State Memorial Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad in St. Petersburg, in an exhibit called "On the Road to Tavricheskaya." Marttila's art institute was on Tavricheskaya Street, and she elegantly sketched her daily route in a war zone. The exhibit is on until March 31, 2021.

According to the museum, one of the best works of art on exhibit is Marttila's self-portrait; she eerily drew it with the assumption that she would not live to see the next day and wanted her image to survive. However, she was evacuated from the city in April 1942.

Marttila's work is featured along with two other artists in a new book, Unofficial Art of World War II: Yelena Marttila, Pavel Afonin, and Sergei BabkovWhat makes their work unofficial is that they were not employed by the state and did not see the war through the lens of government tasks and propaganda imperatives. The two male artists were soldiers on the front, while Marttila captured city life during the siege. Most of the images in the book have never before been published.

Special thanks to Russian Life contributor, translator Robert Chandler, for sharing this story. We bet you had not heard of Marttila before this, since she does not even have an English-language Wikipedia page; only Russian and Finnish (her father was Finnish).

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
The Best of Russian Life

The Best of Russian Life

We culled through 15 years of Russian Life to select readers’ and editors’ favorite stories and biographies for inclusion in a special two-volume collection. Totalling over 1100 pages, these two volumes encompass some of the best writing we have published over the last two decades, and include the most timeless stories and biographies – those that can be read again and again.
Russia Rules

Russia Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
The Spine of Russia

The Spine of Russia

This coffee table book is the photographic journal of an epic 6000-kilometer road trip. The book includes over 200 compelling images of Russians and Russian places met along the way, plus a dozen texts (in both English and Russian) on everything from business to education, from roads to fools.
At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567

800-639-4301
802-223-4955