February 02, 2021

The Zoo Animals Who Outlasted the Hermitage Cats


The Zoo Animals Who Outlasted the Hermitage Cats
The polar bear enjoys a rare clear sky in St. Petersburg. Amanda Shirnina

This week, on January 27, St. Petersburg celebrated the 77th anniversary of the lifting of the blockade of Leningrad during World War II. The Leningrad Zoo found a way to save its charges rather than sacrificing them to human hunger during the 872-day ordeal.

About 100 of the zoo's animals survived the war, including some of the largest ones – a tiger named Kitty and a hippopotamus named Beauty. For Beauty, St. Petersburg resident Evdokiya Dashina recalls toting 400 liters of Neva River water every day.

The siege-era menu for zoo animals was often the same as for humans: sawdust, pine cones, acorns, and other found objects, both organic and inorganic. For the animals, zoo staff would grind these objects into kasha to make them more palatable. In the absence of meat, workers convinced Vera the vulture to eat old animal skins stuffed with vegetables.

Zoo residents continued to entertain children in the Animal Theatre – undoubtedly a much-needed distraction from a very unusual childhood – throughout the more-than-two-year-long blockade.

The residents of the Leningrad Zoo fared better than the Hermitage cats, who did not survive the war but whose population was restored later and are today probably the most famous animals in St. Petersburg. An exhibit is currently on at the zoo about "The Zoo During the Siege."

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

Some of Our Books

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...
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
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.  
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.
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.
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.

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.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955