In this essay I use the example of the Blockade of Leningrad - an extreme example of the Soviet experience of World War II, and an extreme example of the experience of war generally - to address two issues. The first is a more general, theoretical issue: the importance of war to the construction of political and social normality and practices. Political science and sociology have examined the impact of war on structures and institutions, such as states or gender roles and relations; but the impact of war on meanings and meaning systems is addressed only empirically, often without much theoretical reflection. The second issue is how World War II shaped the specific meaning systems, cosmologics, and assumptions and normal practice among Soviet citizens - put another way, how the war impacted on Soviet habitus. Given its radical, extreme nature, the Blockade experience should go far to illuminating these issues - and a study of the Blockade can also liberate those voices and experiences kept in the quiet for too long, ironically in the name of Soviet authority and the stable rule of the Communist Party.

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Copyright © 2009 Evropeiskii Dom. This chapter first appeared in Bitva za Leningrad. Diskussionnye problemy.

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