Making Peace with War: Adaptation and the Soviet Political Economy in the Blockade of Leningrad




War demands the capacity of state elites and officials, and institutions, to adapt to challenges. One constant refrain in Western accounts was the inability of the Soviet command economy to adapt—yet that com- mand economy contributed to survival and eventual victory. To what extent could and did economic actors and institutions adapt to new circumstances, versus following tried-and-true policies of the 1930s? In this article, we use the case of Leningrad in late 1941 and 1942, when the Blockade provided severe challenges and became more than a fleeting military event. One of the most important challenge (if not the most important) was the sup- ply and distribution of food to maintain the operation of the city and military production. The massive death toll revealed the degree of the challenge, the force of the German siege, and the lack of sufficient preparation before- hand. Yet the regime did implement innovations and adaptations in obtaining and provisioning. We focus on one set of formal policies: the streamlining of food distribution and the expansion of podsobnoe khoziaistvo (success- es), and the possibility of using fish (a failure). These policies were grounded in existing institutional templates and knowledge; however, fishing policies revealed contradictions between civilian and military actors. More radical innovations would require informality; but the Soviet regime could adapt.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2020, St Petersburg State University. This article first appeared in Modern History of Russia;Volume 10; Issue 1. http://hdl.handle.net/11701/17306

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21638/11701/spbu24.2020.104