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The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,856 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
The Nazi siege of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944 was one of the most gruesome episodes of WWII. Nearly three million people endured it; just under half of them died. For 25 years the distinguished journalist & historian Harrison Salisbury pieced together this remarkable narrative of villainy & survival, in which the city had much to fear-from both Hitler & Stalin. ...more
Paperback, 736 pages
Published 1970 by Avon Books (first published 1969)
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Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a global event of such horrific superlatives as WWII it is almost criminal that the Siege of Leningrad isn’t discussed more frequently, or at least recognized more readily for the terror it was. And it isn’t just a matter of reciting statistics to put someone in a place of awe – although those numbers speak loudly, for sure. Certainly a large part of the blame can be placed on the former Soviet Union and their insistence of altering facts to support whatever their current propaganda machine n ...more
Michael Rubin
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I read this book while on a trip with some college buddies in California. I had to read this book over the trip for school. In the sunny summer of the west coast, on the streets of santa cruz and san francisco I sat in the back seat of a car, crushed by luggage and read this book.

It blew my mind. I understand the horrors the Americans and the French and the Jews withstood in WWII. But the siege was a whole new chapter of the war I was unaware of. I don't think most Americans are aware of the ev
Mikey B.
An intense examination of the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1941-42. Most of the book is concerned with the German invasion in June 1941 and takes us to the disastrous winter of 1941-42 when possibly over 600,000 Leningraders died of deliberate starvation from the German siege. The city understandably was in such disarray during this time that we will never know the exact number of deaths – and how many died of residual effects after, will also never be known. During and after the s ...more
This is one of my favorite nonfiction books, an overwhelming, endlessly fascinating account of an epochal, monumental event of World War II, including the preliminary actions of Hitler and Stalin and the initial invasions of eastern Europe that led to the siege. If you ever find yourself complaining about your lot in life, you really need to read this book to get some inkling of that it feels like to have REAL problems: stranded in a huge, arctic cold city with millions of walking dead starving ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was much looking forward to reading this, as I was not particularly knowledgeable about the plight of the Leningraders – except to know that they suffered terribly, as did millions of others at Stalin’s hands. Reading this certainly added one more piece of evidence to my already hefty collection, that the man was a beast. Often when I read about him and Hitler, I yearn for an afterlife in which they are punished in perpetuity for their acts of cruelty.
But, on to the book. This book is not real
Jeff Dawson
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent Read

Despite reading this over twenty years ago, it left a lasting impression how desperate the plight of Lenigraders was during the titanic struggle. Imagine being completely cut-off six months of the year from your country. The only life-line is lake Ladoga when it freezes over. Yet even then, thin ice, constant shelling and mechanical failures imped the arrival of the few sparse supplies coming into to the city.

Imagine funeral pyres being the norm. Men and women bathing naked in the
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my 2nd read on the Eastern front but my first on Leningrad. While the book was quite lengthy, there was a lot to be told about the days leading up to the siege and the 900 days that followed. It was very heartbreaking to read in many places as the conditions that the residents of Leningrad endured during that time were horrendous. Overall, a very thorough account of the generals who led the charge to finally break the blockade and the challenges they faced with the political infighting a ...more
Oct 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: display
Excellent read. I went to this book after reading a footnote in one of my history books. Any friend you know that may have family in Russia will be able to add to this historical narrative about what Salisbury confirms that (quoting the official historical record) 'In world history there are no examples which in their tragedy equal the terrors of starving Leningrad. Each day.. was the equal of many months of ordinary life.' Those who maintain that suffering—undeserved and unexplained—must show t ...more
Erik Graff
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Detailed, but dry, this book treats of the almost-900-days of the German siege of Leningrad, focusing on the worst of it, 1941-42, and cursorily with the rest. What came across most forcefully was the inefficiency of dictatorship and terror whereby the moods of the autocrat, Stalin, and his henchmen, Beria, Malentov, Molotov, could adversely effect the course of state action, in this case national defense. What I hadn't known is how unprepared the Soviets were and how unnecessary the magnitude o ...more
Sal Valdez
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
from an emaciated starving leningrad citizen who gives up a meal to attend the philharmonic - man does not live by bread alone. triumph of the human spirit. an amazing chronology of the most horrific siege of the modern era. yet also uplifting to learn of the countless ways the residents of Lwningrad managed to survive with their spirit intact
Adam Whitehead
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the evening of 21 June 1941, Leningrad, formerly St. Petersburg, the former capital of Russia and birthplace of the Soviet Union, was one of Europe's greatest cities. Three million people lived in a city where art and literature flourished, at least as much as was possible under Stalin's paranoid rule. The city and its hundreds of factories also benefited from the peace treaty with Nazi Germany, as materials poured out towards the German border to help drive the German war machine in the west ...more
Aaahhh, the book starts out with a wonderful description of Leningrad on the whitest of the white nights, June 21, 1941 after a cold spring: People are out enjoying life and the culture the wonderful city offered to them, many of them quite confident their lives are safe from German invasion because their government has been telling them that. There have been so many warning signs of upcoming German aggression, based on flights into Russian airspace, movements of troops, movements of German civi ...more
Czarny Pies
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-history
Ce livre qui raconte l’histoire du siège de 900 jours de Léningrad (Saint-Petersbourg) pendant lequel un million de civils sont morts est aussi actuel aujourd’hui sinon plus qu’en 1969 l’année de sa publication. De nos jours les armées ne se confrontent plus sur les champs de bataille. Normalement, ils se livrent leurs batailles dans les grands villes. Les boules frappent bien gens mais c’est surtout la faim qui tuent. La recette est très simple. D’abord on mange ses vivres conventionels. Ensuit ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to imagine a better book being written on the siege of Leningrad. The author not only used hundreds of Russian print sources, but he visited Leningrad soon after the siege, and he interviewed many residents who lived through the experience.

In the early chapters there are sections that require some patience, as the arrangement of military forces is described and statistics about weapons and so on are given. I'd say, too, that the build-up to the outbreak of hostilities is a little too p
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This volume continues to be the most complete history of the WWII Leningrad blockade, even though it was published in 1968. Harrison Salisbury was afforded remarkable access to extensive Soviet historical archival material, significant military figures, as well as individual civilians that had lived through the seige. I'm actually curious if, with the increased accessablity of Soviet-era historical information, there is more information published on this amazing event...

Mr. Salisbury's research,
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-history
As other reviewers have pointed out, this work reads like a novel. It is an extraordinary story about a city, its inhabitants, and its defenders. I was surprised to see so much build-up to the seige, but on the whole, the book works remarkably well.

I won't recount the story again, but there are a couple points worth making. St. Petersburg was always seen as 'different' from the rest of Russia, both by residents and outsiders. Nowhere was this difference more explicit than during the period of th
Mar 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing story. How many people know that almost 1.5 million people--about half the population of Leningrad (St. Petersburg)--died as a result of the Nazi siege in WWII? Most of the deaths were from starvation. As is often the case in Russian history, the people also suffered terribly from the actions and inaction of their own government. (Is there any country whose people have suffered more from their fellow human beings in the last 200 years than the Russians?)

One of the creepiest scenes in the
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-wwii
The Nazi seige of Leningrad from 1941-1942 cut the city off from food, fuel, medical supplies, and more. More people perished under these horrific conditions than in the bombing Hiroshima. Stalin refused to believe intelligense reports that Hitler was massing troops along the Soviet Border. In his arrogance, Stalin believed he would be the one to attack and do it in his own time therefore Germany was able to attack at the point when Soviet Union was at it's least prepared. Stalin and his Secret ...more
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read The 900 Days in my Junior year (1970) of High School. Little did I imagine that I would be visiting Leningrad the summer after graduation.

I remember reading and re-reading certain sections of the book in disbelief. What these people endured and eventually overcame lies far outside anything the most fertile imagination could conjure up. The episodes of cannibalism and other lengths many resorted to just to survive took my mind far afield from life in the safety of Southern California.

Karl Jorgenson
Dec 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine historical narrative. I was directed to this book because David Benoit relied upon it to create his 'City of Thieves' (allegedly what Hitler called Leningrad). The book describes the siege and the machinations of Soviet Bureaucracy in excruciating detail, punctuated with personal stories of the starving, freezing, dying population. An amazing story, a holocaust for the ages. I found one anecdote stolen by Benoit wholesale from this book. Good for him. I learned the basic principles of Sov ...more
Aug 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historybooks
Through archival research and personal interviews conducted in the USSR, Salisbury recounts the events leading up to and during the 900-day long siege of Leningrad during World War 2. Salisbury mixes inspirational stories of Soviet determination, such as the establishment of a dangerous supply route over frozen lakes to ship food in while simultaneously shipping women and children out, and genuinely uplifting stories of kindness, such as soldiers giving their rations to starving families, with t ...more
Andy Turner
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A horrific ordeal and a narrow escape in some ways. Had Lenningrad fallen who knows what the world would be like. It is a very interesting history given the way the information and people have been treated over the years. I was struck with how unprepared the Russians were for war and how much resource they fed their enemy prior to war breaking out. I would recommend this book to anyone planning to visit the area or with a keen interest in the second world war, but it is a long and arduous read. ...more
Aug 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book ever written on WW II. The spirit and intellect of the Russian people is awe inspiring. They have forever had to endure the most oppressive and bleakest forms of government of any country on earth, and yet they remain a people of remarkable endurance, intelligence, and creativity. During the siege, they realized that they needed to devise ways in which to not only sustain their bodies, but they must also feed their minds and their souls. They took great risks in order to save and p ...more
Martin Brant
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compared to what the people of Stalingrad suffered through during WWII, even cities like London had a day in the park. I could use several pages describing the horrors the people Stalingrad went through, but you'll find out soon enough when you read this magnificent account. As a whole, only the European Jews knew the full extent of Nazi horror to the degree the people of this Russian city came to know. How I admire the human race, and in this case, the Russians particularly for their a to never ...more
Kevin Farrell
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I kept finding this book cited as reference in other books about life in WWII Russia. So I thought "I better take a look at that book." This is an amazing story that I knew nothing about prior to reading this book. Imagine a large city (3 million-ish) under siege. The Germans don't really want to fight it out if they can starve the Russians out. Read about the amazing hardships and the phenomenal effort by Russian officers to defend this city and feed the dying population trapped within its wall ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very comprehensive description of the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Since Salisbury covers both the military events and the life of the population, it can be difficult to juggle all the names. He is particularly good at depicting how much of the suffering was due to Stalin's maniatical need to contgrol everyone, and to kill anyone who might have questioned his leadership. As soon as the war was over, Stalin tried to erase all knowledge of the heroism and the suffering, and the fact that per ...more
Excellent account of the longest siege during WWII. Usually I'm not partial to the man on the street accounts of battle but Salisbury writes so compellingly that it is hard not to feel connected with Leningraders subsisting on 150gms (5oz) of bread made up mostly of sawdust a day during -20 degree winter. If you want to learn more about the battles between Von Leeb and Voronov/Zhukov there are other more detailed accounts of the battle order (such as Glantz' Barbarosa). This is mostly about surv ...more
Edmond Stevens
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great story of unspeakable hardship. When I visited Lengingrad/St. Petersburg, I felt compelled to visit the Piskaraskoya cemetery where so many hundreds of thousands are buried in long, uniform mounds. It struck me with the thought that American war deaths in World War II were about 385,000, and Leningrad alone lost over a million. We must suppress and defeat those who advocate mass armed conflict as an option for their personal ambitions or ideologies.
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting, but a little too detailed (if that is possible in a non-fiction). Just too much small detail, and to be honest all of the place names and people's names mixed together. It did give me an appreciation of how horrible the politics of Soviet Russia were. So many people killed for no good reason.
carl  theaker
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2

I recall when this book was first published. Initially portions were previewed
Reader's Digest; the more lurid items about cannibals particularly.

My Dad got the book from the library as soon as it was available and
being quite a large book I struggled to get it finished in the 2 weeks
or so. Great read of history.

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  • Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945
Harrison E. Salisbury was a long time reporter and editor at The New York Times. Earlier in his career he had worked for the United Press, which he joined after earning a B.A. at the University of Minnesota in 1930. He began his career in journalism as a part-time reporter for the Minneapolis Journal during 1928-29. Although he served in many different positions and places during his long career a ...more
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