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The War Within

The War Within

Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad

Alexis Peri

ISBN 9780674248335

Publication date: 10/13/2020

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Winner of the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize
Winner of the University of Southern California Book Prize
Honorable Mention, Reginald Zelnik Book Prize

“Fascinating and perceptive.”
—Antony Beevor, New York Review of Books

“Stand aside, Homer. I doubt whether even the author of the Iliad could have matched Alexis Peri’s account of the 872-day siege which Leningrad endured.”
—Jonathan Mirsky, The Spectator

“Powerful and illuminating…A fascinating, insightful, and nuanced work.”
—Anna Reid, Times Literary Supplement

“Much has been written about Leningrad’s heroic resistance. But the remarkable aspect of [Peri’s] book is that she tells a very different story: recounting the internal struggles of ordinary people desperately trying to survive and make sense of their fate.”
—John Thornhill, Financial Times

“A sensitive, at times almost poetic examination of their emotions and disordered mental states. It both contrasts with and complements the equally accurate official Soviet portrait of a stalwart population standing firm in the face of evil and in defense of Soviet ideals.”
—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

In September 1941, two and a half months after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, the German Wehrmacht encircled Leningrad. Cut off from the rest of Russia, the city remained blockaded for 872 days, at a cost of almost a million lives. It was one of the longest and deadliest sieges in modern history.

The War Within chronicles the Leningrad blockade from the perspective of those who endured it. Drawing on unpublished diaries, Alexis Peri tells the tragic story of how young and old struggled to make sense of a world collapsing around them. When the blockade was lifted in 1944, Kremlin officials censored publications describing the ordeal and arrested many of Leningrad’s wartime leaders. Some were executed. Diaries—now dangerous to their authors—were concealed, shelved in archives, and forgotten. The War Within recovers these lost accounts, shedding light on one of World War II’s darkest episodes while paying tribute the resilience of the human spirit.


  • Synthesize[s] dozens of accounts to powerful and illuminating effect…A fascinating, insightful, and nuanced work that incorporates much fresh research. Particularly rewarding is the close attention Peri pays to language.

    —Anna Reid, Times Literary Supplement


  • 2018, Winner of the AATSEEL Book Prizes
  • 2018, Winner of the USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies
  • 2018, Winner of the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize


  • Alexis Peri is the author of The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad, winner of the Pushkin House Book Prize and named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the ten best books on the Soviet home front. She is Associate Professor of History at Boston University.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press