Symphony of destruction.

symphony

People who know me, know I am a big Heavy Metal fan ,and one of my favourite tracks is called Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth.But this blog is about a different Symphony, a Symphony which was composed and first performed amidst great destruction.

The piece of music is commonly known as the Leningrad Symphony, It was Dmitri  Shostakovich 7th Symphony.

The disturbing news of the German attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, had reached Leningrad at midday June 22 as Molotov announced the attack via loudspeakers throughout the city.

barbarossa

The 35-year-old composer Shostakovich  was head of the Leningrad Conservatoire’s piano department. He began work on his Seventh Symphony in the first hot days of July.

He had volunteered for the army but was dismissed because of his poor eyesight.

Shostakovich

Instead he became a volunteer for the Leningrad Conservatory’s firefighter brigade. However as a musician he set his talents to work and help the war effort in a different way. I did not research this but as a musician myself I know how powerful music can be, it cam alter moods, lift spirits and boost morale.

When Shostakovich played the first two tacts of his Seventh Symphony to some of his friends, in the besieged city of Leningrad in the summer of 1941, the performance was brutally interrupted by a German bombardment.

Shostakovich endured and worked with an inhuman intensity to finish what would become his best known work. Not because he wanted to become rich from it but because he knew how important art was and especially music in the most dire circumstances.

The first full performance in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) was given in August 1942 by a half-starved orchestra, whose emaciated state is symbolised by the drummer Dzaudhat Aydarov, who had literally been rescued from the dead.

Karl Eliasberg, the conductor on that occasion, stated that Soviet artillery pounded known German battery positions  prior to the start of  concert in order to silence them.

It was the same Eliasberg who went to the morgue looking for the drummer Aydarov,He found his presumed cadaver  still moving and breathing.

Despite the destruction around them and being under siege by the German army, the people of Leningrad still found a bit of comfort by buying a ticket for the mammoth work which lasted for over 78 minutes. 78 minutes where they could forget the war, the hunger and the despair.

ticket

Below is the music  the symphony in its full length.

 

 

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Sources

Classic FM

The Guardian

BBC

YouTube

 

 

 

 

Nikolai Vavilov and the forgotten tragedy of the Siege of Leningrad.

1200px-Nikolai_Vavilov_NYWTS

What would you to do save something your passionate about but is not necessarily essential to your own existence.Would you sacrifice your life?

9 scientists of the Leningrad seed bank did.

After the Civil War had ended, Russia experienced a terrible famine between 1921 and 1922. Devastated by drought, the country produced a wheat-harvest half of what it had been prior to the war. Lenin understood that something had to be done in order to improve Russian agriculture and to stave off another hunger crisis.

Vavilov, the then Head of the Department of Applied Botany, was elected by the new Soviet Union for a mission to travel to the United States to collect seeds of wild crops for cultivation. He intended these seeds to act as the basis for the creation of frost-hardy, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant varieties.

After returning from a successful trip to America, Vavilov continued his travels, venturing as far as the Middle East, Afghanistan, North Africa and Ethiopia, collecting valuable samples of bread-wheat and rye. By the end of 1924, his seed collection had grown to almost sixty thousand acquisitions, with a total of seven thousand coming from Afghanistan.

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The seeds collected by Vavilov were then deposited in the Leningrad Seedbank. Vavilov and his team envisioned Leningrad’s future to be that of a global seed bank, in which new strains of crops would be cultivated in an effort to end hunger worldwide.

vavilov-institute.jpg

In September 1941, when German forces began their siege of Leningrad, choking food supply to the city’s two million residents, one group of people preferred to starve to death despite having plenty of ‘food.’

The Leningrad seedbank was diligently preserved through the 28-month Siege of Leningrad.

Capture

While the Soviets had ordered the evacuation of art from the Hermitage, they had not evacuated the 250,000 samples of seeds, roots, and fruits stored in what was then the world’s largest seedbank. A group of scientists at the Vavilov Institute boxed up a cross section of seeds, moved them to the basement, and took shifts protecting them. Those guarding the seedbank refused to eat its contents, even though by the end of the siege in the spring of 1944, nine of them had died of starvation.

Vavilov had travelled five continents to study the global food ecosystem. Calling it a “mission for all humanity’’, he conducted experiments in genetic breeding to increase farm productivity. Even as Russia was undergoing revolutions, anarchy and famines, he went about storing seeds at the Institute of Plant Industry.

Vavilov dreamed of a utopian future in which new agricultural practices and science could one day create super plants that would grow in any environment, thus ending world hunger.

There wasn’t much justice going around in Joseph Stalin’s time. Vavilov wanted to increase farm productivity to eliminate recurring Russian famines. Early on, he defended the Mendelian theory that genes are passed on unchanged from one generation to the next. He became the main opponent of Stalin’s favoured scientist, the Ukrainian Trofim Lysenko.ilysenk001p1Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics and developed a pseudo-scientific movement called Lysenkoism. His quack theories about improved crop yields earned Stalin’s support, following the famine and loss of productivity resulting from forced collectivization in several regions of the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. In fact, Lysenko’s influence on Stalin ensured that scientific dissent from his theories of environmentally acquired inheritance was formally outlawed in 1948.

Stalin’s collectivisation of private farms had led to reduced yields across the Soviet Union. The dictator now needed a scapegoat for his failure and the famine. He chose Vavilov. In Stalin’s warped view, Vavilov’s was responsible for the famines because his process of carefully selecting the best specimens of plants would take numerous years to bear fruit.

Vavilov was collecting seeds on Russia’s borders when he was picked up by secret service agents. Amidst the chaos of World War II, no one, including his son and his wife, knew where he was.

Vavilov_in_prison

Before his show trial, Stalin’s police, seeking a confession, had subjected Vavilov to 1,700 hours of brutal interrogation over 400 sessions, some lasting 13 hours, carried out by an officer known for his extreme methods. Before his arrest, during the long rise in influence of Lysenko, beginning in the 1920s, Vavilov, unlike Galileo, had refused to repudiate his beliefs, saying, “We shall go into the pyre, we shall burn, but we shall not retreat from our convictions”.

After over a year-and-a-half of eating frozen cabbage and mouldy flour, he died of starvation on January 26 1943.

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Only Tanya is left- The horrors of the Siege of Leningrad.

Tanya-Savicheva

It is not clear if Tanya Savicheva was born on January 23 1930 or January 25 1930,there seems to be a discrepancy in some of the records. The one thing that is clear is she died age 14.

She was the youngest child in the family of a baker father, Nikolay Rodionovich Savichev, and a seamstress mother, Mariya Ignatievna Savicheva. Her father died when Tanya was six, leaving his widow with five children.

During the siege of Leningrad Tanya kept a diary.She lost all her family but she herself was eventually evacuated out of the city in August 1942, along with about 150 other children, to a village called Shatki. But whilst most of the others recovered and lived, Tanya, already too ill, died of tuberculosis on 1 July 1944.

I am only adding one except of her diary which says it all.

Zhenya died on December 28th at 12 noon, 1941

Grandma died on the 25th of January at 3 o’clock, 1942

Leka died March 17th, 1942, at 5 o’clock in the morning, 1942

Uncle Vasya died on April 13th at 2 o’clock in the morning, 1942

Uncle Lesha May 10th, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, 1942

Mama on May 13th at 7:30 in the morning, 1942

The Savichevs are dead

Everyone is dead

Only Tanya is left

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Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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