The War Was Not Long Ago

June 11th, 2009

Building remnants near the Putilovo Quarry, Leningrad Region.

Building remnants near the Putilovo Quarry, Leningrad Region.

PUTILOVO, LENINGRAD REGION, RUSSIA–Nearly every evening one of the many vodka toasts of our geological party is: “To the great victory over the Germans!”  This may be because all of our study sites were on one frontline or another during World War II, or because this is a group of men of a certain age interested in the history of their fathers and grandfathers.  We were on the left bank of the Neva River yesterday and passed many monuments, preserved tanks, and large signs saying, “Always Remember the Defenders of the Motherland!” and “Here the Invader Was Stopped!”.  We pass by almost every day a memorial “To the Unknown Drivers” of supply trucks to the besieged city of Leningrad.  (They paid a horrendous price transporting goods across frozen Ladoga Lake under intense bombardment.)  The place where Vladimir Putin’s father was wounded on the bank of the Neva was pointed out to me.  I’m also told when we cross into territories “the Germans never took”.

Leningrad defenders memorial.

Leningrad defenders memorial.

Remanants of Russian trenches, Neva River.

Remnants of Russian trenches, Neva River.

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There is otherwise very little evidence of the war here because almost every pre-war building was completely destroyed in this area and the rubble cleared.  It is only in a few small villages that I’ve seen overgrown shot-up ruins of building walls, or the occasional stone roots of a bombed bridge.  Scaling these observations upwards to match the size of this war zone produces an astonishing image of destruction.  No wonder that two generations later the war is still very much in mind.

And there is a palimpsest of destruction in this area of Russia.  This bridge over the River Tosna (N59.64682°, E30.80679) was destroyed by White forces in 1919 during the Civil War.

And there is a palimpsest of destruction in this area of Russia. This bridge over the River Tosna (N59.64682°, E30.80679) was destroyed by White forces in 1919 during the Civil War.

One Response to “The War Was Not Long Ago”

  1. […] VIRGINIA–We’ve had several posts in this blog on the geology of battlefields (Leningrad, the Meuse-Argonne, Vicksburg, Bear River, Brice’s Crossroads). These places are almost always […]

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