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Film Screening ‘Dystrofiia’ (1943) – introduction by Dr John Barber and Prof Jonathan Wells

Tuesday 7 March, 2017, 18:30 - 20:00


Emaciated child of the blockade -photograph by G.Shchukin, 1942

Nutritional or alimentary dystrophy was the term first used in Leningrad to describe the condition resulting from starvation suffered by thousands of Leningraders by the end of 1941. It was the main cause of death of the overwhelming majority of more than half a million city dwellers who perished in the hungry winter of 1941-42 and of those who died later. While it took time for the term to be officially recognized, it had been widely used by Leningraders from late 1941, as was the word ‘dystrophic’ to describe those suffering from the effects of starvation.

While the Leningrad famine was the most extreme case of mass death from starvation, civilians succumbed to starvation, including dystrophy, in other parts of the wartime USSR.

This film was made for training medical students to recognize the stages of dystrophy and show how to treat it before it progressed too far. It is an instructional film, not a documentary. Amongst other things, it shows the impact of dystrophy on internal organs as seen during an autopsy. Some may wish to avert their eyes at this point.

The film will be presented by Dr John Barber and Professor Jonathan Wells, who studies sieges from both social and medical dimensions. In his introductory talk, Jonathan Wells will discuss the following points:

–  sieges through history as a population control technique

–  long-term health of a siege (mortality, risk of diabetes, etc.)

–  the impact of starvation on the next generation, born years later.

Please note that the film contains graphic images, which might be disturbing especially to young viewers.

The film is in Russian with English translation.

John Barber is a fellow of King’s College Cambridge. He is the author of Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-32, co-author (with Mark Harrison) of The Soviet Home Front, 1941-45: A Social and Economic History of the USSR in World War II (Longman, 1991), co-editor (with Mark Harrison) of The Soviet Defence-Industry Complex from Stalin to Khrushchev (Pelgrave Macmillan, 1999) and co-editor (with Andrei Dzeniskevich) of Life and Death in Besieged Leningrad (Pelgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Jonathan Wells is Professor of Anthropology and Pediatric Nutrition at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. He conducts research on children’s body composition and energy metabolism in low- and middle-income countries, and uses an evolutionary perspective to help interpret the data and improve public health programmes.


Tuesday 7 March, 2017
18:30 - 20:00




Keynes Hall, King’s College
King's Parade
Cambridge, CB2 1ST United Kingdom
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