The diaries of Fedorovich Putiakov give a rare glimpse into the life of an ordinary Red Army soldier serving on the Eastern Front during World War II. While serving near Leningrad Putiakov was arrested for “anti-Soviet activity” and his writings were used against him during his trial.
Putiakov’s journals describe a bleak experience, the main challenges he faces on the front are the cold (Putiakov says it was -28 degrees one day), lack of food rations, and poor sanitary conditions. He recounts, “Today they say 100 grams of bread will be added to our rations as well as other kinds of food. Right now there is hope for life. One can wait for the spring and summer. It is simply hard to guess what comes next. At the moment we are completely inoperative.” Another journal entry from 23 January states, “There is nowhere to do the washing. We were forced to do it right here, in the dugout. I melted some snow and washed my head, less so the rest of my body. It seems like everything has eased up. I hadn’t washed myself since 26 December.” It is incredibly difficult to imagine the conditions Putiakov and other soldiers were facing, many brave men were able to endure knowing what was at stake if they lost to the Germans. However the most difficult conditions to endure for many soldier were human factors. For Putiakov it was his own leadership he viewed as the biggest threat. “In this company many people have already died, all at the hands of Sergeant Major Orlov, Lieutenant Zakrutkin and others. They uphold the prison-like conditions.” He continues, “I am going to take measures. Otherwise I will die. Today my face swelled up. I feel terrible Hunger. As ill luck would have it my half-rations of bread were stolen. Scoundrels, Lord, Lord, when will this torture end? I have become something inhuman.” These intense words by Putiakov reveal what drove him to take action to try and better his situation. Unfortunately, taking action lead to his arrest and execution on 13 March 1942.
I was very moved by the hardships Putiakov endured during his time in the Red Army. The amount of threats these soldiers faced were tremendous. You were in danger constantly, not only were you facing horrible conditions while you fight a genocidal enemy intent on wiping out your home, but many threats came from your superiors and even fellow soldiers. When you do not trust the men responsible for your life and the people fighting next to you I can see why Putiakov was driven to take action.