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Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia

Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Lives and Culture

Wendy Rosslyn
Alessandra Tosi
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia
    Book Description:

    Russian women of the nineteenth century are often thought of in their literary incarnations as the heroines of novels such as Anna Karenina and War and Peace. But their real counterparts are now becoming better understood as active contributors to Russia’s varied cultural landscape. This collection of essays examines the lives of women across Russia – from wealthy noblewomen in St Petersburg to desperately poor peasants in Siberia – discussing their interaction with the church and the law, and their rich contribution to music, art, literature and theatre. It shows how women struggled for greater autonomy and, both individually and collectively, developed a dynamic but often overlooked presence in Russia's culture and society during the long nineteenth century (1800-1917). Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia provides invaluable reading for anyone interested in Russian history, nineteenth-century culture and gender studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-906924-67-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology, Law, History

Table of Contents

  1. 1. Introduction: Framing the View: Russian Women in the Long Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 1-18)
    Sibelan Forrester

    Thinking of nineteenth-century Russia, we may find ourselves thinking of a woman’s image, perhaps one of the memorable heroines in the great Russian novels written by men: Sonia Marmeladova from Dostoevskii’sCrime and Punishment(Prestuplenie i nakazanie), Natasha Rostova from Tolstoi’sWar and Peace(Voina i mir), or any of the Turgenev heroines so exemplary that a special adjective was created for the type. These characters have deeply influenced our perceptions of Russian life, to the point where one Western scholar could entitle his cultural history of RussiaNatasha’s Dance, and the publisher did not dissuade him.¹ But what of...

  2. 2. Women and Urban Culture
    (pp. 19-40)
    Barbara Alpern Engel

    In the final decades of the nineteenth century, Russia underwent the social and economic transformations that, centuries earlier, had given rise to urban culture in much of Western Europe. In the West, the commercial revolution and rise of a market economy had resulted in a critical mass of urban population that did not depend on the land. The development of urban-rural differences in lifestyle and mentality; the existence of forms of commercial activity that affected the ‘physical fabric’ of their setting; and the growth of regular non-familial, non-domestic forms of sociability that occurred in comparatively public and/or commercialized settings¹ -...

  3. 3. Russian Peasant Women’s Culture: Three Voices
    (pp. 41-62)
    Christine D. Worobec

    Beginning in the mid-1980s, the task of uncovering the culture of nineteenth-century Russian peasant women involved a search for women’s voices in the ethnographic and literary sources of the time. Folk songs, proverbs, folktales and other expressions of oral culture, as well as the ritual practices associated with the life-cycle – baptism, courtship and marriage and death – recorded by educated observers and utilized in prose writing, infused life into otherwise faceless government statistics. In the period before the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, serfowners’ accounts regarding taxpayers and their obligations, property, as well as household composition, performed a...

  4. 4. Mary and Women in Late Imperial Russian Orthodoxy
    (pp. 63-90)
    Vera Shevzov

    In a recent collection of essays on people’s sacred worlds and the academic study of them, historian Robert Orsi has suggested that we think about religion in terms of relationships that believers form with holy figures. ‘These relationships have all the complexities’, he maintains, ‘of relationships between humans’.¹ If we apply this approach to modern Russia, it quickly becomes evident that the study of women in Orthodox Christianity inevitably leads to, if not begins with, a study of women’s relationship with Mary, the Birth-giver of God (Bogoroditsa). Ubiquitously present through her countless images that were located in homes, churches, roadside...

  5. 5. Women and the Visual Arts
    (pp. 91-118)
    Rosalind P. Blakesley

    In 1800, the French artist Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, then resident in St Petersburg, was elected an honourary free associate of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. The first woman painter to be honoured in this way, the artist responded by painting what she later considered to be the best of her many self-portraits and presented it to the Academy, where it hung in the Council Chamber until 1922 (Fig. 1).¹ Vigée-Lebrun depicted herself at work on a portrait of Empress Maria Fedorovna, who was not only consort of the Emperor of all the Russias, but also an artist in...

  6. 6. Women and Music
    (pp. 119-136)
    Philip Ross Bullock

    In comparison to the related fields of literature and the visual arts (examined by Rosalind Blakesley and Arja Rosenholm and Irina Savkina in this volume),¹ the place of women – whether individually or collectively – in modern Russian music has barely begun to be studied. The rise of the so-called ‘new musicology’ in Anglo-American criticism, which has done so much to foreground discussion of gender and sexuality, has thus far, had relatively little impact on Russian studies. Despite the transformation of academic priorities that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian musicology remains to a great extent...

  7. 7. The Rise of the Actress in Early Nineteenth-Century Russia
    (pp. 137-160)
    Julie A. Cassiday

    By the close of the nineteenth century, the performing arts had not only taken firm root across the vast expanse of the Russian empire, but also become one of the country’s most notable exports.¹ Operatic bass Fedor Shaliapin, ballerina Anna Pavlova, choreographer Sergei Diagilev and actor-director Konstantin Stanislavskii all toured outside Russia in the early twentieth century, securing personal fame and establishing their country’s pre-eminence in the performing arts. Among these cultural exports were Russia’s most popular dramatic actresses, such women as Mariia Savina, Lidiia Iavorskaia and Vera Komissarzhevskaia, who drew crowds of curious spectators to see their unique Russian...

  8. 8. ‘How Women Should Write’: Russian Women’s Writing in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 161-208)
    Arja Rosenholm and Irina Savkina

    The question of how to write about women in Russian literature of the nineteenth-century can be solved in various ways. We can add women writers into literary history, or we can try to write a separate women’s history with the aim of identifying fields and genres where women’s presence seems to be obvious, as did Barbara Heldt.¹ We can also look for the specificity, originality and independence of women’s creativity and discuss women’s writing within various models, which follow not the paradigm of struggle, but rather the ‘model of connection and development’, as suggested by Jehanne Gheith², or fall within...

  9. 9. Between Law and Morality: Violence against Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia
    (pp. 209-238)
    Marianna G. Muravyeva

    One winter’s day in 1883, the people of Chuguevo witnessed a woman harnessed to a cart, running alongside the horse to the cheerful jeering of her husband and father-in-law who were driving. The woman was badly beaten and soon lost consciousness. Later, when the case went to the local court, the villagers would learn that these two men had brought her back home, continued beating her and, finally, gang-raped her.¹ This story, reported by one of the central Russian newspapers,Moskovskie vedomosti, represents all the hardships Russian peasant women were experiencing in the nineteenth century. They could be punished by...