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Cultures in Flux

Cultures in Flux: Lower-Class Values, Practices, and Resistance in Late Imperial Russia

Stephen P. Frank
Mark D. Steinberg
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ssdz
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  • Book Info
    Cultures in Flux
    Book Description:

    The popular culture of urban and rural tsarist Russia revealed a dynamic and troubled world. Stephen Frank and Mark Steinberg have gathered here a diverse collection of essays by Western and Russian scholars who question conventional interpretations and recall neglected stories about popular behavior, politics, and culture. What emerges is a new picture of lower-class life, in which traditions and innovations intermingled and social boundaries and identities were battered and reconstructed.

    The authors vividly convey the vitality as well as the contradictions of social life in old regime Russia, while also confronting problems of interpretation, methodology, and cultural theory. They tell of peasant death rites and religious beliefs, family relationships and brutalities, defiant peasant women, folk songs, urban amusement parks, expressions of popular patriotism, the penny press, workers' notions of the self, street hooliganism, and attempts by educated Russians to transform popular festivities. Together, the authors portray popular culture not as a static, separate world, but as the dynamic means through which lower-class Russians engaged the world around them.

    In addition to the editors, the contributors to this volume are Daniel R. Brower, Barbara Alpern Engel, Hubertus F. Jahn, Al'bin M. Konechnyi, Boris N. Mironov, Joan Neuberger, Robert A. Rothstein, and Christine D. Worobec.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2133-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-10)
    Mark D. Steinberg and Stephen P. Frank

    Paradoxically, as our knowledge of postemancipation Russian society and culture has grown, we have produced a historical portrait that is increasingly rough, fractured, and blurred. The coexistence of the traditional and the new, of inertia and vibrancy, is increasingly familiar to students of late imperial Russia—and, indeed, of Soviet Russia as well. But these simple dichotomies only begin to convey the complex dynamism and fluidity of Russian society and culture as social relationships, values, and structures were battered and reconstructed. Russia’s emerging public sphere—the civic space that, for many contemporaries and historians, constitutes the essential foundation for a...

  6. 1 DEATH RITUAL AMONG RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN PEASANTS: LINKAGES BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
    (pp. 11-33)
    Christine D. Worobec

    In the preindustrial and early industrial worlds, people had to confront death frequently. The average life expectancy was much lower than it is today in developed countries, and sudden death, brought on by epidemics or famine, was a regular phenomenon. Individuals had to deal with the loss of not only the elderly, but also wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, and other adults in the prime of life—as well as children, many of whom died before the age of ten.¹

    Religious beliefs and the enactment of elaborate death rituals that provided linkages between the living and the dead fhelped the bereaved...

  7. 2 WOMEN, MEN, AND THE LANGUAGES OF PEASANT RESISTANCE, 1870–1907
    (pp. 34-53)
    Barbara Alpern Engel

    On september 16, 1872, the former state peasants of Zhilomostnoe and Pravorot’ villages in Kursk province confronted the official who had come to survey their land at the governor’s orders. The entire population of the villages stood facing the surveyor, the women with babies at their breast in the forefront. Shouting “We don’t agree, we’ll force you to stop; you won’t get away with this robbery!” the women placed their children on the ground in front of them and blocked the surveyor’s path. Each time he tried to proceed in a different direction, the women threw their infants under a...

  8. 3 PEASANT POPULAR CULTURE AND THE ORIGINS OF SOVIET AUTHORITARIANISM
    (pp. 54-73)
    Boris N. Mironov

    This article offers several preliminary views on the sources of Soviet authoritarianism, which I seek to locate within the popular culture of the prerevolutionary peasantry. The essence of my hypothesis rests on a fundamental reality of life in the prerevolutionary Russian countryside: authoritarian relations served as the basic model for all interpersonal relations among peasants, including social relations. This was a result of the fact that the peasantry’s primary social institutions—the family and the commune—were authoritarian, cultivating, through socialization, authoritarian personalities. The Russian peasantry (which accounted for more than 80 percent of Russia’s population in 1917) and Russian...

  9. 4 CONFRONTING THE DOMESTIC OTHER: RURAL POPULAR CULTURE AND ITS ENEMIES IN FIN-DE-SIÈCLE RUSSIA
    (pp. 74-107)
    Stephen P. Frank

    In an 1889 report on his field studies of Sarapul’skii district, Viatka province, the Russian ethnographer P.M. Bogaevsky noted that peasants who spent time working in cities served as pioneers of urban culture upon returning to their villages. Unfortunately, he added, repeating with dismay an already widespread observation, the rural population had interpreted this culture in the most undesirable manner, thereby allowing it to destroy ancient precepts and customs. Young peasants in particular now regarded with disdain the centuries-old traditions of their grandparents—traditions that had given the Russian peasantry its special form of communal life and shaped its worldview....

  10. 5 DEATH OF THE FOLK SONG?
    (pp. 108-120)
    Robert A. Rothstein

    It is an unquestionable fact,” wrote an anonymous American observer in 1893, “that in Russia all the principal outward adjuncts of modern civilization—large towns, factories, railroads, hotels, etc.—exercise a blighting effect on the beautiful old folk-song. This disappears at the sound of the steam whistle, and is gradually superseded by commonplace melodies with stupid words, not seldom of doubtful propriety.”¹ Similar expressions of concern at the alleged demise of traditional folk music were being voiced at the same time in Russia itself in the course of an extended public discussion that lasted from the 1870s until the early...

  11. 6 SHOWS FOR THE PEOPLE: PUBLIC AMUSEMENT PARKS IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY ST. PETERSBURG
    (pp. 121-130)
    Al’bin M. Konechnyi

    St. petersburg, capital of the Russian Empire, was known as a city of high culture, famous for its artificiality and its grandiose architecture. Refined court life and displays of imperial symbolism were accompanied by a rich world of opera, ballet, dramatic art, concert halls, musical societies, and literary salons. The imperial theaters reflected both the high standards of a common European elite culture and the expectations of a sophisticated cosmopolitan audience.

    St. Petersburg, however, like most other European capitals in the nineteenth century, was not only an extension of the imperial court. It was above all a city of bureaucrats,...

  12. 7 FOR TSAR AND FATHERLAND? RUSSIAN POPULAR CULTURE AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR
    (pp. 131-146)
    Hubertus F. Jahn

    World war I broke out in Europe at a time of major transformations in cultural life. As a result of industrialization and the ensuing social changes, an urban mass culture developed that centered on such new media as the cinema or the music hall but that also included older forms of entertainment, like the circus or the fairground. At the same time, the traditional high culture of opera, concert hall, and the fine arts continued to flourish. The war was reflected in the cultural life of Europe in many ways, and for some countries more or less detailed studies have...

  13. 8 THE PENNY PRESS AND ITS READERS
    (pp. 147-167)
    Daniel R. Brower

    In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Russian penny press became a cultural bridge between writers and the urban population. It was a far more visible presence than the chapbooks, which until then had been the sole print medium to reach large numbers of readers. The penny press was an innovation both because it threw out a daily barrage of images, stories, and news reports, and because it cast an inquisitive, at times accusatory light on public and private behavior in the capitals and in provincial cities. The message was often sensationalist, invariably personalized and localized, and usually...

  14. 9 WORKER-AUTHORS AND THE CULT OF THE PERSON
    (pp. 168-184)
    Mark D. Steinberg

    Conceptions of the person are often central to the ways people reason about ethics, rights, and justice. These conceptions are not the same everywhere. In various cultures individuals are de-fined as people mainly by their status or social role, by their age or gender, or by the particular relationships into which they enter. This relativist image of the person has been opposed, most strongly in cultures that have been heir to the Western classical and Judeo-Christian cultural tradition, by a view of the individual as a particular incarnation of a generalized category of personhood—the notion of “man” as both...

  15. 10 CULTURE BESIEGED: HOOLIGANISM AND FUTURISM
    (pp. 185-204)
    Joan Neuberger

    In the 1900s and 1910s, young, male, lower-class street toughs and elite avant-garde artists in Russia both used shocking behavior and offensive public pranks for similar reasons: to attack old authorities, advertise an alternative set of values, and assert their own power. The rough concurrence of hooliganism and futurism—that is, the appearance, across class lines, of similar behaviors with similar goals, both of which highlighted cultural conflict—illumines a number of issues critical to understanding popular culture in Russia, the relationship between what we think of as popular and elite culture, and the role culture in general played in...

  16. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 205-210)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 211-214)