A History of Women in Russia: From Earliest Times to the Present

Views: 584
Ratings: (0)

Synthesizing several decades of scholarship by historians East and West, Barbara Evans Clements traces the major developments in the history of women in Russia and their impact on the history of the nation. Sketching lived experiences across the centuries, she demonstrates the key roles that women played in shaping Russia's political, economic, social, and cultural development for over a millennium. The story Clements tells is one of hardship and endurance, but also one of achievement by women who, for example, promoted the conversion to Christianity, governed estates, created great art, rebelled against the government, established charities, built the tanks that rolled into Berlin in 1945, and flew the planes that strafed the retreating Wehrmacht. This daunting and complex history is presented in an engaging survey that integrates this scholarship into the field of Russian and post-Soviet history.

List price: $9.99

Your Price: $7.99

You Save: 20%

 

8 Slices

Format Buy Remix

1. The Women of the Rus, 900–1462

ePub

In 950, two peoples at the far-eastern reaches of Europe were pooling their fortunes. They were the Rus, Scandinavians who had ventured south seeking riches, and the Slavs, farmers who had lived in the great expanses of steppe and forest for centuries. The Rus brought to this alliance their skills in warfare, trade, and manufacture; the Slavs provided food and furs. Off and on for decades the two groups made alliances and marriages that brought them into ever-closer cooperation. By the year 1000, Slavs and Scandinavians were merging into one people, whom history would call the Rus, after their swashbuckling leaders.

Most Rus women spent their lives working. In the countryside, they harvested the fields and forests. In the cities, they participated in family businesses. Among the ruling elite, they managed households. Women of all classes also married, had children, experienced youth’s pleasures and hopes, and found ways to endure advancing old age. The Rus believed that men should rule women and that young women should obey their seniors. When women became seniors themselves, they required their daughters, daughters-in-law, and sons to honor and obey them. They also advised their menfolk, a custom that, among the elite, led to women becoming political advisers and, on a few occasions, regents.

 

2. The Age of The Domostroi, 1462—1695

ePub

Ivan III, grandson of Sophia Vitovtovna, conqueror of Marfa Boretskaia, great prince of Moscow, referred to himself as “tsar” in correspondence with foreign governments. The term was an ancient one, created in the Balkans from the Latin word “Caesar.” By borrowing it, Ivan declared himself heir to Rome’s power. It was a ridiculous assertion, for Muscovy in the late 1400s was a small, weak kingdom far from the centers of European power. Ivan and his descendants acted on his aspirations by building a government more centralized and powerful than any of its Rus predecessors. They also greatly expanded the territory they governed and fostered trade and diplomatic relations with other European nations, thereby opening Muscovy to greater contact with the outside world. And they and their nobles reduced the peasantry to serfdom and brought tens of thousands of non-Muscovite women under Moscow’s rule.

For women, these centuries were a time of enduring gender ideals and wrenching disruptions. The ideals were set out most famously in The Domostroi, a compendium of advice on household management written by an anonymous government official or cleric in the mid-sixteenth century. The Domostroi described the elite family as a harmonious mini-kingdom, presided over by a benevolent, wise patriarch and his supportive, authoritative wife. The real lives of most women, princesses as well as peasants, were a good deal grittier than this, but none of the hardships called into question, so far as we can tell, women’s notions about themselves or the customs of their daily lives. So women of the peasantry farmed, women of the towns ran the family businesses or worked for the rich, and women of the nobility managed their households and advised their men. This stability in gender arrangements was characteristic of the rest of Europe in these centuries as well.

 

3. Empresses and Serfs, 1695–1855

ePub

Peter I, known to history as Peter the Great, believed that he had to change elite women in order to transform Muscovy into a modern, powerful Russian Empire. He began by ordering them to put away their heavy kaftans and veils and order dresses of German design. Though his strong-willed sisters Maria and Ekaterina refused to get new wardrobes, many other women in the circles around the throne happily acceded to the tsar’s demands. The tsar also commanded his female subjects to attend court festivities with men, and thereby began abolishing the seclusion of elite women. These decorative reforms set in motion much more substantial changes in privileged women’s lives over the next century and a half. The gender ideas of Western and Central Europe, which were in ferment during these years, flowed into Russia, where they changed Russian ideas and were changed in their turn. Education for girls and women expanded. Revisions in property laws permitted elite women to buy ever more land. By 1850, Russian noblewomen were attending boarding schools, reading scholarly journals, publishing poetry and short stories, running charities, and managing estates.

 

4. Industrialization and Urbanization, 1855—1914

ePub

From 1855 to 1914, the Russian economy grew rapidly and so did the cities. Peasants freed from serfdom crowded into factories; merchants and shopkeepers expanded their businesses; apartment blocks went up, as did tenements. Between 1811 and 1914, the percentage of Russia’s people living in urban areas rose from 6.6 to 15 percent, with much of this increase concentrated in the metropolises. Moscow had swelled to more than a million inhabitants by 1902; St. Petersburg was home to more than 2 million in 1914.1 Now women of all ranks of life had to cope with the problems and the possibilities created by the Industrial Revolution in its Russian incarnation.

Women’s experiences of and participation in the economic and social developments of the last decades of imperial Russia depended on their social position, ethnicity, religion, place of residence, and individual experience. The standard of living rose for some women in the middle ranks of urban society, and the cities filled with new amenities, such as opera houses, theaters, and, by the early twentieth century, electric lighting. Influential noblewomen organized a feminist movement that set up charities and persuaded the government to admit women to higher education. Although, as in the past, improvements in education benefited the nobles first, they now spread to more girls from the middle ranks of Russian society, the working class, and the peasantry. Female graduates of the new schools then established a women’s presence in the growing professions, particularly teaching and medicine

 

5. Activist Women and Revolutionary Change, 1890—1930

ePub

The Russian Revolution began in February 1917 with a demonstration by poor women in Petrograd, Russia’s newly renamed capital city. On February 23, textile workers took to the streets to protest food shortages and the war that had cost so many of them their husbands and brothers. They were answering the call of socialists and feminists to mark International Women’s Day with meetings and marches. Dozens, then hundreds of women came out of their tenements and factories. The swelling crowds marched through the streets, they yelled for bread and an end to the war, and they defied the police that tried to keep them out of the city center. Crowds milled around shouting their discontents until sunset and were back again the next morning. Ten days of demonstrations followed, during which troops sent to disperse the people joined them instead and committees of Duma delegates met to form a new government. On March 3, under pressure from his generals, Nicholas II abdicated.

In 1910, the Socialist International had named February 23 (March 8 on the Western calendar) Women’s Day, meaning it should be a time to demonstrate for women’s rights, and so the protests that swept Russia’s capital on that day in 1917 are known as the Women’s Day March. It became a much-celebrated milestone in an era of female activism that began in late nineteenth-century Russia and continued into the Soviet period. “Activism” is defined here as participation in such public institutions as the church, government, political parties, professions, trade unions, and voluntary organizations, particularly participation aimed at achieving social, political, or cultural change. The late nineteenth century was a time of rising female activism throughout the European world. Nowhere was that activism more consequential than in Russia. There women broadened the discussion of the woman question, expanded the feminist movement, made major contributions to the arts and sciences, helped to build public education and social services, energized the churches, and strengthened the labor movement and revolutionary parties. This activism led directly to the February 23 uprising.

 

6. Toil, Terror, and Triumphs, 1930—53

ePub

Joseph Stalin was one of the most successful tyrants of the twentieth century. His government built the Soviet industrial base, defeated the Axis armies, and pushed the Soviet Union into the ranks of the superpowers. Women were crucial to all these endeavors. They made up the majority of workers entering the labor force in the 1930s. One million of them fought in World War II, and millions more kept manufacturing going behind the lines. After the war they worked in the rebuilding effort. Women also did most of the housework and childrearing.

These decades saw the Soviet program of women’s emancipation reach the majority of Soviet women. Education grew rapidly, social services expanded, and the message that women were now men’s equals was insistently broadcast. Women moved into occupations previously closed to them and moved up within the sectors in which they had been working since the nineteenth century. Women’s activism—their participation in public institutions, particularly participation aimed at achieving social, political, or cultural change—continued, propelled by a new generation that took seriously the proclamations of women’s equality. Assertive women pushed past gender prejudice to claim a place in pioneering ventures in construction, frontier settlement, and aviation. As in the past, however, most women made lower wages than men and very few were promoted into the top ranks of the professions or the government. They were missing entirely from the highest ranks of the leadership.

 

7. Making Better Lives, 1953—91

ePub

The communist leaders who succeeded Stalin ran the Soviet system without the Terror. They maintained the dictatorship, but reined in the police and sought to build public support by raising the standard of living. They also pursued an ambitious agenda of controlling client states in Eastern Europe and competing with the United States for influence around the world. In the 1970s, the Soviet economy faltered under the strain of this expensive foreign policy and of inefficiencies caused by centralization and bureaucratization. A new leadership, committed to wholesale reform, came to power in 1985. By 1991, these men had stumbled into dismantling the Soviet Union itself.

Life improved for millions of Soviet women after 1953. The programs and gender ideas established in the 1930s continued, with better funding for social services and education. Although gender norms that had weakened during the war strengthened and political leadership remained a male preserve, many women rose to middle management in government and the economy, and still more worked in the professions. Wages increased, and across the Soviet Union there were more consumer goods and greatly improved housing, communications, and transportation. The regime had long sung the praises of women who kept cozy homes. Finally that ideal came within reach of millions of Soviet people.

 

8. Gains and Losses, 1991—2010

ePub

In the 1990s, the peoples of the fifteen nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan—set about remaking their political and economic systems. The largest and most populous of these successor states was Russia, presided over for eight years by President Boris Yeltsin. A courageous, boisterous, undisciplined man, Yeltsin seemed to embody the chaos of the 1990s. In 1999 he handed power to his hand-picked successor, a former intelligence agent named Vladimir Putin. Putin rebuilt the power of the center, repressed critics, and pursued an assertive foreign policy. In 2008, at the end of the two terms permitted to the president by the new Russian constitution, he became prime minister and was succeeded as president by an ally, Dmitri Medvedev.

Some of the governments of the other republics were more democratic than Russia’s, some less. In Belarus and Central Asia, Soviet-era leaders and renamed communist parties remained in power into the early twenty-first century. Ukraine and the states of the Baltic and Caucasus developed more democratic regimes. All these governments instituted similar economic reforms: they shut down inefficient factories, privatized some state-owned enterprises, encouraged the creation of privately owned farms and businesses, and cut funding for social services and benefits programs.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
2370004420455
Isbn
9780253001047
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
20 times / 30 days
Copying
20 times / 30 days
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata