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A History of Women in Russia

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

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Indiana University Press
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    A History of Women in Russia
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-00104-7
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION (pp. xiii-xviii)

    This book is a brief history of all the women in all the Russias that existed on the far-eastern European plain during the past millennium. That history includes more than one hundred ethnic groups inhabiting what had become by 1800 the geographically largest country on Earth. Their lives across the centuries deserve telling, from the earliest times to the most recent, so this book begins with the Rus of the tenth century and ends in the present day. It concentrates on the Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, and Jews who made up the great majority of the population....

  6. Glossary (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. A SKETCH OF THE HISTORIOGRAPHY (pp. xxiii-xxviii)
  8. 1 THE WOMEN OF THE RUS, 900–1462 (pp. 1-24)

    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...

  9. 2 THE AGE OF THE DOMOSTROI, 1462–169 (pp. 25-63)

    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...

  10. 3 EMPRESSES AND SERFS, 1695–1855 (pp. 64-111)

    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...

  11. 4 INDUSTRIALIZATION AND URBANIZATION, 1855–1914 (pp. 112-157)

    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...

  12. 5 ACTIVIST WOMEN AND REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE, 1890–1930 (pp. 158-210)

    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...

  13. 6 TOIL, TERROR, AND TRIUMPHS, 1930–53 (pp. 211-252)

    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...

  14. 7 MAKING BETTER LIVES, 1953–91 (pp. 253-285)

    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...

  15. 8 GAINS AND LOSSES, 1991–2010 (pp. 286-315)

    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 handpicked successor, a former intelligence agent named Vladimir Putin. Putin rebuilt the power of the center, repressed...

  16. CONCLUSIONS (pp. 316-320)

    Several unifying themes have emerged from this study of the history of women in Russia from the tenth century to the twenty-first. One of the most important is the proposition that that history is closely linked to that of women in other European nations. For most of the women in Russia’s past, the gender values and norms, the social hierarchy, the division of labor, the religions, and the myriad of customs that structured daily life were very similar to those that prevailed elsewhere on the continent. Those similarities were reinforced by the ebb and flow of contacts and therefore of...

  17. NOTES (pp. 321-336)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 337-360)
  19. INDEX (pp. 361-386)
  20. Back Matter (pp. 387-387)