Breaking the Ties That Bound
The Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia
Russia's Great Reforms of 1861 were sweeping social and legal changes that aimed to modernize the country. In the following decades, rapid industrialization and urbanization profoundly transformed Russia's social, economic, and cultural landscape. Barbara Alpern Engel explores the personal, cultural, and political consequences of these dramatic changes, focusing on their impact on intimate life and expectations and the resulting challenges to the traditional, patriarchal family order, the cornerstone of Russia's authoritarian political and religious regime. The widely perceived "marriage crisis" had far-reaching legal, institutional, and political ramifications. In Breaking the Ties That Bound, Engel draws on exceptionally rich archival documentation-in particular, on petitions for marital separation and the materials generated by the ensuing investigations-to explore changing notions of marital relations, domesticity, childrearing, and intimate life among ordinary men and women in imperial Russia.
Engel illustrates with unparalleled vividness the human consequences of the marriage crisis. Her research reveals in myriad ways that the new and more individualistic values of the capitalist marketplace and commercial culture challenged traditional definitions of gender roles and encouraged the self-creation of new social identities. Engel captures the intimate experiences of women and men of the lower and middling classes in their own words, documenting instances not only of physical, mental, and emotional abuse but also of resistance and independence. These changes challenged Russia's rigid political order, forcing a range of state agents, up to and including those who spoke directly in the name of the tsar, to rethink traditional understandings of gender norms and family law. This remarkable social history is thus also a contribution to our understanding of the deepening political crisis of autocracy.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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...have benefi ted from the friendship, support, and scholarly assis-tance of many institutions and individuals. I am very pleased to initial phases of research for the book. A Faculty Fellowship from the research and to write. In addition to delightful company, a residency at the Study and Conference Center of the Rockefeller ...
Note on Dates and Names
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All dates in this book are given according to the Julian calendar, thirteen days behind in the twentieth. I have transliterated the Russian according to the Library of Congress system, with a few modifi cations. When giving the fi rst names of individuals, I have omitted diacritical signs and the additional i (Avdotia instead ...
List of Abbreviations
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Introduction: Marriage and Its Discontents
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...“All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Th us begins Anna Karenina, Leo Tol-stoy’s great novel of contemporary life, which appeared in install-ments from 1875 to 1877. It concludes with the death of its beau-tiful high-society heroine, who fl ings herself beneath the wheels ...
1. The Ties That Bound
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...1 The Ties Th at BoundOn September 16, 1887, I married at the insistence of the townsman Nikolai N. Pantiugin. He assured me that he was only fi ft y years old and, having three small children fr om another marriage and want-ing to establish them, I agreed. He also told me he was well off . Once I married him, however, I learned that he wasn’t fi ft y but sixty-seven and utterly incapable of conjugal life. He also had no fi nancial means at all and was only trying to get his hands on my and my children’s property. And when I refused to transfer my property to him, he de-...
2. Making Marriage: Romantic Ideals and Female Rhetoric
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...2Making Marriageromantic ideals and female rhetoric“When I fi nished my studies at the pension in 1888, at the age of seventeen, . . . I became aware that my father wanted to marry me off as soon as possible,” began the 1890 petition of Olimpiada pletely subject to my father’s will and inexperienced, I married ac-cording to his wishes the Moscow merchant Petr Sergunin, having seen him exactly twice before the marriage. Feeling neither love nor ...
3. Money Matters
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...3 Money MattersIn April 1906, the Civil Cassation Department of the State Senate, Russia’s highest court of appeals, denied a suit brought by Marfa N. with the goal of evicting her disreputable husband and his chil-dren from her home. Mrs. N. had based her claim on the law that guaranteed the right of a married woman to own, manage, and dis-age her own property, her suit contended, included the right to re-them her husband and his off spring from a previous marriage. Th e ...
4. Disciplining Laboring Husbands
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...4Disciplining Laboring Husbands“I’ve been married for six years and my husband treats me very cru-elly.” Th us began the 1891 petition of the townswoman Evdokia Eremeeva, wife of a St. Petersburg metalworker. “Returning home every night to our apartment, he fi nds fault with me for trifl es and beats me cruelly, for which the two attached medical certifi cates serve as evidence. I’ve turned to the local police several times to get him to stop, and each time he swore he’d stop beating me, but ...
5. Earning My Own Crust of Bread
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...5 Earning My Own Crust of BreadIn 1897, the townswoman Anastasia Petrova, having completed a dressmaking course in St. Petersburg and obtained her diploma, headed south to the city of Baku, located on the shore of the Cas-pian Sea in what is now Azerbaijan but was then the thriving cen-ter of petroleum production for the entire Russian Empire. Th ere she found work as a dressmaker and seamstress and, “being very literate,” as she put it, supplemented her earnings by working as ...
6. Cultivating Domesticity
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...6Cultivating DomesticityAlmost fr om the fi rst moment of my marriage . . . nineteen years ago, my husband made my life truly unendurable: he beat me, insulted me in fr ont of the family and placed me in a position unsuitable for a wife and mistress of the household [khoziaika] and was unfaithful to me under our own roof. Despite my husband’s substantial means, the children did not receive proper upbringing or instruction; and as a result, they did poorly. He beat the children and treated them cruelly, too, even burning the hands of one of them. I had to turn to my family ...
7. The Right to Love
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...7 The Right to LoveOn October 2, 1882, the twenty-year-old Liubov Aleksandrova, former telegraph worker, appealed for separation from her hus-band of two years, Platon. A widower forty-four years her senior, retired soldier, and member of the hairdressers’ guild in the city of her living by renting rooms to boarders. Aft er the marriage, Platon beat and mistreated his wife and insulted her in public, Liubov alleged in her petition. Once he even declared in the presence of ...
8. The Best Interests of the Child
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...8 The Best Interests of the ChildLate in the spring of 1914, the wife of a well-to-do Moscow busi-nessman appeared in the offi ce of Vasilii I. Mamantov, director of the Imperial Chancellery for Receipt of Petitions. Relating a heartbreaking story of abuse at her husband’s hands, the woman pleaded for assistance. Her marriage had become a nightmare. Her with other women, all the while “tyrannizing” his wife. Most re-cently, he had become involved with a well-known operetta singer, with whom he set up housekeeping in St. Petersburg, using up the ...
Conclusion: The Politics of Marital Strife
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Th e change in the passport law of March 12, 1914, ended the chan-cellery’s role in resolving marital disputes. Th e revised law granted married women the right to obtain a passport without a husband’s permission, and if living apart from the husband (although not if cohabiting), to take a job or enroll in school, also without requir-...
Appendix A. Archival Sources
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Appendix B. Major Cases Used in the Book
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Page Count: 296