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Sarah D. Phillips examines the struggles of disabled persons in Ukraine and the other former Soviet states to secure their rights during the tumultuous political, economic, and social reforms of the last two decades. Through participant observation and interviews with disabled Ukrainians across the social spectrum -- rights activists, politicians, students, workers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and others -- Phillips documents the creative strategies used by people on the margins of postsocialist societies to assert claims to "mobile citizenship." She draws on this rich ethnographic material to argue that public storytelling is a powerful means to expand notions of relatedness, kinship, and social responsibility, and which help shape a more tolerant and inclusive society.
Local Activism, National Policies, and Global Forces
Domestic violence has emerged as a significant public policy issue of transnational character and mobilization in the postcommunist era in Europe and Eurasia, as global forces have interacted with the agendas of governments, local and international women's groups, and human rights activists. The result of extensive collaboration among scholars and activist-practitioners -- many from postcommunist countries -- this volume examines the development of state policies, changes in public perceptions, and the interaction of national and international politics.
Jewish Identity, the Soviet Intelligentsia, and the Russian Orthodox Church
Doubly Chosen provides the first detailed study of a unique cultural and religious phenomenon in post-Stalinist Russia—the conversion of thousands of Russian Jewish intellectuals to Orthodox Christianity, first in the 1960s and later in the 1980s. These time periods correspond to the decades before and after the great exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union. Judith Deutsch Kornblatt contends that the choice of baptism into the Church was an act of moral courage in the face of Soviet persecution, motivated by solidarity with the values espoused by Russian Christian dissidents and intellectuals. Oddly, as Kornblatt shows, these converts to Russian Orthodoxy began to experience their Jewishness in a new and positive way.
Working primarily from oral interviews conducted in Russia, Israel, and the United States, Kornblatt underscores the conditions of Soviet life that spurred these conversions: the virtual elimination of Judaism as a viable, widely practiced religion; the transformation of Jews from a religious community to an ethnic one; a longing for spiritual values; the role of the Russian Orthodox Church as a symbol of Russian national culture; and the forging of a new Jewish identity within the context of the Soviet dissident movement.
The autocratic rule of both tsar and church in imperial Russia gave rise not only to a revolutionary movement in the nineteenth century but also to a crisis of meaning among members of the intelligentsia. Personal faith became the subject of intense scrutiny as individuals debated the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, debates reflected in the best-known novels of the day. Friendships were formed and broken in exchanges over the status of the eternal. The salvation of the entire country, not just of each individual, seemed to depend on the answers to questions about belief.
Victoria Frede looks at how and why atheism took on such importance among several generations of Russian intellectuals from the 1820s to the 1860s, drawing on meticulous and extensive research of both published and archival documents, including letters, poetry, philosophical tracts, police files, fiction, and literary criticism. She argues that young Russians were less concerned about theology and the Bible than they were about the moral, political, and social status of the individual person. They sought to maintain their integrity against the pressures exerted by an autocratic state and rigidly hierarchical society. As individuals sought to shape their own destinies and searched for truths that would give meaning to their lives, they came to question the legitimacy both of the tsar and of Russia’s highest authority, God.
Although the Middle Ages saw brilliant achievements in the diverse nations of East Central Europe, this period has been almost totally neglected in Western historical scholarship. East Central Europe in the Middle Ages provides a much-needed overview of the history of the region from the time when the present nationalities established their state structures and adopted Christianity up to the Ottoman conquest. Jean Sedlar’s excellent synthesis clarifies what was going on in Europe between the Elbe and the Ukraine during the Middle Ages, making available for the first time in a single volume information necessary to a fuller understanding of the early history of present-day Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and the former Yugoslavia.
Sedlar writes clearly and fluently, drawing upon publications in numerous languages to craft a masterful study that is accessible and valuable to the general reader and the expert alike. The book is organized thematically; within this framework Sedlar has sought to integrate nationalities and to draw comparisons. Topics covered include early migrations, state formation, monarchies, classes (nobles, landholders, peasants, herders, serfs, and slaves), towns, religion, war, governments, laws and justice, commerce and money, foreign affairs, ethnicity and nationalism, languages and literature, and education and literacy.
After the Middle Ages these nations were subsumed by the Ottoman, Habsburg, Russian, and Prussian-German empires. This loss of independence means that their history prior to foreign conquest has acquired exceptional importance in today’s national consciousness, and the medieval period remains a major point of reference and a source of national pride and ethnic identity. This book is a substantial and timely contribution to our knowledge of the history of East Central Europe.
≤p≥he Electrification of Russia, 1880–1926 is the first full account of the widespread adoption of electricity in Russia, from the beginning in the 1880s to its early years as a state technology under Soviet rule. Jonathan Coopersmith has mined the archives for both the tsarist and the Soviet periods to examine a crucial element in the modernization of Russia. Coopersmith shows how the Communist Party forged an alliance with engineers to harness the socially transformative power of this science-based enterprise. A centralized plan of electrification triumphed, to the benefit of the Communist Party and the detriment of local governments and the electrical engineers. Coopersmith's narrative of how this came to be elucidates the deep-seated and chronic conflict between the utopianism of Soviet ideology and the reality of Soviet politics and economics.
Kazan and the Creation of Russia, 1552–1671
In 1552, Muscovite Russia conquered the city of Kazan on the Volga River. It was the first Orthodox Christian victory against Islam since the fall of Constantinople, a turning point that, over the next four years, would complete Moscow’s control over the river. This conquest provided a direct trade route with the Middle East and would transform Muscovy into a global power. As Matthew Romaniello shows, however, learning to manage the conquered lands and peoples would take decades.
Russia did not succeed in empire-building because of its strength, leadership, or even the weakness of its neighbors, Romaniello contends; it succeeded by managing its failures. Faced with the difficulty of assimilating culturally and religiously alien peoples across thousands of miles, the Russian state was forced to compromise in ways that, for a time, permitted local elites of diverse backgrounds to share in governance and to preserve a measure of autonomy. Conscious manipulation of political and religious language proved more vital than sheer military might. For early modern Russia, empire was still elusive—an aspiration to political, economic, and military control challenged by continuing resistance, mismanagement, and tenuous influence over vast expanses of territory.
Catherine the Great's treatment of the Russian nobility has usually been regarded as dictated by court politics or her personal predilections. Citing new archival sources, Robert Jones shows that her redefinition and reorganization of the Russian nobility were in fact motivated by reasons of state.
In 1762, Peter III had "emancipated" the nobility from obligatory state service, and in the early years of her reign Catherine attempted to govern Russia through a bureaucratic administration. Although this threatened the provincial nobles with social and economic decline, the government was oblivious to their plight until the peasant revolt of 1773-1775 convinced Catherine that she could not provide Russia with a government capable of defending and promoting the national interest without them. This realization led to the formation of a new alliance between the state and the nobility, based on a mutual fear of peasant revolt and expressed first in the provincial reforms of 1775 and finally in Catherine's Charter to the Nobility of 1785. In the 1760's Catherine had hoped to forestall peasant uprisings by improving the lot of the serfs and limiting the authority of the serf-owners. But faced with the choice between controlling the serfs in a way open to abuses and eliminating abuses in a way that might lead to loss of control, Catherine chose the former. Her Charter committed the state to the preservation of serfdom and the reactionary ancien régime.
Originally published in 1973.
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