|Women’s Actions, Men’s Responses: Gender Order and Political Discourse in Time of Russian Early 20th Century Revolutions|
|The focus of this paper is on a particular stage in Russian history when the so-called First Russian revolution (1905-1907) created some preconditions for civil society development and for emergence an autonomous political movement of women aimed at equal rights with men.
The debate on ‘the woman question’ that remained in the spotlight of the Russian society since 1850s, stressed the specificity of female representation in Russian culture and its role in the construction of national identity while, at the same time, the discussion was integrated into the discourse on the direction of Russian modernization. Many argued that society’s readiness to solve ‘the woman question’ served as a barometer of the level of progress in a society. As a result, in the view of Russian progressive intelligentsia, interests of all-Russian democratic movement and women’s movement coincided, and moreover, the problem of the democratic movement development was more important in Russian context than development of the women’s movement since absolutism was the basis of Russian traditionalism.
The fact that men and women felt themselves equally disfranchised explains partially high contribution of Russian women to revolutionary struggle and their high percentage in illegal political organizations of revolutionaries. A huge number of socially active women devoted their lives not to feminist, but to revolutionary movement against the tsarist regime. The first women’s organizations founded in Russia in the middle of the 19th century had no political claims and were aimed exclusively at women’s right on equal education and professional career. Political repressions of the tsarist regime, intensified after the assassination of Alexander II, made all manifestations of social activity almost impossible. Such a context generated politically active women’s high expectations of what the united struggle for freedom could bring to them. However, even progressive thinkers denied a necessity of an independent, autonomous political movement of «suppressed». Women were seen only as objects of politics. Indeed, when women got a possibility to have an independent voice in politics, such initiatives were supported neither in public opinion nor in revolutionary circles.
The paper will address various ways of constructing feminist identity in women’s texts in the context of specific gender order of the yearly twentieth century Russia as well as strategies of representations of women’s actions in public and political discourses of the epoch.|