A History of Russian Women's Writing, 1820-1992

A History of Russian Women's Writing, 1820-1992

A History of Russian Women's Writing, 1820-1992

A History of Russian Women's Writing, 1820-1992


This is the first systematic historical anthology of Russian women's writing to appear in any language. It provides a radically new sense of the development of Russian women's writing over the last 200 years, including important texts by well-known writers such as Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Elena Shvarts, and Olga Sedakova, as well as introducing outstanding works by lesser-known authors such as Sofya Soboleva, Olga Shapir, Mariya Shkapskaya, Anna Barkova, and Vera Merkureva. This rich collection of poems, drama, plays, and stories includes works that have never before been translated into English. All of the selections are freshly translated and the poetry appears in the original Russian along with English translations.


Russia has Sapphos now, and De La Suzes . . . (Urusova, Heroides)

O Corinne worthy of Plutarch, a woman's heart, the spirit of a man (Vyazemsky, My Library)

The earliest era of Russian women's writing is also the most difficult to analyse, although the political and social background is in some ways more straightforward than at later dates. As I noted in my Introduction, the first half of the eighteenth century saw the publication of occasional imaginative texts by women writers; from about 1780, a consistent, though still by no means extensive, tradition of women's writing began to emerge, its appearance more or less coinciding with Catherine II's codification and consolidation of the mechanisms and class base of autocracy. Though coming under pressure in the years after the French Revolution, these mechanisms were not to be substantially altered until Alexander II's massive programme of reforms, beginning in the 1860s, laid the foundation for a limited devolution of political administration to regional level, if not for a centralized majority government, and provided the impetus for the evolution of a civil society.

Like the political framework of the country, the social composition of Russian society can be summarized quite easily. Though access to education and to cultural institutions gradually broadened during the period, and those who had not been born into the upper classes (dvoryanstvo) played an ever larger role in the economic and cultural development of the country, the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861 . . .

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