Socioeconomic Conditions and
Discursive Construction of Women's
Identities in Post-Soviet Countries 1
What happens when certain identities are no longer legitimized or validated by society? The goal of the present chapter is to understand the impact of radical historical and socioeconomic changes on discursive construction of identity, in particular, on subjectivities available in a specific society at a specific point in time. The current situation in post-Soviet countries provides a unique opportunity to explore this issue by examining lives caught in a rapidly shifting social reality. I will focus my analysis on the concept of womanhood as it is constituted, transformed and redefined in post-Soviet discourses. I will begin by comparing the political and economic situation of women in Soviet and in post-Soviet times, linking the socioeconomic conditions to discursive positions assigned to women by the preeminent ideologies before and after 1991, since at all times notions of acceptable femininities are closely tied to economic conditions and the distribution of wealth (Burr, 1998; Gal, 1978).
In search for new representations of womanhood, I will analyse two types of post-Soviet narratives: public and private. The public narratives consist of interviews and articles published in post-Soviet magazines between 1991 and 1999. While focused on women, these texts are created for and by the media, and at best can claim joint authorship; thus, they are mainly representative of attempts made to position women in specific roles. In order to consider women's own positionings, I will examine the private narratives, women's life stories, collected in the summer of 1997 in Kiev, Ukraine and St Petersburg, Russia. I will look at how these women reminisce, talk about and negotiate in everyday life the multiple meanings of being a post-Soviet