Women in Russia
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9. Between Law and Morality:

Violence against Women
in Nineteenth-Century

Marianna G. Muravyeva

One winter’s day in 1883, the people of Chuguevo witnessed a woman harnessed to a cart, running alongside the horse to the cheerful jeering of her husband and father-in-law who were driving. The woman was badly beaten and soon lost consciousness. Later, when the case went to the local court, the villagers would learn that these two men had brought her back home, continued beating her and, finally, gang-raped her.1 This story, reported by one of the central Russian newspapers, Moskovskie vedomosti, represents all the hardships Russian peasant women were experiencing in the nineteenth century. They could be punished by their husbands for the slightest disobedience, they could be regularly abused by their husbands’ family members, and they could be raped by their fathers-in-law with the participation of their husbands. Yet, it was extremely difficult for these women to find justice.

In the nineteenth century, educated Russians paid quite a lot of attention to the situation of peasant women and asked uneasy questions about why and how the things described above could happen in their progressive and enlightened age. In the wake of the ‘woman question’, intellectuals, statesmen, scholars and lawyers, while examining the legal and social status of women in Russian society, portrayed a horrifying picture of violence against women, employed by men to keep their wives and daughters in absolute subjection. Historians such as Serafim Shashkov, Il’ia Orshanskii, Aleksandr Savel’ev, Aleksandr Zagorovskii, Iakov Kantorovich and many others believed that the enormous scale of abuse was due to the low status of Russian women and patriarchal attitudes towards the family.2 They also invoked a popular discourse of barbarity, stating that their low cultural standing prompted Russian men to beat, rape and torment their wives and daughters; they also suggest that, with the slow coming of civilization to Russia after Peter I’s reforms in the early eighteenth century, at least the educated elite started to treat women as equals.3 These ideas were further developed and supported by Soviet historiography that had its own ideological agenda for portraying the decay of the tsarist regime and the inevitability of revolution and popular uprisings against injustice and exploitation. The unenviable situation of women became one of the central illustrations of the despotism and tyranny penetrating Russian society at all levels from the common family to royalty.4 But lately post-Soviet Russian historiography, with the help of Western colleagues, has been trying to argue that Russian women of all classes were not so unequal to men, that their status was much higher than we used to think, and that their position within the family was respected, although not without certain reservations.5 This trend comes mostly from research on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and creates an uneasy discrepancy with the nineteenth century. The main question here is why relatively powerful and well-protected Russian women suddenly turned into the powerless and abused chattels of their families?6 What happened in the first half of the nineteenth century that demoted Russian women to the lowest level ever? Why did protection from rape, allegedly high in the seventeenth century, suddenly cease in the nineteenth century and leave women alone to prove their right to bodily integrity? This essay tries to suggest some answers by focusing on two important identifiers of gender inequality: sexual and domestic violence.

Public Violence against Women: Rape

It is difficult to provide a cohesive scholarship of rape in Russia: the social history of rape still needs to be written.7 However, some historians of Slavic women have studied rape in the context of sexuality and patriarchy, using original court cases. Eve Levin, Nancy Shields Kollmann and Dan Kaiser came to the conclusion that Russian women in the seventeenth century, even prostitutes and those with a poor reputation, enjoyed solid protection.8 The Military Code of 1716 explicitly stated that prostitutes could be raped, and thus needed equal protection.9 This section will focus on the legal attitude to rape and other forms of sexual violence to highlight the ways sexual violence was constructed in relation to the male anxieties about false accusations and emerging bourgeois femininity. We will further see how these attitudes made it to the court room and whether women of all classes enjoyed the same proclaimed protection of their ‘honour’.

There are more or less cohesive criminal statistics for the period between 1834 and 189910 which indicate that rape constituted only around 1–2% of all crimes reported in the Russian Empire, with a sharp rise in the 1880s to 3.5%. These numbers suggest a high underreporting of crimes. Only 8% of those accused of rape received sentences. The reporting of the crime was uneven in different parts of the Empire: there were higher numbers of reported rapes coming from Southern Russia (the Simferopol’, Kherson and Ekaterinoslav regions) and from the Perm’ region.11


Fig. 6 The dynamics of rape, 1834–1899

Criminal statistics provide only a glimpse into the true situation and illuminate the state’s attitude to crime reporting and conviction practices. The leading numbers among reported crimes usually belong to property crimes (40 per cent of all crimes reported) and injuries together with homicide (30 per cent).12 It is obvious from the given data that sexual violence was not considered a priority in terms of seeking justice; although that does not mean it was not regarded as important on the community level and prosecuted in an extra-judicial way.13

The treatment of sexual offences in pre-nineteenth-century Russian law14 was closely tied up with the mid seventeenth-century redefinition of the Church’s and state’s jurisdictions over sexual offences, when the state took control of rape offences from the Church. Up until the 1830s, Russian courts recognized both state and canon law as valid sources for their rulings. The 1653 version of the Kormchaia – the Russian Code of Orthodox law that had Byzantine origins – and acts and ordinances issued by the Holy Synod (created in 1721 as the supreme ecclesiastical authority in the country), the Law Code of 1649 (Sobornoe Ulozhenie), the Military Penal Code (1716), the Naval Code (1720) and various acts and ordinances issued by the monarch and state institutions (such as the Senate) were all valid sources of law which Russian courts applied in practice. However, in the area of illicit sexuality it was the Church that provided the legal and ideological framework and primarily prosecuted sex offences in the seventeenth century with the exclusion of rape, which the state prosecuted according to the Law Code of 1649 and Newly Promulgated articles of 1669.15 The understanding of rape differed between traditional canon law (embodied in the Kormchaia) and state law. Thus, according to canon law, rape could only be committed upon a virgin (in the form of violent defloration or raptus) or a married woman (in case of abduction or imprisonment by enemy forces during the war). The Kormchaia uses only the term rastlenie (defloration) to mark sexual assault.16

The state’s much broader legal term for rape in the seventeenth century – bludnoe nasil’stvo – contained everything needed for understanding the act: violation (nasil’stvo) of the person’s sexual sphere (blud). The Law Code of 1649 never mentioned the status of a woman as a marker for legitimate protection, and courts accordingly prosecuted sexual assault committed against any woman, even if she was found not to be a virgin.17 Virginity was not even directly connected with the notion of ‘honour’ at the time.18 Even the Church accepted this idea as, according to Patriarch Adrian’s Instruction to the Churchwardens of 1697, an unmarried woman who got pregnant as a result of rape and managed to prove it was entitled to a beschest’e (dishonour) charge in the form of monetary compensation from the perpetrator.19 She did not have to prove she had been a virgin prior to the assault.

Eighteenth-century Russian law continued the tradition of classifying rape as a violent crime against a person’s security while treating all other sex offences (fornication, adultery, prostitution) as crimes against morality, a practice that was ultimately confirmed by Catherine II’s Instruction (Nakaz) of 1768. Rape belonged to ‘crimes against the citizens’ security’ together with arson and, more specifically, to ‘crimes against the right of a citizen to the voluntary disposal of his body’, the formula used in the contemporary criminal code (Chapter 18).20 Three crimes were mentioned as violating the security of citizens: kidnapping, raptus and rape. All those crimes, in two instances including women, were by nature violent. All women, chaste and unchaste, could be raped, and the rapist was to be punished by death for a complete act and ‘at the consideration of a judge’ for an attempted rape.21 All other sex offences belonged to the category of those against ‘morality’. Petr Guliaev (1793-after 1833), one of leading criminologists at the time, even considered rape to be a violent crime (nasil’stvovanie) that could be committed against both women and men.22

By the 1830s, when the first synthesized Code of Laws of the Russian Empire (Svod zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii) was released, Russian legal thought treated various sexual offences according to the object of infringement, thus distinguishing violent crimes from non-violent but nevertheless sinful and depraved sexuality. However, the tradition was quickly broken with M. M. Speranskii’s return to office in the late 1820s to finish compiling the Svod zakonov. Speranskii’s revized Svod zakonov (1833) placed all sex offences together, making sex the central focus of these crimes and bringing back the religious attitude to rape as illicit sexual misconduct. Laura Engelstein has reasonably noted that secular standards were finally applied to sexual offences during the criminal code reform of the 1890s. This defined the arena of crime as the field of personal interaction, and was concerned with both the criminal’s motivation and the victim’s fate, and therefore revized the traditional patterns of hierarchy embedded in religious terms.23

Volume 15 of the Code of Laws of 1833, entitled Code of Criminal Laws (Svod zakonov ugolovnykh), became the new criminal code. Its selectivity and emphasis on certain aspects of the old laws resulted in major changes in how the state was to prosecute rape. Initially the Code of Criminal Laws divided all sexual offences into three groups: violating social rights by indecent behaviour, offences against family rights, and unlawful satisfaction of carnal passions. It is important to note which offences were considered to be against social and family rights and which ones constituted ‘unlawful satisfaction’. The first group included all types of indecent behaviour of officials, both of noble and non-noble status: lechery, drunkenness, indecent behaviour (zazornaia zhizn’), gambling, imprudence and unruly public conduct (articles 422–30).24 Offences against family rights included polygamy25 and adultery (articles 661–65). Incest, fornication (together with producing illegitimate children), seduction, infanticide, rape, sodomy and bestiality composed the ‘unlawful satisfaction of carnal passions’ (articles 666–78). The Code of Criminal Laws summed up the previous laws based on the relevant articles of the Law Code of 1649 and the Military Code of 1716.

The articles from the Law Code of 1649 included: rape by military men employed by the state, to be punished by death (VII, article 30); and breaking and entering for the purpose of raping or abducting the mistress of the house – both by those who broke in and for any of the victim’s slaves who assisted in the offence or who failed to protect her – to be punished by death (XXII, article 16). Supplemented by articles 167 and 168 from the Military Code of 1716 (rape: death penalty; and kidnapping and rape: penal labour for life/death penalty),26 these legal norms created the basis for the 1833 Code of Criminal laws. All types of sexual assault -rape of a married woman or a widow, violating a virgin or a minor – were summed up in article 675 with the same punishment (deprivation of rank and estate rights, flogging and penal labour). The procedural norm, derived from the comment for article 167 of the Military Code of 1716, insisted that violence must be real, the cry for help must be heard, bruises and other material evidence must be found on both victim and perpetrator, and the report must be filed before the end of the day.27 Finally, the judges had to assess the degree of the woman’s resistance to prove that resistance was genuine. The criminal lawyers of the time continued discussing whether rape was possible if an adult woman put up genuine resistance because of the assumption that if the resistance was genuine and serious then a man would hardly be able to rape her without inducing an unconscious state.28 The rape of a non-virgin adult woman was missing from this law, suggesting that those who could not justify the loss of their virginity by marriage or widowhood could not be raped, because the law now protected the chastity of a woman (according to the Christian attitude to female chastity and the interpretation of rape in the Kormchaia).

Russian lawyers never treated this edition of the Code of Criminal Laws favourably. It was harshly critiqued for its inconsistency and obsolete legal norms even while it was introduced. The faults of the Code of Criminal Laws, especially in its general part, resulted in immediate revisions and in 1836 the systematic revision process was ordered, which, after the death of Speranskii in 1839, passed under the control of count Bludov, whose surname ironically comes from the root word blud, meaning [illicit] sex. The writers of the draft created a code that was logically structured, and had milder punishments systematically applied according to the division of the crimes and according to the degree of their gravity. However, they managed to continue treating rape as a sex crime according to the 1833 Code of Criminal Laws. So they divided crimes according to their object: against state and public order and against private persons and property. Then the three groups of sex offences of the 1833 Code of Criminal Laws now were redistributed as crimes against public morals (in section VIII, ‘Crimes against Public Order and Discipline’), crimes against the honour and chastity of women (part of chapter VI on crimes against honour in section X, ‘Crimes against Life, Health, Freedom and Honour of Private Persons’) and crimes against family rights (separate section XI). This structure was maintained in the final document which was released in 1845 with the title Penal Code (Ulozhenie o Nakazaniiakh Ugolovnykh i Ispravitel’nykh). This code replaced the Code of Criminal Laws and became volume 15 of the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire. Even this version was not final as, by the 1860s, when Alexander II’s Great Reforms got underway, the Penal Code had to be adapted to the new situation and was once again revized. The version published in 1866, together with the Regulations of Criminal Proceedings (Ustav ugolovnogo sudoproizvodstva) finally created volume XV, which was used during the rest of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries. However, the changes were mostly done in part of punishments (removing and substituting corporal punishment) but did not affect the material law.

According to the final version of 1866, molesting a female under the age of fourteen (articles 1523–24), rape of a woman (article 1525), raptus (articles 1529–30) and seduction (articles 1531–32) all fell under ‘Crimes against the honour and chastity of women’ (as part of chapter VI on crimes against honour in section X, ‘Crimes against the Life, Health, Freedom and Honour of Private Persons’). Section X protected the most important ‘goods’ of a private person: life, health, freedom and honour. Female chastity (tselomudrie) was categorized as part of a person’s ‘honour’, and the specific notions of female honour and chastity seem to be central to the legal understanding of rape in the nineteenth century. The composers of the Penal Code seem to suggest that the major offence here is a sort of insult to a woman’s honour. The lexicographer Vladimir Dal’ defined honour as the inner moral dignity of a person, prowess, honesty, nobility of soul and clear conscience.29

Other offences in this chapter include personal insults (including physical acts) and defamation and dissemination of offensive writings, pictures and rumours. The emphasis on a woman’s honour seems to be consistent with the long tradition of the criminal prosecution of beschest’e (dishonour). The lawmakers here, however, departed from the old Russian legal notion of dishonour of a woman, which might have (and often did) include the loss of chastity and/or virginity, but was never solely reserved for these situations. Rather, a dishonour charge in seventeenth-century state law merely supplemented the charge of rape in order for the victim to be entitled to the monetary compensation in the same way as other assaults or injuries.30 Postreform lawyers pointed out this discrepancy between the new and old legal understandings of honour and suggested additional clarifications.31 This change in the object of rape clearly pointed out the place of women in society: it was not their person which was to be protected but rather their honour, so supposedly those women who did not have any honour (or chastity) could not be subject to rape. This understanding of rape was consistent with the German tradition derived from Constitutio Criminalis Carolina of 1532, in which it was clearly stated that a whore (unchaste woman) could not be raped.32

The actual crime of rape, as defined by the new Penal Code, included intercourse between a man and a woman against the woman’s will. In its turn intercourse consisted of penetration by a penis (not any other object) into the vagina (not anally or orally). The famous Grigor’ev and Mikirtumov cases confirmed this concept. The penetration of the girl’s vagina by a finger so that she lost her virginity (Grigor’ev, 1869) was classified as an injury but not as rape, presumably because non-penial penetration could not result in a pregnancy.33 Anal penetration (Mikirtumov, 1869) was considered unnatural and so subject to articles 995 and 996 on sodomy, although the Russian word for sodomy (muzhelozhstvo) suggested that only men participated in the act. For the sexual abuse of minors (under the age of fourteen) the Penal Code uses the term ‘molestation’ (rastlenie) and, for women older than fourteen, ‘rape’. These two terms express the difference between exploiting the ignorance and innocence of the victim and using force and violence to commit the crime. It was not required for a minor under the age of fourteen to resist or to prove she had resisted because she was supposed to be innocent and ignorant of her sexuality and could not understand the meaning of sexual advances. From this point of view, the sexual abuse of a minor was classified as more serious than the rape of an adult woman. An adult woman had to prove that she had properly resisted the assault although that resistance did not have to be sustained throughout the act.34 She had to express her refusal loudly and clearly; if she was non-consenting but silent, the man’s actions could not be defined as rape.35

The punishment for rape varied between deprivation of social status and penal labour in a fortress for 10–12 years (for the rape of a minor) or in a factory for 4–8 years (for the rape of an adult women). If rape resulted in the death of the woman, the punishment was the same as for rape of a minor (article 1527). Raptus (kidnapping with the purpose of rape) was punished in the same way as any other kidnapping (which was defined as the abduction of a person with the purpose to receive ransom or other benefits), but if the kidnapper gave up willingly then imprisonment for 2–4 months followed. In any case, the burden of proof was on the complainant, that is, on the raped woman: she had to prove she resisted and did not consent.

Seduction, another offence against female honour and chastity, consisted of deception with the promise to marry (articles 1531–32). This article was intended for virgin women older than fourteen but still not of full age (which was twenty-one, according to the civil law) who remained under guardianship. If a guardian, or a teacher, or another person entrusted with her care, seduced her without using force (under the pretence of love and promise of marriage, for example) and had intercourse with her (the code uses the word ‘dishonoured’), then he was prosecuted. Seduction by breach of trust suggested quite a harsh punishment (deprivation of social status and exile to Siberia or placement in a military company of prisoners for correction purposes (arestantskie roty). Thus, seduction became a type of a substitute for molestation, as it was understood that a woman over fourteen years old could not be as innocent as a girl under fourteen. The lawmakers, connecting this age with puberty and the biology of a woman, suggested that she might already understand advances of a sexual character. But the main asset here was virginity, so if a woman was not a virgin, the article did not apply, as she could not be dishonoured (she did not have the honour to be a virgin).36 Aggravating circumstances (for example, if a woman was married, kidnapped, injured, mutilated, unconscious or her life threatened; or if the offence was committed by her guardian, teacher or servant) raised the degree of punishment. In other words, an unmarried woman who was not a virgin and showed no signs of injuries, but was conscious during the act of rape hardly stood a chance of winning a rape charge in court. The seduction charge reinforced the differential protection of women derived from the 1833 Code of Criminal Laws.

The new 1866 law protected only certain categories of women who fell under rigid gender categories and possessed ‘honour’, which was understood as either preserving their chastity (supposedly guaranteed by marriage or widowhood status) or virginity (guaranteed by physical integrity or certain age – fourteen or below). However, all these offences could be prosecuted only upon the complaint of the victim herself or her parents (guardians) or her husband, i.e., a private prosecution as stated in the note to article 1532. The Senate (the supreme appeal court) explained that even if this complaint was unofficial – made orally to the public or police officials – it must be prosecuted.37 Private prosecution, in the opinion of the lawmakers, protected the honour of the woman and she (or the parents of the girl or the husband of the raped or kidnapped woman) had a right to choose to conceal the insult if she or they were not ready to go public.

Only men were defined by law as potential rapists (women were denied the possibility of committing rape and could only be an accomplice to the crime), so it was only men who were convicted of the crime. Among those sentenced to penal labour in Siberia between 1835 and 1846, rapists represented 2 per cent of the total convict population distributed among the following age groups: 11–15 (1.6%); 16–20 (11.7%); 21–30 (44%); 31–40

(18.2%); 41–50 (15.1%); 51–60 (7.8%); and over 60 (1.6%). The social status of rape convicts was as follows: noblemen (4%); clergy (2%); urban population (0.5%); state peasants (43%); private peasants (25%); and military (25.5%). Geographically, the majority of convicts came from Perm’ (29%), Khar’kov (15%), Poltava (13%) and Kherson (10%).38 So the typical rapist according to this data was a peasant or military male between 21 and 40 years old who was a resident of either Perm’ or Southern Russia. The same pattern was still in place between 1874 and 1898, although peasant males tended to be younger, in the 17–30 age group.39

The procedural difficulties in proving rape are quite visible from the number of acquittals in rape cases. On average around 35 per cent of those accused were acquitted, which also included the verdict ‘left in suspicion’40. For the man to have been sentenced the case had to be cast iron: having a victim with an unstained reputation (preferably a virgin girl), of the same social background, bruises on both victim and attacker, witnesses who clearly saw the act of rape and were ready to testify to that effect, and, of course, a confession.

Although the majority of men convicted and accused were of the lower classes, noblemen still had a visible presence in rape cases. Noblemen were convicted primarily for raping or molesting noblewomen or for cruelty towards their peasants, including raping serf women. But again, it was difficult for many of the victims to prove that rape had occurred. The typical case is that of Nikita Vulf who raped Mariia Il’ina, a young woman of noble origin, in 1859. Il’ina (who was nineteen years old) insisted that Vulf had raped her. She was examined by police doctors, evidence of resistance was found on her body, and her story was corroborated by witnesses’ statements. However, the court, while acknowledging the fact of her defloration, questioned Mariia’s degree of resistance as there was no evidence on the accused (no bruises, his dress was intact) and her cry for help was not taken seriously by the (male) servants. Vulf was left under ‘serious suspicion of rape’, which put him under police surveillance rather than in prison.41

It was rare for the rape of a woman of lower status by a nobleman to come to trial. To obtain a conviction was even more complicated. In the 1847 case, a young actress had to die as a result of a rape committed by a young prince in order for the police to investigate it. Avdot’ia Arshinina had been practically sold by her father for 10,000 rubles. She was so badly abused that she ended up in the hospital and died within a fortnight. The post mortem revealed such severe injuries to her genitals that it was very clear that rape had happened. The prince had been under police surveillance since 1846 for a similar crime. Avdot’ia was a virgin. And yet the Senate viewed the act as fornication (consensual sexual relations) and the injuries inflicted as accidental. The punishment involved the nobleman’s military rank being demoted to that of an ordinary soldier, yet he did not lose his noble privileges, title, or social status.42

Victimized not only by their lower status but also by their gender, women of the lower classes constantly had to prove their right to legal protection through a positive assessment of their reputations. The assessment of reputation was an integral part of an investigation’s total search (poval’nyi obysk) and the court had to take such an assessment as evidence of the plaintiff’s credibility. In 1861 Agnessa Dmitrieva, a liberated serf, accused Lieutenant Nadratovskii of rape, but the accusation was dismissed by the police because she was not a virgin, ‘had long been known to have sexual relations with other men’, had syphilis, and her bruises were not blue enough. In that same case another woman, Kovrigina, daughter of a townsman, accused Nadratovskii of attempted rape. To save her honour she had jumped out of the window and broken her arms and legs; the police and court were more favourably disposed to her as she had a solid reputation – she was hardworking, modest, religious, a virgin, and did not drink beer with Nadratovskii in the local inn. However, the auditor-general dismissed Kovrigina’s accusations because, in his opinion, there was no proof of attempted rape (her dress was not torn and the accused did not have any signs of her resistance on him). Finally, Nadratovskii’s actions were categorized as inflicting injuries and seduction, so he was sentenced to be excluded from army service and to pay Kovrigina compensation (instead of deprivation of rank and penal labour in Siberia).43

Dmitrieva’s accusations in this case were never considered even as corroborative evidence for Kovrigina’s claims. Both women were of low social status and could not put their cases on further appeal. Nor could they hire a good solicitor to represent them in court and argue upon the admissibility of the evidence in court. The judge did not identify their needs and did not sympathise with them as a result of their gender and social inferiority. Only in the case of equal social status could the sentence be just according to the law. The reputations of the victim and her family played a key role in getting an accusation taken seriously by the courts. In the case of 1852, the serf Prokopii Antipov accused his owner’s brother of raping his fifteen-year-old daughter. However, the accusation was dismissed because Natal’ia was accused of flirtatious and immodest behaviour whilst her mother (who originally initiated the complaint) had the reputation of being a restless and audacious woman.44

Sexual exploitation of serf women by their owners represented one ugly face of pre-reform Russian society. Despite the official legal prohibitions of such exploitation and constant attention by the authorities and legal bodies (primarily the Senate) to such cases, the rape of serf women by their masters continued to be a frequent instrument of patriarchal power. Abused women could hardly find any justice against their masters. The mass rape of serf women was classified as ‘cruel treatment of peasants’ and usually came to light during investigations into large-scale abuse.45

In 1855, a special investigation against the high-ranking official (tainyi sovetnik) A. Zhadovskii, aged forty, was ordered by the governor of the Orenburg region. Five peasant women complained that they had been raped by Zhadovskii, who was their owner. Other peasants confirmed that he had sold or married other women to serfs in other villages. Some peasants witnessed Zhadovskii practicing jus primae noctis in one of his villages. Zhadovskii rejected all the accusations, and some of the Senate judges supported him on the basis of procedural inconsistencies (the women did not report immediately and there was no material evidence, among other things). Finally, however, he was convicted and sentenced to penal labour in Siberia as well as deprived of rank.46

The exact nature of abuses such as those committed by Zhadovskii was difficult to prove, as a result of which the investigation could last a long time. Thus, in the 1857 case of landowner Viktor Strashinskii (aged seventy-two), who had systematically raped under-age and young women for more than forty years (in total eighty-six women complained), the charges were brought more than once, in 1832 and then in 1845, but dropped by the local judges. Again, the case was based on witness testimonies and the women were constantly intimidated by their owner, which resulted in their withdrawal of the charges each time. Strashinskii was finally left ‘under suspicion of rape’ but there was no further punishment according to the Penal Code.47

Peasants in pre-emancipation Russia were subject to their own jurisdiction at the village level, and for state peasants also at the volost’ court level on the basis of customary law. Volost’ courts were extended to all peasants in the post-emancipation period. In both periods, local peasant community meetings, composed of village elders and (male) heads of local households, played a crucial role in distributing justice among peasants. Customary law had its own set of punishments which were different from the state law and official criminal code.48 Peasant court practice from various regions of Russia suggests that rape was prosecuted only in the most abominable cases such as gang rape and molestation of children. In the Tomsk region for the period 1836–61, the courts heard fifty cases of rape, mostly of gang rape (compared to seventy-nine cases of infanticide, 111 cases of bestiality, four cases of sodomy, and 496 cases of murder) and 155 cases of molestation of children. However, the proceedings show that most of those cases did not go to the volost’ court but to the state court, and not necessarily upon the victim’s request or in her favour. For example, in 1851, Avdot’ia Kuznetsova from Elunino (Barnaul district) was gang raped by her neighbours. On the following day the community meeting decided to punish the offenders with lashes and she was ready to end the case with twenty-five rubles in compensation, but the men were dissatisfied with the (high) amount and the case went to the state court.49 The most common sentences for this crime in the volost’ courts were corporal punishment and monetary compensation, which differed from punishments demanded by the official penal code. In 1884, two peasants from the Buzuluk district raped a young woman and were sentenced by the volost’ court to pay ten rubles to her parents as compensation and to buy half a bucket of vodka for the judges,50 which constituted a typical decision.

Women often relied on their families in seeking justice, but families failed to provide safe environments for them as abuse could and often did start at home. Charges of incest (mostly cases of fathers raping their daughters) amounted to half of the rape charges. The crime of incest was considered abominable and invoked a very harsh punishment, but to prove it and not to commit another criminal offence – defamation of parents – was a difficult and painful process. Agaf’ia Uskova was raped by her father in 1860 and became pregnant as a result, after which her father tied her up and flogged her with a knout so that she miscarried. Her mother and her brothers were so scared of the head of their family that they could not protect her or report the abuse to the authorities. Five months later, her mother called all the neighbours to the cattle shed so they could witness her husband raping her daughter. However, the judges from the official investigation doubted that the delay of five months in reporting the crime was due to fear of reprisal experienced by Agaf’ia and her relatives. As a result, Agaf’ia was sentenced to confinement in a monastery, which meant hard labour and further humiliation, whilst her father was sentenced according to the criminal code.51 This case was not out of the ordinary; in cases of incest women quite often received punishment together with their fathers or fathers-in-law as it was considered to be their fault.

In Russian villages and Cossack communities, a daughter-in-law often became a victim of rape by her father-in-law. The crime was so common that it received a special name: snokhachestvo. Sometimes it was committed with the silent agreement of the husband who did not and often could not protest against the patriarch of the family, his father.52 In the nineteenth century, snokhachestvo came to the attention of the authorities mostly due to the work of ethnographers and specialists in customary law who described this custom and condemned it as ‘barbarous’ and ‘uncivilized’. According to ethnographic data, snokhachestvo was most common in central Russia and among the Cossacks, and was reported only in cases where open and direct violence was involved.53 At the same time snokhachestvo constituted a grave offence under the law, being one of the aggravated forms of incest. Punishable by confinement in a monastery for between six months and a year, snokhachestvo was regarded as an offence against the family union. If rape could be proven, then those guilty received a rape charge.54 Snokhachestvo highlighted the problems patriarchal families were facing: women were victimized not only in the public sphere but also in the sanctity of their homes.

Disciplining Wives: Russian Women in Violent Households

The idea of correction and discipline in family relations was supported by both the Church and the State. Religious writings citing the Church fathers’ rules, apostolic canons and the Bible, insisted on the right of the husband to teach and discipline his wife, children and other household members.55 Russian secular law guarded the borders of patriarchy, introducing a special punishment for the wife who killed her husband. The Law Code of 1649 prescribed that she was to be buried alive (XXII, article 14). Thus, women who killed their husbands were to be punished much more severely than men, who could supposedly kill their wives unpremeditatedly, through ‘correction’ and ‘disciplining’. In 1689 burying alive was replaced by beheading.56

It was in the jurisdiction of the Church to rule on family disagreements and watch over family order. The consistory courts tried spousal abuse cases both on separate charges and as a reason for divorce.57 However, modern state law did pay attention to family law and spousal relations. Peter I was very concerned about forced marriages contracted by parents. He introduced the postulate of consent into family law as a way of conforming to the Christian ideas of marriage as a free union and a sacrament. The parties then were to express their consent clearly and show willingness to marry.58 On the other hand, in Peter’s Military Code (1716) the punishment for killing a wife as a result of heavy beating was milder than that for regular murder. The lawmaker classified such a death to be a result of unpremeditated actions and accordingly awarded the lesser (although non-specified) punishment. At the same time, the Holy Synod, following the Byzantine tradition, recognized conspiracy to murder a spouse to be a valid reason for divorce (1723).59 This gave some legal background for divorce proceedings on the basis of heavy beating with aggravating circumstances, such as injuries and miscarriages.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, during the reforms of Catherine II, the Church itself suggested that the state courts investigate ‘wife-beating and tormenting’, but to no avail. However, the attitude of the law to wife-beating definitely changed. The Police Regulations of 1782 state: ‘let a husband join his wife in love and concord, respect her, protect her and excuse her defects, comfort her in sickness and provide her with a living according to his state and capability’ and ‘let a wife love, respect and obey her husband, please him and show her attachment as a mistress of the house’.60 This rule never mentions a husband’s privilege ‘to teach or discipline his wife’. The 1833 Code of Laws reproduced Catherine’s law, stating that ‘a husband is obliged to love his wife, live with her in concord, protect her, excuse her defects and comfort her in sickness. He is obliged to provide for her according to his state and capability’. The wife ‘is obliged to obey her husband as he is the head of the family, should stay in love with him, in deep respect and absolute obedience, please him and confide in him as a mistress of the house’. Additionally she was obliged to obey her husband’s orders but to combine it with duties towards her parents.61

It is quite clear that, while the obligations of the husband towards his wife essentially did not change, those of a wife were made more difficult, especially with regard to obedience and respect. The husband was explicitly named the ‘head of the family’, and this entitlement put him in the official position of power, which before was supported by didactic writings and assumptions, rather than by de facto law.

However, physical punishment did not become a part of his powers, and that again reflected the liberal attitudes of the day. Based on this thinking, the Penal Code of 1845 awarded the same punishment for the abuse of a wife by her husband as for the injuries inflicted on any other person two degrees higher (usually a variety of deprivation of rank and social status and penal labour, depending on the degree of inflicted harm). In addition, persons of Orthodox faith had to undergo a penance, a traditional punishment for wife-abusers.62 Thus, spousal abuse was officially recognized to be a matter of the state jurisdiction and such cases were now tried in the state courts only. Marital abuse among peasants went to the attention of the volost’ courts, and the punishment there could be very different from the official criminal code; based on the decision of the village elders, it often put women in a disadvantageous position.

Wife-beating was assumed to be quite widespread among peasants and workers in the nineteenth century. Almost all contemporary ethnographers and lawyers provided some data confirming the spread of marital violence. In the opinion of many observers, wife-beating was due to the ignorance and ‘low morality’ of peasant society in general63 as well as to the assumption among peasants that the husband had a lawful right to punish his wife. Russian newspapers and magazines were full of stories of cruelties, atrocities, lethal injuries and the unlimited patience of Russian peasant women, who were suffering the hardships of domestic patriarchy. After emancipation, peasant women who suffered from domestic abuse had to report to the volost’ courts, whose purpose was not to protect the victim but to pacify the community. Thus, the instructions for the judges prescribed: if a husband is proven guilty he is subject to imprisonment or corporal punishment; if a wife is found guilty of misconduct (that is, she committed the actions for which her husband beat her), she is sentenced to community work or ‘bread and water’ imprisonment with regular admonition to obey her husband. The volost’ court practices reveal that often both spouses were punished: the husband for ‘evil treatment’ (durnoe obrashchenie) and the wife for taking action against him, as she clearly did not show enough patience. The typical response to a wife’s complaint to a volost’ court was making her ask her husband for forgiveness64 or, if she refused, sentencing her to flogging (ten lashes).65

Cases of marital abuse, besides regular battering, often included harnessing a woman to a cart, or tying her up to a horse and riding around for several miles, or beating her with a horsewhip or a knout.66 Justification for the ‘punishment’ varied, but basically included the wife’s disobedience, refusal to live with her spouse (usually involving escape to her parents or to another village), or adultery;67 or more often, no justification was needed.68 Many ethnographers of the time assumed that wife-abusers went unpunished because the peasants believed that husbands had absolute power over their wives. Indeed, when volost’ courts punished women for their disobedience, the verdict often stated that is was necessary to ‘convince her to have absolute obedience to her husband’,69 which was in perfect conformity with the civil law. However, volost’ court practice shows that the cases where the abusive husband was punished outnumber the cases where the perpetrator went unpunished, which means that the notion of absolute power did not include the notion of physical abuse. This was because a husband who could not keep his violence under control was potentially dangerous for the community, as wife-beating had a close connection with other ‘disorders’ such as child-beating,70 disobedience to parents, drunkenness and poor management of the household.71 On occasion, though, the husband could be acquitted if the court decided that his wife had provoked him. In one case from the Moscow district, the court refused to accept a complaint from an abused wife (her husband had battered her and torn out a tuft of her hair) on the grounds of her rude and insolent behaviour towards him in court.72 In general, the picture emerging from the volost’ courts’ proceedings was not favourable towards women: they might have been seen as victims, but the courts were mostly concerned with preventing men from committing more serious offences rather than with protecting women. The safety of women did not constitute their primary concern; it was the stability of the household that mattered.

In the period of serfdom, even landowners were concerned that their peasants battered their wives. One landowner, A. S. Zelenago, stated that only ten per cent of cases came to his attention because wives were scared to report cruelty even to their owner. Thus, one peasant harnessed his wife to a wooden plough because his horse was sick, while another used to tie his wife up to the crossbeam in the house for regular whipping. This landowner decided not to send the husbands to court because the punishment was too mild, and punished them himself (with whipping, imprisonment, army recruitment etc.).73 This is a rare mention of private prosecution for spousal abuse. The landowner may have wanted to be seen as a progressive person by taking justice into his own hands. However, his revelations instead demonstrated a degree of enlightened despotism and mistrust of state justice.

Not only peasant women suffered from domestic abuse. Russian noblewomen were probably less abused than serfs in the nineteenth century, but still became victims of spousal violence. In the eighteenth century, many prominent noble women were abused: Countess Saltykova (1721); the wife of a colonel, Mariia Poretskaia (1724); Princess Anna Solntseva-Zasekina (1729); the wife of a colonel, Anna Rzhevskaia (1730); Countess Lopukhina (1731); Countess Praskoviia Egupova-Cherkasskaia (1742); Countess Tat’iana Musina-Pushkina (1746); Countess Natal’ia Apraksina (1771)74 and even Duchess Augusta of Württemberg, sister-in-law of the Grand Prince Paul (1786),75 together with many others. The data from the St Petersburg Consistory court for 1780–1800 suggests that half of all complaints about domestic violence came from noblewomen.76

However, as mentioned above, official attitudes to spousal violence changed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with the emergence of new ideas about gender and new interpretations of despotism and power. In her recent book, Barbara Engel connects these changes with the exemption of the nobility from corporal punishment according to the Charter of Nobility of 1785, which brought the notion of illegitimate cruelty that undermined the legitimacy of marital violence among noble elites.77 The cult of domesticity promoted by official discourse contributed to the redefinition of femininity and masculinity among the nobles. Proper masculinity became associated with self-command policies, which prohibited the violation of a woman’s body. The use of violence was now thought to be limited to the lower classes.78 At the same time, Abby Schrader argues that, despite the enlightened attitude of Russian officials to domestic violence in the1860s, their desire to reinforce patriarchal relations and the dominant position occupied by male householders outweighed their concerns about spousal abuse. The implication here is that containing spousal abuse within the private sphere by turning a blind eye to it was preferable to criminalizing wife-beating and making it part of the public record.79 As a result of these attitudes, domestic violence in noble families was carefully kept inside the family and rarely became visible.

In 1831, a noblewoman Anna Shchepkina complained to her brother that ‘my husband gave me a black eye so that I could not leave the house for two weeks’. In another letter, dated a month later, she wrote: ‘My husband only insults and beats me; he took our last one hundred rubles and spent those on drinking and brawling…’.80 She explained his cruelty by way of his lewd way of life and his debauchery, using traditional explanations for such behaviour. In the case of the noblewoman Nadezhda Stakhovicheva, who complained to the Third Section of His Majesty’s Chancellery of her husband’s mistreatment in 1835, the husband’s behaviour equated that of a man of the lower classes.81 If a peasant’s cruelty to his wife did not require explanation, the behaviour of a nobleman had to be explained through the acceptable discourses of deviancy.

The cases of noble spousal abuse came to light when they were found especially heinous. In the case from 1851 looking into the cruel treatment of peasants, Lieutenant Karptsov was also accused of ‘evil treatment’ of his wife. His father-in-law brought the charges, stating that Karptsov threatened her with his pistol if she would not give him half her estate. Further investigation revealed that Karptsov tortured his wife with hot water and fire, locked her up, and constantly threatened to kill her in front of the peasants.82 Karptsov was sentenced to deprivation of rank and social status and ten years of penal labour. Not all judges, however, were sympathetic to victims of wife-beating. In the 1879 case, State Councillor Bykov was brought in front of the justice of the peace on the charge of domestic abuse. The justice, however, acquitted Bykov immediately because in his opinion such acts did not constitute anything illegal and were merely a misunderstanding between spouses.83 The judge followed the Senate’s decisions on similar cases (the Soimonov case, 1862) and was ready to prosecute only if the abuse took place in public (the Sokolovskii case, 1869).84

Uxorial murder was often a result of heavy battering or other forms of domestic violence. As mentioned, there was a special article for the murder of a husband (burying alive) in the early 1649 code, but no complementary article for the murder of a wife; but this does not mean that wife-murderers did not receive their punishment. Murder, including murder of a wife, was considered a very grave crime and was punished as such by the death penalty (usually beheading). The eighteenth century brought the eradication of differences in punishment for the murder of a wife and the murder of a husband. These cases were tried in the state court and were sometimes referred to the ecclesiastical court for the imposition of a penance in addition to the punishment (the galleys or death) applied by the secular courts. The Penal Code of 1845 equated the punishment for wife/husband killing to that for recidivist premeditated murder, that is, deprivation of all ranks and status, and permanent exile into penal labour in the mines. For those not exempted from corporal punishment (the peasantry), additional flogging and branding were prescribed.85 Corporal punishment and branding were removed in the 1866 edition. However, in many cases husbands still justified their behaviour, claiming that it was not premeditated and that they had tried to discipline their wives for their debauchery and adultery.

In the famous case of 1858, Iakov Kosakovskii, a peasant from Volyn’ province, killed his wife with an axe, insisting that she was promiscuous, a heavy drinker and regularly provoked fights with him. He had used all the corrective tools, he said, to restrain his wife from such a life, but was unsuccessful. He did not intend to kill her, but only used an axe to threaten his disorderly wife, but ‘in his agitated state’ hit her on the head. The witnesses corroborated his words. The case went to the lower district court. The judges recognized unpremeditated murder on the grounds of ‘his not being known to be of such a cruel character’ and sentenced him to forty lashes and a penance. The Volyn’ high district court did not agree with the lower court’s decision and sentenced Kosakovskii to deprivation of the rights of his estate, seventy lashes given in public by an executioner, branding and exile to the mines for twelve years, followed by permanent settlement in Siberia. In turn, the governor of Volyn’ did not agree with the higher court’s decision. The case went to the Senate, which decided that, because Kosakovskii was of a ‘peaceful and quiet character’, he should be subject to a criminal penalty of a medium degree: deprived of his estate rights, given ten lashes and sent to Siberia for permanent settlement.86 This case was notorious for validating the guilty party’s behaviour and the victim’s reputation. Because Kosakovskii had a ‘quiet character’ and his murdered wife was guilty of ‘quarrelsome and disorderly conduct’, the murder could somehow be justified in the eyes of the judges.

It is quite difficult to estimate how often battering ended up in murder, as there were no regular statistics. Several groups of data might give some idea of the situation. In 1835–46, 250 men (2.7 per cent of all men sentenced for murder) were sentenced to penal labour in the Siberian mines for wife-killing and 416 women (19 per cent of all women sentenced for murder) were given the same sentence for husband-killing, which meant that women were much more often sentenced for spouse-killing. The majority of female spouse-murderers belonged to the young age group (16–30) while male spouse-murderers were evenly spread over all age groups.87 According to Stephen Frank’s estimation for 1874–1913, spousal killings among peasants constituted 7 per cent of all murders; the majority of the convicted were men (62 per cent) who killed their wives. However, men constituted only 4.7 per cent of all male convicts while women accounted for 31 per cent of all female convicts, which shows the same statistical pattern.88 Women were clearly treated more severely than men due to the different interpretation of their actions. By killing their husband they also rebelled against proper authority which might have more serious consequences in terms of judicial leniency. It was consistent with the official desire to reinforce patriarchy by all possible means and harsh sentences provided an excellent opportunity to deter other women from committing such an act.

Battering and injury were not the only abuses to be suffered by wives; there was also isolation and restraint of liberty, as well as denial of food and clothing. As Russian women moved to their husbands’ homes after marriage, and marriage law did not support joint marital property, women did not have any right to claim the house. Separate marital property was advantageous to noble and rich women, but played a reverse negative role among the poorer strata of society. Peasant women could claim their dowry and marital support, but not the house or any other immovable property.89 Moreover, the husband’s earnings belonged to him rather than to the family, and women who took money or other things from the husband’s property were prosecuted on theft charges. A case from the Perm’ region (1884) is a typical example. A woman came to the local volost’ court with the complaint that her husband had tried to batter her to death and then expelled her from the house, with nowhere to stay. Her husband claimed he did it because she stole fifteen kopecks from him to buy ferial oil to make some pancakes for her six children. The wife confessed to stealing from her husband, but the volost’ court, taking into consideration the family’s situation, ruled to punish the husband for domestic abuse and not providing for his family.90

In general, the volost’ courts regularly ruled in the favour of wives in cases when they were denied marital support and expelled from the house. In another case from the Moscow district, a woman complained that her husband had expelled her, together with their eight-year-old son and her son from her first marriage and did not give them any money for their living expenses. The court ordered the husband to take them back or pay alimony.91 The courts mostly obliged husbands to give some marital support to their wives (one or two rubles per month or twenty-five per year) or a portion of property (such as a cowshed to stay in).92 The situation prompted women to migrate to other places or to go to the cities and join the army of urban workers or prostitutes.93

Nineteenth-century lawyers unanimously agreed that there could not be rape in marriage. N. A. Nekliudov, an authoritative criminologist at the time, explained that rape was a crime against woman’s chastity and honour, which could not happen in spousal relations, as sexual intercourse was sanctioned by the sanctity of marriage.94 In other words, a husband had absolute control over his wife’s body and any sexual violence was classified as domestic abuse.

The courts recognized sexual violence only in the form of incest and when a husband allowed other men to have sex with his wife. Ethnographical data for the nineteenth century from the Tomsk region (where allegedly the tradition of wife-selling or wife-exchange was widely practiced) suggests that husbands still ordered their wives to have sex with strangers in exchange for goods or money.95 At one of the goldmines, for example, people witnessed a husband beat up his wife with a bridle because she refused to sleep with his friend who offered three rubles for that privilege. His actions were supported by the eldest members of the family: they insisted that a wife should always obey her husband’s orders and contribute to the family’s wealth in any way necessary.96

Instances of selling wives for sex were already known in the seventeenth century and were not unique to Russia.97 There were two regions where the tradition of wife-sale allegedly existed in the nineteenth century: Siberia and Southern Russia. Women could be sold, lent or exchanged for something more valuable (such as an ox). There are many examples: in the Kherson region, two peasants agreed to wife-sale for five rubles and made an official contract;98 another peasant from Vinnitsa sold his wife to train conductors for thirty rubles;99 two military men sealed a contract of wife-sale for twenty rubles with an additional clause of reverse property charge100 and a drunken peasant lent his wife for half a bucket of vodka (thirty-five kopecks).101A final example involves a peasant from Boguchar, who exchanged his wife for two oxen during a fair; she was then rescued by her adult son, who paid back the debt.102 These episodes confirm that in certain regions women were viewed as property and husbands exploited not only their labour but also their sexuality. This type of sexual slavery indicated the lowest possible status a woman had in peasant society.


The picture of the abuse of Russian women emerging from this chapter is mostly negative and calls for obvious conclusions about the place of women in nineteenth-century society. Patriarchal families led by men (and sometimes women) used every accessible tool to discipline, control and subjugate women to the family and community needs, often to the harm of their own interests. Women responded by using all available strategies to cope with the violence and to resist it through judiciary and extra-legal activities. Many women fled. Some killed their husbands and fathers-in-law in self-defence. Yet many preferred to conform because their well-being and livelihood often depended on the male head of the household.
Barbara Engel noted that it is difficult to assess how the majority of peasant women regarded beatings, but she is convinced that those women who charged their husbands with domestic abuse were not typical by definition. Christine Worobec has argued that, for the most part, peasant wives tolerated beatings, while Beatrice Farnsworth laid out evidence suggesting that daughters-in-law among the peasantry resisted domestic abuse.103 There is a great temptation to suggest that women might tolerate beatings because the whole society experienced corporal punishment for various offences committed, but harsh beatings were often reserved for the crimes of rebellion and resistance. However, even the number of reported cases of domestic abuse strongly points to the conclusion that women did not tolerate domestic abuse, and that, while socialized into the ideas of obedience and submission to the male family head, they did not accept physical violence as a part of their low status. They had certain understandings of their ‘rights’ in exchange for their obedience.

Russian women were trapped in the conflict between progress as it was understood by male intellectuals and government authorities at the time, and their own needs and choices. The differential treatment of men and women could have resulted in greater attention to women’s needs (such as protection from sexual violence or exemption from corporal punishment). Instead, it strengthened the inequality between genders, placing women in a position of obedience and subjugation to their husbands’ and fathers’ decisions. Women were not always able to receive justice, but this did not prevent them from trying.

In the nineteenth century women experienced a backlash in the protection from sexual and domestic violence which was connected to new attitudes towards femininity and masculinity. Associating normative sexual behaviour (chastity) with the notion of honour and moving to the protection of honour rather than staying with the protection of a person, excluded many women from the distribution of justice. Only those women who conformed to the prescribed standards of femininity could find justice. Domestic abuse, although it became a marker of ‘low-class’ behaviour, and was disapproved by official and public discourses, continued to serve as a means of control. Yet it became invisible and withdrawn into the sphere of intimate spousal relations among upper classes, making it extremely difficult for women to ask for legal protection. However, women continued to complain to courts; they submitted appeals despite discouraging examples of others who failed. Their determination to achieve justice calls for further research into the legal consciousness and legal culture of Russian women over a longer period.


I would like to express my deep gratitude to Christina Worobec for her helpful and excellent suggestions for improvement of this chapter.

1.‘Iz Chugueva soobshchaiut…’, Moskovskie vedomosti, 29 March 1883, no. 88, 3.

2.Serafim Shashkov, Istoricheskie sud’by zhenshchiny, detoubiistvo i prostitutsiia (St Petersburg: N. A. Shigin, 1871); Serafim Shashkov, Istoriia russkoi zhenshchiny (St Petersburg: Novoe vremia, 1879); Il’ia Zagorovskii, Issledovaniia po russkomu pravu, obychnomu i brachnomu (St Petersburg: A. E. Landau, 1879); Aleksandr Zagorovskii, O razvode po russkomu pravu (Khar’kov: M. F. Zil’berberg, 1884); Iakov Kantorovich, Zhenshchina v prave (St Petersburg: Ia. Kantorovich, 1895).

3.D. Bobrov, ‘Po povodu bab’ikh stonov’, Iuridicheskii vestnik, 10 (1885), 318–22; [A.] Vereshchagin, ‘O bab’ikh stonah’, Iuridicheskii vestnik, 4 (1885), 750–61; Ia. A. Ludmer, ‘Bab’i stony: iz zametok mirovogo sud’i’, Iuridicheskii vestnik, 11 (1884), 446–67; 12, 658–79; N. D[emert], ‘Ugolovnoe proizvodstvo po supruzheskim delam’, Otechestvennye zapiski, 12 (1872), 326–40; N. Demert, ‘Nashi obshchestvennye dela’, Otechestvennye zapiski, 12 (1872), 80–110. See this discussion in the context of abolishing corporal punishment for women: Abby M. Schrader, Languages of the Lash. Corporal Punishment and Identity in Imperial Russia (DeKalb, IL.: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002), pp. 161–68.

4.T. A. Bernshtam, Molodezh v obriadovoi zhizni russkoi obshchiny XIX – nachala XX veka (Leningrad: Nauka, 1988); M. M. Gromyko, Mir russkoi derevni (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1991); S. S. Kriukova, Russkaia krestianskaia sem’ia vo vtoroi polovine XIX v. (Moscow: IAE RAN, 1994); A. A. Minenko, Zhivaia starina: Budni i prazdniki sibirskoi derevni v XVII –pervoi polovine XIX veka (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1989).

5.See, for example: V. A. Veremenko, ‘Supruzheskie otnosheniia v dvorianskikh sem’iakh Rossii vo vtoroi polovine XIX-nachale XX veka: etapy evolutsii’, in Sotsial’naia istoria: Ezhegodnik, ed. by Natal’ia L. Pushkareva (Moscow: Aleteiia, 2008), pp. 47–66; Michelle L. Marrese, A Woman’s Kingdom: Noblewomen and the Control of Property in Russia, 1700–1861 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2002).

6.M. Marrese, ‘Gender and Legal Order in Imperial Russia’, in The Cambridge History of Russia, ed. by Dominic Lieven, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), II, 335–39; Daniel Kaiser, ‘“He Said, She Said”: Rape and Gender Discourse in Early Modern Russia’, Kritika: Explorations in Russia and Eurasian History, 3 (2002), 197–216.

7.For a discussion of the ‘blank spot’, in the historiography, see Marianna Muravyeva, ‘Metodologicheskie problemy sovremennoi istoriografii seksual’nogo nasiliia na Zapade i v Rossii’, Gendernye issledovaniia, 13 (2005), 171–89.

8.Daniel Kaiser, ‘“He Said, She Said”…’; Eve Levin, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900–1700 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. 212–46; Nancy Shields Kollmann, By Honor Bound. State and Society in Early Modern Russia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), pp. 72–82.

9.‘Artikul Voinskii’, in Zakonodatel’stvo perioda stanovleniia absolutizma, ed. by A. G. Man’kov (Moscow: Iuridicheskaia literatura, 1986), art. 167 commentary, p. 359.

10.Russia did not have annual crime returns until 1834 when the Ministry of Justice started the systematic collection of criminal data. For the crime returns see [E. N. Tarnovskii], Itogi ugolovnoi statistikiza 20 let (1874–1894) (St Petersburg: Tipografiia Pravitel’stvuiushchego Senata, 1899); E. N. Tarnovskii, ‘Dvizhenie prestupnosti v Rossiiskoi imperii za 1899–1908’, Zhurnal ministerstva iustitsii, 9 (1909), 52–99; Otchet ministerstva iustitsii (St Petersburg: Ministerstvo iustitsii, 1834–1868).

11.[E. N. Tarnovskii], Itogi ugolovnoi statistiki za 20 let, pp. 131–32, 286–87.

12.[E. N. Tarnovskii], Itogi ugolovnoi statistiki za 20 let, pp. 131–32, 286–87. On priorities in crime reporting see Stephen P. Frank, Crime, Cultural Conflict, and Justice in Rural Russia, 1856–1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 3–5, 145^7.

13.On extra-judicial ways of punishing sexual offences see Stephen P. Frank, Crime, Cultural Conflict, and Justice in Rural Russia, 1856–1914, p. 165; Natalia Pushkareva, ‘Pozoriashchie nakazaniia dlia zhenshchin v Rossii XIX – nachala XX v.’, Etnograficheskoe obozreniie, 5 (2009), 120–34.

14.On the legal treatment of sex crimes and sexual violence in pre-nineteenth-century Russia see Marianna Muravyeva, ‘Relations sexuelles, fornication et inceste spirituel entre kimovia (campari) dans la culture traditionelle russe’, in Baptiser. Pratique sacramentelle, pratique sociale (XVIe-Xxe siecles), ed. by Guido Alfani, Philippe Castagnetti and Vincent Gourdon (Saint Etienne: Publications de l’Universite de Saint-Etienne, 2009), pp. 281–90; Marianna Muravyeva, ‘Forms and Methods of Violence Against Women in Eighteenth-Century Russia: Law Against Morality’, Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia Newsletter, 36 (2008), 15–19.

15.‘Sobornoe Ulozhenie 1649 goda’, in Akty zemskikh soborov, ed. by A. G. Man’kov (Moscow: Iuridicheskaia literatura, 1985), pp. 97, 249; Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii [PSZ] (St Petersburg, 1830), 45 vols, I, no. 441, art. 102, 796.

16.Kniga glagolemaia Kormchaia (Moscow: pri Patriarchem dvore, 1653), pp. 19, 44 rev., 104 rev., 140, 181 rev., 232 rev., 273 rev., 386 rev. See Eve Levine’s account of religious sources: Eve Levin, Sex and Society, pp. 27–35, 220–21.

17.Both Dan Kaiser and Eve Levin show that various categories of women sought and found justice upon rape charges; many of them were not married, some had ill-reputation, others were prostitutes: Daniel Kaiser, ‘“He Said, She Said”’; Eve Levin, Sex and Society, pp. 212–46.

18.On the concept of honour in Early Modern Russia see Nancy Shields Kollmann, By Honor Bound. State and Society in Early Modern Russia, pp. 31–63.

19.Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii, 1st series, 45 vols (St Petersburg: v tipografii II otdelenia Sobstvennoi E.I.V. Kantseliarii, 1830), III, 1612, 418. Hereafter PSZ

20.The Nakaz suggested four groups of crimes: against faith and law, against morality, against peace and against the security of citizens. However, Catherine specifically pointed out that kidnapping and rape violated the citizen’s security and all the rest referred to crimes against morality (article 77): Catherine II, ‘Nakaz’, in Imperatritsa Ekaterina II, O velichii Rossii (Moscow: Eksmo, 2003), pp. 78–79.

21.Aleksei Artem’ev, Kratkoe nachertanie rimskikh i rossiiskikh prav, s pokazaniem kupno oboikh, ravnomerno, kak i chinopolozheniia onykh istorii (Moscow: pri Imperatorskom Universitete, 1777), pp. 104–09.

22.Petr Guliaev, Rossiiskoe ugolovnoe pravo (Moscow: P. Kuznetsov, 1826), pp. 157–59.

23.Laura Engelstein, ‘Gender and the Juridical Subject: Prostitution and Rape in Nineteenth-Century Russian Criminal Codes’, Journal of Modern History, 60.3 (1988), 458–95 (459).

24.Svod Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii, 15 vols (St Petersburg: tipografia 2 otdelenia Sobstvennoi e.i.v. kantseliarii, 1833), XV, 207–13. Hereafter: SZ.

25.In the Russian canonical tradition the crime was always called polygamy instead of bigamy, as it was suggested that a person might have more than two spouses at the same time.

26.‘Artikul Voinskii’, pp. 358–60.

27.Art. 822 of 1833 Code of Criminal Laws was modified in the edition of 1842 (art. 789).

28.One of the leading lawyers at the time, Aleksandr Lokhvitskii, clearly states that rape is defined through the degree of resistance, which should be serious and permanent. As Lokhvitskii explains, women cannot give in without any resistance because female dignity requires them to have some, so to draw the line between a false resistance to maintain dignity and actual resistance to prevent rape, a genuine resistance is needed: Aleksandr V. Lokhvitskii, Kurs russkogo ugolovnogo prava (St Petersburg: Skoropechatnia Shredera, 1871), p. 581.

29.V. Dal’, Tolkovyi slovar’ zhivogo velikorusskogo iazyka (Moscow: Obshchestvo liubitelei rossiiskoi slovestnosti, 1863–66), http://slovardalya.ru/description/chest/43009 [Last accessed 16 June 2011].

30.On the charge of beschest’e see N. Lange, ‘O nakazaniiakh i vzyskaniiakh za bezchest’e po drevnemu russkomu pravu’, Zhurnal Ministerstva Narodnogo Prosveshcheniia, 6 (1859), 161–224. Nancy Shields Kollmann lists rape as among the most ‘dishonouring acts’ in seventeenth-century Muscovy. She also states, ‘As a rule, laws distinguished between dishonour (beschest’e) and physical injury (uvech’e) and did not consider most assaults as dishonouring. But certain types of physical assault were deemed humiliating, particularly those related to sexual infractions and reputation’. Nancy Shields Kollmann, By Honour Bound. State and Society in Early Modern Russia, p. 43. However, the same court data suggest that the sole charge of beschest’e did not mean sexual assault. There must have been a charge in ‘bludnoe nasil’stvo’ that explicitly meant rape and this one could be supplemented by the charge of beschest’e. On the other hand, the charge of beschest’e often included defamation and slander, especially sexual slander (for example, calling a woman a whore). See the collection of cases used by Levine (as well as by Kollmann): Eve Levin, Sex and Society, pp. 222–25. There should be an understanding of the difference between the social and legal concepts of honour and dishonour in seventeenth-century Russia. While the social concept was very much in tune with European concepts of female honour as based on the chastity (tselomudrie) and virginity, the legal concept of dishonour was rather directed at protecting social status and its attributes, among which chastity was not the primary identifier.

31.Aleksandr V. Lokhvitskii, Kurs russkogo ugolovnogo prava, pp. 580–81; L. S. Belogrits-Korliarevskii, Uchebnik russkogo ugolovnogo prava (Kiev: F. A. Ioganson, 1903), pp. 522–26. The notion of honour disappears in the 1903 Criminal Code (which was never enacted in this part), as the notion of liubodeianie (literally: making love) emerges and rape goes into the chapter specifically devoted to sex crimes and called ‘indecency’. See N. Tagantsev, Ugolovnoe ulozhenie 22 marta 1903 goda (St Petersburg: N. Tagantsev, 1904), pp. 697–718.

32.Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, art. 119. Publication in: Die Peinliche Gerichtsordnung Kaiser Karls V.: Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, ed. by J. Kohler and W. Scheel (Berlin: n.p., 1900). On the German legal attitudes to rape see Maren Lorenz, ‘“Da der anfäangliche Schmerz in Liebeshitze übergehen kann”: Das Delikt der “Nothzucht” im gerichtsmedizinischen Diskurs des 18. Jahrhunderts’, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, 5 (1994), 328–57; Sabine H. Smith, Sexual Violence in German Culture: Rereading and Rewriting the Tradition (Frankfurt/Main: Lang, 1998), pp. 35–50.

33.D. V. Lutkov, Sbornik svedenii, raz’iasniaiushchikh primenenie na praktike Ulozheniia o nakazaniiakh (Moscow: T. Ris, 1872), pp. 233–35.

34.The Gaidukov case (1870): G. Trakhtenberg, Ukazatel’ po iuridicheskim voprosam, razreshennym ugolovnym kassatsionnym i obshchim sobraniem kassatsionnykh departamentov senata (St Petersburg: Ministerstvo iustitsii, 1874), p. 225.

35.The Rozhnov case (1870): G. Trakhtenberg, Ukazatel’, p. 228.

36.The Bakanov case (1872): G. Trakhtenberg, Ukazatel, p. 491.

37.Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiskoi Imperii, 2nd series, 55 vols (St Petersburg: v tipografii II otdelenia Sobstvennoi E.I.V. Kantseliarii 1839–84), II, no. 39776.

38.E. N. Anuchin, Issledovaniia o protsente soslannykh v Sibir’ v period 1827–1846 godov (St Petersburg: Maikov, 1873), pp. 41, 66–67, 165.

39.See Stephen P. Frank, Crime, Cultural Conflict and Justice in Rural Russia, 1856–1914, p. 164.

40.[E. N. Tarnovskii], Itogi ugolovnoi statistiki za 20 let (1874–94), pp. 131–32, 286–87; E. N. Tarnovskii, ‘Dvizhenie prestupnosti v Rossiiskoi imperii za 1899–1908’, pp. 52–99; Otchet ministerstva iustitsii.

41.Aleksandr Liubavskii, Russkie ugolovnye protsessy, 4 vols (St Petersburg: Obshchestvennaia Pol’za, 1866), II, 226–36. Hereafter: RUP.

42.RUP, II, 193–222.

43.RUP, IV, 287–93.

44.RUP, II, 237–46.

45.There is quite a good collection of government files full of these cases: RGIA (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv), f. 1400, op. 1, d. 367.

46.RUP, II, 330–45.

47.RUP, II, 345–57.

48.See on volost’ courts: Cathy A. Frierson, ‘Rural Justice in Public Opinion: The Volost’ Court Debate 1861–1912’, Slavonic and East European Review, 64 (1986), 526–15; Cathy A. Frierson, “‘I Must Always Answer to the Law…”: Rules and Responses in the Reformed Volost’ Court’, Slavonic and East European Review, 75 (1997), 308–34; Gareth Popkins, The Russian Peasant Volost Court and Customary Law 1861–1917 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Gareth Popkins, ‘Code versus Custom? Norms and Tactics in Peasant Volost Court Appeals, 1889–1917’, Russian Review, 59 (2000), 408–24.

49.N. Kostrov, Iuridicheskie obychai krestian-starozhilov Tomskoi gubernii (Tomsk: Tomskaia gubernskaia tipografiia, 1876), pp. 68–76.

50.‘Obrazets krestianskogo suda’, Moskovskie vedomosti, 21 March 1884, no. 80, 3.

51.RUP, II, 222–26.

52.S. S. Shashkov, ‘Istoriia russkoi zhenshchiny’, in A se grekhi zlye, smertnye…’ Russkaia semeinaia i seksual’naia kul’tura glazami istorikov, etnografov, literatorov, fol’kloristov, pravovedov i bogoslovov XIX-nachala XX veka, 3 vols ed. by Natal’ia L. Pushkareva and L. V. Bessmertnykh (Moscow: Ladomir, 2004), II, 543–44.

53.N. Kostrov, Iuridicheskie obychai, pp. 75–76.

54.Ulozhenie o nakazaniiakh ugolovnykh i ispravitel’nykh (St Petersburg: v tipografii Pravitel’stvuiushchego Senata, 1845), pp. 819–20 (articles 2088–89).

55.See Eve Levin, Sex and Society pp. 337–1-3. Nancy S. Kollmann, By Honour Bound. State and Society in Early Modern Russia, pp. 75–77; Nancy S. Kollmann, ‘The Extremes of Patriarchy: Spousal Abuse and Murder in Early Modern Russia’, Russian History, 25 (1998), 133–40.

56.PSZ, III, 1335.

57.See M. K. Tsaturova, Russkoe semeinoe pravo XVI-XVIII vekov (Moscow: Iuridicheskaia literatura, 1991), pp. 36-45.

58.On the Russian Orthodox treatment of marriage and family law see: V. N. Nikol’skii, Obzor glavneishikh postanovlenii Petra I v oblasti lichnogo semeinogo prava (Iaroslavl’: v Gub., Tip., 1857); Gregory L. Freeze, ‘Bringing Order to the Russian Family: Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia, 1760–1860’, Journal of Modern History, 62 (1990), 709-48.

59.Polnoe sobranie rasporiazhenii i postanovlenii po vedomstvu pravoslavnogo ispovedaniia Rossiiskoi Imperii, 1st series, 10 vols (St Petersburg: v Sinodal’noi tipografii, 1869–1911), II, no. 1044.

60.PSZ, XXI, 15379, art. D.41: VIII-IX.

61.See Mikhail S. Usov, Grazhdanskie zakony, zakliuchaiushchiesia v desiatom tome Svoda Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii izdaniia 1842 goda i deviatnadstati prolozheniiakh (St Petersburg: izd. Akademii Nauk, 1856), p. 16 (articles 108–10).

62.Ulozhenie o nakazaniiakh ugolovnykh i ispravitel’nykh, art. 2075–76, pp. 813–14.

63.See, for example, Vereshchagin, ‘O bab’ikh stonakh’; Ludmer, ‘Bab’i stony’.

64.As in a case from Kostroma region: V., ‘Iurisdiktsiia volostnykh sudei’, Kostromskie gubernskie vedomosti, 9 December 1867, no. 48, 474.

65.‘Sud po obychnomu pravu… “Domostroia”‘, Russkii kur’er, 19 October 1879, no. 51, 4.

66.See, for example, ‘Dva sluchaia iz semeinoi zhizni’, Nedelia, 9 January 1877, 2, 51–54; ‘Sudebnaia khronika’, Russkie vedomosti, 20 August 1872, no. 182, 2; ‘Korrespondent Syna otechestva soobshchaet…’, Russkie vedomosti, 6 August 1878, no. 199, 2; ‘Iz Khar’kova v Kievlianin pishut’, Moskovskie vedomosti, 18 December 1880, no. 350, 4; N., ‘Iz stanitsy Golodaevki’, Donskie oblastnye vedomosti, 19 December 1879, no. 99, 2.

67.As in the case of Vasilii Kriukov, whose wife had an illegitimate child while he was in military service: ‘Delo ob istiazanii’, Volzhsko-Kamskoe slovo, 3 June 1882, no. 119, 3.

68.See ‘Iz Solikamskogo uezda Permskoi gubernii…’, Russkie vedomosti, 19 July 1878, no. 183, 2.

69.Trudy komissii po preobrazovaniiu volostnykh sudov, 8 vols (St Petersburg: n.p., 1873), II, 490, no. 12. Hereafter: TKV.

70.TKV, I, 443.

71.TKV, II, 72, no. 1; 138, no. 35; 275, no. 25; III, 72, no. 49; 236, no. 10; 263, no. 152; 264, no. 4; 389, no. 3, etc.

72.TKV, II, 151, no. 24. See also similar cases: V, 33; VI, 254, no. 46; 650, no. 19; VII, 472.

73.A. S. Zelenago, ‘O zhestokom obrashchenii krest’ian s ikh zhenami’, Sovremennik, 10 (1857), 271–73.

74.Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv (RGIA), f. 796, op. 1, no. 99; op. 5, no. 454; op. 10, no. 30; op. 11, no. 332; op. 12, no. 353; op. 23, no. 959; op. 27, no. 278; Tsentral’nyi gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv Sankt-Peterburga (TsGIA StP), f. 19, op. 1, no. 7916.

75.Prince Dolgorukov in his memoirs describes the scene when Duchess Augusta (1764–88) knelt in front of Catherine II after the play in the Hermitage Theatre and begged her to protect her from her husband, who beat her regularly. Catherine ordered the Duke to leave Russia, which he did in 1787, and then she excluded him from the Russian service (he was Lieutenant-General of the Russian army and Governor-General of Vyborg). Duke Frederick Wilhelm Carl (1754–1816) became the first King of Württemberg. See Ivan M. Dolgorukov, Povest’ o rozhdenii moem, proiskhozhdenii i vsei zhizni (St Petersburg: Nauka, 2004), 2 vols, I, 138–39; A. V. Khrapovitskii, Pamiatnye zapiski A. V. Khrapovitskago, stats-sekretaria Imperatritsy Ekateriny II (Moscow: Soiuzteatr, 1990), p. 17.

76.Of the 60 complaints, 29 came from noblewomen: TsGIA StP, f. 19, op. 1.

77.Barbara A. Engel, Breaking the Ties That Bound. The Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2011), pp. 103–04; Susan Morrissey, Suicide and the Body Politics in Imperial Russia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 134–35.

78.Barbara A. Engel, Breaking the Ties That Bound, pp. 104, 168–71.

79.Abby M. Schrader, Languages of the Lash. Corporal Punishment and Identity in Imperial Russia, pp. 164–68.

80.Cited in A. V. Belova, “Chetyre vozrasta zhenshchiny”: povsednevnaia zhizn’ russkoi provintsial’noi dvorianki XVIII-serediny XIX veka (St Petersburg: Aleteiia, 2010), p. 291.

81.Cited in Barbara A. Engel, Breaking the Ties That Bound, p. 104.

82.RLÍP, II, 293–321.

83.Golos, 16 March 1879, no. 75, 2.

84.Resheniia Ugolovnogo kassatsionnogo departamenta Pravitel’stvuiuschego Senata za 1869 god (St Petersburg: tipografiia II oteleniia, 1869), no. 551; V. A. Veremenko, ‘Semeinye nesoglasiia i razdel’noe zhitel’stvo suprugov: problema zakonodatel’nogo regulirovaniia v Rossii vo vtoroi polovine XIX – nachale XX veka’, Dialog so vremenem, 18 (2007), 334–35.

85.Ulozhenie o nakazaniyakh ugolovnykh i ispravitel’nykh, pp. 741–42 (article 1922).

86.RLÍP, I, 126–33.

87.E. N. Anuchin, Issledovaniia o protsente soslannykh v Sibir’, pp. 30–31, 41. See also on female criminality in nineteenth-century Russia: Stephen L. Frank, ‘Narratives within Numbers: Women, Crime and Juridical Statistics in Imperial Russia, 1834–1913’, Russian Review, 55 (1996), 541–66.

88.Stephen P. Frank, Crime, Cultural Conflict, and Justice in Rural Russia, 1856–1914, pp. 166–67 (table 5.2).

89.There is a considerable literature on property law; seeW. G. Wagner, Marriage, Property, and Law in Late Imperial Russia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984); M. L. Marrese, A Woman’s Kingdom; S. V. Pachman, Obychnoe grazhdanskoe pravo v Rossii (Moscow: Zertsalo, 2003).

90.E. Nagibin, ‘Na volostnom sude’, Permskie gubernskie vedomosti, 6 March 1885, no. 19, 121.

91.TKV, II, 444, no. 30.

92.TKV, I, 287, no. 10, 341, no. 5; II, 275, no. 26; IV, 64, no. 36; VI, 72, no. 88, 98, no. 5, 388.

93.See Barbara A. Engel, Between the Fields and the City: Women, Work, and Family in Russia, 1861–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 64–101, 166–98; Marianna Muravyeva, ‘Gosudarstvennoe prizrenie prostitutsii v predrevolutsionnom Peterburge’, in Pavel Romanov and Elena Smirnova-Iarskaia, eds, Nuzhda i poriadok: istoriia sotsial’noi raboty v Rossii, XX v. (Saratov: Nauchnaia kniga, 2005), pp. 158–204.

94.N. A. Nekliudov, Rukovodstvo k osobennoi chiste russkogo ugolovnogo prava, 2 vols (St Petersburg: Tipografiia P. P. Merkur’eva, 1876), I, 406–09. See also Aleksandr V. Lokhvitskii, Kurs russkogo ugolovnogo prava, pp. 580–81.

95.N. Kostrov, Iuridicheskie obychai, pp. 24–26.

96.N. Kostrov, Iuridicheskie obychai, pp. 26–27.

97.See on wife-selling in England: Bridget Hill, Women, Work and Sexual Politics in Eighteenth-century England (London: Routledge, 1994); E. P. Thompson, ‘The Selling of Wives’, in his Customs in Common (London: Merlin Press, 1991), pp. 404–66.

98.‘Prodazha zheny’, Novoe vremia, 26 February (10 March) 1879, no. 1076, 3.

99.‘S. Stanislavchik, Vinnitskii uezd’, Russkie vedomosti, 28 May 1884, no. 146, 2.

100.‘Kupchaia na chuzhuiu zhenu’, Stavropol’skie gubernskie vedomosti, 9 October 1876, no. 41, 6.

101.‘Prodazha zheny’, Moskovskie vedomosti, 10 April 1884, no. 98, 2.

102.‘V gazetu Russkii kur’er soobshchaiut iz Buguchara’, Golos, 25 May 1880, no. 144, 4.

103.Barbara A. Engel, Between the Fields and the City, pp. 25–26; Christine Worobec, Peasant Russia: Family and Community in the Post-Emancipation Period (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 188–94; Beatrice Farnsworth, ‘The Litigious Daughter-in-Law: Family Relations in Rural Russia in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century’, Slavic Review, 45 (1986), 49–64.