Katherine Pickering Antonova

View on Amazon

Katherine Pickering Antonova’s An Ordinary Marriage: The World of a Gentry Family in Provincial Russia (Oxford University Press, 2012) investigates the Chikhachevs, members of the middling nobility in the pre-emancipation era. The book’s principal characters are Andrei, a graphomaniacal paterfamilias who (conveniently for historians) enlists his entire family in diary keeping and presides over the education of his son and serfs with love, moral clarity, and despotic meticulousness. And Natalia, the indefatigable khoziaika, who runs the estate, manages the budget, negotiates with serfs, and suffers from numerous hysterical ailments. Andrei and Natalia’s children, the entirely average Aleksei and almost wholly undocumented Aleksandra, round out the family portrait, as does Natalia’s brother and their neighbor, the loquacious Yakov Chernavin (predictably, since no nineteenth-century story of Russian provincial family life is complete without an eccentric and omnipresent bachelor uncle).

Like any well-executed microhistory, An Ordinary Marriage looks intensively in a seemingly narrow place in order to get answers to large questions. Close readings of the diaries, articles, and other personal papers left by the Chikhachevs produce fascinating insights about the world of Russia’s gentry: their division of labor, views on serfdom, attitudes toward children and childhood, models of education, habits and feelings surrounding death and mourning, and approaches to medicine and etiology. We also learn about more pleasantly mundane yet highly instructive aspects of middling noble life: literary and philosophical tastes, home remedies, patronage systems, leisure, and everyday religious practice. While Kate explains that she does not see the Chikhachevs as representative, she nonetheless shows convincingly that their values and domestic arrangements were accepted — viewed as “normal” — by provincial Russia. Neighbors, for example, did not worry that Natalia managed the family estate and villages comprised of hundreds of serfs while her husband raised their son and wrote articles at home. The book’s findings, therefore, constitute a significant contribution not only to the study of imperial Russia but also to European gender history, economic history, the history of emotions, and childhood studies.

{ 0 comments }

Ivo MijnssenThe Quest for an Ideal Youth in Putin’s Russia I: Back To Our Future! History, Modernity, and Patriotism According to Nashi, 2005-2013

August 12, 2014

The Soviet Union once boasted of its unparalleled political participation among youth. Belonging to outwardly political organizations, these Octobrists, Pioneers, and Komsomoltsy often represented the spirit of Soviet youth. They were engaged, well-informed, and enthusiastic about their country. In his book, Back To Our Future! History, Modernity, and Patriotism According to Nashi, 2005-2013, Ivo Mijnssen fills [...]

Read the full article →

Edmund LevinA Child of Christian Blood: Murder and Conspiracy in Tsarist Russia: The Beilis Blood Libel

July 13, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] There is a lot of nasty mythology about Jews, but surely the most heinous and ridiculous is the bizarre notion that “they” (as if Jews were all the same) have long been in the habit of murdering Christian children, draining them of blood, and mixing said blood into Passover matzo. We [...]

Read the full article →

Filip SlaveskiThe Soviet Occupation of Germany: Hunger, Mass Violence and the Struggle for Peace, 1945–1947

July 2, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] For over three years, from June 1941 to late 1944,  the German Army and related Nazi forces (the SS, occupation troops, administrative organizations) conducted a Vernichtungskrieg–a war of annihilation–against the Soviet Union on Soviet soil. The Germans killed millions upon millions of Red Army soldiers, Communist Party officials, and ordinary Soviet citizens. [...]

Read the full article →

Sener AkturkRegimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey

June 11, 2014

What processes must take place in order for countries to radically redefine who is a citizen? Why was Russia able to finally remove ethnicity from internal passports after failing to do so during seven decades of Soviet rule? What led German leaders to finally grant guest workers from Southern and Eastern Europe the path to [...]

Read the full article →

Anne Gorsuch All This is Your World: Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad After Stalin

May 22, 2014

Thirty years after a trip to the GDR, Soviet cardiologist V.I. Metelitsa still remembered mistakenly trying to buy a dress for a ten-year-old daughter in a maternity shop: ‘In our country I couldn’t even imagine that such a specialized shop could exist’.” Well-stocked shops, attractive cafes, and medieval streets were among the many discoveries that [...]

Read the full article →

Paula A. MichaelsLamaze: An International History

May 16, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] The twentieth-century West witnessed a revolution in childbirth. Before that time, most women gave birth at home and were attended by family members and midwives. The process was usually terribly painful for the mother. Beginning in the nineteenth century, however, doctors started to “medicalize” childbirth. Physicians began to think of ways to ease [...]

Read the full article →

Anna FishzonFandom, Authenticity, and Opera: Mad Acts and Letter Scenes in Fin-de-Siècle Russia

April 17, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] Pretty much everyone understands what is called the “Cult of Celebrity,” particularly as it manifests itself in the arts. It’s a mentality that privileges the actor over the act, the singer over the song, the painter over the painting, and so on. The Cult of Celebrity’s essence is a fanatical [...]

Read the full article →

Olga GershensonThe Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe

February 5, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Jewish Studies] Fifty years of Holocaust screenplays and films –largely unknown, killed by censors, and buried in dusty archives – come to life in Olga Gershenson’s The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe (Rutgers UP, 2013). As she ventures across three continents to uncover the stories behind these films, we follow her adventures, eager [...]

Read the full article →

Waitman BeornMarching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus

January 11, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] The question of Wehrmacht complicity in the Holocaust is an old one. What might be called the “received view” until recently was that while a small number of German army units took part in anti-Jewish atrocities, the great bulk of the army neither knew about nor participated in the Nazi genocidal [...]

Read the full article →