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Russian Peasant Women Who Refused to Marry

Spasovite Old Believers in the 18th-19th Centuries

by: John Bushnell
published by: Indiana University Press
pp: 400
ISBN: 9780253029652: Hardback - 9780253029966: Paperback
price: Hardback / £70.00 - Paperback / £33.00

Book's frontpage

John Bushnell’s analysis of previously unstudied church records and provincial archives reveals surprising marriage patterns in Russian peasant villages in the 18th and 19th centuries. For some villages the rate of unmarried women reached as high as 70 percent. The religious group most closely identified with female peasant marriage aversion was the Old Believer Spasovite covenant, and Bushnell argues that some of these women might have had more agency in the decision to marry than more common peasant tradition ordinarily allowed. Bushnell explores the cataclysmic social and economic impacts these decisions had on the villages, sometimes dragging entire households into poverty and ultimate dissolution. In this act of defiance, this group of socially, politically, and economically subordinated peasants went beyond traditional acts of resistance and reaction.


Table of contents

Introduction: What is the Opposite of Eureka?
1. The Moral Economy of Russian Serf Marriage, 1580s-1750s: Serf Marriage Unregulated
2. Nobles Discover Peasant Women’s Marriage Aversion
3. The Outer Limits of Female Marriage Aversion: Kuplia Parish in the 18th Century
4. Kuplia Parish, 1830-1850: Separation, Collapse, Resumption of Marriage
5. Spasovites: the Covenant of Despair
6. Baki: Resistance to Marriage on a Forest Frontier
7. Steksovo and Sergei Mikhailovich Golitsyn: Marriage Aversion in a Context of Prosperity

About the Author

John Bushnell is Professor of History at Northwestern University. He is author of Mutiny Amid Repression: Russian Soldiers in the Revolution of 1905-1906 and editor (with Ben Eklof and Larissa Zakharova) of Russia’s Great Reforms, 1855–1881.


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