Introduction: Revising Old Narratives — Masculinity and Autocracy in the Nineteenth Century

  • Rebecca Friedman


Nostalgically recalling his days as a Kazan’ University student in the 1840s, Nicholas Osviannikov described how the university constituted ‘a cherished dream of every young boy’ and how ‘a young man could instinctually feel that here he would experience everything he needed for his future conscious life.’1 To another student memoirist, the university seemed ‘an enchanted island in the middle of the sea … where one experiences a baptism of the soul.’2 A third student recalled that his admission to Moscow University was ‘the first notable achievement in my life, not to mention the most important … It indicated an entrance into a new age and a new walk of life … Childhood had now passed … We became adults … With such pride I wore my [university] blue color and sword, the accessories of an adult — man!’3


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  1. 1.
    Nicholas Ovsiannikov, ‘Zapiski studenta kazan’skogo universiteta,’ Russkii arkhiv 12, no. 3 (1909): 469.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I. I. Mikhailov, ‘Universitet v 1840-kh godakh,’ Russkaia starina 10/11 (October/November 1899): 50.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boris Nicholaevich Chicherin, Vospominaniia B. N. Chicherina (Moscow: Moscow University Press, 1991), 26.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dan Healey and I make a similar point in our Conclusion to Russian Masculinities in History and Culture, ed. Barbara Clements, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Healey (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 223–35.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    There have been two recent collections, focused on the study of masculinity: Russian Masculinities in History and Culture; and Serguei Oushakine, ed., O muzhestvennosti (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2002).Google Scholar
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  11. 6.
    Historians, sociologists, and literary scholars alike make this point. Sociologist R. W. Connell outlines the multiplicity of masculinity in Masculinities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). See also S. A. Smith, ‘Masculinity in Transition: Peasant Migrants to Late-Imperial St Petersburg.’ In Russian Masculinities in History and Culture, 94–112.Google Scholar
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    This body of scholarship is vast and ever-expanding and includes: J. A. Magan and James Walvin, eds., Manliness and Morality: Middle-Class Masculinity in Britain and America, 1800–1940 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987); Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality; Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor;Google Scholar
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  23. 11.
    This wording is from Hull, Sexuality, State, and Civil Society, 1. Historians of later periods have begun to address this question in the Russian context. For a discussion of the negotiation between the state and professionals, see in particular Laura Engelstein, ‘Combined Underdevelopment: Discipline and the Law in Imperial and Soviet Russia,’ American Historical Review 98, no. 2 (April 1993): 338–53;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  25. 12.
    Within German universities, which were controlled by state interests to a far greater degree than their counterparts in France or England, the mechanisms for control over the social lives of students were diminishing by the early nineteenth century. Never as rigorous in molding students’ behavior as Russian universities, German universities moved toward even more formal autonomy from the state. Although the degree of autonomy differed from state to state, when the University of Berlin was founded in 1810, William von Humboldt published a memorandum that created more distance between state and university. This changing dynamic is discussed in Friederich Paulsen, German Education: Past and Present (London, 1908), 187.Google Scholar
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    Tosh, A Man’s Place; and John Tosh, ‘What Should Historians do with Masculinity? Reflections on Nineteenth-century Britain,’ History Workshop Journal 38 (1994): 179–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Biblioteka dlia chteniia, edited by Osip Senkovskii, a former St Petersburg University professor and state censor, provided its audience with a wide variety of authors and subjects (it has been compared to Reader’s Digest), ranging from serious literary efforts to selections of the latest Parisian fashion. The journal attempted, as historian Marker remarks, to ‘define and shape the Russian public’ in this era. Gary Marker, Publishing, Printing, and the Origins of Intellectual Life in Russia, 1700–1800 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 101.Google Scholar
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    In the 1830s, Severnaia pchela boasted a readership of 7,000, as did Biblioteka dlia chteniia at its peak in 1837. Charles A. Rudd, Fighting Words: Imperial Censorship and the Russian Press, 1804–1906 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), 74.Google Scholar
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    Of all of the military training institutions on Russian soil — including the elite Corps of Pages, the Noble Regiment, the School of Guards Sub-Ensigns, the Engineer Artillery schools, and the Cadet Corps — the Cadet Corps was both the largest network and the most prestigious. In 1825 there were five schools, 400 instructors, and 5,300 students, while by 1855 the numbers had exploded, there were 23 schools, 1,400 instructors and 8,300 students enrolled in the network. John Curtiss, Russian Army under Nicholas I (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1965), 179–80.Google Scholar
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    Jane Burbank and David Ransel, eds., Imperial Russia: New Histories for the Empire (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), xiv.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Rebecca Friedman 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Friedman
    • 1
  1. 1.Florida International UniversityUSA

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