11156967_10153155123818563_1633950810_nIt has already been two weeks since I officially joined the WeChangEd project as its sixth team member, aiming to cover Russian and Eastern European women editors. The phenomenon of women periodicals and their editorial agendas have always interested me keenly, and I am inspired by the fact that I will dedicate the next few years to studying this subject in all its complexity. As the only team member who did not major in literature, I will do my best to contribute to the project from the alternative perspectives I obtained through my degrees in Philosophy, Political Science, and European Studies. Before joining the project, I was working as a cultural editor for a woman’s periodical, so I am aware of the constant desire of editors to raise controversial issues and push the agenda one step further. Therefore, I have no doubts that this investigation opens brand-new horizons for discovering the role that periodicals and their female editors actually played in shaping the transnational public sphere in the modern period.

Just like the projects of Eloise, Charlotte, and Christina, my individual PhD research will serve as one of the case studies for the WeChangEd project. Apart from discovering the array of the female editors in Ukraine, Poland, and Baltic states, I will focus on Russian periodicals of 19th and early 20th centuries and particularly on the ideals of femininity that they were promoting.

The changing view of womanhood was a prominent topic in the public debates of the long 19thcentury. Women as consumers of fashion, women as ‘angels of the house’, women as citizens: all these notions of Western origin were broadly popularized in the Russian context due to conscious editorial efforts. Regarding femininity as a socially constructed concept, I will study the Russian editorial strategies of mastering the female roles throughout the 19th century and explore their relationship to those promoted by French, German, and British periodicals.[1]

Starting with the fashion magazines, I will try to show how the female editors introduced a variety of novel definitions of femininity to the Russian discourse. By reviewing the Western (primarily Parisian) fashion tendencies and engaging the foreign correspondents, they were transmitting the new female roles that could hardly have originated from the Russian culture. Simultaneously, they were constructing the original national version of fashionista, putting her an the equal footing with her European prototype.[2] Both by relying on Parisian authority and by contrasting themselves to it, women editors in Moscow and St.Petersburg were developing their own standpoint and thus contributing to the establishment of the transnational women’s ‘responsibility zone’ within the public sphere. (Elisaveta Safonova’s Vaza, Sofia Mei’s Modnyi Magazin, Natalia Utilova’s Moda: Zhurnal dlia svetskih liudei, Maria Koshelevskaia’s Vestnik Parizhskih Mod, Adel Goppe’s Modnyi Svet, Modistka)

As periodicals were gradually diversifying, Russian women’s magazines of the 19th century were popularizing another contemporary Western European idea – the cult of domesticity.[3] The first generation of female editors promoted the domestic vision of femininity in its purest form (Alexandra Ishymova’s Luchi and Zviozdochka, Olga Miropolskaia’s Avrora). They imported a transnational domestic ideal by sharing foreign advices, informing about manners and tastes of European women, and combining it with Russian peculiarities (e.g. Orthodoxy). Ironically, at the same time as they were popularizing domestic values, they were also ‘creating a counter-role for women outside the home’.[4] During the second half of the century, women used their editorship as a means of projecting the domestic ideal of femininity onto the public domain. Gradually including new ideas as a prolongation of the conventional rhetoric, editors contributed to broadening the national vocabulary on femininity, while remaining within the traditional paradigm.[5] Adelaida Simonovich (Detskiy Sad), Sofia Bogelman (Zhenschina), Maria Boguslavskaia (Drug Zhenschin) called for woman’s education as mean of fulfillment of the female calling. Maria Vernadskaia (Ekonomicheskiy Ukazatel’) and Evgeniia Konradi (Nedelia) covered the women’s question in their periodicals targeted at both women and men. Rather than countering the domestic ideals directly, they challenged them from within, by transposing traditional female virtues onto the public field, popularizing the image of the educated women, and covering the European developments in this regard.

Being excited about the topic I am working on, I am very much looking forward to the coming years – with all the insights to reveal and ideas to share with you!

(19/04/2016)

[1] In line with the project, ‘dominant linguistic tradition’ means here English, French, and German languages.

[2] C. Ruane, ‘Spreading the Word: The Development of the Russian Fashion Press.’ In Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers, Ed. Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2008, 40.

[3] Clements, Barbara Evans. A History of Women in Russia: From Earliest Times to the Present. Indiana U. 2012.

[4] C. Ruane, “Spreading the Word,” 2008.

[5] V. Smeyukha, Otechestvennyie zhenskiie zhyrnaly, 2002.