Russia as a bride

October 10, 2005

Not mother Russia but 'bride Russia' is a central theme in the work of many twentieth-century Russian writers and thinkers. The political developments that occurred in twentieth-century Russia, gave rise to a tendency to view the home country as an inaccessible bride held captive by the Russian state. This is what Dutch researcher Ellen Rutten contends in her Ph.D. thesis.

From the last Romanov tsar to Putin - all Russian leaders since 1900 have at some time or other been portrayed in the literature as an angry husband who tyrannises poor female Russia. In the majority of cases these images mainly revolve around the role of the Russian intellectual elite, the intelligentsia, who consider themselves to be the bridegroom of that same female Russia. That is what Rutten discovered during her research into the image of Russia in literary, philosophical, publicist and esoteric texts.

Various early twentieth-century writers and thinkers compared the elite's role with respect to Russia and the Russian people to that of a lover who fails to develop a relationship with his female beloved. This was the outcome of an identity crisis that arose in the nineteenth century and which became increasingly more serious during the course of the twentieth century. Rutten reveals how this gender metaphor continued to persist throughout the twentieth century.

Putin as a tyrannical husband

Meanwhile the image of Russia as a bride is a favourite subject for ridicule and parody in modern Russian novels and poems, but also, for example, in recent films and song lyrics. The role of the tyrannical husband is assigned to Russian rulers from Lenin to Putin; and that of the failing lover to the artistic elite from before the revolution or the dissidents of the 1970s.

Rutten's research demonstrates that the sexual dimension of the metaphor in question has become increasingly important during the course of the twentieth century. Popular modern writers introduce Russia as a young woman of flesh and blood. For them confrontations with the state or the intellectual elite are a purely sensual encounter, in which everything revolves around whether or not an orgasm is achieved. Whereas in the case of an early twentieth-century poet, such as Aleksandr Blok, Russia was still mainly portrayed as a silent, exalted female form, Vladimir Sorokin characterises Russia as a heroine whose physical attractiveness and sexual exploits take centre stage.
Ellen Rutten's research was funded by NWO.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to