The Soviet Gender Contract and Sexual Politics: From Revolution to Soviet Patriarchy

Thursday, March 29, 2018
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Ella Weed Room, 223 Milbank Hall, Barnard College

Please join us for a talk with Elena Zdravomyslova (Political Science, European University in St Petersburg).

This lecture is devoted to the transformations of Soviet sexual politics, the ideology of womanhood and sexuality. Over the decades following the revolution, the emancipatory and utopian nature of early Bolshevik sexual politics was accommodated, reformulated, and conquered by the Soviet state patriarchy. One of the cornerstones of the communist ideology of gender equality was the idea that sexual revolution was necessary to crush the patriarchal family and the oppression of sexual control over the human being. In the mid 1920s the Communist project of sexual revolution became an arena of ideological struggle, and finally it was buried by conservative forces that framed it as excessive, bourgeois, decadent and even anti-communist. Sexual revolution thus was ‘betrayed’ and ‘repressed’, and the triumph of the patriarchal ideology of sexual life became important contribution for the further consolidation of a new gender contract that relied on working mothers. This working-mother contract constructed the Soviet woman’s citizenship as a human mechanism for the reproduction of citizens and material goods.

Elena Zdravomyslova is a sociologist and political scientist at the European University in St. Petersburg where she is the co-director of the Gender Studies program. Zdravomyslova has held research positions at at UC Berkeley (California), the New School for Social Research (New York), the Collegium for Advanced Studies (Helsinki), the Alexanteri Institute (Helsinki), and the Central European University (Budapest). She has been awarded funding from the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Böll Foundation, the Central European University, the Finnish Academy of Sciences, and others. Among many publications in leading Russian and international academic journals, Zdravomyslova is also the author of public scholarship on gender in Russia. In this capacity, she has written two “Gender for Dummies” books (Gender dlia chainikov and Gender dlia chainikov 2) and has produced an introductory web series on gender for


The Women in Revolution Lecture Series:

To mark the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution and its direct aftermath, the Barnard Slavic Department, along with the Harriman Institute, the Barnard Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the William E. Harkins Colloquium at the Columbia Slavic Department present an interdisciplinary lecture series, “Women in Revolution.” The series interrogates the role of gender and sexuality in Revolutionary and early-Soviet Russia. Leading scholars from the U.S. and Russia will investigate the fraught relationship between the revolutionary ideals of gender equality and the eventual entrenchment of a new Soviet power system. The series is free and open to the public, with talks intended to appeal to a broad, non-specialist audience. All events in the series will take place in the Ella Weed Room, 223 Milbank Hall, on the Barnard College campus from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.

January 31 - Elizabeth Wood (History, MIT)
“Mobilizing, Silencing, and Exploiting Women after the Russian Revolution: Ambivalence about Gender Difference”

March 8 - Elena Gapova (Sociology, University of Western Michigan)
“The Russian Revolution and Women's Liberation: Making the Soviet Gender Contract”

March 29 - Elena Zdravomyslova (Political Science, European University in St Petersburg)
“The Soviet Gender Contract and Sexual Politics: From Revolution to Soviet Patriarchy”

April 5 - Christina Kiaer (Art History, Northwestern University)
“Revolution Every Day: Early Soviet Posters and the Propagandizing of Women”

All events: 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Ella Weed Room, 223 Milbank Hall, Barnard College

The series is organized by Irina Denischenko and Bradley Gorski with help from Erica Drennan and Milica Ilicic and is sponsored by the Harriman Institute, the Departments of Slavic and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, and the William E. Harkins Colloquium at the Slavic Department at Columbia University.