Asked shortly after the revolution about how she viewed the new government, Tatiana Varsher replied, “With the wide-open eyes of a historian.” Her countrywoman, Zinaida Zhemchuzhnaia, expressed a similar need to take note: “I want to write about the way those events were perceived and reflected in the humble and distant corner of Russia that was the Cossack town of Korenovskaia.” What these women witnessed and experienced, and what they were moved to describe, is part of the extraordinary portrait of life in revolutionary Russia presented in this book. A collection of life stories of Russian women in the first half of the twentieth century, In the Shadow of Revolution brings together the testimony of Soviet citizens and émigrés, intellectuals of aristocratic birth and Soviet milkmaids, housewives and engineers, Bolshevik activists and dedicated opponents of the Soviet regime. In literary memoirs, oral interviews, personal dossiers, public speeches, and letters to the editor, these women document their diverse experience of the upheavals that reshaped Russia in the first half of this century.
As is characteristic of twentieth-century Russian women’s autobiographies, these life stories take their structure not so much from private events like childbirth or marriage as from great public events. Accordingly the collection is structured around the events these women see as touchstones: the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War of 1918-20; the switch to the New Economic Policy in the 1920s and collectivization; and the Stalinist society of the 1930s, including the Great Terror. Edited by two preeminent historians of Russia and the Soviet Union, the volume includes introductions that investigate the social historical context of these women’s lives as well as the structure of their autobiographical narratives.