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Breaking the Ties That BoundThe Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia$
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Barbara Alpern Engel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449512

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449512.001.0001

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Disciplining Laboring Husbands

Disciplining Laboring Husbands

(p.101) 4 Disciplining Laboring Husbands
Breaking the Ties That Bound

Barbara Alpern Engel

Cornell University Press

This chapter sheds light on attitudes toward domestic violence in Russia, as articulated by the men and women whose voices have been preserved in the chancellery's files. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the norms governing the behavior of the laboring classes had come to differ markedly from those of their privileged fellow countrymen. Although privileged men might also physically abuse their wives, such treatment of women had become unacceptable for men of their status, as evidenced by their unwillingness to acknowledge it. The chapter explores how the concerns of an influential sector of educated society, mainly men trained in the law, intersected with the actions of women of the laboring classes to affect the interpretation of Russian law. In the postreform period, such men came to regard domestic violence as a problem that merited public intervention. They were affected not only by concerns particular to the Russian context but also by the efforts of women in villages and towns to put an end to domestic abuse. The actions of both led to an expansion of the venues to which women might appeal for relief; a gradual reinterpretation of Russian law in women's favor; and by the early twentieth century, an evolution in the attitudes of chancellery officials themselves.

Keywords:   domestic violence, married women, imperial Russia, Russian law

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