The ‘teeth’ label on a Russian feminist book… I can’t help but be surprised

I stayed in Russia from 30 June to 1 August last year. This article is a record of what I saw and felt at the time. [기자말]

When it comes to Russia’s representative tourist destinations, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the Winter Palace usually come to mind. However, if I had to pick a tourist destination that best shows today’s Russia, I would choose the Petropavlovsk Fortress. Above the prison where the revolutionaries who fought against the Tsar died, the spire of the cathedral where the remains of the Tsar clan, the Romanovs, were buried, towering over the prison. Two seemingly opposing heritages are remembered in the same place, and this is a summary of modern Russia.

When I first visited Russia, I did not know how to interpret the coexistence of these contradictory images. Unlike the Soviet Union, which had atheism as the state religion, today’s Russia encourages religious activities represented by the Russian Orthodox Church, recalls the Romanov imperial family, which was the pinnacle of the Orthodox Church, as well as conserves conservative religious values ​​with ‘Russian’ values ​​in contrast to the West. to justify anti-democratic and oppressive policies.

Today’s Russia is a completely different country from the post-revolutionary Soviet Union, even compared to the state capitalist Soviet Union of Stalin’s time. It felt strange that today’s Russia, which justifies its militaristic policy by setting up religious and conservative values ​​as its traditional values, not only allows, but sometimes even encourages, the commemoration of the revolution and the Soviet heritage, the result of the revolution.

Putin’s ‘intention’


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"Uncomfortable Women: A History of Feminism"A 19-year-old mark is attached to a feminist book called

A feminist book titled “Uncomfortable Women: A History of Feminism” has a 19-year-old mark attached to it.
ⓒ Seungyeon Lee

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It was difficult to find books with strong political orientations such as feminism and socialism in bookstores in Russia visited during the war, and in most bookstores, corners such as “sociology” and “politics” were very small or nonexistent. In particular, very few “feminist” books were marked with the 19-gold mark, making it difficult for feminism to play the role of traditional resistance to militarism in today’s Russia.

However, even in the midst of this, the books of Russian revolutionary thinkers such as Lenin and Trotsky were displayed in conspicuous places in many cases, and even while many former Soviet countries were demolishing Lenin statues in anti-communism, statues of Lenin could be seen everywhere in Russia. . However, Lenin was also a person who criticized Russianism and defended the right to self-determination of all peoples, including those that suffered under tsaristism, while also criticizing imperialist warfare and calling for a shift in the pursuit of war into class struggle. Why would Putin’s Russia remember the revolutionaries who propagated anti-internationalist revolutionary ideas?

It was only after a series of museum visits that I realized that it was because it did not matter at all what revolutionary thought was in the writing of Russian history today. In the Museum of Political History in Petersburg, there was a new exhibition hall on the Red and White Civil War that did not exist before 2009. Kolontai’s ‘special exhibition’, a thinker who actively advocated for women’s liberation, which was an important part of the revolutionary values, was dusting in an alcove far smaller than the Jeokbaek Civil War exhibition hall.

Despite the economic difficulties and political instability that continued after the revolution, Russians are very proud of their belief that they defended the values ​​of the revolution against Nazi Germany, who cried for racial cleansing of not only Jews but also Slavs. However, at the Victory Museum in Moscow, which I visited during the exhibition, the victory in the ‘Great Fatherland War (World War II)’ was portrayed as merely the glory of a ‘Russian’, that is, a white Russian male. It seemed insignificant that so many peoples and women fought against Nazi Germany in the belief that they defended the values ​​of the revolutionary Soviet Union.

Even more absurd was what happened at the Museum of Modern History. The fall of the Romanov dynasty, which sparked a revolution through tyranny, is portrayed as a tragic event, and it was absurd that Lenin hardly appeared even though it was dealing with the history from the late 19th century. It was.

The coffin, oddly enough, makes absolutely no mention of Stalin’s policies and displays rare items from all over the world, including Japanese samurai armor, which aroused curiosity. It was said that so many countries had given the Soviet Union all kinds of precious gifts. There was no mention of the purge, let alone the fact that Stalin actively regressed revolutionary ideas such as women’s liberation and national self-determination, and Stalin was remembered only as a leader who gave the Soviets a glorious era.

The Soviet Union has already become something indelible in the minds of Russians. Therefore, Putin’s Russia, instead of forgetting it, uses only the image of the Soviet Union, a power on par with the United States, to inspire patriotism and justify its militaristic orientation.

The common denominator of ‘father’

Contrary to popular belief, Russia was not a mono-ethnic state of ‘Russians’ (Slavs of Russian descent) even before the revolution, and Russia is a representative multi-ethnic country in which a vast variety of ethnic groups live together. One of the reasons why Russians don’t like war is the fact that you can often find people of Ukrainian blood in Russia and people of Russian blood in Ukraine.

Most Russians are reluctant to even mention war in fear of what could happen if they say something wrong, and it is difficult to know exactly what percentage of Russians are in favor of war now, as national surveys are the mainstay. However, what I clearly felt during my visit to Russia was that the current ‘special military operation’ is not receiving the same absolute support as in 2014, when Crimea was annexed without war. It seemed difficult, even for those who favored war, not to feel uneasy about aiming a gun at the people of a country who were like brothers.

However, in the current historiography, which calls only ‘Russians’ as the object of exclusive ‘glory’, the fact that the Ukrainians were also brothers who founded the Soviet Union and fought the Nazis with them was forgotten. And when the ‘glory of the past’ is called as the object to which the nation should return, the attachment to the powerful and macho dictator who seems to reproduce the glory is bound to grow stronger. This is probably why Putin actively honors not only Lenin but also Stalin.

The image reminiscent of the Soviet Union, the result of the revolution, and the conflicting image of the Tsar dynasty, who exercised undisputed power while carrying religion, can be remembered together. This is because it can be remembered through the common denominator of the image of ‘father’ who gives the era of ‘glory’ to Russian/Soviet people.

The need to sell feminist books for 19 gold, the achievements of female Bolshevik leaders such as Kolontai being forgotten, and the failure to actively honor female war heroes or national heroes are also some of the intentions to solidify the domination of a powerful ‘father’. can be seen as

For Russians, who have lived a difficult history, from the Mongol rule, the attacks of neighboring countries immediately after the revolution, the World War and the Cold War, to the sudden infiltration of capitalism, the investigation of foreign powers and invasions of foreign values ​​and the image of a powerful father in the face of such aggression. nothing familiar

And Putin knows it. The naked and macho images of the ‘Putin Calendar’, which become a topic of discussion if forgotten, are calculated images from the intention of pursuing a powerful ‘father’ politics once again in a militarized country. However, it is a matter of contemplation as to how long the rule of ‘father’ can be justified by appealing to the memories of the past.

(*Continued from next article.)

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