Peeling Away the Veils

A Sexual Revolution hit the western youth in the 1960s but it was not until 1980s that the Soviet Union became open with the idea of a sexual revolution. This new topic of sexual revolution mostly involved the Russian female citizens and their bodies. Glasnost was introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in later half of the 1980s which is a policy that called for the increase of openness and transparency in government institutions and activities within the Soviet Union.  The title of this particular blog come from what James von Geldern said in essay about Female Sexuality in 1985 Russia, “First by peeling away the veils concealing matters long obvious to any Soviet woman, and then unveiling her body, glasnost made women the object, and sometimes of the agent of a public debate whose ultimate goal was liberation.”

By the end of the 1980s the women talked and acted in the public environment changed critically. The first appearance of female sexuality was taken as a “taboo” (as Geldern states) which another words the subject of prostitution. For instance in the 1987 movie Intergirl, which was the first movie In the Soviet Union that portrayed prostitution.  The main character was Tatyana who was Soviet nurse who is was underpaid at her hospital job, so she turns a prostitute catering to international tourists. She becomes better off because of this and is able to help support her mother. Tatyana accepts a marriage proposal to escape from the grim Soviet reality of her life. But even being married to a decent man abroad, she still suffers from being labeled as an ex-Soviet prostitute, and her new life is full of new troubles.

In the United States the view of sexuality is much more open and accepted than in the Soviet society.  For example, in Geldern essay, “Yet when American talk show host Phil Donahue created the ground-breaking TELEMOST, uniting audiences Soviet Russia and America to discuss weighty issues such as arms control and human rights, only one issue rendered Russians inarticulate. When the issue of sex arose, they could only sputter “We have no sex here,” using the foreign word “sex” for a concept totally absent in their own language.” Thankfully for females in today’s Russian society females are able to express their sexuality much more openly.

Intergirl Movie Poster of “Intergirl”

Information and photo from the website of Seventeen Moments of Russian History Essay by: James von Geldern

The Gapping Game of Russia’s Generations

After the Cold War it allowed a whole new generation of Russians has grown up.  These young adults of Russia in 1968 are not like their western culture counter parts of the United States and France. They were not involved with Vietnam, involved in the new sexual revolution, and lastly experimenting with illegal drugs (Geldern).  Instead the Russian youth were calm and focusing their energy on “healthy activities prescribed by the Komsomol, or other relatively harmless occupations (Geldern).” This was a different type of Russian generation or could be considered a less stress generation because “Soviet children were no longer subject to the depredations suffered by their parents, and the displacements caused by collectivization or war (Geldern).” Different things became important to this generation such as leisure activates and were able to spend their income more freely. One of the most bickering topics during this time period was not war, but about new fashion fads and music that these young Russians had. The music that started to rise in western cultures was rock-n-roll. Many records of this new form of music tended to be smuggled in the country. These new styles of clothing and music brought on what is known as the second economy. This second economy had an illegal part (black market) and legal part. “The second economy of the USSR included economic activities that supplemented the command, or first, economy.” This was huge change in the way of life for Russian people. The younger generation was allowed to grow up in environment that contained no war and less stressful hardships. The 1960s brought a generation gap to Russia which could be considered as a good thing!   

 Vladimir Vysotsky

 Vladimir Vysotsky a very famous Russian “bard”, actor, singer-songwriter

Information From: Seventeen Moments in Soviet History: 

Picture from:

Prisoners of GULAG Released

During the Stalin era from the 1930s to the 1950s there were Soviet forced labor camps. These labor camps held a wide range of prisoners from petty criminals to political prisoners. Political prisoners were considered to be enemies of the Soviet government.  Even some prisoners those “convicted of economic and military crimes regardless of their terms of imprisonment, women with children under 10 years of age or who were pregnant, juveniles up to age 18, men over 55 years of age and women over 50 years of age, and convicts suffering from incurable diseases (Geldom).” Unfortunately, most of the prisoners who were sent to Gulag prison camps were innocent and was not even given a trail. The first movement of post-Stalin act was issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on March 27, 1953 (Geldom).  This idea of having labor/prison camps was considered to be an old tradition used under Vladimir Lenin. On that day in March of 1953 over a million people were released from these camps.  These Russian citizens were used and abused by being put in these labor camps. The camps were used because they made significant contributions to the Soviet economy during the Stalin period because they served as a source of free labor to the economic projects. After these, all the prisoners within a three month period were released they were never really allowed to join the normal Russian society again.  Some prisoners were able to live better lives after they were released because of the secret speech of Khrushchev in February 1956 to the 20th Party of Congress. Only after this speech these prisoners were able to get rehabilitation help. Much came out of this incident including music, book, and art. One of the most famous books from this awful situation was called The Gulag Archipelago,written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This book ended up winning a Noble prize.

Aleksandr Sol (Photo from 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn photo from (Photo from

Information from: 

Author: James von Geldern

Pavel Filonov

Everyone has a different type of art that they like and Pavel Filonov in my opinion has a very unique style. Pavel Filonov is a Russian painter, graphic artist, and a poet. He was born in Moscow on January 8, 1883 (December 27, 1882 Julian Calendar) but became an orphan during his childhood. He was considered to be from a working-class background when he moved to St. Petersburg he earned his living by doing embroidery, house painting, restoring buildings and icons, and retouching up photographs. He attended the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in 1908 but did not graduate. One of the earliest works of Filonov was called A Hero and his Fate in 1909-10 which was on an oil canvas. Filonov main type of artwork was Russian folk art, primitive art, and many wall paintings.  “His paintings were executed according to his principle of sdelannost’ (a neologism: ‘madness’ or ‘craftiness’), which involved unremitting hard work on the art object leading to an extraordinarily detailed, crystalline, iridescent, apparently unstructured painterly texture; inspiration was discounted, craftsmanship exalted and the aim was the cognition of all qualities of the object, visible and invisible, down to its last atom (Milner-Gulland).”Filonov would not sell any of his art to private collectors even though he was starving. He believed that art belonged to the people. In 1925 he opened the Filovonv School which was considered to be a “formative experience even for artists who subsequently reacted against it and was a significant phenomenon in Leningrad cultural life, influencing, among others, the poet N. Zabolosky (Milner-Gulland).”  In 1912, Filovnov wrote the article The Canon and the Law, in which he expressed the principles of analytical realism, or “anti-Cubism”. “According to Filonov, Cubism represents objects using elements of their surface geometry but “analytical realists” should represent objects using elements of their inner soul.” Some of his works are Fishing Schooner, King Feast and Animals 1925, 1930 and many more others. Pavel Filonov died on December 3, 1941 during the Nazi Siege of Leningrad.   

Fishing Schooner 1912-1913

Animals 1925

Animals 1930

King Feast

Information from

Author: Robin Milner-Gulland from Grove Art Online

Pictures from: 

Rusarts Fine Art Company

Film in 1930s Russia

1930’s for Russia was considered to be the decade of social construction. Russia society was going through many changes and one was the film industry. This brought a large audience to the theaters in Russia. This change of the film industry was led by the new organization of Soiuzkino and its new chairmen Boris Shumiatkiiwhich. They were responsible for financing and production of most films during this time period. Sovkino helped strengthen ideological control over filmmaking by introducing censorship of screenplays and instituting rules for film reviews in central media. The chairmen Boris main goal was to make the film industry self-financing but highly controlled by the government. Another goal was to change the idea of the actual film to make it more “accessible”, more entertaining and enjoyable f or the audience. Another big name in Russian film is Sergei Eisenstein.  Even though film was taking a different direction the film scenarios was highly controlled by the government. Both Eisenstein and Shumiakiiwhich obstructed by the government’s controls there were other directors that liked this “new direction” of the film industry. There were two big film hits in 1934 with a large Soviet audience which were: Happy-Go-Lucky Fellows, and Vasiliev Brothers’ Chapaev.  Vasiliev Brothers’ Chapaev was based on a true story on a hero named Chapaev which was an everyday soldier that rose in command during the Civil War. The movie was based on the novel by Dmitrii Furmanov based on Chapaev’s courageous story. “Under the under his commissioner, he taught his undisciplined troops the value of order, subordination, and the primacy of the cause over the individual (Geldern).”  The change of film was able to give the Russian society a new look into the world of film and a better entertaining type of film.   

Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein


Advertisement for the film Vasiliev Brothers’ Chapaev


Blog’s Information Based off of:

Author of Above article: James von Geldem


1920s In Russia

In the early 1920s Russia began a new phase in “Kremlin leadership fluctuated between antagonistic and conciliatory attitudes perceived foes (Geldern).” The Kremlin is in Moscow and is for instance it was considered to be the Soviet Union’s “White House” or government building. The government was moved here early of 1918. In 1918 there were stricter rules places on the Russian churches, which lead to a new religious organization law in 1929 where the churches had a harder time with supporting those restrictions.  

There was a continuous shortage of grain and food, which brought many working class people to protest the way things were being ran. Stalin was in a predicament that brought the idea of using collective farms instead of peasant farms. The idea was called collectivization, which was considered to bring resentment to the churches (Geldern). Collectivization was the idea that was thought to raise the food supply by ending individual peasant farming with collective ones.  Stalin’s idea was believed to be based on to principles, “One was that large units of production, organized along the lines of industrial enterprises and with access to mechanized equipment, were far more efficient and would permit the extraction of greater surpluses than the traditional strip farming practiced by Russian peasants. The other was that kulaks represented a counterweight to Soviet power in the villages and by their very nature constituted a “class-alien” element that had to be eliminated (Geldern).” Collectivization can be considered to under the “first five year plan.”

The First five year plan was a list of economic improvements that Stalin wanted to do to advance the country’s economy. The collectivization was put in the first five year plan in 1928. All the events were a big part of the ideas of trying to improve the life of Russians and the society as a whole.   


Picture from:

Information was gathered from Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, Author: James Von Geldern:

Russia A History, Gregory L. Freeze, Third Edition.

Kornilov Affair

Kornilov was known as a hero after his escape from the Hungarian prisoner of war camp and after his escape he returned to Russia in 1916. He believed that the Petrograd Soviet was responsible for the lack of military discipline. Lavr Kornilov was an Imperial Russia general who was assigned command of Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) by the new Provisional Government. His job was the restoration of order and supporter among the troops stationed there this brought him unpopularity in the region. “This attempted putsch was an abysmal failure mainly because of the Soviet’s effective mobilization of workers and soldiers in defense of the revolution. The key defenders were armed workers organized into Red Guards, elements of the Petrograd Garrison, and railroad workers who halted the trains carrying Kornilov’s troops while they were en route to the capital.” (Siegelbaum)

In 1917, the Prime Minister Alexander Kerenski designated Kornilov to become the Commander in Chief of the army. Quickly after Kerenski appointed Kornilov as the Commander and Chief he regretted it because he believed that Kornilov wanted a military dictatorship. Both of these men have mutual lack of trust of each other which causes major problems between them. At the end of August is when Kornilov marched troops into Petetrograd commanding that the government to resign and give control to the Commander in Chief.  

“By August 31, Krymov was dead, having committed suicide, and Kornilov and several associates were under arrest. The main victor in the Kornilov Affair was the radical left, and in particular the Bolsheviks who had long warned of the danger of a counter-revolutionary thrust. Kerenskii’s authority and that of the Provisional Government were severely compromised, and the way now appeared open towards realizing Lenin’s injunction for the soviets to assume ‘all power’.” (Siegelbaum)

There are many different historian opinions about the Kornilov affair. Many believe that the Kornilov affair involved far less scheming and merely arose from a series of misunderstandings. Some struggle that Kornilov’s rebellion attempt was genuine, while others suspect that Kerensky led Kornilov into a trap.

 General Lavr Kornilov 1917

Picture from:

Quotes from: Seventeen Moments in Soviet History:

Bloody Sunday 1904

When Nicholas II took over after his the death of his father Alexander III in 1894 would have inherited at nation that was going to revolt if it was not for Lenin. By the 1900s the whole entire country of Russia was escalating out of control.  From the day that Nicholas took leadership of Russia there problems. Even on the day of his coronation problems arose.

Sunday’s are thought to be a peaceful day that supposed to focus on God. Unfortunately, this was not the case on the 22nd day of January 1905. A group of striking workers gather any many different areas within the city of Petersburg lead by Russian Orthodox priest Georgii  Gapon. These Russian factory workers were trying to gain respect in the workplace higher wages and shorter hours. This assembly of workers was going to the residence of the Tsar Nicholas II, The Winter Palace. “They organized it almost as if it were a religious ceremonial. All were unarmed, even pocket knives being left at home, and women and children took their part in the great event which was to bring them into the presence of the head of the nation. After singing hymns the mass of unarmed people moved forward (New York Times, Oct 13, 1905).” When the large crowd reached the palace the guards released warning fire to dissolve the crowds which ended up killing a large amount of people. The Tsar was not actually at this palace and never gave the order to fire on this group of workers but since he is the leader of the country he got the blamed for the deaths and injured.

According to the New York Times article troops are allowed to use their weapons only in “extreme necessity” only after they have given fair warning by means of a drum, horn or a trumpet (New York Times, Oct 13, 1905). “In these respects, as well as in others, the civil and military authorities are found by the committee to have failed in their duty and an impressive indictment is formulated in detail against the guardians of the law for the acts by which they were themselves guilty of its violation (New York Times, Oct 13, 1905).”

This event was only the beginning!

Picture from:–Vladimirov/Bloody-Sunday/

Other Information from: Russia A History, By. Gregory L Freeze, Third Edition.

Quotes from : From The, London Times. “BLAME FOR “BLOODY SUNDAY.”.” New York Times (1857-1922), Oct 13, 1905.

Introduction and Prokudin-Gorskii

Somewhat of introduction I am Heather obviously the author of this blog. I am history major here at Virginia Tech and this is my first class on Russian History. This blog’s main topic if you have not already guessed will be about Russia and the history starting from the 19th century to current times. My goal for this blog is since I am currently learning more about the history of Russia is to post about meaningful history and that hopefully both you as the reader and I can learn more about the history of this incredible nation together.

My first topic of this blog will be about a photo taken by Prokudin-Gorskii and is called A Group of Workers Harvesting Tea. Most of Gorskii’s work is focused on a certain time period within 1905 and 1915 and he also was the photographer of Tsar Nicholas II. Gorskii uses a three color principle in his photography which he takes three different black and white pictures each time using a different color filter which give the picture its original color. This type of photography is pretty to new technology during this period of time.

Also, during this time period much of Russia’s ordinary people relayed heavily on the agricultural way of life. So, this picture captures these people working hard in the fields which most likely is the way they make their livelihood. It does not tell us what type of social class these people are from but in my opinion these people are most likely part of the very large Russian peasant class.

“By the eve of World War I, Russia had undergone rapid industrial development, much of it fueled by foreign investment and the import of technology from Western Europe. Key industries included textiles, metal-working, and chemical and oil production. At the same time, many people lived in appallingly backward conditions, especially in the countryside.”

Gorskii was a great photographer he also took many photos of daily lives of people, transportation, architecture, railroads, factories and many other subjects.

people working in fields

Picture Title and Author: A Group of Workers Harvesting Tea, Take by: Prokudin-Gorskii

Picture From:

Quote From:

Cited Sources: