Obs Canceled! "Violence in the Myth of the Revolutionary Heroine: Analysis of Narratives of Russian Female Terrorists at the beginning of the 20th century"

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Thunbergsvägen 3C Location 22:1017
  • Lecturer: Nadezda Petrusenko, Fd i historia. Discussant: Professor Elena Namli Location: Engelska parken, 22-1017 (House 22). The event are followed by a post-seminar.
  • Organiser: CEMFOR and the Department of Histoy
  • Contact person: Jeannette Escanilla
  • Seminarium

Nadezda Petrusenko (Örebro universitet)

The purpose of the presentation is to investigate the question about the way participation in political violence was represented and explained in revolutionary biographies of Russian female terrorists from the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, Russian authorities were challenged seriously by systematic political terrorism of revolutionary socialist groups and anarchists. Women played a prominent role in these violent activities, both as assassins and chemists responsible for producing bombs for assassinations. I will focus on narratives constructed by comrades and sympathizers of these women within the discourse of heroism and martyrdom, which was used in Russian revolutionary underground to tell stories of revolutionary terrorists as stories of idealistic young people willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of people. In this way, revolutionaries would get sympathy from the wider public and would become the role models for the other revolutionary fighters. Portrayals of female terrorists as revolutionary heroines were more complicated in comparison to the similar portrayals of the other revolutionary women due to their direct or indirect participation in political violence. Authors of revolutionary biographies represented terrorist women as “good” women in accordance with the dominant ideal of femininity that existed in Russian society at that time in order to challenge the claims of conservative authors that terrorist women were unnatural and unfeminine. Participation in political violence was, however, the opposite of what was expected of a “good” woman. Narrative structures of revolutionary biographies of Russian female terrorists at the beginning of the 20th century in general have received remarkably little scholarly attention. Narratives of political violence in these accounts haven’t been studied at all. Analysis of representations of women’s violence in biographical accounts of Russian female terrorists written by their comrades and sympathizers shows a clear tendency of feminization of violence performed by women and the authors’ reluctance to represent them as agents of political violence. Thus, the myth of the ideal revolutionary heroine constructed in the revolutionary underground couldn’t include the heroine’s violent activism: in order to be remembered and sympathized with she had to be a “good” woman and not a political assassin. Her martyrdom and femininity were in the focus of biographical accounts and not her political violence for the revolutionary cause.