‘‘Human soul is destroyed by war...’’: written sources of World War I period as a resource for gender-oriented history of emotions

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Abstract


The article analyzes the problems and prospects of using written sources of World War I period for a gender studies approach to Russia’s past, in line with the history of emotions in cultural-historical anthropology. The terms “emotions” and “feelings” are viewed as synonyms. The article states that what the historian encounters in the sources is mostly an emotional state or mood (personal or collective) as well as experiences, passions or sensations, rather than “pure” emotions and feelings. The corpus of “gender-marked” written sources of the 1914-1918 period is huge and varied, and includes materials from archives, collections of party commissions, published memoirs, letters, diaries, the women’s press, as well as profile documents (“self-census”) of female students. However, these sources unevenly reflect the feelings and the emotional background of the era. Following the conceptual framework developed by Barbara Rosenwein, we can speak of several emotional communities defined by the social affiliation and the “audibility” of the particular voices in history, i.e. the representativeness of the sources. The first category of emotional communities comprises the women of the Romanov family and noblewomen more broadly. Russian and foreign archives boast extensive collections of their personal documents. The second category includes “frontovichky” - frontline women-soldiers. Urban women belong to a third category, and are represented by memory-based stories, the women’s press, female students’ profiles, and documents from regional archives. From the point of view of emotions, the biggest yet least represented community were peasant women. While their everyday life and values have been well researched, only very few notes and diaries from their hands have survived. Letters to the front were partially preserved (esp. those intercepted by the authorities) and are now stored in the State Archive of the Russian Federation). For the identification of the psychological matrix of the era it is crucial to use the full set of these sources.


About the authors

Olga V Churakova

Higher School of Social Sciences, Humanities and International Communication, Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov

Author for correspondence.
Email: koi202@mail.ru
17, Nabereznay Severnoy Dviny, Arkhangelsk, 163002, Russia

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Associate Professor of the Department of Domestic History of the Higher School of Social Sciences, Humanities and International Communication, Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov.

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