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Transformations of Eros: Sexuality and the Family in Russia

• Date: Apr 8, 2008 • Source: http://www.geocities.com/


In the West scientific discourses on the history of sexuality have revealed many repressions, inhibitions and poorly understood concepts concerning sexuality. One straightforward way of stereotypically dichotomizing the history of sexuality is to see the ancient past as embodying perfect and innocent sexual harmony, while the present embodies unnatural sexual deviations and perversions. This myth of primitive or primordial sexual harmony has also had political and ideological applications.

In Russia some national patriots have propagandistically outlined new ideologically tailored histories of sexuality. Thus Zhirinovsky, for example, while advocating his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, has given his view of the rotten Russian history of sexuality that has corrupted the ideals:

Our history can be likened to a history of sexual perversities, crimes, and diseases. We never had real sex. The October Revolution raped the people, the Stalin era can be compared to homosexuality, the Krushchev years to masturbation, and Brezhnev to impotence. I promise that, if you elect the representatives of the LDPR, you will experience a real orgasm for the first time in your lives!

Our party's program wants, first and foremost, to think about you and your families.

This kind of talk became possible after glasnost and perestroika had opened the gates for the flood of sexual issues and for the "Westernized" sexual market (rynok). The sexual revolution ? la Zhirinovsky promises full orgasms but does not forget the importance of the Russian family.

The task of Eros according to Plato is to give "birth in beauty" and to be an intermediary between the world of gods and the mortal nature. The vicissitudes of Russian Eros have been closely attached to religion, ideology and social disciplinary practices. In the Orthodox world pagan sexuality was very early doomed. But the conversion of the Russians to Christianity took a long time and was infused with pagan "survivals": popular beliefs, customs and festivities. The combination of pagan and Christian elements formed a dual-faith (dvoeverie). The "low" and "naturalistic" culture of the peasant people was contradictory to the official "high" culture, supported by the church with its stress on spiritual, ascetic and antisexual ideals. Sexuality was accepted by the church only as purified by the sacrament of marriage and for the sole purpose of procreation. Otherwise it was sinful and defiling, derived from Satan, and deserving to be punished.

The physical body that was in the Old Testament a sanctuary was gradually victimized and degraded to sinfulness and bashfulness in the Russian religious mentality. The theosis, becoming godlike, was understood by most Orthodox Christians as the utmost spiritual aim, and love was to be ethical and chaste with minimal hints to corporeality, and with the maximum mortifying of the flesh.

Still the sexual practices of everyday life were not totally adapted to Orthodox regulations. There was a kind of practical and stable balance between ecclesiastical and community attitudes toward sexuality. For example, homosexuality was widespread and largely tolerated even by Russian legislation until Peter the Great's time. On the other hand, sexual violence and rape were severely punished by the Orthodox Church. The family, often extended or communal, has been the cornerstone of Russian sexual regulation for centuries. In Russia, marriage can really be said to be "rooted in the family rather than the family in marriage."

Marriage and marital fidelity (especially for women) became the norm to which love was subordinated. Love was not a necessary nor a sufficient reason for marriage. Though there were premarital and extramarital liaisons, "illegitimate" births comprised only a couple of percent of all births in the late nineteenth-century European Russia. But this changed soon in the USSR with millions of unmarried (or divorced) mothers, though the Marxist-Leninist propaganda asserted that the socialist society would exclude capitalist marriages of expediency and would realize monogamy, bound by love and the equal rights of women.

Women as slaves and possessions

The position of women in Russia has been tightly tied to a mentality called the "slave soul," accompanied by masochistic suffering and sacrifice, self-humiliation and self-victimization.4 In the peasant imagination this "soul" was attached to the mother and to Mother Moist Earth. Even today, nationwide, Mother Russia is thought to be in need of salvation from utter sufferings.

According to a seventeenth-century proverb, the first mother is the Most Holy Mother of God, the second is the Mother Moist Earth and the third mother is the one who has the sorrow and pain of childbirth.5 The peasants believed that mothers had a close relationship to soil. Men "wounded" and "hurt" the earth with their plows. This sin was committed against the "breast" and pregnancy of the woman. In Ukraine, peasants claimed that "he who strikes the earth beats his own mother."6 Through their special relation to the earth, women could restore the wounded object.

In a primitive mental state, annihilation is the most hopeless way of dealing with objects. In a more developed mental state the destruction of the object in fantasy makes the survival of the object possible and contributes to object constancy. The female objects (earth, breast, pregnancy) are always being destroyed in male fantasies. But they have survived and gained object constancy, because of the repair work mercifully, but not without menace, done by mothers. This may lead to a new kind of possibility for the transformative (not exploitative) use of the object.7 In Russia male fantasies are likely, to a large extent, to relate to women with regressive anger and rage (both possible covers, or emotional substitutes, for unacknowledged shame8), annihilation anxieties, hybris and the omnipotency of rape-aggression. The exploitation has not yet been superseded by the transformative uses in a shared reality.

Another kind of omnipotency and expertise, besides that of suffering and reparation, was given to mothers. They were the "fate" governing the development of the child. Thus, they were the experts in uniting suffering, life and death. They could invoke and protect growth and also punish those children who did not obey "fate." Mothers could literally bind and let loose the swaddling bands. In death rituals, Mother Moist Earth was asked to forgive and take the dying to her underworld habitat so that they could be reborn into the earth. Dead newborn children, the quickly passed fruits of love, were often buried under the maternal body of houses as new (re-membered) members of the ancestor world.9 Actually there were a lot of burials of children; in the late nineteenth-century Russia nearly half of the children born died before the age of five.10

Still, these powerful mythical mothers were also tamed into really hardworking women through patriarchal control. Their power was not boundless. The sexual regulation of women was strictly ruled by their male masters. "The husband is the head, but the wife is the soul," as Russian peasants said. The head of the family was the owner of his wife and other members of his family. The husband had the right to punish those who violated his property. Punishments could be cruel. As late as 1935, the Giliaks in the far north of the USSR subjected wives who "deserved it" to a brutal punishment. The husband tied her feet to a narta, a dog sleigh. Then he mounted the sleigh and urged the dogs forward. The wife was dragged half-naked over the snow, while she screamed for forgiveness. Usually she died a battered skeleton.

Commenting on these kinds of ancient femicidal customs, which form the psychohistorical nucleus of Russian male sadism, Ivan A. Kurganoff aptly asks:

But does not the subconscious and embellished beastly attitude to women which existed for thousands of years and which entered human consciousness as "natural" persist to the present? Does this attitude to women not persist with contemporary men - fathers, grooms, husbands, on whom the fate of woman continues to depend in some measure? Does it not condition circumstances in the family which are detrimental and dangerous for women?11

In the peasant family both spouse abuse and child abuse were common, and approved by the male community that maintained the power hierarchy based on the inequality of the sexes. Proverbs like "Beat the child from infancy, beat the wife from the beginning"; "The more you beat the old woman, the tastier the soup will be"; "The one who does not beat his wife does not live in full domesticity"; "There is no court for women and cattle"; "A wife is always guilty before her husband" are just some examples of male domination and the law of the husband.12

The Domostroi or rules of the household, written by a priest, Sylvester, a favorite of Ivan the Terrible, depicts the Russian family life in the sixteenth century. It gives minute instructions about housekeeping, educational practices, the position of the wife, and the maintenance of family honor. Fear and corporal punishment were dominant principles. Parental love meant "teaching and punishing," "reasoning and beating." The Domostroi recommends solely the whip and the rod in bringing up children. The fathers are promised rewards on earth and in heaven for punishing their children, and the children are assured future rewards for their sufferings when they receive the blind obedience of their own children. The wife should be beaten by the husband, "carefully" and "politely" with a whip. It was "sensible, painful, fear-inspiring and healthy."13 Everything should be kept as a family secret, without complaints. Nobody outside the family circle should hear about the "righteous" punishments. This archaic-hermetic family atmosphere was also reflected in social life as corruption, hypocrisy, depravity and enslavement. The impact of the despotic Domostroi instructions was manifestly present still in the nineteenth-century Russian childhood, and latently even later. Even today some Russian writers mention the Domostroi as a valuable code of family relations and household ethics.

Wife beating, mother cursing, tongue-lashing, ostracism, and various shaming practices14 have been accompanied by heavy drinking habits and hypermasculine aggressive-impulsive behavior. For men, the alcoholic fusion with mother-wife was overwhelmingly threatening, and the sexual intimacy (connected to female reproductive capacities) launched in men fears of losing control. Thus the marital situation had to be frozen, women had to suffer, and the awesome female body had to be punished. The absence of wife beating was a mark of abnormal behavior. Even the Orthodox church permitted moderate wife beating, but the excessive forms were forbidden.

Early modern Kievan and Muscovite ecclesiastical and civil laws provided judicial support for abused (e.g., raped, severely beaten) women, but this protection of women's honor was, from the ecclesiastical point of view, mainly due to the doctrine that all sexual activities were of Satanic origin. From the civil side it was important to accord women societal dignity. Being obedient to the husband and conforming to her honorable role as the modest soul of the family, a woman could reach high social esteem.

In principle, then, patriarchy "serves itself by serving women well."15 This, however, did not prevent many husbands from abusing their wives, and some women even seem to have regarded beating as proof of their husband's love and protection, as a natural part of the relations between the sexes: "It is woman's fate to be always beaten"; "The wife who got away from under her husband's control is worse than Satan"; "A husband may be like a crow, but he is protection for his wife all the same."16 In Russian culture, violence may be linked to sexuality, and beating may signify love.17 The proverbs again testify to this: "Not to beat the wife is not to be loved by her"; "Whoever loves brings suffering to the object of his love"; "I suffer from the one whom I love best."18 Idealizing worship (sacred icons) may co-exist with utter devaluation (raging, aggressive drunkenness). And suffering is the senseless sense that wins all.

Raising my family

Women were traditionally depicted by Orthodox clerics as temptresses, and their bodies and sexuality were thought to be polluted, demanding careful purification rituals, especially in connection with menstruation and childbirth. The belief in women's inferiority was, however, counterbalanced by the recognition of, and the emphasis on, their highly important contributions that enabled the survival and functioning of the family and the whole society. Hardworking women were praised in peasant and serf families, as attested by many proverbs, like "A good housekeeper will save the house, a poor housekeeper ruin it."19 The emotional atmosphere of the Russian family was meant to depend on the women, according to the religious didactic advice. The husband and wife were to breed, in harmonious co-operation, a caring family: "It befits a wife to revere her husband as the head on her shoulders, and a husband to revere his wife as the soul in his body."20

Actually, women's productive role in keeping up the family economy was probably esteemed more highly in peasant Russia than their reproductive and nurturant role in rearing children.21 The co-operation of the husband and wife was far from harmonious, and children often had to bear the hatred, anger and rage of the parents. The children not only witnessed the father's abuse of the mother but they themselves had to bear abuse by both parents (though for different reasons). The child was "whipped with a rope, hit with a fist, a stick, or a nettle switch, dragged by the ear or the hair, or kicked."22

Although there is little documentation of the physical care of children (especially toilet-training and regulation of childhood sexuality) in imperial Russia, Russian parents at that time can generally be described as detached, hostile and restrictive in their relations to their children. Warm and loving parent-child interactions were rare, the blocking of children's spontaneous behavior and strivings for autonomy characterized the Russian family under the authority of the Tsar, that stern "little father."23 Children's emotional-cognitive grasping of the surrounding world and infantile sexual curiosity were restricted by the complete swaddling practices.

The liberal pre-revolutionary intelligentsia had the family ideal which required a marriage based on equal and free choice of both partners, without considerations of social class or property. For the intelligentsia, the merchant class was tied to the conservative patriarchal family, and the nobility, especially the landed gentry, was stereotyped by the intelligentsia as representing loveless and estranged contracted marriages. The pre-revolutionary peasant families formed the majority and had mainly two types of structure and psychology. The well-to-do peasant family had a strong patriarchal structure with the heavy subordination of both wives and children, especially sons, to the paternal despotism. This patriarchal peasant family resisted the revolutionary pressures longest, even during the collectivization in 1929?1933. The other type of peasant family was the mother-centered land-poor peasant family whose father was forced to seek work elsewhere and to leave the wife and children in the village. Later these poor mother-centered distressed families became common also in the urban working-class areas.24

The images of power are modeled in Russia through family experiences. (No wonder Peter the Great is still the superior hero and father figure for most Russians.) Parental power-assertive disciplinary practices reinforced stern governmentality and forced "slavery": "The father's curse dries one up; the mother's curse destroys"; "Love your child with your heart, but crush him with your hands"; "Parents' beatings make the children healthy"; "If God gives you sons, don't be lazy, teach them and beat them," and "If he did not obey his father, he will obey the whip."25 It was reasoned that children had to be punished while they were young so that they would later comfort their old parents and would not treat them badly (which was labeled as a sin).

But also daughters were whipped, and the unjustly disdainful attitude to girls has been imprinted on many Russian women for the rest of their lives.26 The childhood victims of parental physical and mental violence and primitive defenses (like denial, projections, projective identifications and devaluations) became shamed, confused and resentful rebels and revolutionaries who murdered the Authority (e.g., the Tsar and his family). Early childhood humiliations, body image intrusions, traumas, retreats and shame may manifest themselves on the political scene as witch huntings, scapegoatings, revengeful and destructive acts, and at the same time as psychological numbings (of "bad" memories) and compensatory impulses to glory and utopia through savior-leaders or mystical mergings.27 The primal scene experiences and sexual molestations must have been common in extended or communal peasant families and later in the crowded communalkas of the Soviet state. Families sleeping together gave a sexual imprint to a child's cognition of the mother's submission to the father, and gave impetus to sadomasochistic infantile conceptions of parental sexuality.28

Resistance against the patriarchal order has not been favored by the majority of Russian women, because it has meant high risks, earlier even imprisonment or death. Accommodation has promised more and safer opportunities. Of the Russian democrats in the 19th century, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, for example, in his novel What is to be done?, gave a description of a new liberal woman, who was a wife and a mother but who gained high esteem not through marriage but through active social involvement and fighting for independence and equal rights.

This pioneering struggle for equal rights in Russia can be divided into two historical periods. During the first, prior to the Revolution of 1905, women fought only for educational equality; during the second, between the Revolution of 1905 and February 1917, they also fought for political equality. The October Revolution of 1917 finally gave women equality (including freedom of divorce) before the law. This did not mean equality in life. For Lenin, the emancipation of women was secondary to the abolition of private ownership. In order to appeal to women and recruit them, Lenin, at the beginning of the October Revolution, made use of the image of the despised "slave" and of the bourgeois strangling household:

Woman in spite of all liberating laws, continues to be a household slave, for she is repressed, choked, dulled, and degraded by house work, fettered to the kitchen and nursery, wasting her labor with work which is unbelievably unproductive, small, nerve-wracking, dulling, and killing. The real liberation of women, the real Communism will only begin when and where mass struggle commences ... against this small houseworld, or, more correctly, its mass rebuilding into a large socialist household.29

In spite of Lenin's rhetorical words, the burden of heavy productive work, with double or triple obligations to husband and children and household, was ever more firmly loaded on socialist woman "heroines." This happened though Marx and Engels had already wanted to emancipate women under Communism by liquidating household work and by abolishing the individual family that would be replaced by public means of serving the whole population.

Sexual politics and moral purism

The peasantry which was the largest class even in post-revolutionary Soviet Russia clung long to traditional and religious doctrines. In 1927, the climacteric year of the NEP (New Economic Policy), over 99 percent of Soviet Russia's rural population remained uncollectivized.30 About 80 percent of the Soviet Russian population were still peasants on the verge of the industrialization and "modernization" of the country which began in the late 1920s. This required huge masses of people to move from the villages to the cities and factories. First these city industrial workers were mainly men, while women were "put to use"31 in collective farms.

As soon as new industrialized city areas were built, the Communist Party drew the women force to industrial work in order to grow the national economy. Good proletarkas worked hard everywhere, in industry, construction, transportation, trade, handicraft, agriculture, and the office. They knew how to work as miners, metallurgists, concrete workers, stevedores, lumberjacks, swineherds, clerks, etc. The official decorations and rewards for proletarkas only veiled the exploitation of these "manly" women who still had to cook the family's food, wash clothes, tend the sick, and nurse babies and ever more "childlike" men.

This forced "change" also needed sexual economic politics and regulations. The ideology of the Party fostered industrial production for the needs of all families, whereas the agrarian society was based on the needs of one family. Nor was the bourgeois housewife who only looked after her home and family approved. She had to work for the national economy, and give birth to good workers. In order to save their children from malnutrition employable women had to enter the national economy.

Patriarchalism still held its grip even among male Communists (who also knew how to beat their wives), though gender inequality and woman's subordination to man in marriage were officially opposed. But radical actions to eradicate them were not carried out. For example, one of the leading Communists, Sosnovsky, reported in 1926:

Of course the old order is cracking, falling apart ... But one must tell the truth. Since the new type of family has not yet crystallized from under the shardes of the old, it is women and children who bear the brunt. The difficulty is further aggravated by the excessive contradiction between the emancipation and freeing of women announced by the Revolution, and the actual situation ... The road from the promulgation of judicial rights to their penetration into actual reality appears to be longer and more tortuous than people think.32

The road has been much longer than anybody could expect. The "woman question" that was declared to have been resolved by Marxist-Leninists is even now far from being resolved. The psychohistory of Russian women has many suppressed and censored passages of exploitation. The majority of Russian women still hold a grudge against feminism, because they mistakenly think that feminists would subject them to the same kinds of fates as the officials of the Communist Party used to do.

The road has also been extremely tortuous for women who have been forced to dedicate themselves to the private sphere (in household, family, marriage and childrearing), to work heroically for the national economy, and to leave the public (political, legal) sphere mostly to men. Authoritarian childrearing, subordination of the young to elders, and women to men has reproduced authoritarian political, religious, and social structures. By using emotional blackmail (you may be loved if you are submissive), by intensifying feelings of helplessness at the mercy of the haunting "chaos," and by inducing unrealistic conformism, the powerful authorities of the family, kindergarten, school, party, army, and church molded psychological uniformity and fearful numbing in Soviet citizens. This included the strong control over personal desires and tabooing of sexual issues and manifestations.

The Russian discourse on sexual topics (like gender differences, relations between family members, prostitution, rape, venereal diseases, women's emancipation, and sexual abnormalities, even homosexuality) was endorsed, but only narrowly, among the intelligentsia in the late 19th century and at the turn of the century. Western sexologists were read selectively by some medical doctors and lawyers, but nascent Russian sexual studies had to accommodate themselves to certain myths, for example to the myth of the Common Russian People. These people were illiterate peasants whom the educated classes elevated to the heights of ideal living and morality.

This myth brought with it a moral purism that fostered illusions of the virtuous countryside and more corrupt cities. There were not supposed to be any peasant prostitutes, though the majority of city prostitutes were originally from villages. The countryside was to be free from rape, sexual molestation and infanticide, though all these happened extensively in the countryside, but were not officially reported. Weird medical theories were proposed concerning, for example, syphilitic infection: It was sexually transmitted for the city-dwellers, but non-sexually for the peasants, who contracted it by sharing wooden eating utensils, or from kissing the babies of strangers.33

It is true that the Russian countryside was more traditional as to sexual morality and sexual codes than the towns where the individualization and pluralization of the new bourgeois society changed the social control over sexual conduct in the fin-de-siecle Russia. In spite of the secularization and liberalization of sexual codes at the beginning of the twentieth century, sexuality was provoking anxieties, fears and personal crises. Russian Eros had its dark and obscure faces, surrounded by devastating coldness. As Vasilij Rozanov, a critic of sexual and religious hypocrisy, deplored: "More love; more love, give me love. I will perish in coldness. Oh, how it is cold everywhere."34

Eros and proletarian consciousness

The "sexual question" was treated quite many-sidedly in Russian literature during the first two decades of the twentieth century. In the 1920s new Russian social research into sex and sexuality flourished. But just as the "woman question" was far from being "solved," so was the "sexual question." After the Revolution of October 1917 and during the 1920s there was an attack on bourgeois sexual ethics with its capitalistic decadence and double standards, and on the traditional family organization and the institution of marriage. Women, whom most Bolsheviks regarded as societally, economically and mentally backward, were to be socialized to equality and a proletarian consciousness in an atmosphere of comradeship. Still there was uncertainty about gender issues, sexual identities and sexual norms.

For the Bolsheviks, the sexual policy had its ambivalences, and different kinds of attempts were made to obtain a "solution." On the more liberal side, Aleksandra Kollontai, the Bolshevik feminist, defended the "power of winged Eros," and the proletarian marriage, which was opposed to "sexual fetishism" and bourgeois hypocrisy (legal wives selling themselves as much as prostitutes).35 She wanted that a proletarian sexual morality be actively constructed as an elementary part of the revolutionary strategy, not just as a superstructure to be later added to the changed economic base of society. Lunacharsky also advocated revitalization of carnival traditions and pleasures of the "liberated" body in forging a new communist culture.36

But, on the whole, Bolshevism could not cope with the sexual diversity and relativism found in sexual morality. Sexuality was either mechanically biologized or bodily pleasures and personal desires were harnessed to machines and heroic productive work. Physical fitness, athletics and sport were the guiding activities for the proletarian consciousness, and anarchic sexuality was controlled according to collective ideals and proletarian class interests.

For example psychoneurologist and "pedologist" Aron Zalkind in his popular books was opposed to Kollontai and the "winged Eros," and provided the revolutionary proletariat with "Twelve Sexual Commandments." In them he dogmatically presented, among others, that there should be no premarital, no purely physical, no frequent sexual relations. Sexual involvement with an immoral "class enemy" was forbidden, since it was comparable to the "sexual involvement of a human being with a crocodile or orangutan." Love relationships were to be monogamous, procreation-centered, free from "perversions" and jealousy. The proletarian sex-economy and sexual regulation was based on the right of the working class (i.e., the Party) to interfere in the sexual life of the class members, with the view of establishing a "healthy revolutionary new generation."37

Public childrearing, that is collective upbringing, was considered advantageous for the proper socialization of children. The first Five-Year Plan (1928?1932) and the recruitment of large numbers of women into industry introduced a rapid growth of preschool institutions in the Soviet Union. For example, between 1928 and 1932 the number of kindergartens and nursery-kindergartens rose from 2,537 to 19,611.38

Beginning in the 1930s totalitarian control over individuals was launched, which meant administrative suppression, negation of sexuality and elimination of anything that resembled a sexual culture. The group-fantasies about glorious social and economic transformations were desexualized, filled with sacrifice, idealization and heightened sublimation. Under Stalinist (sexophobic) sexual policy, the "emancipation" of women (declared achieved) and the "socialist family" (newly labeled) only hardened the double (or triple) burden of women. The ideal called the "new Soviet person" promoted by the Party actually gave rights to men and the responsibilities to women. The ideal working woman was a kind of androgyne, subordinated to male norms. Female idols were male-like. Gender differences were mostly eliminated in the official propaganda and in school education until in 1943 coeducational instruction was changed into sex-segregated, which began to polarize sex-role stereotypes.39

There was also a growing concern in the mid-1930s among the Party about declining birth rates, so that abortion was made illegal, and women were more and more prepared for motherhood. Consequently, homosexuality became a crime (until June 1993), and divorce more difficult to obtain. In July 1944, a new family law (The Family Edicit) was accepted which included the nomination of the "heroic mother." Every family was ordered to have at least six children. In the same year, 1944, a special law freed men from alimony payments for the support of illegitimate children. Women were deprived of the right to demand such alimony, but could obtain financial assistance from the state. Thus, also polygamous and polyandrous sexual relations were indirectly sponsored by the state.40 The "great and mighty" Soviet Union desperately needed new builders of socialism, so the worship of motherhood (in fact, of the woman as a birth-giving-machine) continued well into the 1960s.41 And white Russian children were the best Soviet citizens.

From concentration camps to domestication...

The Stalinist terror had its forerunners in the concentration camps organized by Lenin's directive and instituted by the 1919 decrees. The Department of Forced Labor gave special permission to open the camps not only for men but also for women and children: "Persons of the female sex and minors shall be maintained in special camps set aside for each category..."42 From this "humble" beginning (over 100 camps with over 30,000 inmates in the 1920s) the system expanded in the 1930s and 1940s until it covered so many "enemies of the people" that during the second half of the 1940s there were estimated 10?15 million USSR concentration camp inmates of which about one million were women.43 The country of mothers set a world record for the imprisonment of women. The Gulag system had the whole country in its web. With its great purges the system destroyed whole extended families. And the forced labor policy did not eliminate forced sex. Those who survived had gone through shocking cruelties including sexual abuse. These traumas have been reflected in their subsequent sexual lives and have been bequeathed to the next generation.

The divorce rate began to soar in the late 1950s, especially in Soviet cities. For example in 1957, there were 20 times more divorces in cities than in villages (one divorce per 32 marriages in cities, and one divorce per 640 marriages in villages).44 At the same time there was no discussion and no public information about sex. After Stalin's time from the mid-1950s to the eve of glasnost, totalitarianism was replaced by authoritarianism under which collective ideals gradually began to lose their power. The negation and repression of sexuality changed into moral-administrative regulation and domestication of sexuality. The State and Party were still in control, but in the 1960s and 1970s sex education and medicalization of sexuality were allowed to appear. Soviet medical sexology was called "sexopathology," which gives the idea of the "normal" and "healthy" vs. "abnormal" and "devious" sexuality.45

In the 1970s, a new sex-role problem began to worry the Russians; that is the "masculinization of women" and "feminization of men."46 Women were accused of abandoning their task of caring and working, and of being too mannish. The man's role, that of the victim, who had to booze ever harder, was given center stage. Pedagogical literature gave advice about behaviors that fitted gender-specific norms. The official society behaved as if no transformations were taking place. But the unofficial sexual cultures had formed in silence, and the sexual attitudes and values of especially the youth47 had oriented themselves towards the individualization of lifestyles and toward the throwing away of many collective controls. The change through glasnost and perestroika from 1987 onwards with the decline of the Soviet regime would not have been possible without the psychoclass of the sixties generation that introduced the moral themes of guilt and responsibility and opened up the way out of the censoring taboo mentality.

The new liberalization48 has its roots not only in the "Russian idea" but in "Russian Eros" that was unearthed by the youth of the 1960s in the works of Vladimir Solovjov, Nikolai Berdjaev, Sergei Bulgakov, and Vasilij Rozanov. Freedom, democracy, creative love, universal spirituality and compassion had already been preached by these authors, in connection with the Russian suffering, self-restraint, self-sacrifice, messianism, heroism, and not without the negative Russian elements like sloth, lack of planning, unpredictability, and passivity.49 The "sexual question" and the quality of Russian love could not be handled humanely by the decrees of the governmental police-politicians or the bureaucrats. As Nikolai Berdjaev once wrote:

Only a fool or a madman can deny the centrality and importance of the sexual question; it is true that everybody has secretly suffered from this problem, struggled in order to personally solve it, felt the pain of sexual desire, dreamed of love. Everybody knows the acknowledged fact that almost all the tragedies of life are linked to sex and love. All know that our whole life is attached to sex and that sexual excitement is by its very nature almost ecstatic and creative. What then is so ridiculous or immoral in Rozanov's "sexual madness?"50

In his "metaphysics of sex and love" Berdjaev had already declared that Eros, as an individualized love, is the most delicate product in the world. He also saw that the history of Eros had little contact with the history of family. In a modern age the family was reduced to a "grave of love," and Eros entered the world through "invisible, unofficial, illegal and unnatural ways."51 The "sacrament of love" was "man's creative insight," which exploded the "borders of the genealogy-centered, utilitarian physiology and economy of the family."52 ... and bespredel

But the rapid destruction of the old Communist system, and the ensuing tide of sex coming out of the closet was unforeseen after the beginning of glasnost and perestroika. The lifting of taboos has, ever faster in the 1990s, led to commercialization, trivialization and "Westernization" of sexuality. The moral vacuum has implemented panic "anything goes" mentality, bespredel.53 This "limitless" state has filled the market with media and entertainment pornography, sensational crime, violence, and prostitution. Abortion, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases are no more "Western" "immoral" topics. AIDS tests are nowadays demanded from foreigners as a part of the nationalist health barrier campaign. In 1992 there were 25 percent more abortions than five years before, and in 1993 14,500 women were killed by their husbands (according to UNICEF's information), and 14,400 women were raped. There are in the United States nearly seven times more reported rapes or attempted rapes yearly, but the Russian figures of sexual violence have increased steadily in the last thirty years, and the average age of sex offenders, rapists, and the victims is dropping rapidly.54

Sexual abuse is clearly becoming more vicious, but the concealment in Russia goes on. Psychological crisis help, and sexual and family education are almost absent, as Martina Vandenberg, an American feminist, who in 1994 started Russia's first rape-crisis center, admits: "If you are raped, the standard reaction is to go home and scrub your body and stay in bed until you get over it. Most women don't tell anyone."55 Russia is still witnessing the consequences of authoritarian firm family upbringing and tightly controlling and censoring social discipline and subordination, with its rape, violence, abuse, and alcoholism problems.

Although there are nowadays diverse family life patterns in Russia, the divorce rates remain high, and the numbers of single mothers (of all ages and from the whole social spectrum) keep growing, so that paternal absence and neglect is shared widely by Russian women raising their families without men (who had far less contact with their children than in any other country).56 The number of young mothers and of extramarital births is growing. The living conditions of mothers who never marry is clearly worse than those of married or divorced mothers. In major Russian cities about 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. (In the 1980s every third marriage and in the 1960s one of ten marriages broke down.) A third of present divorces occur within the first year of marriage, and young women have to face the hard emotional consequences of divorce. Strong promarriage and profamily attitudes are still deeply rooted, and 90 percent of marriages are self-reported to be "based on love."57 Mothers, whom deMause sees as the key to psychogenic advance, are having hard times in Russia. The love of death is expressed "statistically" in the fact that in the 1990s more people have died than have been born each year in Russia.

One of the most concealed areas of Russian life is the abandonment, orphanhood, punishment, incest, rape, and sexual abuse of children. There are no reliable statistics on these matters, but the real practices are clearly not revealed in officially reported public polls. A majority of Russian parents still use corporal punishment (mainly flogging) in bringing up their children. Two thousand children are reported to have tried to commit suicide in 1989 because of abuse in the family. Sexual violence has become a normative element in many youth subcultures.58 In children's homes and boarding schools beating has also long been the norm.

In the cities there are many street children who cannot go home at all. In Moscow there are an estimated 60,000 to 80,000, and in St. Petersburg 50,000 homeless children (ages 5 to 18). Most of these children come from the families with severe alcohol, drug and/or aggression problems and intergenerational conflicts. They have either been thrown out or escaped from home in fear of cruel violence. These street children are struggling for their existence, sleeping in the subway stations, attics, cellars or elevator machine rooms. They need caresses and kisses, but they have to deal with drugs, crimes and selling themselves to paedophiles (who come as sex tourists from abroad). For example, in the subway lavatories of St. Petersburg girls and boys of all ages are sold for 5,000 rubles (one dollar). At least half of the street children have to sell sex services. In return they get something to sniff from their pimp.

This "orphan" ("waif," "foundling," besprizornik) problem is not new in Russian history, for there were an estimated two million orphans even before the First World War, and by 1923 this number had reached 7?9 million.59 Another large number of orphans in the Soviet Union resulted from the Second World War. The state-controlled care of children has deteriorated, and the present law does not give children any safety. Although their parents might treat them cruelly, it is very difficult to help them within the law, because the law protects the rights of the parents. The health conditions of Russian children have also deteriorated markedly. Under 20 percent of all Russian children are "healthy," in St. Petersburg only 3.5?4 percent.60 The parents of the future are now sick children who will become sick parents who will breed sick children. That is the real Russian roulette.

"Which is higher, love or the history of love?" asked Vasilij Rozanov, and answered that all the histories of love are not in any way worthy of the "love of this moment." At this moment people are still "making sex" and "feeling love" in Russia, but it has become increasingly apparent that transformations of Eros and erotic diversities do not "liberate" any essence of sexuality. Instead of that, there are "various relations of sexuality and conflicting definitions of sexuality which are sustained and embedded in a variety of social practices."61 There are many Russian sexualities, not a single sexuality, and there are many histories of Eros, even after the long and painful history of Russian monophilia, the love of the same.

Juhani Ihanus, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Cultural Psychology (University of Helsinki), Adjunct Professor of the History of Science and Ideas (University of Oulu), P.O. Box 4, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.