Russia


Figure 1.--This Russian child in 1883 wears a white dress. The short hair suggests a boy, but the doll a girl. There is no way to be sure.

The pagent of Russian history is a fascinating story. Few countries have had a more exciting a sweeping historial epic. HBC has only begun to research Russian history and cultural traditions including fahions. We believe that fashions in the 19th and early 20th Century followed French styles, at least among the elete and wealthy fanmilies. There were major differences between social classes. The peasantry wore destinctive clothing. German fashions seem important in the early 20th century as was the case throughout central and eastern Europe. Sailor suits were popular. There were also domestic fashions of interest. After the Communist vistory in 1917 fashion was restricted, but still seems strongly influenced by Russian styles. We note extremecpoverty in rural areas with boys wearing ragged clothing. After World War II, we note conditions gradually improving with a better dressed population. Fashions continued, however, to be copied from European fashions. Modern Russian fashions are similar to the increasingly pan-European fashions of the 1990s. We notice that before World War I, many Russian boys even quite young boys had cropped hair. In this respect the Rissians were similar to the Germans. We know that Tsar Nicholas I who succeeded Alexander II and preceded Alexander III was enamored of all things Prussian, this may have been a factor.

History

The pagent of Russian history is a fascinating story. Few countries have had a more exciting a sweeping historial epic. HBC has only begun to research Russian history. We are struck by two interesting threads. One is the importance of geeography on history. The Russian heartland is located on the great European plain. It is thus exposed to invasion from both the west and east and the history of Russia is the story of one invasion adter another. The Mongols who ravaged Europe in the 13th century first conquered the Slavic east and had the most lasting influence there. The horific NAZI invasion of World War II is only the latest of these invasions. It is tus understandable that the search for security would be a strong element of modern Russia. Another important observation in the similarities between Russia and America in the modern era. It is no accident that the two superpowers energing in the Western world were located on the perifery of Europe. Countries in the center of Europe had to fight states of relatively equal power which limited their ability to expand. Russia in the East and America in the West could expand east and west with relatively limited opposition, enabling tem to create expansive states. The American westward expansion in some ways is similar to Russia's eastward expansion beyond the Urals into Siberia and occurred at about the samne time. The results were, however, very different. And America and Russia because of geography found themselves in very different situations. Russia was locked in an embrace with Europe. At times this has meant that Russin armies moved west into Europe. At other times European armies (Poles/Lithuamian, Swedish, French, and German moved west nto Russia). America since the 19th century has lived in relative isolation, protected by the Atlantic Ocean. We have done some work on medieval Russian history. Our assessment of the Russian monarchy also includes a great deal of Russian history. We have also worked on the Soviet era.

Economics

The economic history of Russia is as fascinating and varied as the country's political history. Russia after taking possession of the Ukraine from Poland (17th century) controlled a large part of the world's most productive agricultural land. At a time when agriculture was the primary base of ecomonic profuvtion, this made Russia potentially the dominant Ruropean power. This potential power was ehanced by Russia's large population and advance into central Europe as a result of the Great Northern War (17th century). The backward social structure and poor utilization of human resources, however, meant that Russia could not develop and project its potential power. Serfdom meant that a substantial part of the Russian popularion had not access to education or an opportunity to develoop their innate capabilities. Thus other European imperial powers (Austria, Britain, France, and Prussia/Germany) could compete with Russia. This essential political balance was undermined by the Industrial Revolution. For the first time in human history, agriculture was replaced as the primary ecomonic base and because of Russia's conservative social system as wll as serfdom, Russia fell behind the other European powers. This was first observed in the Crinean War(1846-48), but in World War I (1914-18) resulted in the defeat of the numerically superior Russian Army by the well-equipped German Army. At the time of World war I, Russian industry was rapidly growing, but still well behind that of Germany. In the ensuing chaos of the collapsing Tsarist regime, Bolshevick revolutionaries seized power and replaced capitalism with the still untried Marxist socialist theories. One result was as a result of Stalinist collectivization, the agricultural productivity of the new Soviet Union was far below that of Tsarist Russia and no longer produced harvests permitting grain exports. Soviet Five Year Plans significantly expanded the country's industrial capacity, although the pre-War Tsarist growth rates suggest that this could have been achieved without the horrors of Stalinism. The Soviet industrial power in World War II along with assistance from American Lend Lease enabled the Soviets to prevail over the NAZIs. Soviet industry, however, prived hopelessly inefficent. In the uncompetitive Soviet system, most companies produced products that were worth less than the value of the labor and raw materials used to produce them. And the Soviet Union was never able to repair the damage done to Russian agriculture by collectivization. The Soviet Union did create an effective education system producung well-trained scientists and engeneers. After the disolution of the Soviet Union, this became apparent when Soviet state industries were simply unable to compete with foreign firms. Russian economic planners have not yet made the reforms needed to develop a modern free market economic system to harness the enormous potential of Russia's well-educated population. The Russian economy is today based primarily on the export of oil and other raw materials, essentially the same as Third World countries with uneducated populations. Russia today with the exception of military weapons does not produce industrial or technological products which can conpete in world markets.

Civil Liberties

A Russian reader commented on our history pages, "Westerners have experienced democratic rule and protection of civil liberies. This has been the case in the United States even during the British colonial era. The situation in Europe is more varied, but several countries especially Britain have a long history of democracy and guaranteed civil liberties. Thus Westerners take openness as a given and speak freely. You have not experienced a situation where one has to be guarded and think carefully before saying something even with people they know." Other Russian readers have expressed hostilyuto West ad our discussion of Russian history. Many seem to think that the West is a threat and out to harm Russia. This actually is an additude that many Russians have held for centuries and not just a Soviet or post Soviet phenomenon. These Russians tend to deny that modern Russia has diverged from the European norm. They deny that President Putin's rule is oppresive or denies Russians basic civil liberties. Other Russians hostile to the West take a different tact. They tend to see the West's ptomotion of civil liberties, demicracy, and capitalism as a Western plot to weaken if not destroy Russia. As far as we can see, there is no consensus that bsic civil liberties and diversity of thought is a strength and not a weakness. e see this same mind set in the Arab world. And it is no accident that the Russians, Arabs, and other closed societies have economies based on expoering raw materials--in ther cases primarily eneergy resources. What we do not see is these countries haranassing the creative minds of their people to produce manufactured goods that can be sold on world markets. In the case of Russia this is especially stunning as the Soviet Union was a technology leader vying with america in the space race and training largenumbers of scientists and tchnicins. What we do not see in Russia tiday as in the arab world u=is why they hve ecinomies based primarily on exporting raw marerials.

Chronologies

HBC has begun to develop some chronolgical information about Russian boys' clothes, although our information is still quite limited. Our Russian readers have provided us some interesting information to begin building a basic chronology. Russia in the early 19th century was the most backward country in Europe. It's huge reserves of manpower and the force of the Russian winter helped to defeat Napoleon and reverse the course of European history. The great bulk of the Russian people were mired in the feudal system. They were serfs on huge landed estates with no contact with western thought and culture. Their labor supported a wealthy airistocracy which prefered to speak Russian and in fact looked with distain on the culture and people of their own country. The middle class which proved the back bone of Western European nations was very small and less important in Russia. Boys clothing reflected these dichotomies. French fashions in the late 19th Century were popular with aristocratic and affluent middle class families. This was an interesting development as France under Napoleon invaded Russian and occupied with considerable brutality much of European Russia. one=the-less French culture in the late 19th century was dominate among the elite. Many spoke French at home rather than Russian. Dress styles were similar to those of France. Like French boys, little Russian boys also wore dresses. Peasant boys wore a tunic outfit that buttoned tightly around the neck. This style was also worn by boys from wealthy families and was the inspiration for the Russian blouse in Europe amd America. Little boys continued to wear dresses after the turn of the Century, but this fashion was passing and for the most part relatively young boys wore dresses. Sailor suits were popular for boys. The Czarevitch Alexis almost always wore sailor suits, until World War I began (1914). Then he mostly wore army uniforms. Many other arristocratic and wealthy boys, as well as middle class boys, also wore sailor suits, but this was a realtively small part of the population. The sailor suit was probably a reflection of the German influence. Even before the Russian Revolution, Russia except for the elite was a basically closed society. Fashionable clothes were not generally available to Soviet citizens and restrictions on foreign publications and travel restricted the spread of European fashion trends. After kneepants had passed out of style in the 1910s, Soviet boys mostly wore long pants. Knickers were never popular in the Soviet Union. Boys did wear shorts, but mostly during the summer. Russian boys like boys in Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany continued to wear long stockings after kneesocks had become more common in Europe. Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian boys have begun increasingly to dress like boys in the rest of Western Europe.

Social Class

Social class is a fascinating subject concerning Russia. Here we need to consider the class structure in both the Tsarist and Soviet eras and now post-Soviet modern Russia. Tsaeist Russia was dominated by the aristocracy. There was a small middleclass and huge rural peasantry. Beginning in the late-19th century there was a new group, the expanding urban industrial work fofce. No country has had quite the same experience. Within the peiod of about 70 years or more or less two generations, Russia went from a virtually medieval feudal system in which the bulk of the populations were serfs, virtual agricultural slaves to a susposedly classless Soviet system. No country except prhsaps China has undegione such a dramatic shift in its social system. This transition has been poorly studied. Russia was closed to Western scholars after the Revolution and Soiviet studies were ideologically based diatribes about the evils of the Tsarist era and the wonders of socialism. It is thus difficult at this time to assess relative living standards. It seems that city workers and ruraal peasants were discrinated against in the Tsarist system, but actual living standards are difficult to assess. We note numerous photographic images showing peasant children who are reasonably clothed and well fed. In fact, the available photographic record suggests that peasant children were better clothed during the Tsarist than the pre-World War II Soviet era. Of course clothing this is only one indicator. The Soviet regime certainly increased access to education. What we observe concern clothing seems to be a elflection of Stalin's decession to shift resources from the rural population to industrial city workers as part of the industrialization effort. We susoect that the children od city workers were dressed and fed better during this same period. This is, however, a very preliminary assessment. During the Soviet era, family background was not eliminated as a matter of social status, but it was inverted. Individuals with aristocratic or even middleclass backgroujnd were desvrinated against in a variety of ways. We are nor sure if post-Soviet Russian authors have attempted any more ballanced assessment of social class. Like a variety of other topicsm it is likely to still be a very sensative issue. Another interesting issue is the developing social dstructure of post-Soviet Russia.


Figure 2.--Andrea Sakarov growing up in Soviet Russia wore sailor suits and bangs as a boy. He grew upin a privlidged fmily, we are unsure how common the sailor suit was for the average Soviet boy.

Serfdom

Serfdom, the Russian form of feudalism, played a major role in Russian life through the 19th century when it was abolished. Serfdom was more humane than American race-based chattle slavery, but serfdom as also a brutal system which tied millions of Russians to the land. Even freed slaves were descriminated against. The influence continued into the 20th century. An assessment of Russian boys' clothing would thus be incomplete withoutan assessment of serfdom. Some Russian boys even in the 19th century look much like European boys. Other Russian boys, especially serf boys and rural village boys dressed very destinctly.

Activities

Russian boys like boys in other countries often wear destinctive clothing for a variety of activities. Soviet-era boys wore school uniforms, but this is less common in Russia today. Young Pioneer uniforms were basically the same as the school uniform. The Pioneers are now gone, but Scouting has appeared in Russia on a small scale. After school boys took off their uniforms to put on their play clothes. There is destinctive sports wear and uniforms as well as choir and dance uniforms. Boys dress up for special occassions which now includes attending church or outings of various sorts.

Garments

HBC at this time is only begining to obtain information on the garments worn by Russian boys. As in Western Europe, younger boys wore dresses, although social and economic factors significantly affected the clothes actually worn by Russian boys. We note that sailor caps, middy blouses, with kneepants and long stockings were common. The Tsarevitch's sailor suits must have helped make the style very popular, although except as a very young boy he mostly wore long pants sailor suirts. After World War I knee pants disappeared and Russian boys began wearing long pants. Short pants were also worn, often with long stockings. We also note Russian boys wearing Russain blouses and baggy pants. While long stockings were common for decades, Russian boys wore tights during the 1970s. We have not yet developed information on Russian footwear, but note that boys in rural areas commonly went barefoot when the weather was warm enough. Russian boys clothes began to change in the 1960s. The Iron Curtain could not keep out Western youth culture, although those trends did lag chronolgically. By the 1970s Soviet boys were wearing jeans and short pants during the summer, although there were uniforms for school.

Hair Styling

We notice that before World War I, many Russian boys even quite young boys had cropped hair. In this respect the Rissians were similar to the Germans. We know that Tsar Nicholas I who succeeded Alexander II and preceded Alexander III was enamored of all things Prussian, this may have been a factor. The shaved heads seem to have been even more common in Russia than Germany. Not all boys had shaved headsm but it was certainly very common. HBC at this time is unsure as to why shaved heads were such a popular style. We thouht at first it may have been a school rule, but wechave noted images of even young pre-school children with shaved heads. One image even seem to show a girl with a shaved head, but this was not common.

Russian Styling

European and American boys at the turn of the 20th Century wore two garments in the Russian style, tunics and blouses both worn as part of a suit ensemble. The Russian styling was especially popular in France. The Russian tunic had existed for some time. The Russian blouse suit was a new style. The Russian style came in two styles, a tightly buttoned at the neck style which appeared in the 1890s and an open square collared style which appeared after the turn of the century. The open square collar was rather an informal style worn with short pants.

Minorities

The concept of minorities in Russia is rather complicated. Russia until the demise of the Soviet Union was the center of a huge multi-ethnic empire. In most empires (Persian, Roman, Ottoman, Austrian, British), the dominnt group is a minority ruling over a much larger group of subject peoples. In some empires (Chinese and Russian), the dominant group is a larger population than the people ruled. The concept of minorities in an empire is somewhat complicated. Many peoples (Estonians, Georgians, Finns, Latvians, Lithuanins, Poles, Ukraniansin, and many others) in the Russian Empire were minorities compared to to the population of the Great Russians. Some like the Poles and Ukranians shared ethnic Slavic afinity. They were not, hoever, minorities in the regions they lived, unless they emigrated to Russia itself. Thus these are not true minorities and we discuss them under Russian regions are in their own separte country page. There were, however, also several minorities living in Russia there were not only minorities to the Reussians, but also to the dominant populion of the local area. Such minorities include: Cossacks, Germans , Gypseys, jews, and others.

Ethnic Garb

Russia even after the disolution of the Soviet Union is a huge country which still includes many disperate peoples and nationalities. The consideration of ethnic dress is somewhat complicated because many regions of the former Soviet Union and Tsarist Russia have noe separated from Russia and formed 15 independent countries. Even so the ethnic traditions of many remain a part of Russian history. One example is the cossacks, the highly independent, some would say predatory horsemen of the Russian steppe and Causcasus Mountains, but their range extended east to Siberia. Today the former range of the cossacks is more in the Ukraine and newly independent Cucasian republics, but continue to be strongly associated with Russia in the popular mind.

Regions

After the disolution of the Soviet Union (1992). Russia is now much more homogeneous than was the old Soviet Union. There are, however, still some destinctive areas if Russia. The one most in the news today is Cheneya. Much of Russia is a relatively flat plain. The most prominant mountain range is the Urals. This is a geographical term, not a Russian administrative district. The Urals are generally seen as the dividing line between Europe and Asia.

Families

One interesting aspect of fashions is assessing how the entire famuly was dressed. These images not only help to assess what kind of clothes the rest of the family was wearing with the different boys' fashions. These famly images provide views of whjat the other members of the famoly was wearing. The images also provide some interesting insights on social trends. Here we have just begun to collect images.

Homes

We do not have a lot of information on Russian housing. Before the Revolution (1917), Russia had a rapidly growing industrial sector, but was still a laregely rural population. This meant that most Russian had their oiwn homes, albeit much of the rural housing was very basic. The central purose of Stalin's 5-Year Plans was to industrialize the Soviet Union by expanding heavy industry. This meant a massive transfer of people to the cities and also shifting resources to fnance the indudstrial expansion and support the workers. It alsomnmeant thsat urban housding had to be created. Stalin's answer were massive complexes of apartment blocks that are a major feature of mosdt Russian cities today. The vast proprtion of urban Russians live in the capasrtment complexes. Worker wages tended to be very low, but this state-owned housing was porovide atvvery low remts. Since the disolution of the Soviet Union, Russans had been debating weher or not to oprivatize these apartments. A Russian reader tells us, "Nowdays the Government is still working on a program of free privatization of flats in such apartments. Some people prefere to make their flats private, other to leave thier flats as a state property. This reflects a general indecesion in Russisa over the issue of private property.

Literature

We have begun to develop some information on Russian literature. We have begun to work on Russian novels. This is an potentially important source of information and of course Russian novels are among the greatest ever written. Russians are also noted for a love of poetry. One popular poet was Alexander Blok (1880-1921). We have more information on Soviet children's literature. Russian children's literature is not well known in the West, but our Russian readers have provided some very useful infotmation.

Movies

Russia had a notable film industry. Some Russian movies provide useful information on boys' clothing. Russian films unfortunately are not well known in the West. While we have only limited information at this time, we hope to expand our Russian film section.

Individual Experiences

HBC has only a few individual experiences pages. We have collecting a few accounts about the experiences of individual Russian boys, but mostly from literary and newspaper sources. We also have assssed some of the available images. Unfortunately our Russian readers have not yet submitted their own accounts. Her I think language is a major inhibiting factor.

Beslan: School No. 1

We have seen many terrible tragedies play out on our living room televisions. None have been quite so horific as the terrorist attack on School No. 1 in Beslan. HBC has pursued historic war and crises because we believe that the impact on children is commonly not adequately covered. Normally the children are affected because they and their parents are caught in the crossfire of war and the disruptions associated with war. Rarely are there occassions such as the Holocaust where children become special targets. The attack on School No. 1 was a direct, planned attack on children. The results were horific and heart rending. So many dead and wounded. Terroists shooting children in the back as they fled. Adults carried small mangeled bodies. One is hard put to imagine how people could have planned to do such a terrible thing.

Sources

Deborah Adelman, The "Children of Perestroika:" Moscow Teenagers Talk About Their Lives and the Future, 1991.

Alan M. Ball, And Now My Soul Is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia, 1918-1930, 1994.

Toby W. Clyman and Judith Vowles, eds., Russia Through Womenís Eyes: Autobiographies from Tsarist Russia, 1996.

Larry Holmes, "Part of history: the Oral record and Moscow's model school No. 25, 1931-1937," Slavic Review, Summer 1997. File, on reserve.

Wolfgang Leonhard, Child of the Revolution, pp. 7-125. On reserve.

Hilary Pilkington, Russiaís Youth and Its Culture: A Nationís Constructors and Constructed, 1994.

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, 1996 (1862)






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Created: February 7, 1998
Last updated: 12:51 PM 7/11/2016