This monograph is devoted to ‘Mother Russia’ as a principal concept of Russian nationalism. The volume demonstrates the role of the mythology of ‘Mother Russia’ in inventing and reinventing Russianness, in producing Ours and Theirs, in constructing external and internal Enemies, in legitimating and delegitimating power within the political system of Russia.
Chapter I ‘Nationalism, Gender, and War: A Methodological Framework’ starts with definitions of the study’s key terms – gender, nationalism, identity, and discourse. Interpreting gender as a referential, context-dependent and heterogeneous phenomenon as well as showing its implication in power relations, the author demonstrates that all principal concepts of nationalism as a discursive formation intersect with gender discourse. This, on the one hand, comes about through the role of nationalism in the formation of gender order during Modernity, and, on the other hand, through the potential of gender to serve as an effective marker facilitating the process of inclusion and exclusion in the making of collective identity. The author argues that gender discourse serves as a weapon of war, playing an important role in national mobilization, as well as in the assertion of supremacy in war, both militarily and morally.
The aim of Chapter II ‘“Mother Russia” Through the Lenses of Postcolonial Studies’ is a general explanation of the symbol. ‘Mother Russia’ is rooted in a myth-symbol complex of Russian culture. At the same time, it has also been developed under the influence of the discourse on Modernity that has divided the world into ‘the West and the Rest’. In Western culture, ‘Mother Russia’ serves as a ‘symbolic border-guard’ between a ‘masculine’ West and ‘feminine’ Russia. ‘Mother Russia’ keeps functioning as a factor of the identity of the West in the post-Cold War era. Contemporary Western mass media actively exploits this symbol to mark a border of the West and to designate Russia as irrational, archaic, chaotic, mysterious, unpredictable, and passive.
In Russian culture, the development of ‘Mother Russia’ is, to a considerable extent, a reaction to these practices of her ‘othering’ within Western discourse. The idea of the femininity of Russia is accepted, first of all, in the ‘messianic’ discourse, which treats Russia as the savior of the West and of all humankind. The author shows that some other non-Western cultures use the similar ‘authofeminization’ accompanied by a representation of the Western civilization as extremely masculine, ‘dangerous masculine’. The symbol is exploited in the politics of identity of Russian nationalism to provide unity for the Russian nation. By determining ‘Ours’, the discourse on ‘Mother Russia’ also produces Enemies both in national and gender dimensions.
Chapter III ‘“Mother Russia” in the History of 20th Century’ analyzes the major phases of development of the symbol during the last century, focusing on its functions in wars (including the Russo-Japanese war, First and Second World Wars, as well as Cold War), revolutions and civil conflicts. It focuses on the mutual influence of ‘Mother Russia’, on the one side, and national, military, political, imperial, and gender discourses in Russia, on the other. The study shows how various discourses in- and outside Russia contest for the interpretation of ‘Mother Russia’ so that to speak on behalf of her. This discursive struggle around the maternal image of Russia accounts for the polysemy of this symbol and heterogeneity of national identity in general.