Patriarchal renaissance in Russia - Interview with Olga Zdravomyslova

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Olga Zdravomyslova
  • These days, the term “patriarchal renaissance” comes up a lot. Do you think it correctly characterizes the present stage of development of Russian society?

Talk of “patriarchal renaissance” did not begin just recently, but dates back to the early nineties. At that time, scholars working on gender issues used the term to describe the growing discrimination against women on the labor market, their being pushed into the sphere of domestic work (unpaid labor) and the spread of persistent poverty among women (feminization of poverty). At the same time, though, in the 1990s, an independent women’s movement was taking shape in Russia, and a gender-based criticism of the new social order was emerging.
There are other characteristics that are specific to the current era. In today’s Russia one can detect that traditionalist ideologies and policies are being used to secure places on center stage. And there is no counterweight to that: the critical reflection and social movements which might offer a response to gender challenges are almost non-existent now.

  • I think there are many who would like to ask: What is actually so bad about a traditionalist approach, why do we need gender equality?

We live in the 21st century, and one cannot abandon values like human rights, personal dignity and (in that same spectrum) equal rights for women, values put into place over history (including the history of Russia), at a cost of suffering. A society that lacks this important feature of modernization will be thrown back into the archaic. That is a great danger now.

  • In your opinion, what are the forces that could lead society out of this situation, in which the problems of achieving gender equality are practically excluded from the agenda of public discourse?

A civil society that works towards democratization and modernization. The efforts of individual citizens who hold dear the values of freedom and democratic principles. If the traditionalist trend grows stronger, that will lead to very severe conflicts in society and to an increase in gender-based violence. That will have an extremely negative effect, above all on families, children and young people. It would condemn the demographic policy to failure. In other words: We are talking about Russia’s future here, and there is, in the end, no alternative to moving towards achieving gender equality.


Olga Zdravomyslova. Doctor of Philosophy, sociologist, Executive Director of the Gorbachev Foundation.

Natalia Bitten Journalist, political
scientist, writer, feminist. Has published academic essays and the
novel 'Mainstream' (2007) under the pseudonym of Natalja Kim.

She specializes in Gender Studies. Edited the largest
political paper in the area of Kemerow. Currently she works on the
internet portal Klub (traveling women). She is an active member of
'Initiativegruppe Für Feminismus'.

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