Accepted Paper:

Gender and the return of the golden age in contemporary Russia  


Irina Sadovina (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

For St. Petersburg spiritual seekers, femininity and masculinity are essential in bringing about Russia's spiritual resurrection. While investigating the role of gender as a utopian practice, defined against the Soviet past and the Western other, we gesture to a radically different future.

Paper long abstract:

For many spiritual seekers in St. Petersburg's new age circles, the folklore-inspired images of Russia's ancient past (such as the paintings of Konstantin Vasiliev) evoke more than nostalgia for the Golden Age. They also point to a future resurrection of Russia in its ancient spiritual glory, as a beautiful ecological utopia populated by noble warriors and maidens with flowing locks. This imagery reflects a highly gendered imagination; femininity and masculinity are seen as essential in bringing about the return of Russia's Golden Age. The practice of shaping yourself into a better, more spiritual and more authentically Russian woman or man therefore provides a sort of utopian directionality to daily life. This embodied utopia defines itself both against the failed Socialist project (with its dogma of gender equality) and the threatening technocratic dystopia of the West (with its gender confusion). At the same time, these spiritualized gender practices conform with the conservative gender ideologies and policies of both the Soviet Union and contemporary Russia. Moreover, they often draw on Western new age literature, self-help psychology and even popular culture, and are promoted through online channels, such as lifestyle websites and style blogs. In this paper, I will investigate the role of spiritualized gender as a utopian practice, posed in ambiguous relationships to the Soviet past and the Western other, yet gesturing necessarily to a radically different world yet to come.

Panel Gend005
Gender and power in communist and post-communist places