Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 448 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Nadieszda B. Kizenko

Committee Members

Ann F. Withington, Hilde Hoogenboom


Decembrist Wives, Russian History, Decembrists, Wives, Motherhood, Motherhood in popular culture

Subject Categories



This dissertation explores the mythologized collective image of the Decembrist wives, eleven noblewomen who voluntarily followed to Siberian exile their officer husbands after the latter's failed revolt against Emperor Nicholas I on December 14, 1825. Exploring the multiplicity of the Decembrist wives' representations and self-representations that have emerged in Russian culture since 1825, this study reveals the complexity and constructed nature of these women's historical image that places almost exclusive emphasis on their role as wives to portray them as epitomes of self-sacrificial wifely love and loyalty and an embodiment of ideal Russian femininity. Through the examination of the unpublished correspondence of several Decembrist wives, this dissertation highlights the significance and emotionality of motherhood in the Decembrist wives' self-perception. Looking at the religious and secular models of ideal Russian femininity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this study seeks to explain why the Decembrist wives' role and sentiment as mothers - another crucial aspect of their private lives in Siberia - is largely downplayed or excluded altogether not only from their nearly bi-centennial historical and literary representations, but also from their self-representations. Tracing the construction and evolution of the historical image of the Decembrist wives in Nicholaevan, late Imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet Russia, this dissertation attempts to show how this emotionally powerful image has retained its lasting appeal and popularity in Russian culture.

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