Plebeian Modernity
Title Details

288 Pages

22.8 x 15.2 cm

5 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Rochester Studies in East and Central Europe

Imprint: University of Rochester Press

Plebeian Modernity

Social Practices, Illegality, and the Urban Poor in Russia, 1906-1916

by Ilya Gerasimov

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
Deciphers typical social practices as a hidden language of communication in urban plebeian society
Covering the interrevolutionary decade of 1906-16 in imperial Russia, this book tells the story of the "silent majority" of urban inhabitants in four major cities: Vilna (today Vilnius, Lithuania), Odessa (in today's Ukraine), Kazan, and Nizhny Novgorod. Representatives of underprivileged social groups made up some ninety percent of city populations during this period, yet produced hardly one percent of the surviving written sources. These people, many ofthem migrants from the countryside, usually did not read newspapers, rarely authored written documents, and had little exposure to public discourse. They often did not even speak a common language.

Our understanding of this population has until recently been based largely on interpretations by educated observers (journalists, legal experts, scholars), whose testimonies reflected the cultural stereotypes of the time. This book bypasses such mediation, arguing that we can come to know the authentic voices of urban commoners by reading their social practices as a nonverbal language. Toward that end, author Ilya Gerasimov closely examines newspaper criminal chronicles, policereports, and anonymous extortion letters, reconstructing typical social practices among this segment of Russian society. The resulting picture represents the distinctive phenomenon of a "plebeian modernity," one that helped shapethe outlook of early Soviet society.

Ilya Gerasimov is a founding editor of Ab Imperio. He holds a PhD in Russian history from Rutgers University.
Introduction: The Subalterns Speak Out; Gerasim and the Infamous
Writing Degree Zero, and Beyond: Reading Social Practices between the Lines
The Middle Volga City as the Middle Ground: Urban Plebeian Society
The Patriarchal Metropolis: Trespassing Social Barriers in Late Imperial Vilna
"We Only Kill Each Other": The Anthropology of Deadly Violence and Contested Intergroup Boundaries
The Transformative Social Experience of Illegality
Epilogue: Gerasim in Power; A Plebeian Modernity
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index
"[A] rich analysis." ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW
"Thought-provoking and worth reading by scholars interested in Russia as an empire, urban society, everyday life, illegality, violence, ethnoreligious identities and communities." SLAVONIC AND EAST EUROPEAN REVIEW
"[T]his is a brilliant work. Its pages (and endnotes) brim with powerful insights and clever observations." SLAVIC REVIEW
"Plebeian Modernity is an energetic and thought-provoking book, with some important insights alongside some vivid and compelling anecdotes." EUROPEAN HISTORY QUARTERLY
"[A]s a bold foray into the mostly unknown and unexplored history of 'plebeians,' the forgotten majorities of social history, [this book] deserves our attention." RUSSIAN REVIEW
"Gerasimov has written a concise, thoroughly researched book that is highly readable and offers insights into a wide swath of topics. Reading this book is time well spent, whether you want to understand populism, poverty, diversity, gender, revolutions, Bolshevism, policing practices, peasants, or violence. . . . Plebeian Modernity is a
book virtually free of jargon that is at once provocative, visceral, and empathetic." Ab Imperio

Hardcover

9781580469050

January 2018

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9781787441767

January 2018

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Title Details

288 Pages

2.28 x 1.52 cm

5 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Rochester Studies in East and Central Europe

Imprint: University of Rochester Press