The Village Voice: Women's Views of Themselves and Their World in Russian Chastushki of the 1920s

Isabel A. Tirado


This was the call of a peasant woman, most likely a teenager, prompting her friends and neighbors to join her in composing and singing chastushki, the short ditties that

enlivened all youth gatherings. The humorous songs were the spontaneous creation of young people of both sexes for an audience their own age. At times ironic, biting, or plain silly, chastushki expressed the composers' views on almost all facets of the young peasant's life: love, homelife, the way to dress, the changing countryside, and the world beyond the village. We know little about the views of the young peasant woman in the Russian countryside just after the Revolution. She is rarely the subject of scholarship, and her voice is seldom heard in the rich literature of the 1920s. In the wake of the revolutions of 1917 peasants made up 80 percent of the population; their children nineteen years of age· or younger accounted for half of the rural population, with females making up half of that age group. As the expression of the village young people, the chastushka is an invaluable historical source that captures the tension between old and new. This interpretative essay seeks to use chastushki as a tool in reconstructing aspects of post-revolutionary peasant mentalite-that is, the views, attitudes, and mores of peasant society.

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