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The Land of Mothers

by | Moscow, Russia

Monday, 28 June 2010

tags: consumer culture, culture, emergence, europe, making sense

Is Russia really as patriarchal? Some signs from social advertising.

For almost a year Moscow citizens and it’s guests can observe this cute picture in the underground. This is a social advertising aimed at strengthening the institution of family in Russia. It quotes Francis Bacon: ‘Love to motherland begins with the family’. Matrioshka signifies both parts of the quote: it is the obvious sign of  ‘Rusianness’ and has well-known meaning of fertility.

The Land of Mothers

What is interesting here is  the gender profile of the family. The biggest, the central doll is female and there are just 2 male figures, the role of which is unclear. Is the bigger one a husband? Then he is presented in the subordinate position to his wife (significantly smaller, childish shapes, stays on the side). Or a son? In this case she is a single mother.

The picture may be interpreted as a reflection of modern life. Crisis of masculinity is a popular topic in Russia. It is usually explained by the events of 20-th century, including huge loss of male population during wars and repressions, peculiarities of communistic social system and global processes of feminism. The family picture with dominant figure of mother is almost a norm in contemporary Russian culture. 

On the other hand, old historical symbols are used in the picture. The characters are shaped and dressed far from modern standards. They are not Barbie-dolls, they are Russian dolls. This is how Russian people looked two centuries ago. The background reminds a tablecloth in great grandmothers’ kitchen. As a matter of fact, return to local traditions has been an important social trend of the last decade and national symbols have become very popular. In this context, the ad actually says ‘this is the traditional Russian family, how it should be’. Is this an example of how modern views change perception of the past? Or does this advertisement represent archetypal image of the Russian family?

Here are some links about matriarchal traditions and image of Mother in Russia:

http://eng.plakaty.ru/posters?cid=5&full=1&page=6&id=40
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Motherland
http://eng.plakaty.ru/posters?cid=1&id=773
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-66355314.html
http://www.berdyaev.com/skobtsova/veneratio_Bogomater.html

Notes:
Joanna Hubbs “Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture”
Ireneusz Szarycz “Morsels on the Tongue: Evidence of a Pre-Christian Matriarchy in Russian Fairy Tales”

© Maria Papanthymou 2010

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