Collins-Breyfogle 2011 Violence

Title Information

Author: Kristin Collins-Breyfogle

Title: Negotiating Imperial Spaces

Subtitle: Gender, Sexuality & Violence in the Nineteenth-century Caucasus

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, Ohio State University

Year: 2011

Pages: viii + 180pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | Russian History | Cases: Victims / Sofii Babanasovoi, Taiama Selim Kiza; Types: Attempted Rape

Full Text

Link: OhioLINK [Free Access]

Additional Information

Author: Kristin Collins-Breyfogle, History Department, Mercyhurst University


»The nineteenth-century Russian imperial state was relatively less transformative in shaping gender, controlling sexuality, and implementing change in marriage and family life in the Caucasus region of the tsarist empire than comparative Western European imperial projects in Asia and Africa. In spite of (and in distinct contrast to) tsarist writers’ condemnations of violence and the subordinate positions of Caucasian women and children in Caucasian family life, tsarist agents who implemented policy and oversaw cases of violence against women and children tended not to intervene in such incidents but rather to leave Caucasian communities to adjudicate matters based upon their own legal systems. While the discourse of empire justified tsarist control as a means to transform the lives of women in the region, in practice women and children in the Caucasus often found the touch of empire to be relatively light on their lived experience. Even when they turned consciously to the tsarist legal and gendered systems for assistance they largely found themselves turned away.
My research rethinks how we understand the form and function of tsarist imperialism and unveils its limits and parameters. Traditional literature focuses on the Caucasian wars and sees the Russian empire as heavy handed and invasive. In contrast, by examining the social and cultural history of the Caucasus through themes of gender, sexuality (adultery cases), sexual violence (bride stealing and rape), and familial structures (blood vengeance, domestic/familial violence, challenges to marriage unions), my work reveals an empire that was largely hands off.
This dissertation finds a new side of Russian empire -- one characterized largely by tsarist officials reticent to implement change when it came to the position of Caucasian women in society, to sexuality, and to Caucasian family and married life. The Russian empire championed the use of its legal system to change and reform what it saw as the “uncivilized” Caucasians. In practice, however, it imposed its policies in an inconsistent, haphazard, and halting manner due to a variety of factors which included a fear of inciting local elites, an administrative system that limited the abilities of its officials to implement change, and cultural misunderstandings and ignorance. This dissertation argues that conceptions of gender, sexuality, honor, violence, and justice shaped interactions between Caucasian indigenous peoples and tsarist officials (indigenous elites included) and determined the outcomes of those interactions, often leading to inaction or compromise on the part of tsarist officials, few alternatives for indigenous populations, and little change in Caucasian family life.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. ii)
  Dedication (p. iv)
  Acknowledgments (p. v)
  Vita (p. vi)
  List of Maps (p. viii)
  Chapter 1: Introduction (p. 1)
    Law, Empire, Gender (p. 5)
    Methodology, Sources, and Historiography (p. 7)
    Situating the Caucasus: A Crossroads (p. 11)
    Chapter Overview (p. 14)
  Chapter 2: A Discourse of Violence, Gender, & Religion: Caucasian Women and Men in Nineteenth-Century Tsarist Print (p. 22)
    Family Life and the Role of Family Patriarchs in Caucasian Societies: A Critique by Tsarist Writers (p. 27)
    Civilizing Caucasian Marriage Practices: Native Writers Criticisms (p. 32)
    Conclusions (p. 41)
  Chapter 3: Crime, Violence and Honor Defined: Notions of the Masculine in Customary and Tsarist law (p. 43)
    Indigenous Caucasian Populations: Whose Honor? (p. 50)
    Thievery and Brigandage: A Test of Honor Makes the Caucasian Man (p. 54)
    Justice against their Own (p. 58)
    A Challenge to Imperial power? – The Custom of Blood Vengeance (p. 61)
    Rendering Hospitality: A Custom of Honor and Manhood (p. 67)
    Conclusion (p. 70)
  Chapter 4: A Place to Turn: Religious and Secular Tsarist Officials' Authority over Caucasian Marriage & Family (p. 71)
    So Far Removed From Theory: Governing Caucasian Marriage Practices (p. 77)
      Familial Infighting: Consent, Age, and Familial Insult (p. 79)
      Too Many Wives: The Orthodox Church Makes Policy (p. 84)
      Turning to Empire: Muslim Authorities' Autonomy over Marriage (p. 87)
      Disobedience: A Hindrance to Orthodox Policy (p. 90)
    Conclusion (p. 92)
  Chapter 5: The Undoing of Tsarist Rhetoric: Tsarist Secular Authorities' Approach to Bride Stealing and Familial Violence (p. 94)
    A Lesson in Compromise and Measuring Violence: Tsarist Secular Authorities role in Bride Stealing Cases (p. 100)
      Circumventing the Patriarch: The Alternatives of Tsarist Law (p. 102)
      A Measure of Violence: The Limits of Tsarist Law (p. 109)
    Familial/Domestic Violence (p. 111)
      Caucasian Women as Aggressors: Familial Violence (p. 113)
      Killing for One's Brother: A Family Affair (p. 115)
      The Patriach's Prerogative: The Limits of Tsarist Intervention (p. 118)
      So Little to Offer: Domestic Abuse and Playing the Morality Card (p. 120)
    Conclusions (p. 123)
  Chapter 6: Negotiating Honor and Deciding 'Justice': Cases of Rape and Adultery (p. 126)
    Defining Rape in the Caucasus – The Local Inhabitants (p.129)
    Defining Rape and Adultery (p. 131)
    Saving Family Honor: Options and Methods of Response (p. 137)
    Marital Status and Punishment (p. 140)
    Age, Sex, and Punishment (p. 146)
    Measuring Harm & the Burden of Proof (p. 148)
      Deciding Justice in the Tsarist Courtroom: Cases of Compromise, Appeasement, and Inaction (p. 151)
      Cases Characterized by Inaction: Tego Tsarakhov's Adultery Case goes to the Tsarist Court, 1868 (p. 152)
      The Murder of Irian Gladkov: An Adulteress (p. 154)
      The rape of Sofii Babanasovoi, 1879 (p. 155)
      >The attempted rape of Taiama Selim Kiza, 1848 (p. 158)
    Conclusion (p. 159)
  Chapter 7: Conclusion: Russian Gender and Empir in Comparative Perspective (p. 162)
  Bibliography (p. 171)
    Archival Sources (p. 171)
    Newspapers and Journals (p. 171)
    Books and Articles (p. 172)

Added: June 28, 2014 | Last updated: June 28, 2014