This article is a close reading of an 1859 court case from Moscow, in which a young orphaned noblewoman accused a much older, wealthier, and better-connected man. It situates the case in its cultural context among the striving middling classes of Moscow on the eve of the Great Reforms, revealing deeply fractured understandings of respectability, civic versus private spaces, masculine violence, and personal safety that permeated Russia's urban classes. Legally, the trial's outcome is not as surprising as the sharply conflicted reasoning of pre-reform judges. Each of the three tiers in the court system produced a radically different decision, pitching the obvious facts of the case against the state's pressure to convict the rapist and pre-reform Russia's supposedly archaic—but actually quite flexible—evidence law. Ultimately, the article argues that this noblewoman was able to use notions of female honor and domesticity in her favor, while the accused's status did not entirely serve to protect him where the need to protect male status conflicted with concerns over the dangers of westernization and modernization.
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