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Making an Appearance: Urban “Types” and the Creation of Respectability in Odessa's Popular Press, 1912-1914

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2017

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In his 1913 guide to the city, Grigorii Moskvich wrote that the dream of the “essential Odessan” was to strike it rich and immediately acquire a house, a carriage, and everything else he needed in order to “transform himself (by appearance, of course) into an impeccable British gentleman or blue-blooded Viennese aristocrat.” Then, “immaculately dressed, with an expensive cigar in his teeth,” the remade Odessan was ready to meet his public. Whether “getting into a carriage or sitting down in one of the better cafés, on the boulevard or in the park,” the Odessan was “out to impress by his appearance, aware of his own worth, looking down on everyone and everything below.” “Odessans are proud of themselves (not without foundation), flaunting their ability to dress as well as any purebred Parisian or Viennese.” Women, too, were always well turned out, “no husband carrying the expenses of his wife's toilette as uncomplainingly as the Odessan… . This passion for fashion, the desire to impress by external appearances, penetrates all of Odessa society, from the counts to the cooks,” the writer declared.

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Slavic Review , Volume 59 , Issue 4 , Winter 2000 , pp. 802 - 824
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Copyright © Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. 2000

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References

1. Moskvich, Grigorii, Putevoditel’ po Odesse (Odessa, 1913), 4749 Google Scholar. Moskvich was a prolific writer, author of a series of travelogues covering major tourist sites in imperial Russia including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, the Crimea, the Caucasus, the Volga, and Finland. For general discussion of his work in Odessa, see G. Zlenko, “Moskvich iz Odessy,” Vecherniaia Odessa, 2 October 1982; M. Bel'skii, “Putevoditeli Grigoriia Moskvicha,“ Vecherniaia Odessa, 14 July 1990; and Muranov, S. and Popov, A., “S Moskvichom po Odesse,” Vecherniaia Odessa, 17-20 September 1994Google Scholar

2. The category publika is exceptionally important in understanding the cultural world of urban Russia in the late imperial era. Contemporary notions of its meaning are revealed in part by Dal’who, V. I., in the 1914 edition of his famous dictionary, Tolkovyi slovar' zhivogo velikorusskogo iazyka (1914; reprint, Moscow, 1998), 3:1403 Google Scholar, said that the term referred to all of “society [obshchestvo] except for the uncultured [chernyie], simple people [narod].” Dal“s two usage examples are also quite suggestive of the growing social importance of the category: “Were there many people [publika] at the theater?” and “What will the public say about that?” Publika thus referred to the public both as spectators—an audience for performances in entertainment venues as well as on the stage of the city—and as judges, of personal as well as civic and even national behavior. For a wonderful and important discussion of the origins of publika, see Douglas Smith, “Freemasonry and the Public in Eighteenth-Century Russia,” in Burbank, Jane and Ransel, David L., eds., Imperial Russia: New Histories for the Empire (Bloomington, 1998), 281304 Google Scholar.

3. Moskvich, , Putevoditel', 4749 Google Scholar.

4. Odessa was an important publishing center, in 1914 home to more than 60 periodicals in a variety of languages. I examined the full range of newspapers available in Russian, but I chose to focus primarily on two popular dailies, Odesskii listok (5 million copies sold annually) and Odesskaia pochta (annual sales estimated at over 20 million), both of which targeted a broad middle-class readership. For a list of periodicals regularly published in Odessa, see Vsia Odessa: Adresnaia i spravochnaia kniga vsei Odessy s otdelom Odesskii uezd (Odessa, 1914), 139-41. Circulation figures can be found in Beliaeva, L. N.etal., eds., Bibliografiia periodicheskikh izdanii Rossii, 1901-1916 (Leningrad, 1959)Google Scholar; Kovbasiuk, S. M. etal., eds., Odessa: Ocherk istoriigoroda-geroia (Odessa, 1957), 113 Google Scholar; and Obzor odesskogogradonachal'stva za 1912 (Odessa, 1913), 35.

5. Moskvich, , Putevoditel', 49 Google Scholar.

6. “Gde intelligentsia (Iz pis'ma v redaktsiiu),” Odesskii listok (hereafter, OL), no. 54 (Tuesday, 6 March 1912): 3.

7. The rise of the “new” or “people's” intelligentsia is treated in Jeffrey Brooks, “Popular Philistinism and the Course of Russian Modernism,” in Gary Saul Morson, ed., Literature and History: Theoretical Problems and Russian Case Studies (Stanford, 1986), quote in text above from p. 90. The various tensions and disputes that arose as the “new” intelligentsia struggled to be accepted by the “old“—sometimes described by historians as battles between the respective adherents of highbrow (aristocratic) and (more elusively) middlebrow culture—are just beginning to be explored by cultural historians. Aside from Brooks's article, see the essays by McReynolds, Louise and Holmgren, Beth in Goscilo, Helena and Holmgren, Beth, eds., Russia—Women—Culture (Bloomington, 1996)Google Scholar; Neuberger, Joan, Hooliganism: Crime, Culture, and Poioer in St. Petersburg, 1900-1914 (Berkeley, 1993), 5157 Google Scholar; and especially Catriona Kelly and David Shepherd, Constructing Russian Culture in the Age of Revolution: 1881-1940 (Oxford, 1998).

8. The pioneering work of McReynolds, Louise, The News under Russia's Old Regime: The Development of Mass-Ciradation Press (Princeton, 1991), 161-67Google Scholar, reveals the penchant of popular press journalists in St. Petersburg and Moscow to pick up the fallen mantle of the “old” intelligentsia. The proof that Odessa journalists assumed a similar role is supplied (as it should be) by the journalists themselves. The assertion of authority is made explicitly in an Odesskii listok article titled, “Gde intelligentsia (Iz pis'ma v redaktsiiu),” OL, no. 54 (Tuesday, 6 March 1912): 3, which also highlights the sociocultural tensions between (and among) members of the intelligentsia (both old and new) and the meshchanstvo in Odessa.

9. Orlovsky, Daniel, “The Lower Middle Strata in Revolutionary Russia,” in Clowes, Edith W., Kassow, Samuel D., and West, James L., eds., Between Tsar and People: Educated Society and the Quest for Public Identity in Late Imperial Russia (Princeton, 1991), 249 Google Scholar, defines meshchanstvo—officially a soslovie or estate designation—as the lower-middle strata of Russian urban society, a category encompassing people who by occupation were “located between the property-owning or higher-status professional ‘middle class,’ on the one hand, and blue-collar factory or peasant agrarian labor, on the other.” Looking specifically at Odessa, Frederick Skinner conceives of the group in larger terms, seeing it as ranging “across the broad middle spectrum of the social order, bridging wealth and poverty, connecting bourgeois to underworld.” See Skinner, Frederick, “Odessa and the Problem of Urban Modernization,” in Hamm, Michael F., ed., The City in Late Imperial Russia (Bloomington, 1986), 211-13Google Scholar. Official statistics show that the meshchanstvo made up the majority of Odessa's population in the early twentieth century. Per the 1897 census, 57.6 percent of Odessa's population was meshchanskie. See Pervaia vseobshchaia perepis’ naseleniia Rossiiskoi Imperii: 1897g. Tom 47. Gorod Odessa (St. Petersburg, 1904), 2-3. Per Obzor Odesskogo gradonachal'stva za 1914 (Odessa, 1916), by 1914 that figure had fallen somewhat to 51.8 percent.

10. As Vera S. Dunham has argued, In Stalin's Time: Middleclass Values in Soviet Fiction (Durham, 1990), 19-20, the intelligentsia and the meshchanstvo were intrinsically hostile to each other. They were an oppositional pair existing “not so much as class or social group designations, but as cultural terms and as modal personalities.” Each side informed and in fact enabled the definition of the other, Svetlana Boym adds, “intelligentsia needfing] to fight meshchanstvo to construct its own identity.” See Boym, Svetlana, Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), 67 Google Scholar.

11. As I show, Roshanna P. Sylvester, “Crime, Masquerade, and Anxiety: The Public Creation of Middle-Class Identity in Pre-Revolutionary Odessa, 1912-1916” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1998), Odessa's popular press journalists were steeped in western bourgeois culture, their stories applauding the virtues of personal choice, independence, honest work, and greater individual responsibility. Further, they emphasized the vital importance of education and an ideal of family life comfortably rooted in clearly defined gender roles. For definitions of bourgeois culture in the west that cite these values (among others), see Kocka, Jürgen, ‘The European Pattern and the German Case,” in Kocka, Jürgen and Mitchell, Allen, eds., Bourgeois Society in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Oxford 1993), 6 Google Scholar; Holt, Richard, “Social History and Bourgeois Culture in Nineteenth Century France: A Review Article,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 27 (October 1985): 713-26CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For evidence of these values in the broad Russian context, see especially Engelstein, Laura, The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-de-Siecle Russia (Ithaca, 1992), 113 Google Scholar; Kelly, and Shepherd, , eds., Constructing Russian Culture, 34 Google Scholar; and McReynolds, , Nexus under Russia's Old Regime, 234 Google Scholar. See also Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter, Social Identity in Imperial Russia (DeKalb, 1997), 62-99. For a discussion of Odessa society's general tendency to understand itself as part of the west, see Herlihy, Patricia, Odessa: A History, 1794-1914 (Cambridge, Mass., 1986)Google Scholar; Igor Yeykelis, “Odessa 1914-1922: The Resurgence of Local Social and Cultural Values during the Times of Upheaval” (Ph.D. diss., University of Melbourne, 1997); and Sylvester, “Crime, Masquerade, and Anxiety.“

12. On traditional intelligentsia disdain for the bourgeoisie, see Kelly, and Shepherd, , eds., Constructing Russian Culture, 134 Google Scholar.

13. Neuberger, , Hooliganism, 18 Google Scholar.

14. The notion that identity formation is at root a cultural process has garnered a considerable degree of attention from theoreticians working in a variety of scholarly fields (especially cultural anthropology, interpretive sociology, and structuralist and poststructuralist literary theory and philosophy) as well as from historians, particularly those specializing in western Europe and the United States, who have found inspiration in cultural studies approaches. For an excellent review article that discusses the impact of this body of work on the writing of history, see Sarah Maza, “Stories in History: Cultural Narratives in Recent Works in European History,” American Historical Review 101, no. 5 (December 1996): 1493-1515. See also the insightful and highly provocative discussions included in Bonnell, Victoria E. and Hunt, Lynn, eds., Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture (Berkeley, 1999)Google Scholar. For a discussion of how “the cultural turn” has affected the writing of Russian history, see Steinberg, Mark D., “Stories and Voices: History and Theory,” Russian Review 55, no. 3 (July 1996): 347 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For work that considers cultural criteria in discussions of emergent middle-class or bourgeois identity in late imperial Russia, see especially Clowes, Kassow, and West, eds., Between Tsar and People; Engelstein, The Keys to Happiness; and the introductions to two recent volumes edited by Catriona Kelly and David Shepherd: Constructing Russian Culture, and Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction (Oxford, 1998). In terms of the most important comparative work focusing especially on the creation and expression of middle-class identity, see Blackboum, David and Eley, Geoff, The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth- Century Germany (Oxford, 1984)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Blumin, Stuart M., ‘The Hypothesis of Middle-Class Formation in Nineteenth-Century America: A Critique and Some Proposals,” American Historical Review, 90 no. 2 (April 1985): 299338 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Clark, T.J., The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Folloxuers (New York, 1985)Google Scholar; Kasson, John F., Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (New York, 1990)Google Scholar; and Walkowitz, Judith R., City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late- Victorian London (Chicago, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15. Etiquette writers shared with journalists the notion that perfecting a proper appearance could facilitate the rise of those trying to pull themselves up the social ladder. The authors of the popular volume Khoroshii ton, for example, stated explicitly that people were not born with good manners, they acquired them, usually from a very young age as part of a good upbringing (vospitanie). But this was not the only way, they declared. “On the contrary, life experience shows that every adult person, whether he grew up in the countryside or behind a counter somewhere can fully re-educate himself and become in every sense a decent person.” See Iur'ev, and Vladimirskii, , KJioroshii ton: Pravila svetskoi zhizni i etika. Sbornik sovetov i nastavlenii (1889; reprint, Moscow, 1991), 12 Google Scholar. Whether etiquette manuals actually facilitated the social rise of people from the lower classes is an open question. As Elizabeth Langland, Nobody's Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture (Ithaca, 1995), 28, suggests, however, even if they did not do so, etiquette manuals remained important in that they “consolidated an image of the genteel middle class.“

16. On the figure of the Russian middle-class woman becoming in various senses more publicly visible, see Lindenmeyr, Adele, Poverty Is Not a Vice: Charity, Society, and the State in Imperial Russia (Princeton, 1996)Google Scholar; Louise McReynolds, “'The Incomparable’ Anastasiia Vial'tseva and the Culture of Personality,” in Goscilo and Holmgren, eds., RussiaWomenCulture; Ruane, Christine, “Clothes Shopping in Imperial Russia: The Development of a Consumer Culture,“Journal of Social History 28, no. 4 (Summer 1995): 765-82CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Sally West, “Constructing Consumer Culture: Advertising in Imperial Russia to 1914“ (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1995).

17. Although not as ubiquitous as they were in fin-de-siecle America or western Europe, etiquette manuals were published regularly in Russia in the late imperial period. For a sampling in translation, see Geldern, James von and McReynolds, Louise, eds., Entertaining Tsarist Russia: Tales, Songs, Plays, Movies, Jokes, Ads, and Images from Russian Urban Life, 1779-1917 (Bloomington, 1998)Google Scholar. Etiquette books are an unusually rich, if so far largely neglected, source for historical exploration of the Russian urban experience. Of the few secondary works in which etiquette manuals are treated, see Kelly, and Shepherd, , eds., Constructing Russian Culture, 130-34Google Scholar; Nadya L. Peterson, “Dirty Women: Cultural Connotations of Cleanliness in Soviet Russia,” in Goscilo and Holmgren, eds., RussiaWomenCulture, 190-92; and Stites, Richard, The Women's Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930 (Princeton, 1978), 191-92Google Scholar. A panel at the 1998 convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies also dealt with matters of etiquette. See especially Louise McReynolds, “Private Selves in Public Places.“ For urban lower-class uses of etiquette, see Steinberg, Mark D., Moral Communities: The Culture of Class Relations in the Russian Printing Industry, 1867-1908 (Berkeley, 1992), 84102 Google Scholar.

18. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from etiquette manuals in this article are from Iur'ev and Vladimirskii, Khoroshii ton

19. Katayev, Valentin, A Mosaic of Life or The Magic Horn ofOberon: Memoirs of a Russian Childhood, trans. Budberg, Moira and Latta, Gordon (Chicago, 1976), 388-89Google Scholar.

20. A dvornik was a male servant, usually of the lower class, who was hired by a property owner to look after a building. Although individual duties varied, the average dvornik normally functioned as part caretaker, part janitor, part concierge, part police informant.

21. Cerberus is a mythological three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to the infernal regions.

22. “O tom.osem: Dvornikd. No. 51,” Odesskaiapochta (hereafter, OP), no. 2103 (Friday, 17 October 1914): 3.

23. According to Joan Neuberger, “Culture Besieged: Hooliganism and Futurism,” in Frank, Stephen P. and Steinberg, Mark D., eds., Cultures inFlux: Lower-Class Values, Practices and Resistance in Late Imperial Russia (Princeton, 1994), 188-90Google Scholar, the prototypical hooligan was a young, lower-class “tough” who “threatened, harassed, and assaulted respectable pedestrians on the streets” by doing everything from “whistling and shouting or careening about in a drunken stupor, to more aggressive acts such as bumping into passersby or yelling obscenities in ladies’ ears, to genuinely dangerous, even life-threatening crimes such as the back-alley stabbings and muggings that seemed to demonstrate contempt for human life.” While such “rowdy, exuberant, crude behavior” was “shocking and offensive“ to the respectable, standing “in sharp contrast to bourgeois public propriety,” the harassment of women was especially threatening to the security of middle-class sensibilities. “Hooliganism was first and foremost a struggle over power: the power to define street behavior and to assert control over the streets,” says Neuberger. “Not only was pestering women a relatively effortless display of hooligan power, it had the added benefit of threatening the ability of respectable men to protect their womenfolk from the dangers and vices of the street.“

24. “Itogi dnia ‘belago tsvetka,'” OL, no. 100 (Sunday, 29 April 1912): 3. Odessa was not the only city to host “Flower Days.” Around the same time as Odessa's White Flower Day in 1912, a St. Petersburg children's charity held a similar and equally successful event, “Blue Flower Day.” See Lindenmeyr, Poverty Is Not a Vice, 215.

25. “Nashi besedy: Rol’ zhenshchiny v dele protivotuberkuleznoi bor'by,” OL, no. 93 (Saturday, 21 April 1912): 2; “Den’ ‘belago tsvetka,'” OL, no. 93 (Saturday, 21 April 1912): 2; “'Belyi tsvetok’ v Odesse,” OL, no. 95 (Tuesday, 24 April 1912): 3; “Slukhi i fakty,” OL, no. 96, (Wednesday, 25 April 1912): 5; “Itogi dnia ‘belago tsvetka,'” OL, no. 100 (Sunday, 29 April 1912): 3.

26. “'Belyi tsvetok’ v Odesse,” OL, no. 95 (Tuesday, 24 April 1912): 3.

27. “O torn, o sem,” OP, no. 1990 (Thursday, 26 June 1914): 2.

28. On women, especially lower-class women, being mistaken for prostitutes, see Bernstein, Laurie, Sonia 's Daughters: Prostitutes and Their Regulation in Imperial Russia (Berkeley, 1995), 51, 116, and 304Google Scholar. See also Walkowitz, , City of Dreadful Delight, 5052 Google Scholar.

29. Iur'ev, and Vladimirskii, , Khoroshii ton, 6975 Google Scholar.

30. “Zvuki dnia: Damskaia boltovnia,” OL, no. 81 (Saturday, 7 April 1912): 3.

31. The tendency to smile at respectable women's infractions, to lessen their import by portraying them in a humorous light, to forgive them by denying them agency, extended even to stories of women portrayed as having committed offenses far more serious than lapses in good form. For more on this, see Sylvester, “Crime, Masquerade, and Anxiety,“ esp. chap. 7.

32. Iur'ev, and Vladimirskii, , Khoroshii ton, 138 Google Scholar.

33. This phenomenon was certainly not distinctly Odessan. Indeed, as Kasson, Rudeness and Civility, points out, middle-class fear of social counterfeits (the term is his) was pervasive in nineteenth-century American cities. The argument I pursue here owes much to his work.

34. See “Pokhozhdenia ‘korolevy vorovok,'” OL, no. 161 (Friday, 13July 1912): 3; and “Arest ‘korolevy’ vorov,” OL, no. 259 (Wednesday, 7 November 1912): 5.

35. For a sampling of popular press reports of these kinds of thefts in the central districts, see “Dnevnik proisshestvii” (hereafter, “DP“), OL, no. 230 (Thursday, 4 October 1912): 5 (restaurant at Kondratenko 10); OL, no. 22 (Friday, 27 January 1912): 5 (Café Robina); “DP,” OL, no. 2 (Tuesday, 3January 1912): 5 (hotel “Frantsiia,” Deribasovskaia 31); OL, no. 11 (Saturday, HJanuary 1912): 4 (hotel “Evropeiskaia,” Pushkinskaia 2); OL, no. 23 (Saturday, 28 January 1912): 5 (hotel “Teatral'naia,” Grecheskaia 48); “DP,” OL, no. 25 (Tuesday, 31 January 1912): 3 and no. 283 (Thursday, 6 December 1912): 4 (stock exchange); OL, no. 14 (Wednesday, 18 January 1912): 4 (the university); OL, no. 231 (Friday, 5 October 1912): 5 (the “Ognisko” Theater, Lanzheronovskaia); “Slukhi i fakty,” OL, no. 21 (Thursday, 26 January 1912): 3 (Sibiriakov Theater, Khersonskaia 15); “DP,” OL, no. 51 (Friday, 2 March 1912): 5 (Literary-Artistic Club, Sadovaia 18). For the report of a police investigation of pickpocketing at the City Theater, see Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Odesskoi oblasti (GAOO), f. 314, op. 2, d. 9,11. 262-63.

36. “Pornografiia,” OL, no. 55 (Wednesday, 7 March 1912): 3; and “Slukhi i fakty,” OL, no. 22 (Friday, 27 January 1912): 3.

37. “Ulitsa,” OP, no. 2345 (Thursday, 18June 1915): 3.

38. Kasson, , Rudeness and Civility, 100 Google Scholar.

39. Unless otherwise specified, all quotations included in this section are drawn from the following articles: “Den'odessita,” OP, no. 1152 (Sunday, 4 March 1912): 2; “Dni nashei zhizni,” OP, no. 1305 (Monday, 6 August 1912): 3; “U ‘Robina,'” OP, no. 2390 (Sunday, 2 August 1915): 3; and “Robina, Fankoni, ofitsianty i … publika,” OP, no. 2414 (Wednesday, 26 August 1915): 3.

40. “Faust” was Iakov losipovich Sirkis, a prolific journalist who also wrote for the local Odessa satirical journal Krokodil. Interestingly, he was also the father of Osip Kolychev, a Soviet poet popular in the 1930s, known especially for his song, “Young Guard.” Special thanks to Elena Karakina at the Odessa Literary Museum and especially to Sergei Lushchik, an Odessa local history afficienado, for providing this information.

41. “O torn, o sem: Robinisti,” OP, no. 2466 (Saturday, 17 October 1915): 3.

42. Iur'ev, and Vladimirskii, , Khoroshii ton, 40 and 71Google Scholar

43. “Monolog ‘robinista,'” Odesskaia kopeika, no. 4 (7January 1914): 4.

44. Odesskoe obozrenie teatrov, no. 99 (5 September 1912):

45. “Gore odesskoi materi,” OP, no. 2069 (Saturday, 13 September 1914): 1-2.

46. “Zvuki dnia,” OL, no. 177 (Wednesday, 1 August 1912): 2.

47. “Dni nashei zhizni,” OP, no. 1305 (Monday, 6 August 1912): 3.

48. See Holt, , “Social History and Bourgeois Culture,” 715 Google Scholar.

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