This book offers the first comprehensive analysis of the contemporary Russian women's movement and of the social, political, economic, historical, and international contexts that surround it. Valerie Sperling paints a vivid portrait of the women's movement's formation and development, paying particular attention to the key challenges facing a social movement in post-communist society, including the virtual absence of civil society, constant flux in political institutions, wrenching economic changes, and the movement's own status in a changing transnational environment. The author also addresses the specific challenges facing women's organizations by discussing societal attitudes towards feminism in Russia. Based on participant observation, primary source materials, and dozens of interviews conducted in Moscow (as well as two smaller Russian cities), the narrative brings alive the activists' struggle to build a social movement under difficult conditions, and sheds new light on the troubled and complex process of Russia's democratization.
'Valerie Sperling combines firsthand observation, revealing interviews, shrewd political analysis, and energetic prose to bring us a stirring account of struggles to organize women and defend their interests in a troubled country. The result is not only a close look at activism in Russia but also a distinctive contribution to comparative political studies.' Charles Tilly, Columbia University 'Too much Western analysis of civil society in the former Soviet Union has been casual and empirically thin. Valerie Sperling's rich study of Russian women's movements will push the whole discussion forward. She persuasively shows how organizational entrepreneurs have capitalized on their new freedom, but also how they have been held back by historical legacies and by their dependency on international sources of support.' Tim Colton, Harvard University 'Drawing on extensive interviews with women activists, Valerie Sperling provides a clear-eyed assessment and often poignant account of women's organizing in post-communist Russia. Her insightful analysis is a welcome addition to the literature, and her focus on women provides a unique window on the complex changes taking place in a country whose political future will affect us all.' Jane Jaquette, Occidental College ' ... the book is informative and stimulating ... it concludes with some imaginative suggestions ... of ways in which the Russian women's movement could begin to reach out to the wider population.' The Times Literary Supplement 'Sperling's book provides a vast amount of information about Russian women's organising. It's a good book for any feminist who's interested in Russia.' Carol Anne Douglas, Off-our-Backs '... it sets a new standard for scholarship on post-Soviet civil society.' The American Journal of Sociology 'It is masterpiece of social science literature.' The Russian Review