in her book, Women without Men: Single Mothers and Family Change in the New Russia
(Cornell University Press, 2015), investigates what she calls a “quiet revolution” in the Russian family after the fall of the Soviet Union. Based on over 150 interviews with single mothers, non-resident fathers, and dutiful grandmothers, Utrata seeks to dispel many myths that surround single motherhood, namely that a single mother’s life is defined by material struggles. In order to achieve this, Utrata delves into the ways that Russians have come to define motherhood and fatherhood, with the former understood widely in Russian society as essential and powerful and the latter understood as nonessential and weak. Indeed, Utrata demonstrates that men and women have internalized the failure of Russian men to materially support their families. This portrayal of men, in combination with the failed Soviet state which removed many protective measures for mothers, has produced a social discourse about family life in which single mothers are not stigmatized. Utrata’s observations, although rooted in evidence taken from the New Russia, nevertheless have relevance to the larger discussion about the factors that have led to a global rise in single motherhood.
Chelsea Gibson is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Binghamton University. Her research explores the reception of Russian terrorist women in the United States before 1917.