Images of Private Life and Gender in the Povest′ vremennyx let

The Povest′ vremennyx let (PVL) is an engaging yet complex venue for representing gender and private life in Kievan Rus′. Private life and gender are themselves problematic terms within Russian historiography: gender has been under-researched in medieval scholarship, and the Western term “private life” must be examined alongside the Russian concept “byt.” This paper is indebted to Natal′ja Puškareva’s Častnaja žizn′ russkoj ženščiny, a groundbreaking work exhibiting both the promise and the peril of applying gender and private life studies to Rusian culture: how valid is her application of the Annales school conception of private life to a culture which conceived of the individual in a different manner? How is representation of private life influenced by the PVL, a document explicitly devoted to integrating the individual into a public and politicized conception of history? How are gender and private life complicated by the cultural ferment of pre-Mongol Kiev, in which differing cultural modes (paganism, Christianity, elite lifestyles, peasant lifestyles, oral tradition, literacy) all made claims on the image of the individual? Is private life a spatial or metaphorical entity in this period? These questions are answered by focusing on close readings of several passages from the PVL. In addition to the PVL, analyses by Puškareva, Eve Levin, Georges Duby, Jurij Lotman, Roman Jakobson, and Svetlana Boym show how theories of gender and private life can be applied in a manner compatible with the cultural milieux of Kievan Rus′.