Book chapters

Gender and Choice Among Russia’s Upper Class

Russia’s rich have the luxury of being able to choose between almost limitless options, especially in terms of lifestyles. Unless they are on the sanctions list, they can live anywhere they desire. They can send their children, almost regardless of ability, to virtually any school around the globe if they pay enough for admission or for tailored exam preparationTheir choices relating to consumption are nearly infinite. In sum, the issues people of less privileged classes face on a daily basis could not be more remote; they suffer neither the breadwinner crisis which has affected millions of men as a result of the chaotic 1990s, nor the problems women face because of a neglected social infrastructure.

Chapter in Gender and Choice after Socialism. Edited by Lynne Attwood, Elisabeth Schimpfossl and Marina Yusupova. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Introduction: Gender and Choice after Socialism

With Lynne Attwood and Marina Yusupova in Gender and Choice after Socialism. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the former socialist countries experienced various degrees of liberalisation and privatisation. This was accompanied by a new ideology that included the notion that the end of socialism would usher in a new era of choice.Indeed, the elimination of restrictions and the expansion of options did mean increased personal and political freedom. On the most basic level, free market reforms allowed more imports from the West, resulting in the range of available consumer products increasing beyond measure. For those who had felt trapped within the confines of the eastern bloc, a more significant change was that borders were opened, providing the chance – and the choice – to travel the world. Many life-constraining legislations were revoked, such as the ban on homosexuality, making it easier for people to make choices about their sexual lives. Changes in housing distribution, and the relaxation of official attitudes towards what constituted a ‘normal’ family, enabled people to choose how they wanted to live, and with whom.

At first glance, all of these developments look unambiguously positive. The concept of choice is generally bound up with the concept of individual rights, and, as such, is seen as a positive aspect of an open and democratic society. Indisputably, individual rights increased in the post-Soviet countries. However, in no society is choice ever entirely free; nor is it always in people’s own interests.