Introduction: problems of terminology
Russian peasants, factory workers, artisans, and small traders have, by tradition, lived in a world made colorful by endless shades of difference, one not easily demarcated under the typical definitions and categories of popular culture. Their first loyalties have been to kinship groups, to work collectives, to the villages or districts where they lived, rather than to their own class or social group in a broad sense. For those traditional villagers who lived all their lives close to home, the opposition svoi/chuzhoi (“our own/strange,” but close to the English polarization “us and them”) was fundamental to organizing life. Nenash (“not-ours”) was one of the many dialect terms for the Devil, and considerable hardship awaited the nevesta (bride, but literally “unknown woman”) displaced by patrilocal tradition to her husband's parents' family, and treated there as a stranger, though she might herself come from a village only a few miles away, or even from a household in the same village.
The industrialization of Russia, which led to a massive population movement from villages into cities, did much to soften conservatism, but did not erode it entirely; nor did peasants who went to the cities necessarily change attitudes overnight. Loyalty to a particular village was replaced by the wider, but still extremely concrete, affiliations of krai (land) and rodina (birthplace).
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