cover image The Sexual Revolution in Russia: From the Age of the Czars to Today

The Sexual Revolution in Russia: From the Age of the Czars to Today

Igor Semyonovich Kon. Free Press, $25 (337pp) ISBN 978-0-02-917541-5

In an extraordinary look at the current sexual scene in Russia, pioneer Russian sexologist Kon finds that the long-desired sexual liberation that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet regime has been transformed into commercialized, trivialized or debased sexuality. He reports an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, the world's highest abortion rates, widespread sexual ignorance, an alarming increase in rape and sexual violence, strong homophobia and gay-bashing (homosexuality was a criminal offense in Russia until mid-1993). Chief researcher at Moscow's Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Kon argues compellingly that eros, driven underground by the bolsheviks' puritanical crusade of the 1930s, became vulgarized and charged with aggression, and has never fully recovered. He traces the contemporary lack of sexual sophistication to the legacy of pre-revolutionary Russian village life, where marrying for love was virtually unknown. This enlightening, compassionate study lifts the veil off a hitherto taboo topic and offers numerous telling asides about the hardships of the Russian people under various regimes. (June)