A Female Agent of Political Violence in Pre-revolutionary Russia: Gendered Representations of Maria Spiridonova

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"At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Russian authorities were facing serious problems because of systematic political terrorism, which was mostly connected to the activities of the Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries (the PSR). The most striking feature of that terrorism was that many of the terrorists were women – a feature that makes it justified to maintain that by taking part in political terrorism women entered the domains that in patriarchal societies were considered to be exclusively male: the domain of violence and the domain of politics. Such intrusion to the male territory was especially shocking for the traditional patriarchal society of pre-revolutionary Russia. Despite this striking feature however, systematic historical research on gendered representations of the Russian female terrorists at the beginning of the 20th century is still in short supply whereas in other academic disciplines portrayals of women as agents of political violence are a frequent topic in the research on contemporary terrorism. To help fill up this void, the purpose of the article is by using the case of Maria Spiridonova, the most famous female terrorist in pre-revolutionary Russia, to see whether the conclusions made by non-historians about gendered representations of contemporary female terrorists can be used for historical research in order to identify eventual distortions in the representations of violent female agency in the past and, thus, obtain deeper knowledge about gender order in historical perspective."