Localizing A ctivism
As with sexual assault, the issue of domestic violence was raised at the watershed event of the women’s movement in Russia, the First Independent Women’s Forum in 1991, and activism began in earnest following the Second Women’s Forum in 1992 (Racioppi and See 1997; Sperling 1999). From the onset, activists understood a central first task to be the naming of the problem in Russian.10 In the language of social movement theory, this meant generating a frame to be used in movement discourse that rediagnoses the problem, identifying the individuals and processes responsible for the problem in a new way (Benford and Snow 2000). Instead of creating something from scratch, Russian activists turned to global norms against domestic violence. One movement founder from Moscow – based ANNA, who was not fully fluent (yet) in English, claims to have simply and literally translated the English term “domestic violence” (domashnee nasilie) even though the term sounded as awkward in Russian as it does in English.11 As in most domestic violence activism around the world, she, believing that many women in Russia felt responsible for family harmony, wanted to invoke a new understanding that shifted the blame away from women to the perpetrators and to larger structures of society^2
Therefore, as with sexual assault, although some of the Russian interest was based on personal experience, domestic violence activism in Russia, from the beginning, was transnational, drawing upon global feminist norms and linked to transnational feminist activism. This was explicit for ANNA, founded by the Moscow Center for Gender Studies (MCGS), an organization that defines itself as part of global feminism.13 Many of the same transnational (especially North American) feminist entrepreneurs involved in supporting the founding of crisis centers and advocating against sexual assault were also essential to domestic violence activism in Russia. As the Cold War had focused on U. S.-Russian differences, the collapse of the USSR had fostered U. S.-Russian dialogue and fascination, leading to, especially in the beginning, a particular American flavor in Russian activism. In particular, early Russian activism drew upon Catharine MacKinnon’s theories of violence against womend4
To distribute the norm among the broader women’s movement, the activists turned to the movement’s new magazines. A 1993 article presented domestic violence and “violence in the family” (nasilie v seme) as forms of violence against women (nasilie nadzhenshchinoi), as “yet another weapon against women.” 15 Taking a strong stand, the article contends that other family members are complicit in hiding the violence, because they do not want to start a family quarrel or because they are “afraid to spoil the reputation and career of the family terrorist.” In contrast to the early movements in Great Britain and the United States, Russian activists immediately connected femicide—the murder of women by their current or former domestic partners—with domestic violence.