Lebedenko E. Yu. Reading through the pages of Ural merchants’ family correspondence: children’s letters of the Nassonov family from perm province of the early xx century (.pdf)


The paper deals with the scantily explored phenomenon of family correspondence of the provincial merchant class by focusing on the epistolary heritage of the Nassonov family from Perm in the early 20th century. A study of non-business letters exchanged between the members of one of the entrepreneurial dynasties of pre-revolutionary Perm enables to shed light on some aspects of the provincial bourgeoisie’s private life, including family practices and the norms existed in their environment. The paper is concerned mainly with the letters written by a younger generation of the family (aged from 9 to 18) and addressed to their mother, Augusta Nassonova. The correspondence of young Nassonovs is considered as a phenomenon of children's writings; therefore, special attention is given to the ways in which the letters were written. An attempt was made to trace gender and age distinctions between the texts of adolescent boys (ages 11-14) and girls (15-18 years). Those differences manifested both in the choice of topics and in the way of description. The addressee provided a certain influence on the subjects selected by letter writers. The mother expected children to write to her during her/their absences in Perm and in that way participated in their lives by sharing their joys and troubles. The letters were full of references to the children’s everyday life, providing much material relevant to the methods of upbringing and education, leisure activities and hobbies of young Nassonovs, relationships within the family. Apparently, the authors were more interested in the inner lives of the family and events that would touch them or their immediate surroundings directly. The great political events (e.g. war or revolution) attracted their attention rarely. It is concluded that such narratives have a definite value in the study of the world of urban bourgeois families and childhood in the province of the early 20th century.


Key words: ego documents, provincial merchants, family correspondence, children, “children's” writings.


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