History 4c—Western Civilization in a World Perspective, 1715-1991

Kollontai Reader’s Guide

Before reading Vasilisa Malygina read the glossary in the back (pages 226-232) for important terms and a guide to Russian names. Certain important events and people not covered in the glossary (such as the 1905 Revolution, Kerensky, Lenin, and Trotsky) can be gleaned from the textbook (Ch. 32: 829-831, Ch. 34: 898-902, and Ch. 35: 924-926).

To make sections easier, pronounce the main characters’ names as follows (pronounce boldfaced syllables with stress):
Vasya = VAH-ssya
Volodya = vah-LOAD-ya

Reading Questions:

  1. What did Kollontai try to communicate to Soviet women in Vasilisa Malygina?
  2. How do the main characters react to the course of the revolution in Russia? Compare and contrast the actions and attitudes of Vasya and Volodya as the novel progresses.
  3. What does Vasya gain from her political activitiy? What does she gain from her relationship with Volodya? What does she do to reconcile her political life with her private life?
  4. What dilemmas does Vasya face as a woman? As a revolutionary? As a Marxist?
  5. Disregarding the improbability of the scenario, imagine that Vasya travels back to revolutionary Paris. It is February 1791. She arrives just in time to skim a draft of Olympe de Gouges’s famous pamphlet "The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Female Citizen" and discuss it with its author. Given what you have learned about the two women, their work and their times, what do you think they might say to each other?
  6. What elements of the program outlined in the Communist Manifesto do you see in Vasya’s actions and beliefs?
  7. Does this historical novel speak to you about your life today? To what degree? How?