How and why women's fist fights were held in Russia
Categories: HistoryBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/how-and-why-womens-fist-fights-were-held-in-russia
Everyone knows about the popularity of fist fights in Russia. They were arranged even before the adoption of Christianity, on the occasion of various pagan holidays. This custom was preserved until the beginning of the 20th century. Until the Bolsheviks came to power, wall-to-wall battles were held on Maslenitsa even in St. Petersburg and Moscow. But we are now talking about fist fights in which men participated. But few people know that women sometimes fought with their fists. Why and how did this happen?
Fights between women and even whole massacres occurred in different eras in different countries. Sometimes it happened spontaneously, and sometimes organized. Women in Russia were no exception. Russian ladies fought with their fists on various occasions, ranging from the resolution of legal disputes and ending with the rituals of increasing the flax harvest. Sometimes they fought for the entertainment of the public.
Doctor of Historical Sciences Vadim Dolgov in his article "Duels in the Old Russian military culture" told about judicial duels. They were held in Russia from ancient times to the 16th century. It was a kind of form of civil dispute resolution. With the help of combat, they solved the problem with the delimitation of land plots, defended honor and dignity.
Usually the conflict was considered by the court, and it did not come to a fight. The fight took place only when the parties disagreed with the judge's decision and continued to argue. In such cases, the plaintiff and the defendant had to enter a special field — the "judicial lists". Both men and the fairer sex proved their case.
The court battle was held according to strictly regulated rules. The surviving Pskov Court Charter, adopted at the People's Assembly in 1397, prohibits duels between men and women. It was believed that if one of the opponents is in a losing position, then justice will not take place.
Women fought with each other, but if it was necessary to enter the lists with a man, then the lady took a substitute. Instead of her, a relative or a specially hired fighter went out to fight. Replacements could also be taken by people with spiritual dignity, minors, the elderly and the crippled. Compliance with the rules was monitored by a special person — a weekly worker. They fought not only with their fists, but also using weapons.
The Austrian diplomat Sigismund von Herberstein wrote about such duels in court in the middle of the 16th century. In his travel notes, published in the form of a book "Notes on Muscovy", the ambassador told about two missions in Muscovy, in 1517 and 1526. He was lucky enough to attend several fights. He described their participants as follows:
There were also women among the fighters who were determined to fight their opponent not with their fists, but with weapons in their hands.
On Maslenitsa, fist fights dedicated to the god Perun were traditionally held. It was not just the supreme god of the Slavs, but also the patron saint of warriors. Less often they staged fist fights at weddings. It was this custom that became the basis for the saying: "What a wedding without a fight."
Researcher of ancient martial traditions Alexey Mandzyak says that not only men, but also women and even young girls participated in fist fights on holidays. The expert claims that sometimes a fight didn't even require a reason — it was arranged just for fun.
Ethnographers explain women's fist fights with ancient beliefs. Once people believed that such carnage would attract fertility to the fields. But such a custom was not widespread. It often happened that during men's fist fights, peasant women also staged a mock brawl with jostling and slaps. It could well be that such jokes could escalate into a real fight. But this was the exception rather than the rule.
But there were also cases when women wanted to solve a conflict situation in a duel without witnesses. The reasons could be very different, for example, rivalry over a man or personal grievances. Sometimes such secret fights were arranged in the baths. These buildings, as a rule, stood on the sidelines and away from prying eyes.
In order to keep everything a secret, the rivals closed from the inside. This was also done because women undressed before the fight to keep their clothes intact. The outcome of such a confrontation often remained a mystery to everyone, although there were almost always obvious signs of a skirmish on both sides.
So, fist fights between Russian women, although rare, were not considered out of the ordinary. But it should be noted that such fights have never been violent. And it was also considered unworthy to participate in a duel with a man's woman. In Europe in the Middle Ages, this was treated more simply. There was even a special manual for beating ladies during court fights.