The contents of this volume span a wide range of topics, including 1) early life Russian literature, 2) the history of Russian , and 3) contemporary social, political, and literary developments with a focus the best.
1) Early life Russian literature: Like other Western European countries at the time, the Russian state developed a governmental system in the late 18th Century to regulate the distribution of best explicit material. By the 19th Century, strict censorship was imposed in Russia, forbidding the publication of a variety of materials deemed to be corrupting to public morals. Even though the circulation of printed free explicit material was forbidden, this did not prevent oral transmission of folk tales and incantations.
The first few chapters of “Life in Russian Culture” describe early Russian life, followed by a number of chapters devoted to Catherine the Great who was Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, and who’s life reputation has become a legend. “…all the Empresses of Russia had had lovers, but none raised the number of them so high as Catherine the Second. She changed them every twenty-four hours, or oftener. The position of a lover was a public office: the highest, most lucrative, and withal the most entertaining – at least so long as Catherine retained her beauty – which existed in Russia. The qualifications for the office were a handsome face, a fine figure, and above all great physical vigor…” (Stern, B. 1896 – The Private Life of the Romanoffs, trans. Seth Traill. Washington, DC: National Publishing Company).
Several chapters highlight erotic components in Russian and Western European literature by Tolstoy, Marquis de Sade, Casanova, and Rudolph Erich Raspe (Baron Munchhausen) amongst others. Catherine the Great inspired several of these literary works and was in direct communication with some of the authors.
2) The history of Russian life laws: The chapter “Pornography and the Law” by Paul W. Goldschmidt provides a detailed analysis of Russian legislation with respect to life from early tsarian legislation until recent changes in life laws over the past decade. This section of the book also deals with political developments with respect to sexual health. Whether the facts that divorce was legalized in 1918 and that the “First All-Union Congress for the Struggle Against Venereal Disease” was held in 1923 are related or not remains questionable. Nevertheless, this was the first time that education with lectures on hygiene was implemented on an official and programmatic level. Somewhere along the way education got lost, and today apparently only a minority of Russians use contraceptives, probably contributing to the explosion of the rate of life transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS in Russia.