Another quote from Reading for Entertainment in Contemporary Russia (see this post), this time from Mariia Cherniak’s chapter “Russian Romantic Fiction”; in the course of explaining that unlike other genres, “romantic fiction was an entirely new arrival in post-Soviet Russia,” she points out that prerevolutionary prejudices about women’s writing “were shared by the masters of Soviet culture, who also had a whole set of reasons of their own to object to romance and melodrama”:
It was not quite the case that love had no place in publicly disseminated Soviet culture. In the socialist realist novel, girls met boys as well as tractors. Soviet cinema, especially in the 1970s and early 1980s, served up a few emotionally fulfilling love stories. But the kind of romantic women’s culture that almost invariably accompanied modernity in Western Europe was absent — at least in the public domain. This is not to say that Soviet women did not feel the romantic urge. When Western-style romances finally hit the bookstalls in the early 1990s, they met a huge pent-up demand. In the absence of published romantic fiction, Soviet teenage girls from the late 1950s onwards had made do with home-made love stories. These were a little-known form of Soviet samizdat that circulated very widely in the subculture of young females. The handwritten stories of the 1960s and 1970s ranged from the romantic to the erotic, their endings might be tragic or happy, but they tended to fit a first-love narrative formula. They changed hands frequently and were taken down by their latest readers; at each new copying new details (ranging from the weather to names of characters) might be added. These stories met cathartic and educational needs that were not catered for adequately in Soviet culture. Girls had no other authoritative way to learn how to fall in love and how to behave with the opposite sex.
[The paragraph is footnoted to Sergei Borisov’s “Прозаические жанры девичьих альбомов” (Новое литературное обозрение, 1996, № 22. pp. 362-366).]
I continue to be amazed and impressed by the lengths to which people will go for their favored entertainment if driven to it; compare the factory workers who learned Polish so they could read detective novels mentioned in the post linked above.