Russian peasant bride theft

John Bushnell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book explores the history of Russian peasant bride theft-abduction, capture-from the adoption of Christianity in Kievan Rus in the late tenth century to the very early twentieth century. It argues that bride theft in eighteenth and nineteenth century Russia was practised in large part by, but not exclusively by, Old Believers, the schismatics who rejected the Church reforms of the mid-seventeenth century and shunned contact with the Orthodox Church; and that the point of bride theft, where the bride was often a willing party, often married secretly at night by an Orthodox priest acting illegally, was to absolve the bride and her parents of the responsibility for engaging in a formal Orthodox ritual which Old Believers regarded as sinful. The book also considers how bride theft originated much earlier in Russia and was a continuing tradition in some places, and how all this fitted into the Russian peasant economy. Throughout the book provides rich details of particular bride theft cases, of Russian peasant life, and of Russian folklore, in particular bridal laments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages218
ISBN (Electronic)9781000361971
ISBN (Print)9780367676247
StatePublished - Mar 16 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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