Dress has proved to be a useful medium through which to observe the transformative effects of political, social, and economic changes in the region of East Europe and Russia. Diversified dress practices show the historical and ongoing negotiations between rural and urban cultures. While the region is mainly known for ethnic dress (and there are some lavishly illustrated books dealing with ethnic dress in the region, from Russia and the Caucasus to Southeast Europe), this volume also presents the advance of urban cultures and their fashionable ways of dressing in each country. Although these modernist dress practices have existed throughout the region, they have for the most part rarely been presented in the academic literature. In the region itself, urban culture was often perceived as a danger arriving from the West, intimidating specific countries both politically and nationally. For the West, in contrast, the region frequently was an exotic Other, which led to an intense interest in its forms of ethnic dress. By dividing many of the main entries into ethnic and urban dress, this volume brings to light the previously hidden and neglected urban history of the region and its dress practices. Apart from the high quality of the entries on ethnic dress, the presentation of urban and fashionable dress, and the original materials this approach brings in, diversifies this volume and accurately represents the historical and current dress practices in the region.
Volume 9 is divided into five sections. The first section introduces the contents and the scope of the volume and situates dress and its practices in the geographic and climactic context of the region. The second section provides an overview of the historical, political, and social aspects of the whole region. This section highlights the differences as well as the similarities in dress and its practices within this vast region. The three sections that follow divide the region geographically into three units: East Central Europe and the Baltics, Russia and the Caucasus, and Southeast Europe. Specific countries are treated in alphabetical order within each of these sections.
Volume 9 covers 26 countries and consists of 104 essays contributed by authors from 30 countries. Many challenges arose over the three years of the project, but the most difficult part was commissioning the articles. The editor’s expertise on Socialist and post-Socialist fashion in six countries in the region provided a substantial starting point regarding the research that had been carried out by many local experts. Initially, these contacts led to other experts in the region, along with some Western authors who had worked in the area. After these commissions, the process slowed to a snail’s pace. In many of the countries covered by volume 9, researchers work diligently in their museums and academic institutions, but their names and their work are not easily accessible. Some of them do not use the Internet at all, while others do not speak English. It took more than a year to trace these researchers and commission the remaining articles. The process of finding an expert to write on topics such as Georgian ethnic dress and Lithuanian urban dress was mutually satisfying for both the editor and the experts, who were invariably delighted to be offered an opportunity to present their research to the readers of the Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, research that has been underrepresented in the corpus of Western knowledge. Writers demonstrated personal courage and determination to persevere against all the odds. The oldest contributor, an expert on Albanian dress, was 85 years old when she submitted her article. Many authors have never met each other or the editor in person, but as the work on this volume progressed, the joint effort has seemed like the project of a large and caring family.
Work on volume 9 began in June 2006, as one of the last volumes to be organized. Most of the editors of the other volumes making up the Encyclopedia were already engaged, but the region of East Europe, Russia, and the Caucasus had proved more challenging than the rest. Nevertheless, it was an exciting opportunity to present research carried out in that region by domestic experts. The editor engaged the contributors, edited their essays, and conceptualized the structure of volume 9, but many people produced the final product that readers can consult and enjoy, a product that has promoted international cooperation and shared knowledge among colleagues from different countries and cultures.
In the end, this project generated even more cooperation than expected as many people generously helped in the search for contributors. Among them, special thanks to Merita Xhumari, Klavs Sedlenieks, Hikmet Hadjy-zadeh, and Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius. In addition, one contributor, Mirjana Menkovic, greatly helped by suggesting some other contributors and by acting as a liaison with them. Pamela Smith’s expertise on ethnic dress, knowledge, and diligent work surpassed what would be expected of an assistant editor and is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks, too, to the team at Berg Publishers for advice and assistance and, above all, to the editor in chief, Joanne B. Eicher, whose suggestions and answers to queries never failed to be timely, helpful, and cheerful.
It is hoped that readers will enjoy the results of the diverse and painstaking research of all the experts who contributed essays and snapshots and that their work will broaden horizons and enrich existing knowledge on the topics covered in this volume.