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Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research

Laboratorium is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal produced by an international group of scholars. The bilingual journal, which comes out three times a year, publishes materials based on empirical social research in Russian and English languages.

The journal is published with the financial support of the Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR), an independent nonprofit organization.*


Current Issue

Olga Tkach, Majda Hrženjak

It has been a long-standing tradition of European studies of paid domestic labor to consider the former socialist countries as a source of cheap, predominantly female, domestic labor for the countries of Western Europe. As an allusion to the Iron Curtain, which separated two different worlds, the concept of the Care Curtain of Europehas been actively developed. This curtain draws an imaginary boundary or global division of labor between the postsocialist and the rest of Europe, where the former donates care and the latter receives it. For many, this model of movement of carefrom East to West has been the only possible research subject in the realm of paiddomestic labor.


Zuzana Sekeráková Búriková

Drawing on interviews with both providers and employers of paid domestic work, thisarticle focuses on the emerging market for paid domestic workers in Slovakia. Analyzing hiring strategies and practices of employers, I examine the role of welfare and gender regimes in the employment of paid domestic work. I demonstrate that, while the welfare regime sets the structural conditions for the employment of paid domestic workers, individual motivations for employing one are related to the contradictory pressures of parenthood and employment among the Slovak middle classes. The second part of the article argues that ideas and practices related to who is a suitable caregiver are to a large extent driven by local cultural practices of childrearing and conventional patterns of gendered identity. In particular, employers hire elderly women as nannies because their gendered biographical experience—as mothers of now grown-up children—makes them culturally acceptable nannies, as they can serve as “granny substitutes,”providing children with expert care without threatening the mother’s role asprimary caregiver.


Živa Humer, Majda Hrženjak

This article examines how family and care policies related to childcare frame formal and informal care, including the status of work and positions of workers who perform unregulated childcare in private households in Slovenia. Within the conceptual frame of (de)familization of childcare, current childcare policies in Slovenia are analyzed and the peculiarities of the Slovenian situation compared to other Central and Eastern Europeancountries are pointed to: an informal childcare market characterized by live-out arrangementsand high standards of individual childcare, performed by native retired women and students. The empirical material analyzed in the article incorporates results from two qualitative studies conducted in Slovenia researching informal paid care work and the processes of the relocation of childcare, focusing particularly on the intersections of informal (both paid and unpaid) and formal childcare.
Elena Zdravomyslova, Olga Tkach

This article, based on interviews and mass media data, analyzes the formation of class inequality in the course of employer-employee relationships between domestic workers and their employers in Russian households. The concept of the dialectics of control enables us to examine how two variants of the culture of inequality are formed in the private sphere. The first model of “conspicuous inequality” appears and is maintained in the course of interactions between modern “masters” and their “servants.” In such interactions the status of the domestic worker is constructed as subordinate to the employer.This status is formed through mechanisms of distancing, control, verbal signification, and exploitation. The second model of “egalitarian inequality” is maintained bythe new middle class of professionals and managers and their domestic helpers. This model presumes dialogue and feedback in employer-employee relationships, as well asa reduction of social distance and smoothing of the hierarchy between them. Both partiesin the contract display a mutual understanding based on personalized trust. Thestudy takes into account gendered structural characteristics of domestic work and family division of labor, as well as the peculiarities of the market of domestic workers in Russia connected to intra- and intercountry migration flows in the post-Soviet space.
Lisa-Marie Heimeshoff

After the adoption in 2011 of ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers,national campaigns for ratification took different organizational forms in different countries. While in some cases trade unions organized domestic workers, in others domestic workers were represented by NGO s, and in yet others alliances between different organizational forms developed. Based on Shireen Ally’s classifications of domestic worker organizing, this article defines the case of the Czech Republic as following an associational model. The article explains the lack of union involvement in demanding ratification by referring to the postsocialist legacies of trade union organizing, but also by the fact that domestic workers do not feel that trade unions can represent their rights. This is not only because of a lack of knowledge about tradeunions or of not seeing trade unions as being able to represent self-employed or informal workers, but because their identity aligns better with organizing based on migration status and gender than on class.