Women made great strides toward equality in the first twenty four years of the Soviet regime. They gained the right to divorce, to own property, and to work outside of the home. However, these gains did not mean instant equality. Beginning in 1941, the nation began mobilizing for war.
The country had not been at war since before the October Revolution, and so the basis for the war effort was heavily influenced by old ideas. The old call went out: “For the Motherland!” This image of Russia was a symptom of the general return to pre-revolution gender roles that happened during the war. Men were fighting for not just the image of Mother Russia, but more concretely the women in their lives: wives, mothers, and daughters who could not defend themselves. And women were expected for the most part to passively rely on their men to defend them (Love and Romance). These ideas were seen in popular culture in such places as the songs of Klavdiia Shulzhenko.
Her song, “Blue Scarf” is a good example of a song that deals with women’s role waiting for their lovers to return from the front.
However, this was not the only story of the war for women. Much like the situation for American women in World War Two, women in the USSR found many benefits to the absence of men from society. The labor shortage allowed women to take over men’s jobs in the factories, and while a number of women had already joined the work force, the amount of jobs opened by the mass conscription of men let women work than ever before.
Some movies also dealt with the increased presence of women on the front lines, such as “Frontline Girlfriend”, pictured below.
While some of the old stereotypes of women came back during the war, there was not a total reversion to the pre-revolution state of women. They made great strides to join the work force during this period of time.
Like you said in the first paragraph, women in Russia had some of the most freedom of any around the world, but it still did not mean that they were equal. The concept of the “Motherland” did give this impression that women in Russia came first in the eyes of their husbands and other men in society, but I agree that it was the women who were seen to rely on men more. Interesting stuff.
I really like your inclusion of photos and the reference of the song to describe women’s roles during the war in your post! Overall, very informative and interesting.
This post does a great job identifying how women were the subject of propaganda. Women also had small but significant presence in the military, though they’re activity quickly declined after the end of the war.
You aren’t kidding when you say that women had a significant presence in the military. Lyudmila Pavlichenko served as a sniper in the Soviet Army, and was one of the most successful throughout history, with 309 confirmed kills!
need the “like” button here!
Love this post! In the interest of fairness to the men, I’m posting this favorite WWII ballad (of a male soldier missing his wife):
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