In the mist of World War II, gender roles were once again on the forefront in socialist Russia. The roles of men and women were played out in the 1930’s and were thought to be settled by many Russians. The truth was that in the time of war many young Russians played on this romantic mood that the war brought to traditional gender roles. Men defended their motherland and in the abstract, their mothers, wives and lovers in contrast, while women relied passively on the martial valor of their men. This was at odds with how life was and how women acted during the war. Since all the men were placed in the front, women had to take the roles in factories and communities. This allowed women to have leadership skills that played a very crucial role in the post war era.
One of the most important things that came out of young romance during war time was the skyrocketing illegitimate children that were out of wedlock. The Soviet state wanted to protect the institution of marriage but saw that the need for future soldiers on the front line and workers in the factories was more important. So they made a decree in three articles that insured the child and the mother or father that was still alive, the ability to get all that a Soviet citizen was allowed. The articles also stated what the procedures were for anybody that found themselves in this situation. It also gave how the child was to be named depending on which parent was alive. This new decree was a very radical change in the thinking of illegitimate children because before the war it was illegal to have a child outside of marriage.
Having large birth rates during WWII is not a surprise, but what was is how the Soviet government changed its tune over how these future Soviets came into this world. This is seen by the aid they gave to mothers and their children. A welfare program that ten years ago would have not been thinkable. The Soviet government understood that these children were going to be needed and if they did not help or try and justify what was happening the situation could have broken the family structure that they worked so hard on. It is funny to think how a war and some young people seemed to change a way of thinking about a certain social issue.
The Great Terror refers to the bloodshed that overwhelmed the Communist Party and Soviet society during the years 1936-1938. The victims ranged from Internal Affairs Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, Lev Kamenev, Grigorii Zinoviev, and fourteen others were convicted of having organized a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist center that allegedly had been formed in 1932 and was held responsible for the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934. All together there were three show trials that executed high ranking Soviets. The trials caused frenzy in Russia that made Soviet turn against Soviet in a kind of second civil war. The trials were shams that led to millions of deaths. Today I want to examine the address that Stalin made in response to these trials and how that way of thinking caused them to be justified.
Stalin had three basic facts that he stated in his March 29, 1937 address on the deficiencies in party work and how he thought they should handle it. All of this was surrounded by Trotskyites and how they had played a role in this deceit to the Soviet Party. The first fact dealt with espionage work of the agents of foreign states, second that the agents of foreign states had penetrated not only into our lower organizations but also into some of the responsible positions. The third fact was that leading comrades both at the center and in outlying regions have not only been unable to see the real face of these wreckers, diversionists, spies, and murderers but have proven to be careless, indifferent, and naive about it. Stalin called them, “The wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Stalin goes on to say that, “These party comrades were just wholly absorbed in the economic campaigns and the colossal successes on the economic construction front, and simply forgot some very important facts that Bolsheviks have no right to forget.” This is such a great line by Stalin because he basically said that because Russia was doing so well that these certain members forgot what the party is really about, they lost their way. This however, is not the case but Stalin used this perfectly against them.
Stalin in this address laid out what he thinks they should do. Stalin kept saying you have to smash and throw out the rotten theory, do not fall into the capitalist encirclement. This thought showcased his ideas of how the Soviet state should think and act. In not allowing yourself to fall into that rotten theory of thinking, you then can liquidate these deficiencies in the party. This was the point of the address to highlight what the party at this time was facing.
Stalin went after his political opposition in cold blood. He decided to cut out every voice that was against him and he did with the justification that there were terrorist plots against the people and he had to stop them. Stalin used Sergei Kirov death as a reason to go after Trotskyites. In his address he masterfully examined the problem and basically reasoned why these former members had to go. Stalin also highlighted what went wrong and how they fell. This deceit that Stalin does himself only strengthens his position and ends up costing millions of Russians lives. This address changed the view in which Stalin was looked at. You see the true man he was, a power hungry and manipulative person that would do anything to keep his power, a contradiction to a stateless society.
In the 1920’s you had strong anti-religious propaganda across Russia. There were severe laws against religious organizations. The policy of the Soviets seemed to be slowly crush any religion in Russia and push a new cultural dynamic for Russia overall. The Soviets achieved this by the destruction of churches in the great industrialization project. The industrialization of Russia gave the Soviets a way to physically remove religion out of Russia. These effects can be seen politically, socially, and economically.
In 1929 you had the uninterrupted work week, which was meant to increase productivity by keeping machines in operation throughout the year, and to wean workers away from Sundays and religious holidays as days of rest. The only exception was revolutionary holiday celebrations, which gave every business and person off. This policy changed the social and economic dynamics by making work the most important part in a Russian life, not religion. It also gave Russia the ability economically to manufacture at a high level which only helped their economy.
The great industrialization project allowed for materials from the churches to be used for scrap or metal. This is depicted in the picture below.
There is also another great poster that the Soviets used called, “Down with Easter, Up with Industry,” this pretty much summed up the goal of the Soviets. It highlighted the importance of industry and portrayed religion as filthy as pigs. These images are good propaganda that was used to push the Soviet agenda.
Essentially, the closing of churches is one of the last final struggles that the Soviets had from the old autocracy that ruled before. This final chapter puts the stamp on a long list of things the Soviets did to centralize power. The closing of churches changed a long standing belief in Russia and turned it into an industrial power that would be tested during World War II.