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Central Asian Women And The Bolsheviks

1145 words - 5 pages

The case of Muslim Central Asian Women revealed to be delicate to handle, both ideologically and practically. First, Central Asia did not belong to the core part of the tsarist empire and was administered as a colony until the October Revolution. Marxism being an anti-imperialist ideology, the Soviet leadership ended up being caught between their aspiration of a New Society where women would be free of the patriarchal yoke and their aversion for imperialism. That contradiction explains the more gradual legislation in Central Asia than in the western parts of the Union. In December 1917, the Soviet leadership proclaimed by decree that only civil marriage would be recognized. This decree did ...view middle of the document...

But Muslims have reduced them to slavery, rightlessness, kept them inside four walls like possessions, considered them men’s servants.”
Najie was a member of Ufa Muslim Association, a feminist Muslim Association. Their militancy did not target Islam but the interpretation of mullahs, who in their opinion used religion to oppress women. At the contrary of Russian women, female employment in Central Asia was anecdotic. Women were primarily wives and mothers and the practice of seclusion was still widespread, especially in rural environments. Religion, traditions and the lack of industrialization explain this situation. Only 2% of Central Asian women were literate before the October 1917 Revolution (Lubin 1981). However, after the Revolution, access to education for women remained rare. Kamp estimates the literacy rate for females in Uzbekistan in the 1920’s to turn around 10% with a large disparity between urban centers and villages where it was close to null.
On March 8 1927, the Soviet rule launched the hujum (attack) which were a series of measure aiming at eradicating the sources of female oppression. The emblem of this campaign was the encouragement of unveiling. Before 1926, the wide majority of women were veiled with the exception of prostitutes for instance. Unveiling ceremonies with Party members were organized throughout the area where women were expected to burn their veil. However, this unveiling campaign failed as most women reveiled shortly after unveiling: “In Marghilon, out of 3 000 unveiled, 2600 have veiled again.” (Northrop 2003). Hundreds of cases of retributive violence towards women accused of collaborating with the Soviet rule have been recorded: “From 1927 to 1929, some 2,000 were murdered in connection with unveiling.” (Kamp 2006). Before the extent of this terror, crimes against women for militating and unveiling became capital crimes. Despite collectivization enabling more state control over rural areas, family and marriage laws were seldom applied. The topic of abortion never entered the political debate in Central Asia. Therefore, in the field of domestic and family life, soviet policies in Central Asia failed to emancipate women.
However, the increased availability of education through the End Illiteracy program benefited women. In 1939, the female literacy rate was 73% (from 10% in the 1920s) (Kamp 2006). The same year, 36.9% (Kamp 2006) of women were employed with a disparity in favor of rural women. Indeed, collectivization launched the process of women’s professionalization. Despite creating a journal dedicated to Uzbek women and directed by an Uzbek woman, Yangi Y’ol, the hujum did not manage to significantly increase female participation in...

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