October 1917 1953, Soviet Policies And Women's Emancipation Part 1

2554 words - 11 pages

Marxism’s emphasis on the emancipation of oppressed groups, in the first place the proletarians and colonized nations, raises the question of its position regarding women’s rights. The USSR was the first Marxist state. Therefore, the study of women’s rights and gender dynamics in the Union is relevant in order to evaluate to what extent the application of Marxism theories affected and ameliorated women’s lives. The temporal focus stretches from the prerevolutionary Romanov Empire to the death of Stalin in 1953 with an emphasis on emblematic Stalinist policies. Indeed, the influence of the October 1917 Revolution, the two World Wars, collectivization and the hujum uniquely impacted the place of Soviet women in society. The role and agency of Soviet females in domestic life, education, the armed forces and the political apparatus as well as the particular case of Central Asian women will be studied. Indeed, Soviet leaders yearned to transform the former tsarist Empire from a preindustrial state with feudal remnants to a modern industrial country. They envisioned the inhabitants of the USSR modelled on this new society model. However, we might wonder if the patent progresses in women’s rights fit into this broader project or were simply opportunistic. Did the October 1917 mark the start of a wave of women’s emancipation?

In the Romanov Empire, Marxists’ opinions on feminism were plural. Indeed, some revolutionaries like Mikhailov’s feminism focused on the erasing of gender characteristics, the ultimate goal being the creation of a society where men and women would only be recalled of their sexual differences when procreating: “There should be nothing feminine in women except their sex. All other traits should be neither masculine nor feminine, but purely human.” On the contrary, others in rejection of the modern industrial world glorified the traditional model of the domestic woman whose primary function should be housework and childcare: “a cult of domesticity in which antifeminism joined a sentimental glorification of a mythical medieval hearth" (Lapidus 1978). However, this viewpoint was a minority among revolutionaries. Women of the Intelligentsia were particularly active in revolutionary circles at the image of Aleksandra Kollontai. There was a consensus among the reformist revolutionaries on the stages necessary for the emancipation of women. The major step was the participation of women in paid labor. Thus, the conversion of the unpaid labor that women had exercised for centuries was necessary. In agreement with the collective mindset of Bolsheviks, this would be achieved through communal structures such as state sponsored daycare. Moreover, in order for women to dedicate themselves fully to the Soviet state and the class struggles, they needed to be freed from the patriarchal yoke. This would explain the exceptional freedom Soviet women enjoyed in terms of marriage and domesticity broadly.

Under the impulsion of women from the...

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