October 1917 1953, Soviet Policies And Women's Emancipation Part 2

2172 words - 9 pages

Notwithstanding the feminization of labor did not follow a linear path. Indeed, the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1921, characterized by a contraction of the economy saw a stagnation of women’s employment. In effect, able bodied veterans got their occupations back and state investments in welfare programs decreased. The percentage of women in the labor force diminished from 25% in 1922 to 24% in 1928 (Heitlinger 1979). This trend reversed after the inauguration of the First Five Year Plan in 1928 and collectivization. Indeed, between 1928 and 1955, the part of women in the labor force rose from 24% to 46%. The political rule encouraged this pattern. The People’s Commissariat of Labor published two lists of professions reserved for women (Lapidus 1978). World War II and its colossal number of casualties accelerated this process (“in 1945, the proportion of women in the modern sector had reached an all-time high of 56 percent” (Lapidus 1978)). In conclusion, despite the effect of the two World Wars, the influence of Soviet legislation on women’s professionalization should not be minimized.
During World War II, the USSR became the first country in the world to officially allow and encourage women to go to combat. Indeed, by the beginning of 1944, 800 000 women served in the Armed forces (Engel 2004). Females represented 43 percent of field surgeons, 43 percent of medical assistants and the totality of nurses (Engel 2004). Furthermore, 200 000 women served in the air forces and by the end of 1944, women constituted 9.3percent of partisan forces (26 000). Not only were women accepted into male regiments in 1941, but three all-female ones were created, the most famous being the 46th Guards Regiments which comprised all the core businesses of the Red Army. Women exercised as snipers, artillerists and even tank drivers. However, one might wonder if this unprecedented opening of the armed forces was not opportunist. Indeed, the eastern front drained so many males that appealing to females seemed like the last resort. The lack of female commanders tends to confirm this hypothesis as well as the glorification of the male veteran in the postwar Soviet Union.
The relationship between Bolsheviks and peasants was tumultuous. The phenomenon of Bab’i Bunty (approximately: Women’s riots) illustrate the particular relations between peasant women and the Soviet rule during collectivization. Collectivization was a forced process in many villages, especially in Ukraine. Women were leading the protests, sometimes qualified as riots by local Bolshevik activists. Indeed, peasant women epitomized the old society they sought to transform. They were considered backwards, simple-minded and easily influenced:
“The Communist Party claimed that the underlying basis of women’s protest during collectivization was irrational female hysteria unleashed by the “kulak agitprop” […] reinforced by the women’s petit bourgeois […] instincts” (Viola and Farnsworth 1992) ...

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