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Role of Women Under Stalin Essay

What was the role and status of women in Russia from 1924-1941 under Josef Stalin?

This topic is going to be investigated because over the course of Russian history, each leader, from Lenin to Stalin to Khrushchev, had a different position regarding the role and status of women, as Stalin was Russia’s leader during World War II, this investigation will focus on the role and status of women under Stalin. This investigation will consider women’s influence in politics under Stalin’s rule. The rights of women concerning their own bodies will be investigated. The source that will give the best insight into how women were treated by Stalin is the book Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. One of the sources, Women Under Stalin, discusses how the Five Year Plans affected women, this is going to be an important document for the investigation because the Five Year Plans were Stalin’s creations and directly express how he influenced the role of women. Women in different positions, such as workers in industry and as mothers will also be scrutinized.

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Summary of Evidence

The evidence concerning women’s influence in Stalin’s politics:

* “The proportion of female party members did climb from 7.5 percent in 1920 to 13.1 percent in 1930.” 1

* “Yet, the expansion of women in the general membership of the Party did not lead to a growing role in positions of leadership.” 2

* “The gradual increase in women’s share of Party membership did not translate into greater representation within the Party elite.” 3

The evidence concerning women and marriages:

* “The 1926 Marriage Code established community property in marriage and easy divorce procedures, even divorce by mail.” 4

* “By 1934, 37 percent of marriages in Moscow ended in divorce.” 5

* “In 1935 divorce was made more difficult and expensive for women to obtain.” 6

The evidence concerning the rights of women regarding their own bodies:

* “A decree in Vladimir made every virgin over the age of eighteen state property.” 7

* Women were allowed to have abortions up until they were banned in 1936, “with Stalin’s decision to expand the work force.” 8

The evidence concerning degradation of women:

* “Two million German women would be raped in the coming months. Russian soldiers even raped Russian women newly liberated from Nazi camps.” 9

* In response to the raping of Russian women, Stalin says “What is so awful about his having fun with a woman after such horrors?” 10

* “In the mixed-sex camps, noncriminal [political-prisoner] women were frequently mass-raped by urkas [male criminals], or had to sell themselves for bread, or to get protection from camp officials.” 11

The evidence concerning the effects of the Five Year Plans on women:

* “The five year plans created more jobs in the 1930s which were often very willingly filled by women, since it had been extremely difficult for women to obtain work in the 20s with the scarcity of available jobs.” 12

* “The years between 1930 and 1937 saw a massive influx of women into industry. By 1932, the number of women employed had risen from three million to six million.” 13

* “During the second Five Year plan, an even more substantial rise took place in female industrial employment. A total of 3,350,000 women entered the labor force during these years, constituting some 82 percent of all newly employed workers.” 14

* Stalin only allowed women to enter the workplace because the Five Year plans had caused a huge increase in the demand for labor, and he thought they could use the women to “strengthen the economy at a fast rate.” 15

The evidence concerning mothers:

* “Motherhood was a social responsibility that should not be averted” 16

* “A massive press campaign linked the joys of motherhood with the benefits of Soviet power.” Stalin is quoted stating “Our Soviet women, full-blooded citizens of the freest country in the world, have been given the bliss of motherhood.” 17

* “Single child families breed egotism and unhappiness, while large families-seven was his favorite number-make it possible to rear children in a proper collective spirit.” 18

* “The Family Law of 1944 specified that citizens with no children paid six percent of their income in tax, citizens with one child paid one percent, and those with two children paid 0.5 percent.” 19

The evidence concerning the new role of women:

* “The new image of feminine virtue incorporated wifely and maternal duties in addition to a contribution to the building of socialism.” 20

* “Women were glorified in their roles as traditional wives who made sacrifices for their husbands and effectively lived through them.” 21

Evaluation of Sources

Buckley, Mary. Women and Ideology in the Soviet Union. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1989.

Origin: The origin of this source is a book by Mary Buckley, titled Women and Ideology in the Soviet Union. It was published in 1989 in Michigan, by the University of Michigan Press.

Purpose: The purpose of this source is to be a reference on women in the Soviet Union under various leaders. There are chapters on women under Lenin and on Stalin.

Value: The value of this source for this investigation is found primarily in the third chapter, entitled “The Stalin Years: The Woman Question is solved”. It chronicles the measures taken by Stalin that directly relate to women and how their role changed in the 1930s when they began to gain approval as a ‘great force’ in industry, agriculture, and war.

Limitations: The limitations of this source include hindsight bias, which is the inclination to believe that some events that have happended were more predictable than they in fact were. In addition, the author is not of Russian origin, and was not even alive during the years of Stalin or Lenin.

Lapidus, Gail Warshofsky. Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978.

Origin: The origin of this source is a book entitled Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change, published in Los Angeles in 1978, by the University of California Press. The author Gail Warshofsky Lapidus.

Purpose: The purpose of this source is for the author to record her opinions on the Equality, Development, and Social Change of Women’s roles in the Soviet Society. It chronicles the changes in women’s roles over a century and how the different political leaders influenced their status.

Value: The value of this source to this investigation comes primarily from the first and second chapters; they deal with life for women in the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1941, including some of the social changes that women underwent between Lenin and Stalin. The author is a Russian author who has published multiple books on this topic and other women’s issues in Russia.

Limitations: The limitations of this source are that it is published after the fact, in 1978, and will most likely have some hindsight bias as it was previously defined.

Analysis

Although Stalin permitted more females to join the Communist party, their impact on the party did not rise in accordance to their membership. They were kept from speaking in Committees and sometimes excluded from the assemblies. Though women’s membership increased, the amount of women in leadership positions did not increased accordingly, “at the level of elite Party members, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, women’s membership never exceeded three percent from 1930 to Stalin’s death in 1953.” 22

The ability of women to divorce their husbands allowed women more opportunities to make their own decisions. Stalin may have allowed the women this freedom to increase the population as women could now remarry. He also could have permitted this to appease the women and show that he did wish to aid them and hear their plights. However, the practicality of these divorces led to worry over the potential for long-term population decreases as women could, and were, divorcing their husbands by way of the mail. Later, in 1944, Stalin passed the Family Law which attempted to deter divorce again, the cost of a divorce quadrupled from 500 to 2,000 roubles. 23

Stalin did not respect women as individuals. He condoned the rape of traumatized women who had been kept in Nazi concentration camps. When questioned regarding the liberties his soldiers were taking with the recently released Russian women from Nazi camps, he responded “What is so awful about his having fun with a woman after such horrors?” 24 Perhaps Stalin only responded this way for fear of upsetting his military leaders and soldiers, the nucleus of support in his position of ruler in Russia. He unmistakably reveals that he views women as less than human, who did not merit compassionate treatment, and sadly, this is not the last time that this attitude is brought up.

Stalin also took liberties with women, but not in the sexual sense. He made the rights of women to their own bodies his own business, and enacted laws that took control of decisions that women should have themselves. One decree that was passed in Vladimir made all virgins past the age of eighteen the property of the state. Additionally, although he at first passed laws that permitted abortions, he later took those rights away in 1936 when he chose to work towards increasing the labor force, and women as breeding machines would best support his dream.

For Stalin to begin increasing the work force, he would first needed to increase the population, so he began a substantial press campaign to encourage women to marry and have children, he even set a specific number of children he wanted to see in each family. He furthermore used the Family Law of 1944 to cause financial difficulties for families without children.

Although his Five Year plans brought more laborers into the workforce, his primary objective, as he only wished to increase industry, he did not initially ratify the Five Year plans for women to enter the work force, but if women were the only people to fill the new job openings, he would begrudgingly allow them that.

Concerning the evidence of the new role of women under the rule of Stalin, it had shrunk to pertain almost exclusively to the duties of women in the household. “The status and identity of a woman were no longer to be derived exclusively from her independent role in production but at least in part defined as functions of her performance in the roles of wife and mother.” 25

Conclusion

In conclusion, the evidence and analysis substantiate the notion that Stalin did not view women as individuals, rather tools that he could utilize to further his position and his goals for Russia. He exploited women as breeders to populate his new regime and provide home comforts for the men of his nation. He was not concerned with the rape of Russian women already traumatized by Nazi concentration camps and neither did he take action when the women in his own camps were mistreated in the same ways. Stalin did not permit the women that were members of his party to play an active role in the party, which reveals that he did not value women’s intellectual capabilities.

None of the evidence suggests that Stalin oppressed women intentionally. He only appears to take advantage of them for his own goals.

Notes

 

List of Sources

Buckley, Mary. Women and Ideology in the Soviet Union. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1989.

Jones, Adam. “Case Study: Stalin’s Purges”. http://www.genocide.org/case_stalin.html. 1999.

Lapidus, Gail Warshofsky. Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978.

Lee, Stephen J. European Dictatorships, 1918-1945. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Montefiore, Simon Seabag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Vintage Books, 2003.

Rule, Wilma and Noonan, Norma C. Russian Women in Politics and Society. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d= 28585174.

Van Gorp, Katrina. Women Under Stalin. http://web.archive.org/web/20040423084233/ http:/www.dickinson.edu/~history/dictators/stalin_women.html. 2004.

1 Wilma Rule and Norma C. Noonan, Russian Women in Politics and Society, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996), http://www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d =28585174, 18.

2 Rule and Noonan, Russian Women, 18.

3 Rule and Noonan, Russian Women, 24.

4 Rule and Noonan, Russian Women, 18.

5 Stephen J. Lee, European Dictatorships, 1918-1945, 2nd ed., (New York: Routledge, 2000), 67.

6 Lee, European Dictatorships, 68.

7 Lee, European Dictatorships, 65.

8 Katrina Van Gorp, Women Under Stalin, http://web.archive.org/web/20040423 084233/http:/www.dickinson.edu/~history/dictators/stalin_women.html, 2004.

9 Simon Seabag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, (New York: Vintage Books, 2003), 479.

10 Montefiore, Stalin, 479.

11 Adam Jones, “Case Study: Stalin’s Purges,” http://www.genocide.org/case_ stalin.html, 1999.

12 Van Gorp, Women Under Stalin.

13 Gail Warshofsky Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change, (Los Angeles: University of California Press) 1978, 99.

14 Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society, 99.

15 Van Gorp, Women Under Stalin.

16 Mary Buckley, Women and Ideology in the Soviet Union, (Michigan: University of Michigan Press) 1989, 131.

17 Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society, 112-113.

18 Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society, 113.

19 Buckley, Women and Ideology, 134.

20 Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society, 115.

21 Buckley, Women and Ideology, 116.

22 Rule and Noonan, Russian Women, 19.

23 Buckley, Women and Ideology, 134.

24 Montefiore, Stalin, 479.

25 Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society, 114.

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