Once the Bolsheviks came to power they gave special attention to family institutions, as well as the individual, they perceived “the patriarchal, religiously sanctioned family as tsarist society in microcosm.” Because of these thoughts, the Bolsheviks quickly gave official recognition only to civil marriages, made divorce easier, gave women full equality, rights to children born out of wedlock, and legalized abortion (Freeze 331).
This legalization would later be repealed as Stalin would realize, what the Bolsheviks quickly did, that legalized abortion made it difficult to grow a population and create a new society. The Bolsheviks hoped that in time Soviet women would better understand socialist principles and recognize their role in child-rearing, but this did not actually occur until much later, around the time that Stalin made abortion illegal. In fact, registered abortions rose to 55 per 100 births in this time and throughout the 1920s (Freeze 333).
I found this concept very interesting because I do not think that we can fully understand abortion as a problem relating to population or the need for population growth because America is not struggling for more people in this country and hasn’t really in the past. Abortion is seen most solely as a women’s rights and religious issue, rather than a political one. Opposition to the prohibition of abortion in Russia also reflects this difference; the oppositions were not usually based on women wanting control over their bodies, but about the strains that child-bearing and rearing could put on career aspirations and living arrangements.
In order to combat these oppositions, there was an increase in established nurseries and kindergartens, so that women could still contribute to society by working. There was also an increase in dining rooms and ready to cook/serve food items in order to relieve some of the home-making burden off of women.
This is interesting timing because under both the Bolshevik rule and Stalin’s Rule, women received a lot more rights and equality, but under Stalin it seems like most of those rights geared towards women were an effort to increase the birth rate, which we also aided by prohibiting abortion because he viewed giving birth as an “great and honorable duty” that is not a private affair.
This is a very interesting webpage because it shows the abortion statistics in Russia from 1921-2015. In 1936, is when the draft of the law “On the Protection of Motherhood and Child” was published in the newspaper and the reported abortion numbers were still very high comparatively, but dropped significantly in the next year, but then climbed after. The numbers are also expected to be higher because abortion was illegal, meaning that many more went unreported.
This propaganda poster is actually from 1944, which is a little after the time frame we are talking about, but I think it illustrates the change that occurred within family institutions and abortion laws between 1918 and the 1930s. It shows the mother as the heroine figure, displaying how important a role she plays in Russian society by having and raising children. This was an important ideal during both the Bolshevik and Stalin rules, but their expression of this importance was acted out in different manners.
Freeze Book: Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a history. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 1997. Print.
Photo found here: http://sites.bu.edu/revolutionaryrussia/student-research/kara-korab/