Russian family life has had a turbulent past with differing levels of control by the government and this was no different during wartime. Traditional gender roles were challenged by wartime needs, passion was at an all time high because of the unknown nature of a war, and the aftermath left many children born out of wedlock.
The atmosphere of wartime left people feeling a new passion that came with the unknown of whether you would ever see that person again. Before wartime, these feelings of overwhelming passion and excitement were “dismissed as bourgeois nonsense.” These feelings were one of many factors that left many children out of wedlock after the war.
Because of this, the Soviet government had to adapt and support unwed mothers because they needed the population growth, after the sky rocket in abortion rates after Stalin made abortion illegal because he realized that it was not conducive for population growth. Now more than ever, the Soviet Union needed to replenish their population after the loss of so many lives in the war, especially the lives of Soviet men. Here we see the Soviet government using family life to manipulate the population again and unwed mothers as a political issue, rather than a social one.
You can learn more about the Soviet government’s changing role in family life, in my last blog post as well.
Not only did women’s family roles change, but they began to take a more serious and dangerous role in the war, “the Soviet Union was unique in placing women in harm’s way in combat roles,” which added to the struggling aftermath of family life after the war. The image I chose for this post is of one of these women named Roza Shanina, who was a one of the most acclaimed snipers of the war. She had 59 confirmed kills. She was praised for her precision and ability to make doublets, which is when two targets are hit with two bullets in quick succession. She was killed in action during the East Prussian Offensive.
More than 800,000 women went to the frontline of the Eastern front. 520,000 of those women served as regular troops in the Red Army and another 300,000 served in combat and anti-aircraft positions. “These women were much more intimately involved in their country’s defense and frontline combat than the woman of any other combating society in World War II,” this was part due to the loss of men due to the long period of fighting.
It can be argued that women’s roles in the war were among the many reasons that allowed the Soviets to be surprisingly successful. “The upheavals and turbulence of the 1930s had taught the mass of Soviet citizens a healthy respect for the power of the state and had inspired belief in its solidity and permanence,” and these beliefs were reinforced by the authoritarianism that allowed more mobilization of troops by compelling both men and women to war-related work (Freeze 385).
Freeze Book: Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a history. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 1997. Print.