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Women and the Revolutionary Process in Russia. By: Jonathan Mauti and Patrick Manson. State and Society in Pre-Revolution Russia. By most measures a backwards country Economically Primitive and Militarily Inferior Controlled by a Tsar and a brutal bureaucracy

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Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Women and the Revolutionary

Process in Russia

By: Jonathan Mauti and

Patrick Manson


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

State and Society in Pre-Revolution Russia

  • By most measures a backwards country

  • Economically Primitive and Militarily Inferior

  • Controlled by a Tsar and a brutal bureaucracy

  • Russian Orthodox church reinforced values of subordination

  • Sexual divisions of labour and open inequality between the sexes

  • Tiny portion of the population were educated elite, while the vast majority were serfs


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

State and Society in Pre-Revolution Russia

Women’s Resistance & Persecutions

  • Like many other social reforms it got its start from the Intelligentsia

  • On occasion during mass protest against the Lords women would stand in front of the crowds to deter the Lords from using violence

  • Women used “weapons of the weak” against persecution

  • Spousal abuse, murder, accusations of witchcraft or Satanism dotted the records of local courts


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Radical Women and Feminists, 1855-1881

Nihilism…aka: Hippies

  • A negation of old ways especially those that demanded obedience and conformity

  • Nihilist men accepted women as equals and created a symbolic and behavioral counterculture based on:

    • Rude manners

    • Disrespect for conventions

    • Residential communes for both sexes

    • Common law marriages

    • Rebellious forms of dress and personal appearance

-Nihilism was an unofficial slap in the face to official authority


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Radical Women and Feminists, 1855-1881

Nihilism…aka: Hippies

-Nigilistki (women Nihilists) lived by a Nicholas Chernyshevsky quote, “I want to be independent and live in my own way!”

-For women professing Nihilism in brought growth in their personal freedom through social rebellion without leading them into revolution

- Nigilistki’s became notorious in society for their short hair, dark glasses, mannish clothes and manners


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Radical Women and Feminists, 1855-1881

Nicholas Chernyshevsky – What is to be Done?

  • Radical Nihilist Journalist

  • He outlines a new rebellious, rational nondeferential personality that would change Russia

  • Believed in a Utopian Socialist Future and made the emancipation of women a central metaphor of all struggles for freedom

  • It signaled the Utopian revolution that was spreading throughout Russia and Women’s role in it

  • He made women’s equality central to his socialist vision

  • Provided a plan of labour, life and residential space in his commune of the future

  • Granted sexuality a significat place in the cycle of work, love and rest


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Radical Women and Feminists, 1855-1881

Populists

  • Rejected organized feminism and instead connected problems of personal, sexual or family oppression with the perceived generalized oppression of the regime

  • Main goal was to overthrow the Tsarist government and replace it with a popular self government and establish some form of agrarian socialism

  • No other radical movement of the time contained such a large portion of women

  • Their fight turned from socialist propaganda to assassination and terror. Many women were executed when assassination attempts failed such as SofyaPerovskaya

  • One negative issue was that since Populists refused to add feminism to their agenda it made it easier for others to forget about it altogether


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Radical Women and Feminists, 1855-1881

Feminists

-Much like Nihilists and Populists; Feminists mostly came from the small educated strata who chose to challenge its patriarchal structure

-They differed from Nihilists and Populists because they main goal was women's rights. Not for the rights of peasants, workers or on behalf of the socialist movement

-Feminists formed legal societies engaged in charity work and opened universities to educate women

-By the 20th Century they turned their attention to reforms in property rights, divorce and other matters

-From 1905 to 1917 four feminist parties unsuccessfully tried to succeed in the political arena


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Russian Feminism was:

“a movement for women’s civil and

political equality, whose supporters

trusted that a better world could be created

without resort to violence, and a constitutional solution

be found to Russia’s ills.”


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Industrialization, Class, and Gender, 1881-1905

-With the explosion of industrialization came unrest and revolt against the Tsarist government. By the end of 1905 the Tsar granted Russia its first constitution and opened its first parliament – The State Duma

-The new political and economic changes brought more women into cities and factories where they experienced economic and sexual exploitation

-DOUBLE EXPLOITATION: Miserable factory conditions and sexual harassment by bosses; and mistreatment at the hands of their proletarian husbands

-These situations drew attention to working women from feminists and socialist women alike

-Industrialism had brought about what had been lacking in the old rural order: The possibility of political alliance between women of the upper and lower classes


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

“Women workers wrote incessantly and openly

About the hostilities they endured from male workers,

Making it clear that this hostility was as much a feature of the normal

Daily exchange between men and women workers as was the

Humiliating treatment they endured from male supervisory personnel”

Rose Glickman


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Women in the Political Arena, 1905-1914

-Political parties in Russia reacted to the idea of women much the same as the rest of Europe- an issue which tested their outlook on social change and mass interest

Where People Stood?

<- The Left

The Center

The Right ->

Socialist, like their counterparts in Europe, proclaimed support for women’s rights across the board: politics, maternity, protection and economic equality

Liberal parties initially wavered on women’s suffrage in Duma elections, but by 1906 supported the more moderate feminist parties

Displayed hostilities to any kind of feminist platform, identifying legitimate [politics with the male sex as their program Faith, Tsar and Fatherland

However, the presence of women in socialist parties did not advance the women’s movement. Less than 10 percent of the delegates to Socialist Revolutionary conferences were women and the percentages were even lower in the Social Democratic parties.


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Important Bolshevik Women

Elena Stasova

RozaZemlyachka

These two women were the organizers of the Bolshevik Movement, but not leaders or theoreticians. In all the Socialist parties the leadership still remained in the hands of men.

Nadezhda Krupskaya

Inessa Armand

These are the two most popularly known Bolshevik women.Nadezhda was Lenin’s wife and Inessa was their close friend. They made their mark as loyal assistants of the party leader, Lenin, in his emigration years.


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Women in the Political Arena, 1905-1914

Alexandra Kollontai

-Was the leader of the Socialist Women’s Movement

-She attempted to combine socialist thought with feminism and fought against conservative society

-She opposed feminists as bourgeois, and she preached that women workers should rally to the proletarian banner

-She travelled to St. Petersburg to win over women workers with Marxist thought and attempted to show women that their main enemy was the bourgeoisie- not men


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

On the Eve of Revolution

-Prostitution became a huge problem. Young women who came to the city from rural towns were unsuspectingly lured at train stations by pimps which forcefully brought them into the sex trade

-The system was enmeshed in a system of government control and inspection of prostitutes which made it almost impossible to escape from brothels and allowed this ‘white slavery’ to continue, which included kidnapping or seduction into forced labour in the sex trade

-Sex was a big topic in pubic discussion before and during the revolution. Gender issues were debated fiercely by the intelligentsia on topics such as: abortion, rape, homosexuality, masturbation and female crime/deviance


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

On the Eve of Revolution

-During this time there was a new World of Art which concentrated on “decadent” perspectives on life including mystical carnality, sexual inversion and even outright sado-masochism

-Moralist of the time and historians have seen this obsession as a clue to the larger decay of the Old Regime, but it might be argued to the contrary that the discussion of sexuality, and women’s place within it, was a harbinger of greater openness in the last years before revolution


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

On the Eve of Revolution

-The women question in Tsarist Russia remained a major issue right up and into World War One

-Thousands of women graduating from university had entered the professional life; and hundreds went to jail or Siberia because of their roles in the revolution

-The female terrorist was the Russia counterpart to the British Suffragettes - but far more violent

-Organized feminists agitated for important reforms in the status of women and won legislative victories in legal, educational and property rights, though mainly for women in the upper class


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Revolution Era: Heroizing Women, 1917-1928

-In February 1917, cold and hungry women rioted in Petrograd beginning and uprising that led to the collapse of the Romanov dynasty within a week. With the men at the front, the women were left behind to be the workers, breadwinners and heads of the households

-On October 25th 1917 the Bolshevik Movement came to an end with them installing a Soviet government. What was the Bolshevik approach to emancipating women? It depends upon how one views revolution in general and the Bolshevik Revolution in particular, and upon one’s expectations from an insurgent government that sets out to remake the face of the largest nation in the world


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Revolution Era: Heroizing Women, 1917-1928

-After the revolution women had no place in the upper reaches of the party hierarchy; and indifference towards women's issues persisted in the party at various levels

-However, the party leader Vladimir Lenin committed his regime to the educational, economic , legal and political liberation of women. Lenin possessed an almost compulsive hatred of the domestic enslavement of women to mindless household work , which he called, “barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-wracking, stultifying and crushing drudgery.”

-Lenin issues decrees, codes, electoral laws, and land reforms and proclaimed an across-the-board equality of all sexes-the first regime to do so in the world


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Revolution Era: Heroizing Women, 1917-1928

-All education institutions were open to women, received equal status in marriage (including the right to retain their last names), divorce, family and inheritance and equal rights in litigation, legalized abortions, criminalization of prostitution and the ownership of property

-By separating church and state the Communists got rid of all canonical and theological restrictions on the role of women in modern life


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Revolution Era: Heroizing Women, 1917-1928

Zhenotdel

-Led by Inessa and Alexandra Kollontai, this program was installed to transform the new laws into reality through education, mobilization and social work

-Understaffed and under financed, its agents fanned out to the factory neighbourhoods, villages and remote provinces to bring the message of the revolution to the female population

-In factories they monitored factory conditions and fought against female unemployment and prostitution. In the countryside they opened classrooms and explained the new laws


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Revolution Era: Heroizing Women, 1917-1928

Backlash to the Zhenotdel

  • -In the oases towns in south-central USSR where bride price, kidnapping, child marriages, polygamy, female illiteracy and seclusion had been the norm for centuries, there was a male backlash towards the Zhenotdel

  • Zhenotdel activists arrives and opened schools and counseling centers in these towns for women. They also put on plays denouncing sexual slavery and seclusion.

  • In 1927 around 100,000 women gathered on town squares and demonstratively tore off their veils. After this the male Muslim population turned into rage as they beat, gang-raped, disemboweled and stabbed, sisters, wives, or fiancées


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Revolution Era: Heroizing Women, 1917-1928

  • In 1921 Lenin came out with a New Economic Plan which allowed mixed economy and limited areas of capitalism

  • Women were hit very hard by this and some felt political oppression when they protested

  • About 70 percent of the initial job cutbacks occurred were against women. Tens of thousands of women in de facto marriages possessed none of the financial security or legal protection that might have vouchsafed them with a registered marriage


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Revolution Era: Heroizing Women, 1917-1928

  • Sexual equality did not become the norm in the 1920’s. Lord’s still held sway over their farming ‘peasants‘, and in the factory women were always laid off before their male counterparts

  • Old ways, rooted in ancient traditions, killed the women’s movement in spite of laws, campaigns, organizing efforts, and attempts to create new images and myths

  • The Zhenotdel was weakened at the end of the decade and the sexual revolution that the communists started was starting to get out of hand; males abused the new sexual freedom by demoralizing love and exploiting women for easy sex in the name of ‘proletarian morality’


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Stalin Period: Domesticating Women, 1928-1953

-Stalin’s ruthlessness created and atmosphere where women’s saw their gains be taken away with Stalin running the country

-Unimaginable suffering inflicted upon millions- victims of famine, collectivization, terror and repression- and, for others, the overcrowding and urban dehumanization had a negative impact on families

-New views began to take over such as conservative nationalism, the exaltation of military heroes, and patriarchalism

-Much of the Utopian experiments of the 1920’s was repudiated in the 1930’s


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Stalin Period: Domesticating Women, 1928-1953

  • With the rise of the USSR it allowed women to work to produce goods for their country and women began working in all spheres that men were and all sectors of the urban economy

  • Also women’s education was continuing to climb; from 1926 to 1939 the female literacy rate rose from 42.7% to 81.6% in 1939

  • Also the proportion of women in institutes of higher education went from 31% in 1926 to 58% in 1940

  • However even with all these advances in 1930 the Zhenotdel was abolished and Stalinism defined women’s productive and reproductive in an authoritarian way. To protect women from male irresponsibility and to promote family stability and increase population, the government outlawed abortion and tightened divorce laws

  • Also reverted to the old Double Oppression


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

The Stalin Period: Domesticating Women, 1928-1953

Women’s Role in WWII

  • Millions were poured into the war industry and also about 1 million women serve in the war, and 800,000 served in uniform usually as snipers, antiaircraft gunners, tankers, pilots and bombardiers

  • Thousands died and suffered wounds; also hundreds of thousands were killed during the German offensive and through their atrocities

  • The female national martyr came to symbolize the struggle against the invader

  • Women’s rights and roles were frozen into a positions defined by the regime

  • WWII it left millions of women lonely, prematurely old, overworked, bitterly saddened and largely ignored


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

An Aging Revolution: The Soviet Old Regime, 1953-1985

-The death of Stalin opened many doors to bring back the women’s movement

-Specific changes started for women during the Khrushchev period and continued after his fall from power; abortion was once again legalized and divorce laws were also loosened once again, maternity leave was given to working mothers and the coeducation was restored

-Many academic disciplines such as sociology that were outlawed during Stalin were implemented

-The continuing growth in the number of civic-minded and politically active educated women sharpened the perception of remaining inequality in the work place and in the home


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

An Aging Revolution: The Soviet Old Regime, 1953-1985

  • Although ‘equal pay for equal work’ existed in law, many women were paid less for the same jobs that men did

  • Also men refused to share their power with women, many of them still grasping onto Stalinism

  • Another issue was women's reluctance to challenge male power, because of the sex-role education many women received under Stalin’s rule

  • Also the idea of the women’s ‘double shift’ was very real during this time as well


Women and the revolutionary process in russia

Discussion Questions

How (if at all) did the Women’s Movement in Russia,

differ from the Movements in European countries?

How much of an impact do you think the constant change of

government, hindered or helped the Russian Women’s movement?


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