The Soviet State: A Study of Bolshevik Rule

By Bertram W. Maxwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
WOMEN AND CHILDREN

THE NEW WOMAN

If one were to point out the most amazing transformation achieved by the Bolshevik Revolution, one would have to point to the Russian Woman. From the days of ancient Muscovy, woman was considered inferior to man in every respect. The Orthodox church had taught the evil of woman's influence upon man. The invasion of the Tartars brought to Russia even lower conceptions of woman's place in society. Thus for centuries the Russian woman of the upper classes lived an isolated life. She was debarred from all education and political and social life. Locked up in a terem, an isolated portion of the house, she became merely an object for man's physical satisfaction. The women of the lower classes were beasts of burden and brood mares at the same time. To be sure, Peter the Great, eager to transform backward, Asiatic Russia into an European state, compelled the men to allow their women to come out of their seclusion and appear at public functions. This, of course, met with terrific opposition, but Peter was not a man who could be disobeyed with impunity, and a new era for the women of the upper class was ushered in.

Eventually Western European customs of chivalry were introduced in Russia, and superficially the Russian upper class woman became the equal of her European sisters. In the course of the nineteenth century, however, the Russian woman of the intellectual and upper classes showed an amazing development. In the revolutionary history of Russia, woman's part stands out as a great monument to the courage of young Russian womanhood. Women underwent all the danger and asked for no privileges. They walked to the gallows unflinchingly and died by the hundreds in uprisings and prisons. Men and women were equals in the revolutionary circles of Russia. But the story of the

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