A Revolution of Their Own: Voices of Women in Soviet History

A Revolution of Their Own: Voices of Women in Soviet History

A Revolution of Their Own: Voices of Women in Soviet History

A Revolution of Their Own: Voices of Women in Soviet History

Synopsis

The stories of these eight Russian women offer an extremely rare perspective into personal life in the Soviet era. Some were from the poor peasantry & working class, groups in whose name the revolution was carried out & who sometimes gained unprecedented opportunities after the revolution. Others, born to "misfortune" as the daughters of nobles, parish priests, or those peasants termed well-to-do, suffered bitterly as enemies to a new government. The women interviewed here speak candidly about family life, work, sexual relations, marriage & divorce, childbirth & childbearing, & legalized abortion & the underground pursuit of such services after abortion was outlawed in 1936. As no previous book has done, A Revolution of Their Own illuminates the harsh reality of women's daily lives in the Soviet Union as well as reveals the accomplishments made possible by the expanded opportunities that the new Soviet government provided for women. Their stories show why many Russian women continue to take pride in the public achievements of the Soviet period despite, or perhaps because of, the painful price each was made to pay.

Excerpt

This book contains the stories of eight Russian women whose lives have spanned the twentieth century--an era of tremendous social and political turmoil and change. Russians who were born in the early years of the century and survived to see the collapse of the Soviet Union experienced three revolutions, two world wars, a civil war, and the world's first thoroughgoing attempt to create a socialist society. Millions lost their lives in conflicts and upheavals; millions more suffered persecution and repression at the hands of their own government. Yet other millions, especially women and men from lower-class backgrounds, gained educational and employment opportunities beyond the dreams of their parents and grandparents. Women found work outside the home and gained access to education and professional training, taking pride in these accomplishments.

We know relatively little about how ordinary Russians experienced the traumas and opportunities of the revolutionary and Stalinist eras of Soviet history (1917-1953) and virtually nothing about what these events meant to Russian women. Yet the emancipation of women was one of the goals of the revolution. Although never a top priority, efforts to achieve women's emancipation were far-reaching and substantial; but they took place in the context of a traditional, patriarchal, peasant culture and in the midst of massive social turmoil that tore families apart. In the end, women did not achieve equality but merely an expansion of their social roles to include participation in the labor force and economic responsibility for the family, in addition to the work they had always done at home--what scholars call women's "double burden."

The possibility of gathering oral histories in Russia is itself the product of profound change. Until a few years ago, the stories that the state-controlled media told Soviet citizens about themselves and their past consisted only of triumphs and achievements. To speak of failures, of losses, even of one's own personal suffering was dangerous, especially between 1929 and 1953, when people were imprisoned not only for criticizing leader Josef Stalin but even for expressing doubt about the ability of the Soviet Union to achieve its goals. People kept silent about their negative thoughts and experiences or shared them only with others whom they completely trusted. Even personal details that seem perfectly ordinary might become dangerous in certain contexts. Anastasia Posadskaya, coeditor of this book, remembers how . . .

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