Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

14
Elements of Feminism in
Soviet Films

There hasn't been a single American university or college in which I've lectured during the past year on the subject of feminism in the Soviet Union that I haven't been asked about the film "Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears". It came out in 1982 ( Mosfilm), but for a long time I didn't get the chance to see it.So in 1985, when I noticed the program for a Russian film festival in Boston, I put aside all my affairs and told myself that, no matter what, I would see this Soviet film which so excited the minds of American university audiences.

Our Almanac "Woman and Russia" already wrote about another Soviet film, "Several Interviews on Personal Questions" ( 1979), noting the traces of feminism in it, which, while not radical, at least revealed resistance, dissatisfaction, and anger.One of the young women interviewed in this film by the main heroine talks about her decision to raise a child alone, without a husband, who, from her point of view, is not a helpmate anyway. This young women's demeanor (her dress and style of speech) was reminiscent of Western feminists although neither she nor the film itself uses the word "feminism". But this is typical of all Soviet films which, even if they try to address the problems of liberating women, still do not call it feminism.This is due to the history of feminism in Russia which was proclaimed "bourgeois" after the socialist revolution.This accusation was unjust; Russian feminists at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth discussed a very wide range of questions, in particular the position of the peasantry and the working class.But even the proletarian feminism of the twenties, with its "women's departments", social experiments in the sphere of the family, its struggle with prostitution, and its women's revolts against rudeness and violence on the part of men, is forgotten and mentioned nowhere.Let's take the film "White Sun of the Desert" (Lenfilm, 1978), where the director reconstructs this very period toward the end of the civil war.The hero of the film, Sukhov, is demobilized from a regiment named

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