“Girls” and “Women”. Love, Sex, Duty and Sexual Harassment in the Ranks of the Red Army 1941-1945
This article focuses on the tension between female soldiers’ military duties and sex/romance in the ranks of the Red Army. Drawing on terminology used during the war, the author posits “girls” and “women” as two models of behavior – the former emphasizing soldierly duties, the later the realization of civilian norms. Female soldiers were placed in a highly ambiguous situation, in which the Komsomol, which had recruited large numbers of “girls” into the army, promoted sexual abstinence and feminine culturedness, while the Party and Army acquiesced to the desire of commanders to take lovers from among their subordinates. The article ends with a discussion of pregnancy and its implications.
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- 1 The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers, Milyausha Zakirova, Elena Zdravomyslova (...)
- 2 TsAMO f. 33, op. 690155 d. 7637, no. zapisi 357151596 at http://podvignaroda.mil.ru/?#id=35751596 (...)
1Aleksandra Shliakhova was no coward, and burned with a desire to defend her country with weapon in hand. In the course of her service, she would kill 69 enemy soldiers and take command of a sniper platoon2. Yet after she had been at the front for months, she still remembered her greatest fear while training in an elite all-female sniper school. In an interview with the Commission on the History of the Great Patriotic War in 1944, she recalled:
- 3 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 5.
When I was in training I was dying to get to the front but I was also afraid. I thought that I would be surrounded by men and it would be a hard life, I feared rape and coercion. They told me that there aren’t any girls at the front, no, only women. I was very afraid of this and thought that it could never be – I will leave a girl and return as a girl. I wanted my momma to know that I remained so. And when I thought of my momma, I was simply overcome with fear. I didn’t go to the front for that [sex-BMS]. And I set myself the goal of not falling in love with anyone at the front.3
- 4 T. Repina (Atabek), K biografii voennogo pokoleniia, Moscow, Moskovskie uchebniki i Kartolitografii (...)
- 5 She also tried to insure that those who had become “women” did not engage in any further sexual act (...)
2Shliakhova’s fears were not unfounded. As one soldier wrote home to his fiancée (who later became a decorated frontline medic): “If you were here, you would encounter serious difficulties, if only because you are a woman. Here there is a hunger for them…”4. As a Komsomol organizer in her unit, Shliakhova would expend a great deal of effort insuring that men treated her and the “girls” in her unit with respect and also disciplining the actions of the “girls” under her command to ensure that they did not become “women”5.
- 6 The vast majority of female soldiers in the Red Army were young (18-25) and mobilized via the Komos (...)
3Shliakhova was not alone in drawing this line. “Girls” was the term generally used to refer to female soldiers both among themselves and in officially produced texts. Much of the propaganda produced during the war spoke of personal happiness, the realization of romance and families, as something that could happen only after victory. In the war years, happiness could be tied only to success at the front and romance was seen to have no place. The term “girls” implied sexual purity and the placing of duty above both personal happiness and the fulfillment of traditional roles of lover, wife and in particular, mother6. The term “woman”, which in Russian was generally associated with the loss of virginity, pointed to a person who was sexually active and potentially pregnant. “Girls” also included a certain politeness that excluded the use of profanity. To many, including Shliakhova, “girls” implied absolute loyalty to the cause and moral uprightness, while “women” could imply placing the personal above the political, a form of moral decay through sex. Indeed, a special slang term, PPZh (Pokhodno-polevaia zhena or Polevaia pokhodnaia zhena – “Mobile Field Wife”) came into usage during the war to describe “women” who carried on relations with commanders, men often had families waiting at home. The PPZh was a crystallization of the negative aspects of the “women” trope.
- 7 A note on historiography: this work has been influenced by Elena Zdravomyslova and Ann Temkina’s wo (...)
4This article will explore the structural conditions for, and the policing and infringements of, this line between “girls” and “women” at the front during the Great Patriotic War. It will begin with a brief discussion of the prescribed behavior of “girls” in the army and progress to a discussion of sex and romance and the response of female soldiers to the mixed messages and various pressures on them in the Red Army. The conclusion provides a brief discussion of pregnancy, which was both the fulfillment of women’s traditional role and generally led to the end of service for female soldiers. This article is by no means an attempt to cast moral judgment on anyone who served in the Red Army or any choices made by female soldiers. The author is neither endorsing nor criticizing the tropes traced here. This work arose from the discovery of the “girls” vs. “women” rhetoric and the difficult situations female soldiers were forced to negotiate to be very important to the experience of everyday life at the front, something not fully discussed in the existing literature. To maintain neutrality, “girls” and “women” appear in quotes throughout the text when referring to wartime tropes, using the impartial term “female soldiers” when not referring to these tropes7.
- 8 The Commission on the History of the Great Patriotic War was a sizeable oral history project run by (...)
- 9 See also S. G. Jug, All Stalin’s Men? Soldierly Masculinities In The Soviet War Effort, Ph.D. Disse (...)
5Numerous female soldiers interviewed by the Commission on the History of the Great Patriotic War (and elsewhere) spoke of men’s expectations of sex and romance, while letters and diaries of soldiers (both men and women) recorded a particular concern with sex8. What in modern terminology would be called sexual harassment (sometimes “domogatel’stvo”, or “pristaiut” in 1940s texts) appears to have had a significant presence at the front. Purely voluntary unions based on mutual affection were, of course, also quite common, but not the focus of this article. The ambiguities particular to the social aspects of female soldier’s service in the Red Army are key to understanding their experience at the front. As we will see, setting the limits of one’s relationship with male comrades was often a key moment in establishing a “girl’s” place within a unit9.
- 10 A. Krylova, Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front, New York, Cambridge (...)
- 11 RGVA f. 4, op. 15, d. 31, ll. 57-65, in A. S. Yemelin, et al. (Eds), Prikazy Narodnogo komissara ob (...)
6The introduction of women into the Red Army, the largest mobilization of women into combat and support roles, took place unevenly and seemingly without a coherent policy from above10. As a result, relations between men and women serving in the army were worked out in an ad-hoc manner. Many commanders believed that the total discipline that soldiers were subjected to, in which “a commander’s word is law,” entitled them to sexual favors from their female subordinates11. Most female soldiers serving in the army seem to have been mobilized by the Komsomol, which as an organization was deeply concerned with upholding Bolshevik morality among soviet youth. These two understandings – the Komsomol’s desire for purity and the commander’s presumed total control over subordinates – would be in conflict with each other for much of the war.
7The position of female soldiers varied dramatically based on their own and their commanders’ personalities. “Girls” at the front could be seen as soldiers or as “women”, and even in instances where their skills as soldiers were needed and utilized, traditional ideas about gender were often recreated by soldiers of both sexes. The state itself demonstrated ambiguity about equality or the need to observe social norms:
- 12 K. Kniazeva, "Vospitanie devushek-voennosluzhashchikh”, Agitator i propagandist Krasnoi Armii, # 15 (...)
…it is necessary to take into account that, demanding from girls absolute fulfillment of regulations.... Commanders and political workers should always remember that a warrior-girl is before them, and not a man. They should take into account the physical condition, character and demands of girls. Without this it is impossible to organize their education.12
- 13 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 7b, l. 3.
- 14 I. Dunaevskaia, Ot Leningrada do Kënigsberga: Dnevnik voennoi perevodchitsy (1942-1945), Moscow, RO (...)
- 15 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 37, l. 6ob.
8Many female soldiers noticed that male soldiers changed their behavior in the presence of “girls.” For example, one “girl” recalled: “We noticed that whenever we arrive at a new place, the soldiers are clean, shaved and coifed, clean under-collars appear”13. Some women claim that soldiers censored themselves in the presence of female soldiers14, one stating that “in the company no one swore or smoked in front of me”15. In particular, profanity, a part of most military cultures, was seen to have no place in the presence of or from the lips of “girls”.
- 16 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, ll. 8ob.-9. A. A. Kovalevskii, “Nynche u nas peredyshka...”, N (...)
9Shliakhova stated in her interview that “the most vile thing for me, and I think for everyone, is to hear a girl swear. That was very difficult”16. Indeed, once she was wounded, she was shocked to find the girls under her command had acculturated to the language of the trenches:
- 17 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 13.
And when I got back from the hospital, I wanted to talk to the girls, to hear what good things they had done. They had taken part in some brutal battles, which was good. But it was bad that they had become exceptionally vulgar. They used profanity, which blossomed. I was so embarrassed, depressed. As soon as I heard it, I would call them out and start to say, Nina or Zoia, you are a girl! It’s a shame, what a repulsive impression this will leave on the commander and the troops, if they hear that a girl swears.17
- 18 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 32, d. 331, l. 90-92, in N. K. Petrova, Zhenshchiny Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny(...)
10It seems that this situation was quite common, as a post-war Komsomol report complained about abundant profanity among demobilized female soldiers18. A major corrective article in the Red Army’s main magazine, Krasnoarmeets, aimed at fostering the right kind of female soldiers, “Devushka v shineli (The Girl in the Overcoat)” also took issue with profanity from the lips of female soldiers, dedicating an entire column (“We are not girls, we are soldiers!”) to the subject. The article ended with a prescription of what female soldiers should be:
- 19 K. Kniazeva, op. cit., p. 21. “Girls’” use of tobacco and alcohol was quite ambiguous. See e.g. Bra (...)
Our Soviet girl in a coarse soldier’s overcoat; tempered, hardy, capable of fighting no worse than a man; can be clean and tender, like a flower in the Caucasus Mountains… This is how we want to see her!19
- 20 Interestingly, this article does not simply present traditional roles for female soldiers – they ca (...)
11The girl in the overcoat could (and should) kill the enemy, but never swear20. Female soldiers were to be “tempered” yet “tender”, to kill the enemy as well as a man, yet remain “clean”.
- 21 As Shliakhova said in reference to those who sought romance at the front: “I only thought, why live (...)
- 22 E. Konenko, "Devushka v shineli', Krasnoarmeets, # 12, 1943,pp. 20-22.
- 23 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 2-a, l. 4ob.
- 24 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 37, l. 6ob.
- 25 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. Х, op. 7, d. 13-а, ll. 7-7ob.
- 26 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. Х, op. 7, d. 13-b, ll. 106-107.
12“Devushka v shineli” not only condemned profanity, but gave a clear definition of the place of love during the war. Romantic love was presented as a dream deferred until after victory21. The article attacked female soldiers who were prepared to “sacrifice their womanly honor” in order to provide heroes with “some little joy” in the form of “caresses” (a clear euphemism for sex), especially if the soldier had a girlfriend or wife at home. Instead “the girl in the overcoat” was told to concentrate completely on her missions, even if she had found a “lifelong love” in the army. The article even provides a model relationship between two snipers who keep their love a secret, focusing instead on higher tallies of enemy dead: “Why get distracted? We have one thought – to beat the enemy”22.This model seemed to be particularly important for female soldiers serving in combat, as General Mikhailov greeted female snipers arriving in his command: “You have come to work. That’s great! Keep in mind, you can’t get married here, but you can fall in love. Fall in love and write each other”23. As a female veteran, echoing the sentiments of this article, recalled immediately after the war, “in 1942 this major proposed marriage to me. I thought that it isn’t clear what will happen to me or to him. I will be a defective person for the army, and I went to the front as a volunteer. So I refused”24. Another was certain that her authority commanding a group of scouts consisting largely of ex-convicts rested on her ability to take hardship and the fact that “I didn't have anyone”25. She was warned by her commander “not to get [romantically] involved” with any of them, not to pick up their bad habits, but encouraged to use her femininity as a resource: “let them feel all the time that you are a girl, that a girl is nearby and that will make them happier and more comfortable”26.
- 27 On the privileging of domestic over soldierly duties in the way female soldiers were mythologized, (...)
- 28 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob. Some soldiers, however, disagreed. See G. Temkin, My Ju (...)
- 29 E. Konenenko, “Devushak v shineli”, p. 21.
- 30 T. Atabek, op. cit., p. 135.
13According to the Komsomol and many commanders, “girls” were not only to be good soldiers, but also to provide an element of culture in the coarse soldierly milieu. This was often seen as more important than their soldierly duties and was to be free of sex27. The Commandant of the elite Central Female School for Sniper Training (TsZhShSP - from which Shliakhova and several other “girls” quoted here graduated), Lt. Colonel Kolchak put it succinctly: “it is simply pleasant to meet a neat, clean girl among the dirty soldiers at the front… our girls are the only pure souls…”28. “The Girl in the Overcoat” banned sex but encouraged flirtation: “We salute your cheerful smile, girl in the overcoat! We salute the warmth in your eyes and even your delightful coquettishness, which at times is the best medicine”29. However, these “girls” were to avoid “vulgarity” such as makeup, painted nails and jewelry, and as we have seen above, were not to engage in sexual activity. This line was difficult to navigate, as one female soldier explained in her diary: “If you are quiet and avoid everyone, they say you think too much of yourself, if you are affectionate and sociable many will want something more.” This was further complicated by the perception of a particular feminine “need to take care of another person”30.
- 31 See M. Buckley. “The Untold Story of the Obshchestvennitsa in the 1930s” in M. Ilic (ed.), Women in (...)
14Prewar official discourse positioned women as care givers, the providers of comfort and a cultured environment with a matronly undertone, as exemplified by the obshestvennitsa – the socially active, middleclass wife. The obshchestvennitsa emerged in the 1930s as a model for women to mobilize in a particularly feminine way – improving the everyday conditions of working class people and nurturing them, elevating them to a higher cultural level. While examples of female shock-workers and pilots continued to appear in the press, it seems that the obshchestvennitsa was the favored model. The fact that many of the “girls” mobilized into the army were Komsomol members, often more educated than many of those they were serving with, supported the application of this model of femininity. In many ways, official discourse during the war asked “girls” to take up this mantle while refraining from marriage and motherhood31.
15In practice, not everyone was willing to see female soldiers as “girls.” Even Lt. Colonel Kolchak was not sure that abstinence made the most sense, as he told the Commission in 1943:
- 32 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob. (Text in italics crossed out in the original document.)
They're all young. We take the wrong approach. People are facing death, some have already died, it’s no easier for them that they died with honor on the field of glory. Young girls twenty years old, what have they had a chance to see, the drills in our school? This is an unusual lifestyle for a girl. And such relations between the two sexes exist and you can’t do anything about them. We are all sinful people and I myself would be ready to serve during the day and carouse at night…32
- 33 For many “girls” this was their first experience of life outside of their family, something that on (...)
- 34 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 32, d. 331, l. 90-92, in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 292. Kovalevskii echoed thi (...)
- 35 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 8ob.
16For Kolchak, the proximity of death and the fact that most of these “girls” were at exactly the age when under normal circumstances they would be courting and perhaps starting families, made the prohibition against sex senseless33. One “woman”, when confronted by the Komsomol leader of her unit after repeated affairs, said simply: “I don’t think that my behavior is shameful, only a person who has not experienced for himself all of the horrors and difficulties of battle could censure me”34. Even Shliakhova noticed that after heavy combat her “girls” came to see “the question of men and women” in a “simpler light (legche)”35. In practice this prohibition was difficult to maintain, not only because of “sinful” human nature and the immense pressures of life at the front, but also because the Komsomol’s policy of sexual abstinence and that of the Party itself, which supported a commanders’ privileges and authority (including the right to take lovers), were not in alignment. The fact that male soldiers had received no such instructions to be chaste also contributed to confusion.
- 36 S. Jug, All of Stalin’s Men?, pp. 100-105; K. Simonov, “Ubei ego,” Krasnaia zvezda, 18 July, 1942; (...)
- 37 See, e.g. E. Konenko, Za chest’, za zhizn’ liubimoi, Moscow, Voenizdat, 1942.
- 38 See, e.g. V. Inber, “Zhenshchine”, Krasnoarmeets, # 15, 1942, p. 3; Nakaz naroda (pis’ma narodov SS (...)
- 39 S. G. Jug, “Red Army romance: Preserving Masculine Hegemony in Mixed Gender Combat Units, 1943–1944 (...)
17The official model of sexual behavior for men in the army was less ambiguous. In line with official Stalinist culture, there was no explicit sexualization of propaganda aimed at soldiers, such as the pin ups of the US army or pornography and saucy illustrations of the Wehrmacht. When sex was discussed, it was an aberration. Propaganda aimed at Red Army soldiers depicted the enemy as a rapist, the Red Army soldier as a defender or avenger of women’s honor36. Graphic descriptions and images of sex were reserved for discussions of rape by enemy forces37. This propaganda clearly stated that real men defeated the enemy would be able to garner the attention of women after the war38. When taken together, one could see how some soldiers could draw the conclusion that military service, particularly at the front, could entitle them to sex. Steven Jug has argued that most men in the Red Army reduced female soldiers to sex objects in uniform, going on to assert that the sexualization of female soldiers was a means of disqualifying their combat contributions and reifying the male collective. While this argument may be overdetermined, he is certainly correct in asserting that female soldiers had to work very hard against assumptions that they were sexually available39. This was not helped by the fact that the army would eventually come to accept relationships in the ranks in a way that favored commanders.
18By the summer of 1942, the reality of sexual relations between soldiers at the front was being discussed at the highest levels, at a meeting of the Main Political Directorate of the Red Army (GlavPURKKA). There was no clear policy before this date and the answer that was given would leave a great deal of ambiguity. Aleksandr Shcherbakov, the head of the Political Directorate, delivered an edict on the subject in July of 1942, which is worth quoting at length:
The party has striven and will continue to strive for our political workers to be unsullied people, otherwise they will lose their authority. But we take this to wild extremes. I will read you a document, but I won’t name names, chances are that such documents are found in [your] army and [your] division. It says that some person has morally degraded, that he has cohabitated with some nurse. Further they start to investigate, it goes all the way to the party commission. The guilty party repents: I understand the criminality of my behavior and beg forgiveness. The Party Commission decrees: considering his frank admission of error – we will give a slap on the wrist. And the whole document is filled with similar cases. Someone had a tryst with a rural school teacher. They try to establish the connection between two people, but it turns out they have both left the unit. They write about two others that they are debauched. It turns out they went to see their wives. The fact of sexual depravity is not corroborated. Again about debauchery, again about sexual depravity.
You see, sexual depravity, debauchery and normal human relations are different things. There is no need to leave the ground and have one’s head in the clouds.
- 40 RGASPI f. 88, op. 1, d.948, ll. 12-14.
We need to fight against drunkenness by all means. If people come together – a commander and a woman, it is nothing extraordinary. Why cause a commotion, why spy on them and then write, discuss and investigate? Does the Party Commission really have nothing else to do? We have to strictly ensure that in a commander’s entourage there is no bitch-spy. That type needs to be unmasked and driven out. I don't want people to think that “everything is permitted”, but we don’t need to have our heads in the clouds. We are all grown-ups and should understand what is permissible and what is not, what are normal human relations and what is moral decay. The moral make up of our commanders, particularly political workers, should be clean. This all has to be understood properly, in the manner of the party, in a humanistic way.40
19Shcherbakov’s position, which given his authority can be seen as the official position of the Red Army and Communist Party, meant that (assumedly consensual) sexual relationships with female subordinates could not serve as the basis for disciplinary action and gave the green light for commanders to pursue women under their command. As we will see, commanders becoming involved with medical personnel would become something of a stereotype. Sex and romance are presented as something entirely natural and something to be ignored, excepting those who went overboard. What is lost on Shcherbakov is the extent to which this could lead to female soldiers being expected to provide sexual favors to their commanders and how this could complicate the service of women at the front. This practice also ran in opposition to much of the propaganda of the war years, which placed the realization of any form of romance as something to be delayed until after victory and was as a rule nearly sexless.
- 41 L. Kopelev, Khranit' vechno. Kniga 1, Moscow, Terra, 2004, p. 90. “A year before, frontline romance (...)
- 42 O. V. Budnitskii, “Muzhchiny i zhenshchiny v Krasnoi Armii (1941-1945),” Les Cahiers du Monde Russe(...)
- 43 L. Kopelev, op. cit., K.1, p. 90. See also B. Alpern Engel, “The Womanly Face of War: Soviet Women (...)
20With sexual behavior no longer the purview of the Party, the assumption of sexual relationships became systematic in some units. Lev Kopelev, recording what was most likely the seeping of Shcherbakov’s proclamation into everyday practice, wrote in his memoirs that it was rumored Stalin himself approved of such “natural relations” between men and women and that by the spring of 1943 “such questions were resolved very quickly at the front”41. The spread of these practices could lead to their standardization, and several soldiers observed that the presumption of sex with subordinates had become a norm42. Kopelev recalled that “certain generals thought of signals women, waitresses, nurses and typists as their reserved game (zapovednoi dich’iu)”43. Army chauffeur Andrei Kovalevskii, a keen observer of sexual mores, went so far as to record in his diary the “formula” of the organizational structure functioning by the summer of 1944, which he was certain “frontline soldiers would agree with”:
- 44 A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., pp. 86-87.
A regimental doctor, if of course it’s a “she”, lives with the regimental commander, a battalion doctor with the battalion commander, the company medical instructor with the company commander, battery medic with the battery commander and so on. Of course there are frequent exceptions, but anyway this is the typical “organizational structure.” The thing of it is that regulations breed habits of such strength in the army, that is to always give preference to one’s seniors, that these “seniors” have a double advantage in love…44
- 45 O. V. Budnitskii sites a similar, even more formalized practice in another unit. See O.V. Budnitski (...)
- 46 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob; Dunaevskaia, op. cit., p. 55. It is worth noting that s (...)
21According to Kovalevskii, these decisions were made very quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours, so that lower ranking officers could have access to those women who were rejected by or not interested in their direct commander45. This system was in line with the increasing privileges granted to commanders in which everything from rations to uniforms were meant to create a separate class. While structural conditions allowed for officers to take advantage of women under their command, much depended on the attitude of the commander, many of whom took a purely professional or even fatherly stance towards their female subordinates, both of which excluded the expectation of sex. In some units, women were placed in separate, sometimes even guarded bunkers, at least one of which was jokingly called “the harem”46. Women in the army were faced with a specific set of difficulties – those whose commanders expected sex and romance faced constant sexual harassment, and those who simply wanted to serve were often assumed to be available.
22Whether or not a female soldier had the right to refuse her commander’s advances was often unclear. The commander’s word was law, refusal to fulfill orders a capital offense. Some commanders certainly interpreted their authority to include sex, as one sniper told the Mints Commission:
- 47 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 2a, ll. 2-2ob.
Men really force themselves. We had a platoon commander Dugman, who tried to act by giving commands. But I told him that in this case we are equals, even if I am a corporal and he is a lieutenant… in two days he called me in again and said, if you don’t want to voluntarily, I’ll shoot you… I scratched and bit and got away, then I told the Party Organizer. He got five days arrest. Later he got back at me. He would send me where the scouts were to hunt, to places that were mined and shelled more.47
23The offending commander would eventually be stripped of his rank and sent to a penal unit, but only after several incidents of attempted sexual assault and placing the female soldier in direct and unnecessary danger. The total lack of privacy and need to share cramped bunkers with men could also lead to violation of a female soldier’s person, as Tatiana Atabek recorded in her diary:
- 48 Atabek, op. cit. p. 237.
At night, as if an insane dream, I hear impassioned whisperings: “I love you and will never leave you”. Attempts to embrace and kiss and that moaning prayer to give him my lips. I felt that I had no strength to stop this person… and felt so insulted – I had never been so wronged in all my life – that I wept uncontrollably.48
- 49 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 47, d. 154, ll. 8-9 in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 231. See also NA IRI RAN f. 2 (...)
24A female sniper recovering from wounds, Senior Sergeant Netiazhuk, wrote a lengthy letter of complaint to Komsomol leadership about how the Komsomol had failed to protect the “girls” it sent to the front. She complained that “our female youth has been leased to Komsomol instructors” who seemed unaware of the “scandalous fact that the smallest and the biggest commanders seduce these young fledglings, then themselves scorn them. Some of them have been sent to the rear crippled. I myself have seen this on three sections of the front.” She, as several other female soldiers expressed both ire at the hypocrisy of male soldiers, who took advantage of and then condemned female soldiers, but also rage towards “a certain group of people who conduct themselves in a low, vulgar manner, but the stain falls on everyone”49.
- 50 O. V. Budnitskii, op. cit. This was by no means unique to Russia, see e.g. Kenneth D. Rose, Myth an (...)
25Attitudes towards sex during the war changed significantly, as Oleg Budnitskii has shown50. Most of the moral responsibility for sexual activity was placed on “women” and a variety of sources point to concerns about the war’s impact on sexual mores:
- 51 B. G. Komskii, “Dnevnik 1943-1945 gg.” in O. V. Budnitskii (ed.), Arkhiv evreiskoi istorii Tom 6. M (...)
I am tortured constantly by the thought that our whole generation is depraved. Is there really not one honest girl at the front?... there are clean souls, but the circumstances, one’s associates, absolutely everything endeavors to soil and debase them, and they aren’t visible… I have come again to believe in the purity of a girl. Although I know that those like Katia are one in a thousand… for the first time in my life I was refused [a kiss - BMS]. What delight came from this refusal.51
- 52 A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., p. 87.
- 53 T. Atabek, op. cit, pp. 90, 104, 134-135.
26Kovalevskii was very cynical about the emotional connections of those serving at the front, recording in his diary at the end of his “formula”: “… to use the word ‘love’ in my treatise would be sacrilege, because if love exists anywhere in this world, then in any case certainly not at the front”52. There seemed to be a general consensus that conditions at the front pressured female soldiers into an eventual union (even if only to find a protector), but disappointment in those “girls” who did submit to these conditions. One “girl” even recorded how her fellow soldiers repeatedly told her that she would eventually give in53.
- 54 B. G. Komskii, op. cit., p. 60; B. G. Tartakovskii, Iz dnevnikov voennykh let, Moscow, AIRO-XX, 199 (...)
27Some soldiers were deeply concerned with the place of sex in soldierly culture, while others understood the desire for sex as a natural response to the dangers of life at the front54. As one soldier wrote his girlfriend:
- 55 RGASPI, f. М-33, op. 1, d. 1386, ll. 46-47.
It’s true that many frontline eagles rarely remember their women and girls, and procure a PPZh (Mobile Field Wife), but people believe that they live today and could not live tomorrow, and so they “pick flowers”, believing it unworthy of themselves to cross into the other world with one or two flowers and not a bouquet… For now I prefer to enjoy my rose from afar and not concern myself with the gathering of flowers from the field.55
- 56 RGVA f. 4, op. 11, d. 78, ll. 59-60, in Barsukov, et al. (Eds), Russkiy arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestve (...)
28The possibilities for temporary relationships and multiple partners were very clear, and indeed forced the army to include a monthly venereal disease inspection of all service personnel in mid-194456. The opportunities for sex and romance and more particularly the ambiguous messages sent to “girls” and their commanders could lead female soldiers to strictly regulate their own behavior and those of other “girls” in their unit.
29Shliakhova, as the head of her unit’s Komsomol organization, disciplined her own and made a point of carefully establishing relationships with officers:
- 57 NA IRI RAN f.2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, ll. 13-13ob.
If someone came and conducted themselves properly, as a comrade, that’s great. But, if I saw that they started to say something unnecessary, then I instantly ask them to leave the dugout… And they really thought that I was serious and proud, but for me that was better than if they thought I was an easy girl (devushka legkogo povedeniia).57
- 58 L. Kopelev, op. cit., p. 90; O. V. Budnitskii, op. cit., pp. 420-421.
- 59 See, e.g. L. Kopelev, ibid. This could be seen as a perversion of the obshchestvennitsa model, a wo (...)
30Shliakhova even recalled how she, like a concerned mother, called two of her “girls” from an officer’s bunker, effectively ending a date between her “girls” and soldiers in a neighboring unit. Such severity came not only from the desire to avoid being treated as a “woman”, but also to protect the image, and often persons, of “girls”. As we have already seen, by the middle of the war many assumed that females in the ranks were sexually available. Some medals, such as “For Battle Services” came to be knick-named “For Household Services” or “For Sexual Services” and associated with PPZhs58. The PPZh was the embodiment of negative aspects of “women” and also perceived to have special privileges based on her close connections to the commander59. While recovering from wounds in 1945, Tatiana Atabek wrote how her ward celebrated International Women’s Day. It began with a satirical song:
- 60 T. Atabek, op. cit, p. 251.
“And that bitch PPZh, awarded by fate, lies on the fifth floor, and with what [illness-BMS] I will not say.” (Those who were wounded in honest battle are on the 4th floor of the hospital, while those who are ill with venereal disease are on the fifth floor. Of course they are hostile relations.)60
31That a “girl” could include such a saucy ditty in an official holiday program speaks to the desire of many female soldiers to draw a strict line between the patriotic and moral “girl” and amoral “woman” as exemplified by the “PPZh”. However, this situation was never as black and white as propaganda or indeed many female soldiers serving liked to think. Nothing shows this more clearly than the issues surrounding pregnancy.
- 61 R. Stites, The Women's Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930 (...)
- 62 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 3, d. 291 a, ll. 88-95, in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 76.
32In 1936, in the context of the criminalization of abortion, Stalin had declared that while there was gender equality in the Soviet Union, a woman was not free from the “great and honorable duty which nature has given her: she is a mother, a giver of life”61. Soviet “girls” were offered two potential roles in prewar society to defend the state – either as mothers to future soldiers or as soldiers themselves. The latter was offered in the face of exceptional women and as a rhetorical trope more than a reality, while the former was unequivocally condoned by the mid-1930s. These two models were ultimately mutually exclusive, although many women who served as soldiers became mothers in the course of their service. The Soviet Union increasingly highlighted the woman’s role as mother as victory became imminent, and mothers and pregnant women had been exempt from mobilization into the army from the very beginning62.
33The large number of pregnant soldiers led some to sneer at women in uniform, and gave rise to off color jokes, such as one recorded in Kovalevskii’s diary:
- 63 A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., pp. 89-90.
Now we have two “girl”-medics. Both are already pregnant, and will soon be sent off. I can’t help but recall the joke: “What’s the difference between a bomb and a frontline girl?” The difference, they say, is that a bomb is loaded in the rear and unloaded at the front, and frontline girls are the other way around…63
- 64 RGASPI f.M-7, op. 32, d. 331, ll. 90-94, in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 291.
34For demobilized female soldiers, this was not a laughing matter. Returning home, many faced serious stigma. In a report concerning returning female soldiers shortly after the war, it was found that many female soldiers who were pregnant suffered from depression. Some were angry at the fathers of their unborn children, who they felt had used and betrayed them. Others refused to go home to their parents, fearing the shame of single motherhood. Many requested not to return home after demobilization, as they feared censure from family. Still others sought abortions, which had been illegal since 1936. Pregnancy outside of marriage was seen as shameful and women who had served feared that “In the rear they won’t look at us like girls, but as (censored [presumably whores or sluts - BMS])”64.
- 65 RGASPI f.M-7, op. 32, d. 331, ll. 1-57, in N. K. Petrova, ibid., p. 668.
- 66 O. V. Budnitskii, op. cit, p. 420; A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., pp. 87-88.
- 67 T. Atabek, op. cit, p. 97.
- 68 RGVA f. 4, op. 12, d. 110, ll. 279—280 in A. I. Barsukovet. et al. (Eds), Prikazy narodnogo komissa (...)
- 69 N. I. Kunitsina, Interview by Artem Drabkin, Ia pomniu, http://iremember.ru/letno-tekh-sostav/kunit (...)
- 70 T. Atabek, op. cit, p. 135.
35During most of the war, pregnancy meant demobilization. Some Komsomol organizers in the Red Navy even treated pregnancy as a form of self-mutilation to escape duty65. Indeed, pregnancy could be a strategy to exit the army66. Kovalevskii recalled a surgeon who planned to get pregnant in order to escape the dangers and hardships of the front, while Atabek wrote of a pregnant friend that “she thinks that she has ‘won the war’. Unfortunately, many girls in these situations think this way”67. Only in 1944 did an order appear allowing for leave for pregnant women68. Until this, pregnancy was generally a one way ticket out of the army. Knowing this, some parents, particularly peasants, apparently wrote to their daughters in the army encouraging them to get pregnant in order to get to safety69. Aside from accidental pregnancy or pregnancy as a strategy to escape the front, many female soldiers at the front undoubtedly wanted to have children with partners that they loved and who could be killed any minute. Even Tatiana Atabek, who in general censured “women” who became pregnant at the front, spoke with pride of her friend, “the prettiest woman in our division” who was “not just a person, but a woman in the best sense of the word.” This “woman” had decided to start a family with her commander, who was madly in love with her70. In this case, the personality of the “woman” involved did not provoke censure from a “girl”, but was seen as natural, with an expectation of potential post-war happiness.
- 71 Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo soveta SSSR "Ob uvelichenii gosudarstvennoi pomoshchi beremennym zhensh (...)
- 72 M. Nakachi, “N.S. Khrushchev and the 1944 Soviet Family Law: Politics, Reproduction, and Language”, (...)
- 73 Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo soveta SSSR "O poriadke priznaniia fakticheskikh brachnykh otnoshenii v (...)
- 74 Note: Again, this situation was not exclusive to the Soviet case, see e.g. Gerard J. DeGroot, “Lips (...)
36While female soldiers grappled with issues of love and duty at the front, the Soviet leadership faced a demographic crisis and took swift action to encourage childbirth. Pronatal laws in 1944 created the new legal category of “single mother” which was aimed to support and legitimize the status of women with children71. These laws made it a crime to insult single women and shifted responsibility (in the form of alimony payments) for children out of wedlock from fathers to the state. This was a conscious policy aimed at offsetting the demographic crises that resulted from the war, as Mie Nakachi has convincingly shown72. Interestingly, in the case of the death of a spouse at the front, the state simplified the process of recognizing “common-law marriages (fakticheskie brachnye otnosheniia)”, thus giving the surviving spouse the right to a pension73. While the state made efforts to enshrine motherhood, in or out of wedlock, as a woman’s primary civic duty, many continued to sneer at single mothers and perceive female soldiers as sexually loose74.
- 75 Society in general, and the Komsomol in particular, would continue to place responsibility for chas (...)
- 76 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 13-b, l. 155, see also Budnitskii, op. cit., pp. 420-421.
37Under these circumstances, women who had been at the front, surrounded by men could be viewed by those in the rear not only as a threat, as potential PPZh’s, but also simply with envy as women who had access to men, which had now become a very rare commodity. The fate of soldiers returning pregnant presaged the new policies in which men had minimal responsibilities to children they fathered out of wedlock and many women faced shame in their home communities75. As one female veteran recalled immediately after the war: “At first I wore my uniform. You walk and people point their fingers at you. At first this irritated me. Then I got used to it and stopped paying attention”76. The ambiguities of the army’s policy left “girls” without a clear answer as to how to fulfill their duties and often an assumption that they were, in fact, “women”. The fact that many “girls” (including Shliakhova, who was killed in autumn of 1944) had given their lives was forgotten by those who pointed their fingers at female veterans, while many male veterans seem to have had reservations about females in the service.
- 77 A. Krylova, “‘The Healers of Wounded Souls’: The Crisis of Private Life in Soviet Literature, 1944- (...)
- 78 E.g. E. Kononenko, “V buriu”, Krasnoarmeets, #21-22, 1944, pp. 6-8; NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. I, op. 14, (...)
- 79 K. Kniazeva, op. cit., p. 34.
38For many, “girls” in uniform were an unfortunate fact of the war, while women in civilian clothing were a symbol of peace and post-war happiness. As Anna Krylova has shown, women were to become the healers of war wounds, both physical and psychological, creating or continuing families that would bring a return to prewar normalcy77. Several accounts point to a desire to see women in civilian clothing and even the military press took up this theme towards the end of the war78. This also led to a softening of the Komsomol’s hard line against romance as an August 1944 article in the primary journal of the Political Directorate of the army stated “it is impossible to forbid someone to love” and “Questions of love and friendship are unavoidable, they must be decided”79.
39These ambiguities led to the question of whether a “girl’s” place was as a soldier or as a “woman” – ultimately becoming a mother. Even Lt. Colonel Kolchak, who worked so closely with and was immensely proud of his female snipers, could not decide:
- 80 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob. Steven Jug has argued that motherhood was perceived as (...)
The fighting qualities of the girls have been proven and no one can argue with them. But one could pose the question from another point of view: Does the country need such a sacrifice, because I think that few of these girls will become healthy mothers.If the country needs such a sacrifice, then we need to send them not by the hundreds, but by the thousands, but if this is too costly, then we need to stop and think.80
- 81 See, e.g. R. Pennington, "‘Do Not Speak of the Services You Rendered’: Women Veterans of Aviation i (...)
40Battle-tested “girls” were still often seen as “girls” first and soldiers second. Indeed, the services of female soldiers were generally seen as exceptional, while motherhood as something natural81. The ultimate conflict between motherhood, which had been established as the main duty of women before the war, and serving as a soldier played out in thousands of bunkers and ruins on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, as individuals negotiated an unclear policy that sent mixed messages. “Girls” were told to fulfill their duties as soldiers, but also to flirt and provide an element of culture. Men, particularly commanders, were, in effect, told that relations with female soldiers would be tolerated, and some seem to have taken this to mean that they had a right to expect sex from their female subordinates. In this situation, female soldiers were confronted with two models of behavior, both of which could draw censure. They could remain “girls”, drawing strict boundaries in their relationships with male soldiers, some of whom gave them direct orders. This could lead to physical danger and the perception that they were strict and aloof in a situation in which unity and comradeship were key. The other option was to become a “woman”. This would likely lead to pregnancy and a mix of reactions from comrades and family. If the man in the relationship had family at home, the “woman” would certainly be condemned. If not, she could be seen as shirking her soldierly duty or as fulfilling a cause that was as or more noble than service – creating new life. In every case, clear definitions of what was right or wrong, natural or unnatural were not provided by the state and individuals reacted to a difficult situation and passed moral judgment on themselves and their comrades.
1 The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers, Milyausha Zakirova, Elena Zdravomyslova, Sofia Chuikina, Amandine Regamey, Yuri Slezkine, Nikita Lomagin, Konstantin Drozdov, Bair Irincheev, the organizers of the 2013 “Constructing the Soviet?” conference, Katia Bruschl, Vanessa Voisin and Francisca Exeler for their help, critique and ideas. This article would be much weaker without their input. Research for this article was made possible by support from a Fulbright Institute of International Education Fellowship.
2 TsAMO f. 33, op. 690155 d. 7637, no. zapisi 357151596 at http://podvignaroda.mil.ru/?#id=35751596&tab=navDetailDocument (22 April 2016)
3 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 5.
4 T. Repina (Atabek), K biografii voennogo pokoleniia, Moscow, Moskovskie uchebniki i Kartolitografiia, 2004, p. 301. Hereafter, Atabek, her last name during the war.
5 She also tried to insure that those who had become “women” did not engage in any further sexual activity, see NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 9ob.
6 The vast majority of female soldiers in the Red Army were young (18-25) and mobilized via the Komosomol (although membership in the Komsomol was not a requirement). The term “girls” also fit well with the increasingly patriarchal understanding of the army, which positioned military units as families with the commander as a father and soldiers as children. On the patriarchal model of military units see e.g. M. Garussiko, S. Gliazer, “Moi polk – moia sem'ia,” Bloknot agitatora Krasnoĭ Armii, #10, 1943, pp. 1-5.
7 A note on historiography: this work has been influenced by Elena Zdravomyslova and Ann Temkina’s work on Russian Gender, as well as that of Wendy Goldman and Richard Stites. Specifically on women in the Red Army, classic works, such as Murmantseva’s soviet era study of women during the war and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Aleksevich’s excellent journalistic treatment of women in the war set the stage for what has been a growing body of scholarship since the fall of the Soviet Union. Reina Pennington has provided a detailed account of female pilots during and immediately after the war. Joshua Sanborn has shown how women in the ranks engendered fear of weakened men in the late-Imperial period. Anna Krylova’s work explored the preconditions that allowed for the mobilization of women during the war, their relationships with their weapons and comrades as well as their subjectivity. Roger Markwick and Euridice Charon Cardona have provided a very widely cast account of women’s service in various branches of service, paying close attention to differences in experience, the meaning of gender in this context and highlighting the issues of sexual harassment faced by female soldiers. Barbara Alpern Engel has published and analyzed a fascinating interview with a frontline surgeon, using her as a microcosm to explore gendered war time experience, including the potentials for sexual predation from superiors. Roger Reese has examined the mobilization and use of female cadres from the point of view of combat effectiveness, declaring their contribution to be vital to Red Army victory. Oleg Budnitskii has provided one of the most succinct, interesting and provocative studies of relations between the sexes in the Red Army, using exciting new sources and positing a veritable sexual revolution in 1941-1945. Catherine Merridale has questioned the importance of gender to wartime experience, ranking it lower than other factors for the experience of soldiers in the Red Army. Steven Jug has focused on masculinity during the war, his dissertation being the most systematic study of wartime masculinities in the Soviet case. Adrianne Harris has focused on representations of warrior-women in the war period and in remembering the war. Building on these works, this article argues that gender was central to how female soldiers experienced the war. Female soldiers had to contend not only with standard military subordination, but also to negotiate gendered assumptions. The author aims to develop issues of harassment raised by Alpern, Budnitskii, Jug, Markwick and returns to Pennington and Jug’s early attention to the tension between motherhood and soldiering. This article draws minimally on memoirs and non-contemporary interviews, not due to an inherent distrust of these sources, but simply because much of the work that has been done on women in the Red Army relies on them. A different source base – privileging wartime interviews and diaries alongside the wartime press that others have made use of has (hopefully) allowed for a new way of looking at this subject. Citations for works I mentioned above but not directly cited later: S. Aleksievich, U voini ne zhenskoe litso, Moscow, Vremia, 2007; W. Z. Goldman, Women, the State, and Revolution: Soviet family policy and social life, 1917-1936, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1993; W. Z. Goldman, Women at the Gates: Gender and Industry in Stalin’s Russia, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2002; A. Krylova, “Stalinist Identity from the Viewpoint of Gender: Rearing a Generation of Professionally Violent Women-Fighters in 1930s Stalinist Russia.”, Gender & History, Vol. 16 # 3, November 2004, pp. 626-653; R. D. Markwick, E. Charon-Cardona, Soviet Women on the Frontline in the Second World War, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012 , C. Merridale, “Masculinity at war: Did gender matter in the Soviet army?”, Journal of War & Culture Studies, Vol. 5 # 3, 2012, pp. 307-320; V. S. Murmantseva, Sovetskie zhenshchiny v Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voine, Moscow, Mysl', 1974; J. Sanborn, Drafting the Russian Nation: Military Conscription, Total War, and Mass Politics 1905-1925, DeKalb, Northern Illinois University Press, 2003; R. Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930, Princeton (New Jersey), Princeton University Press, 1990.
8 The Commission on the History of the Great Patriotic War was a sizeable oral history project run by Academic Isaak Mints of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It was active during and immediately after the war, taking interviews with soldiers often on the frontlines themselves. For a history of the Commission, see J. Hellbeck, Stalingrad: The City the Defeated the Third Reich, New York, Public Affairs, 2015.
9 See also S. G. Jug, All Stalin’s Men? Soldierly Masculinities In The Soviet War Effort, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013, pp. 217, 226-227.
10 A. Krylova, Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010, esp. Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 6.
11 RGVA f. 4, op. 15, d. 31, ll. 57-65, in A. S. Yemelin, et al. (Eds), Prikazy Narodnogo komissara oborony SSSR 1937-21 iiunia 1941 g. Russkii Arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia T. 31 (2-1), Moscow, Terra, 1994, pp. 180-183. See also Markwick and Cardona, Soviet Women on the Frontline, op.cit. p. 80.
12 K. Kniazeva, "Vospitanie devushek-voennosluzhashchikh”, Agitator i propagandist Krasnoi Armii, # 15-16, 1944, p. 33.
13 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 7b, l. 3.
14 I. Dunaevskaia, Ot Leningrada do Kënigsberga: Dnevnik voennoi perevodchitsy (1942-1945), Moscow, ROSSPEN, 2010, p. 158, although she did complain about swearing elsewhere, see pp. 55, 101, 129.
15 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 37, l. 6ob.
16 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, ll. 8ob.-9. A. A. Kovalevskii, “Nynche u nas peredyshka...”, Neva, # 5, 1995, pp. 63-108, p. 89. “…they sent us another woman, from some tank unit, a senior lieutenant of medical services. She is young, has a nice figure but a coarse face. She has been in the army already six years, wounded twice. She served in the Finnish Campaign and in this war from the very beginning. In that time she became so crude, that it is simply horrible. She swears, and freely says the most obscene words, and this is most disgusting.”
17 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 13.
18 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 32, d. 331, l. 90-92, in N. K. Petrova, Zhenshchiny Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny, Moscow, Veche, 2014, pp. 290-292.
19 K. Kniazeva, op. cit., p. 21. “Girls’” use of tobacco and alcohol was quite ambiguous. See e.g. Brandon Schechter, “The State’s Pot and the Soldier’s Spoon: Paëk (Rations) in the Red Army” in W. Goldman and D. Filtzer (Eds.), Hunger and War: Food Provisioning in the Soviet Union during World War II, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2015.
20 Interestingly, this article does not simply present traditional roles for female soldiers – they can still be soldiers and kill the enemy – yet it is clearly of great importance that they remain “girls” – sexually pure, concentrated on military duties and abstaining from coarse habits. This is consistent with Krylova’s concept of female soldiers being able to see themselves as both feminine and competent killers (Krylova, Soviet Women in Combat, pp. 12-19). However, this does imply a certain fundamental difference between women and men, even when engaged in killing.
21 As Shliakhova said in reference to those who sought romance at the front: “I only thought, why live that way, why do people live and dream of the future, what for?” NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 8ob.
22 E. Konenko, "Devushka v shineli', Krasnoarmeets, # 12, 1943,pp. 20-22.
23 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 2-a, l. 4ob.
24 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 37, l. 6ob.
25 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. Х, op. 7, d. 13-а, ll. 7-7ob.
26 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. Х, op. 7, d. 13-b, ll. 106-107.
27 On the privileging of domestic over soldierly duties in the way female soldiers were mythologized, see Adrienne M. Harris, The Myth of the Woman Warrior and World War II in Soviet Culture, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Kansas, 2008, p. 157. Harris poses the model of a “warrior-handmaiden” who “is the keeper of the hearth, representing home and safety.”
28 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob. Some soldiers, however, disagreed. See G. Temkin, My Just War: The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II, Novato (Calif.), Presidio, 1998, pp. 202-203.
29 E. Konenenko, “Devushak v shineli”, p. 21.
30 T. Atabek, op. cit., p. 135.
31 See M. Buckley. “The Untold Story of the Obshchestvennitsa in the 1930s” in M. Ilic (ed.), Women in the Stalin Era, New York, Palgrave, pp. 151-172 and R. Balmas Neary, “Mothering Socialist Society: The Wife-Activists' Movement and the Soviet Culture of Daily Life”, The Russian Review, Vol. 58, # 3., July 1999, pp. 396-412. Neary has pointed out that with the German invasion in 1941, the activities of the obshestveniitsy “ceased to be a discrete phenomenon, even as many of its activities were extended to the whole female population” (p. 399). This occasionally led to gendered division of labor within a unit, see. e.g. K. Kniazeva, op. cit., p. 23. See also R. Reese, Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought: The Red Army’s Military Effectiveness in World War II, Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 2011, p. 309.
32 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob. (Text in italics crossed out in the original document.)
33 For many “girls” this was their first experience of life outside of their family, something that one diarist was sure “pushed them towards the inevitability of starting their own family here [at the front - BMS]”. T. Atabek, op. cit., p. 135.
34 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 32, d. 331, l. 90-92, in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 292. Kovalevskii echoed this sentiment in his discussion of a doctor who had multiple partners at the front: “But can you all the same consider her trash, if she is already in the army for six years, four of which she is at the front and already shed her own blood twice for the Motherland?” A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., p. 89.
35 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, l. 8ob.
36 S. Jug, All of Stalin’s Men?, pp. 100-105; K. Simonov, “Ubei ego,” Krasnaia zvezda, 18 July, 1942; A. Chernenko, “Ia mshchu!” Krasnoarmeets, # 20, 1942, p. 6.
37 See, e.g. E. Konenko, Za chest’, za zhizn’ liubimoi, Moscow, Voenizdat, 1942.
38 See, e.g. V. Inber, “Zhenshchine”, Krasnoarmeets, # 15, 1942, p. 3; Nakaz naroda (pis’ma narodov SSSR k boitsam-frontovikam), Moscow, Voenizdat, 1943, pp. 26, 82.
39 S. G. Jug, “Red Army romance: Preserving Masculine Hegemony in Mixed Gender Combat Units, 1943–1944”, Journal of War & Culture Studies, vol. 5, # 3, 2012 pp. 321–334; S. G. Jug, All of Stalin’s Men?, pp. 222-227. Jug is certainly correct that, like the introduction of women into the labor force, the introduction of women into the army was often met by traditional gendered assumptions on the part of largely peasant males (All Stalin’s Men?, p. 15).
40 RGASPI f. 88, op. 1, d.948, ll. 12-14.
41 L. Kopelev, Khranit' vechno. Kniga 1, Moscow, Terra, 2004, p. 90. “A year before, frontline romances were considered a sin – people were punished for them and those at fault undeviatingly separated. The expletive little word “PPZh” – Mobile Field Wife (analogous to the names of our sub-machineguns PPD and PPSh)… But at the end of 1942 there was a rumor, I don’t know if there was an official directive, but the rumor rapidly penetrated all units, that Stalin said: “I don't understand why combat commanders are punished for sleeping with women. This is totally natural, when a man sleeps with a woman. If a man slept with a man, that’s unnatural, and then you need to punish them. But why punish those who sleep with women?”
42 O. V. Budnitskii, “Muzhchiny i zhenshchiny v Krasnoi Armii (1941-1945),” Les Cahiers du Monde Russe, #2-3, 2011, pp. 405-422, p. 412.
43 L. Kopelev, op. cit., K.1, p. 90. See also B. Alpern Engel, “The Womanly Face of War: Soviet Women Remember World War II”, in N. A. Dombrowski (ed.), Women and War in The Twentieth Century: Enlisted With or Without Consent, New York, Routledge, 2004, p. 144.
44 A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., pp. 86-87.
45 O. V. Budnitskii sites a similar, even more formalized practice in another unit. See O.V. Budnitskii, op. cit., pp. 411-412.
46 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob; Dunaevskaia, op. cit., p. 55. It is worth noting that similar, though less systematic, abuses of power have been noted in the modern US military, where sexual harassment and rape by higher ranking personnel is a major problem for female soldiers. See, e.g. S. Corbett, “The Women’s War”, New York Times Magazine, 18 March 2007.
47 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 2a, ll. 2-2ob.
48 Atabek, op. cit. p. 237.
49 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 47, d. 154, ll. 8-9 in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 231. See also NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 37, l. 6ob.
50 O. V. Budnitskii, op. cit. This was by no means unique to Russia, see e.g. Kenneth D. Rose, Myth and the greatest generation: a social history of Americans in World War II, Routledge, New York, 2008, pp. 102, 105-110.
51 B. G. Komskii, “Dnevnik 1943-1945 gg.” in O. V. Budnitskii (ed.), Arkhiv evreiskoi istorii Tom 6. Moscow, ROSSPEN, 2011, p. 46.
52 A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., p. 87.
53 T. Atabek, op. cit, pp. 90, 104, 134-135.
54 B. G. Komskii, op. cit., p. 60; B. G. Tartakovskii, Iz dnevnikov voennykh let, Moscow, AIRO-XX, 1995, p. 132.
55 RGASPI, f. М-33, op. 1, d. 1386, ll. 46-47.
56 RGVA f. 4, op. 11, d. 78, ll. 59-60, in Barsukov, et al. (Eds), Russkiy arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia: Prikazy Narodnogo komissara oborony SSSR (1943-1945 gg.), p. 304.
57 NA IRI RAN f.2, r. X, op. 7, d. 8, ll. 13-13ob.
58 L. Kopelev, op. cit., p. 90; O. V. Budnitskii, op. cit., pp. 420-421.
59 See, e.g. L. Kopelev, ibid. This could be seen as a perversion of the obshchestvennitsa model, a woman who distracts rather than supports her man and a negative, rather than positive model for subordinates to follow.
60 T. Atabek, op. cit, p. 251.
61 R. Stites, The Women's Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1991, p. 386.
62 RGASPI f. M-1, op. 3, d. 291 a, ll. 88-95, in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 76.
63 A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., pp. 89-90.
64 RGASPI f.M-7, op. 32, d. 331, ll. 90-94, in N. K. Petrova, op. cit., p. 291.
65 RGASPI f.M-7, op. 32, d. 331, ll. 1-57, in N. K. Petrova, ibid., p. 668.
66 O. V. Budnitskii, op. cit, p. 420; A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., pp. 87-88.
67 T. Atabek, op. cit, p. 97.
68 RGVA f. 4, op. 12, d. 110, ll. 279—280 in A. I. Barsukovet. et al. (Eds), Prikazy narodnogo komissara oborony SSSR 1943-1945gg.: Dokumenty i materialy. T. 13 (2—3). Russkii arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia,Мoscow, Terra, 1997, pp. 317-318.
69 N. I. Kunitsina, Interview by Artem Drabkin, Ia pomniu, http://iremember.ru/letno-tekh-sostav/kunitsina-nina-ivanovna.html (Accessed 10 November 2013); Dunaevskaia, op. cit, pp. 58-59. Dunaevskaia describes in detail her pregnancy in the last months of the war and the bureaucratic difficulties she faced as a specialist trying to get demobilized. She also describes the horrifying death of a pregnant female soldier and her child in 1943. Given that many women were demobilized late in their term of pregnancy (Dunaevskaia received leave only in her seventh month), pregnancy was by no means a guarantee of safety. I. Dunaevskaia, ibid., pp. 188, 386-391.
70 T. Atabek, op. cit, p. 135.
71 Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo soveta SSSR "Ob uvelichenii gosudarstvennoi pomoshchi beremennym zhenshchinam, mnogodetnym i odinokim materiam, usilenii okhrany materinstva i detstva, ob ustanovlenii vysshei stepeni otlichiia – zvaniia "Mat' – geroinia' i uchrezhdenii ordena "Materinskaia slava' i medali "Medal' materinstva' ot 8 iiulia 1944 goda; Budnitskii believes that these new laws were aimed at disciplining society. O. V. Budnitskii, op. cit., pp. 421-422.
72 M. Nakachi, “N.S. Khrushchev and the 1944 Soviet Family Law: Politics, Reproduction, and Language”, East European Politics and Societies, vol. 20, # 1, 2006, pp. 40-68.
73 Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo soveta SSSR "O poriadke priznaniia fakticheskikh brachnykh otnoshenii v sluchae smerti ili propazhi bez vesti na fronte odnogo iz suprugov'. ot 10 noiabria 1944 goda.
74 Note: Again, this situation was not exclusive to the Soviet case, see e.g. Gerard J. DeGroot, “Lipstick on her nipples-cordite in her hair: sex and romance among British servicewomen during the Second World War”, in G. De Groot, and C. Peniston-Bird, (Eds)., A Soldier and a Woman : Sexual Integration in the Military, New York, Longman, 2000, pp. 100-118.
75 Society in general, and the Komsomol in particular, would continue to place responsibility for chastity on women in the post-war period, judging them more harshly than men for sexual activity. See J. Fürst, Stalin’s Last Generation: Soviet Post-War Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism, New York, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 279-286.
76 NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 13-b, l. 155, see also Budnitskii, op. cit., pp. 420-421.
77 A. Krylova, “‘The Healers of Wounded Souls’: The Crisis of Private Life in Soviet Literature, 1944-1946.” The Journal of Modern History, # 73, June 2001, pp. 307-331.
78 E.g. E. Kononenko, “V buriu”, Krasnoarmeets, #21-22, 1944, pp. 6-8; NA IRI RAN, f. 2, r. I, op. 14, d. 8, l. 2ob.; A. A. Kovalevskii, op. cit., p. 88.
79 K. Kniazeva, op. cit., p. 34.
80 NA IRI RAN f. 2, r. X, op. 7, d. 3, l. 7ob. Steven Jug has argued that motherhood was perceived as a much more important service provided by women to the state, while Adrienne Harris has shown that motherhood was privileged as a woman’s role in postwar fiction. Jug, All of Stalin’s Men?, pp. 207, 210-214; Harris, The Myth of the Woman Warrior and World War II in Soviet Culture, p. 192.
81 See, e.g. R. Pennington, "‘Do Not Speak of the Services You Rendered’: Women Veterans of Aviation in the Soviet Union” in G. De Groot et al. (Eds.), A Soldier and a Woman : Sexual Integration in the Military, pp. 152-174.Top of page
Brandon M. Schechter, « “Girls” and “Women”. Love, Sex, Duty and Sexual Harassment in the Ranks of the Red Army 1941-1945 », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 17 | 2016, Online since 03 May 2016, connection on 30 April 2017. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/4202Top of page
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