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The stories of Russian educated women, peasants, prisoners, workers, wives, and mothers of the 1920s and 1930s show how work, marriage, family, religion, and even patriotism helped sustain them during harsh times.
The Russian Revolution launched an economic and social upheaval that released peasant women from the control of traditional extended families. It promised urban women equality and created opportunities for employment and higher education. Yet, the revolution did little to eliminate Russian patriarchal culture, which continued to undermine women’s social, sexual, economic, and political conditions. Divorce and abortion became more widespread, but birth control remained limited, and sexual liberation meant greater freedom for men than for women. The transformations that women needed to gain true equality were postponed by the poverty of the new state and the political agendas of leaders like Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin.
The defunct economy and widespread famine, disease, and misery of the 1920s and the policies of collectivization and terror of the 1930s make those decades dark periods in Russian history, as Bolshevik male-dominated work culture triumphed and women’s needs and voices were ultimately silenced. When Russian society chooses to revisit those times, it will find in the remarkable poetry and prose of these resilient women plentiful evidence of the everyday horrors, struggles, and disappointments the people endured.
Women featured include Aida Basevich, Aleksandra Exter, Alexandra Berg, Alexandra Kollontai, Alexandra Tolstoy, Anna Akhmatova, Anna Balashova, Anna Barkova, Anna Bek, Anna Larina, Anna Ostroumova Lebedeva, Ekaterina Strogova, Elena Ponomarenko, Elena Skrjabina, Evgenia Ginzburg, Galina Shtange, Helen Dmitriew, Hilda Schulz Mielke, Irina Tidmarsh, Kyra Karadja, Larisa Lappo-Danilevskaia, Larisa Reisner, Lidiia Seifullina, Liubov Popova, Liubov Shaporina, Louise Huebert, Lydia Chukovskaya, Lydia Ginzburg, Lydia Seifullina, Margaret Wettlin, Marguerite Harrison, Maria Orlova, Olga Orlova, Maria Andrievskaya, Maria Astafeva, Maria Joffe, Maria Shkapskaya, Maria Spiridonova, Marie Avinov, Marietta Shaginian, Marina Tsvetaeva, Markoosha Fischer, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Natalia Sats , Nelly Ptashkina, Nina Berberova, Nina Kosterina, Olga Berggolts, Olga Forsh, Olga Freidenberg, Olga Sliozberg, Praskovya Pichugina, Sofia Pavlova, Tatiana Izyumova, Tatiana Tchernavin, Valentina Kamyshina, Valentina Petrova, Valeria Gerlin, Varvara Stepanova, Vera Broido, Vera Inber, Vera Panova, Yelena Sidorkina, and Zinaida Serebriakova.
Marcelline Hutton is the author of Remarkable Russian Women in Pictures, Prose and Poetry (2013), Falling in Love with the Baltics (2009), and Russian and West European Women, 1860–1939 (2001).
Cover: Ignaty Nivinsky (1881–1933), Zhenshiny, idite v kooperatsiyu [Women, Join the Cooperatives] (Moscow: VTsSPO, 1918).
Zea Books Lincoln, Nebraska
Russia, Soviet Union, women, collectivization, New Economic Policy, gulag, 1920s, 1930s, communist
European Languages and Societies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Modern Art and Architecture | Modern Literature | Russian Literature | Slavic Languages and Societies | Theatre and Performance Studies | Women's Studies
Hutton, Marcelline, "Resilient Russian Women in the 1920s & 1930s" (2015). Zea E-Books Collection. 31.