Unsurprisingly, Stalinism Wasn’t Everything It Was Cracked up to Be

In a turn of events everyone should have seen coming, the progress promised by the revolution did not stick around. In the earlier days of the new government, progress had been made towards loosening restrictions on abortion and redefining what it meant to be a woman. Under the new regime, women were given the ability to put their careers first by providing an option other than motherhood if that was what they wanted.

By the 1930’s however, there was a new narrative that the government was pushing. No longer were women to focus on their careers or contributing to the wellbeing of society. Their new mission: to “give birth to and [bring] up citizens” in order to populate the most equal country in the world. Under the guise of protecting motherhood and the sanctity of family life. Now that capitalism had been well and truly vanquished, there was no need for things like abortions and easily attainable divorce; the Soviet people were too equal to need things like that anymore.

Although the intention of the law was purportedly to benefit families, the affect it actually had was to make it more difficult for women to work or live in comfort. For women who didn’t have the time or spare income to raise a child, not being able to get an abortion could result in losing access to resources she and her child both desperately need. In families where both the husband and wife are full time students, an unplanned pregnancy could mean dropping out of school or taking a leave of absence in order to raise the child. Despite claims to the contrary, the ban on legal abortion just made women’s lives more difficult, not more equal.

“Abolition of Legal Abortion.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 18 June 2017, soviethistory.msu.edu/1936-2/abolition-of-legal-abortion/.

Chernov, Anatolii. “Abolition of Legal Abortion Images.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 10 Jan. 2016, soviethistory.msu.edu/1936-2/abolition-of-legal-abortion/abolition-of-legal-abortion-images/#bwg85/577.

“From the Discussion in Izvestiia.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 31 Aug. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1936-2/abolition-of-legal-abortion/abolition-of-legal-abortion-texts/abolition-of-legal-abortion/.

“Protection of Motherhood.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 31 Aug. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1936-2/abolition-of-legal-abortion/abolition-of-legal-abortion-texts/protection-of-motherhood/.

5 thoughts on “Unsurprisingly, Stalinism Wasn’t Everything It Was Cracked up to Be

  1. Great title and great post! The idea of a woman’s mission in life solely being to have and raise children is crazy to me, but I can’t imagine that these women after getting a taste of new freedoms (or missions) would go back to their old domestic ways without a fight.


  2. I really liked this post and the image you included! It’s crazy to see the contrast with that image and earlier images of women that felt much more revolutionary and liberated. As Catherine mentioned, it must have been difficult to get a taste of more freedoms and then have an entirely new set of ideas pushed upon them. Why do you think the Soviet ideal for roles of women changed so quickly?


  3. I liked your post because how single laws can affect people in often overlooked. This was especially interesting because it talks about how Stalin promised to better the nation, but in reality made every day life harder for normal citizens.


  4. It is interesting and I suppose very emblematic of the so-called “Great Retreat” that after all the radical changes wrought by the 1917 Revolution including some that drastically altered the idea of women’s place in society, Stalin and the party began to push inherently conservative ideals such as pushing motherhood as a woman’s highest purpose. Indeed, the poster you include reminds one more of propaganda you might see in Nazi Germany rather than a country founded on the ideals of revolutionary socialism like the Soviet Union.


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