Stalinist identity from the viewpoint of gender: Rearing a generation of professionally violent women-fighters in 1930s stalinist Russia
Over the course of the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945, over 800,000 Soviet women volunteered to the front and served in the field army. Among them were thousands of snipers, riflewomen, machine-gunners and mortar women. Thousands of women were trained to serve as commanders and commissars of rifle, machine-gun and mortar subdivisions. Women also mastered fighter planes, dive bombers and night bombers as well as light and heavy tanks. I pursue three questions in the article: how did this women's entitlement to fighting become thinkable in the first place, acceptable in the second, and thirdly, realisable in Soviet society? I argue that the conceivability of women's compatibility with combat, war and violence was a product of the radical undoing of traditional gender differences that Stalinist society underwent in the 1930s. By the late 1930s, combat duty in wartime became an acknowledged option for women in Stalinist political culture. The construction of alternative gender personalities enjoyed both public articulation in press and military expert approval. The alternative femininity encompassed and redefined the traditionally incompatible qualities: maternal love and military violence, feminine charm. © Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2004.
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