Women in the Red Army (I)

Women at War

During the Great Patriotic War, around 800.000 women (doubtlessly much less than those who volunteer) served in the Soviet Armed Forces. Probably, most of us have seen photos or movies where women fight along with men against fascism. Films like, for example, Battle for Sevastopol (the story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the deadliest female sniper) or Enemy at the Gates show how important women where during the war, but in my opinion, the audience does not place enough importance on their work. Starting with this one, I will publish some little articles regarding the importance of women in the war effort, as I think they did not receive their well-deserved glory.

Introduction

As I said in the first paragraph, women in the Red Army were more than 800.000: 520.000 fought as regular Red Army troops and 300.000 did so in the Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS), literally “Military Air Forces”). Some sources state that this was possible due to Bolshevik ideology, but many other sources state just the opposite, explaining that Bolshevik did not do nothing to give freedom to women, keeping them as inferior (for a complete study regarding Bolshevik ideology towards women, read the article “Ideology, Gender and Propaganda in the Soviet Union: A Historical Survey”, by Choi Chatterjee. Find it in the references).

The vast majority of those women come from urban areas, were Komsomol (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, the Youth Organization of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), were between 18 and 25 years old and were single and had no child. The requirements to be admitted in the Armed Forces were very strict: While men usually did physical and health tests, women had to deal with ‘cultural tests’ (Russian literacy, education, etc.) besides physical and health tests. Russian literacy tests were especially discriminatory, as it was really difficult for the minor ethnic groups to pass it. As the tests were that difficult, the average level of the women who served was higher than men’s level.

Soon I will publish the second part of the article.

References

Chatterjee, Choi. “Ideology, Gender and Propaganda in the Soviet Union: A Historical Survey.” Left History. 1999. 18/08/2018 <https://lh.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/lh/article/viewFile/5380/4575>.

Two books to start researching about Soviet-German War

When we start researching about a new topic it is usual to not know from where to start researching. The Eastern Front of the Second World War (or Great Patriotic War) was an extremely long and violent combat between two Great Powers. That is why many books, articles, thesis, etc. has been written about it. These two are the ones that I recommend to start investigating:

When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House

When titans clashedDavid Glantz is, at least for me, the best historian of the Eastern Front. He has written many books and articles about the topic and most of them are reference works. When Titans Clashed is the summary of the entire war and it is a great introduction to the four years long conflict.

In addition, as Glantz has written many books about the war (most of them extremely interesting), it could be helpful for the beginner to get used to his style soon.

Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War, Chris Bellamy

Absolute War Chris BellamyAnother great work about the war. Bellamy focused on the first two years of the war, providing many details of those two years but goes through the last two years quite fast. Anyway, it is a very good book as it provides some statistics about the war that could be very useful for a beginner, as he/she could start realising how big this conflict was.

For example, Bellamy gives some tables regarding Soviet and German casualties in some of the major battles and he explains a extremely delicate topic: Soviet casualties during the whole war.

After these two and when you have some idea about the development of the war, you will be able to start reading more specific and dense books. As I said before, David Glantz is my favourite historian but in this case I do not recommend his books until you know not only the general idea of the war but some more details. His books are extraordinary but also quite dense (he specifies divisions, brigades, regiments and even battalions while talking about a battle!).

In the future I will publish some posts about the bibliography of different battles of the war so the people interested in a specific battle knows which books to read.