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>.