Women and Competition in State Socialist Societies: Soviet-era Beauty Contests

Ilic, Melanie J ORCID: 0000-0002-2219-9693 (2014) Women and Competition in State Socialist Societies: Soviet-era Beauty Contests. In: Competition in Socialist Society. Studies in the History of Russia and Eastern Europe . Routledge, London, pp. 159-175. ISBN 9780415747202

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The phenomenon of the beauty contest did not find favour in the Soviet Union until the late 1980s, when Gorbachev was in office and perestroika was already under way. Before this time, beauty contests were condemned by socialist regimes as aspects of capitalist societies that degraded, sexualised and objectified women. Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika hailed a re-visioning of the role of women in Soviet society. Consequently, beauty contests were held in the Soviet Union’s regions and republics, as well as in a number of Eastern European countries, from the mid-1980s. It was, however, the first ever ‘Moscow Beauty’ contest, held in June 1988, that came to attract major international attention and was widely reported around the world. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, three ‘Miss USSR’ competitions were organised and these events propelled the winners on to the global stage. The ‘Moscow Beauty’ and ‘Miss USSR’ beauty contests were accompanied also by a whole range of lower level competitions. An exploration of these Soviet beauty contests enables us to examine the notion of competition in state socialist societies from a number of different angles. These include: the adaptation of a Western model of competition to the Soviet cultural context; contested notions of beauty and femininity; and the role played by organisers, sponsors and agents in the international competitive arena. This study draws on contemporary Soviet newspaper and international press reports of the Soviet beauty contests and the widespread media coverage afforded to Soviet beauty queens around the world. It also makes use of the testimonies of some of the contestants themselves.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Competition in Socialist Society on 08.08.2014, available online: https://www.routledge.com/Competition-in-Socialist-Society/Miklossy-Ilic/p/book/9780415747202
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Nigel McLoughlin
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2015 11:31
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:56
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/1258

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