Contesting Inequality: Khrushchev and the Revival of the “Woman Question”

Ilic, Melanie J ORCID: 0000-0002-2219-9693 (2015) Contesting Inequality: Khrushchev and the Revival of the “Woman Question”. In: De-Stalinization Reconsidered: Persistence and Change in the Soviet Union. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt, pp. 177-192. ISBN 9783593501666

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This chapter is based on chapters already published in the following essay collections: Women in the Khrushchev Era (Palgrave, 2004), Soviet State and Society under Nikita Khrushchev (Routledge, 2009) and Reassessing Cold War Europe (Routledge, 2011). It also draws on subsequent research. The study examines the changing role and status of women in the Soviet Union and the revival of Soviet women’s organisations in the post-Stalin period. Khrushchev’s term of office witnessed a renewed interest in the ‘woman question’ in the Soviet Union. Women were encouraged to take a more active part in Soviet politics, society, the economy and cultural life under Khrushchev. A major international seminar on the equality of women was convened in Moscow in September 1956 and Soviet women also took an active part in international women’s organisation, such as the Women’s International Democratic Federation. WIDF’s fifth congress was held in Moscow in 1963. As part of his aim to boost participatory politics in the late 1950s, Khrushchev encouraged the formation of women’s councils (zhensovety) throughout the Soviet Union. Representatives of the Soviet Women’s Committee, most notably its chair, Nina Popova, sat on the executive committees of a number of international women’s organisations. One of the aims of this investigation is to see how far Soviet women’s organisations served as legitimate bodies through which women could express their discontents at a local level and have these addressed by a higher authority, or whether they served more crudely as a channel through which central Party and government directives were filtered downwards to women. The zhensovety, for example, had a wide ranging remit: to encourage women to take a greater interest in the political affairs of their region; to encourage non-working women into employment; and to enable women to take a more active role in the running of their local community. Through a close reading of the contemporary publications of the regional zhensovety and of the WIDF, this study looks at the role and tasks of local, national and international women’s organisations in the late 1950s and early 1960s and assesses their impact on policy formation under Khrushchev.

Item Type: Book Section
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 14:36
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:55

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