New Soviet Woman: The Post‐World War II Feminine Ideal at Home and Abroad

TitleNew Soviet Woman: The Post‐World War II Feminine Ideal at Home and Abroad
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPeri, Alexis
JournalRussian Review
Pagination621 - 644
Date Published10/2018

Soviet Woman, a magazine published by the Kremlin‐backed Soviet Women’s Anti‐Fascist Committee, was a rare form of Soviet propaganda aimed at domestic and international readers simultaneously. Founded just after World War II, Soviet Woman was published in French, English, German, and Russian. It was part of the Soviet Union’s bid to become a global hegemon by exporting socialism–including its gender ideals–to the major combatants of the war. This article unearths the magazine’s origins, rooted in the Anti‐Fascist Committee’s correspondence with British and American women. It analyzes Soviet Woman in the context of this letter exchange, and it compares the journal to concurrent issues of popular women’s magazines aimed only at domestic readers (Rabotnitsa in the Soviet Union; Woman’s Own and Women’s Weekly in Britain; Ladies Home Journal, Women’s Home Companion, and others in the United States). The article argues that the editorial staff of Soviet Woman drew extensively on letters and periodicals from the United States and Britain in crafting a new model of Soviet womanhood, one that supported the Soviet Union’s postwar agenda but met the concerns, expectations, and tastes of Anglo‐American readers. The staff effectively reformulated Soviet womanhood to share features of British and American women’s experiences, including: the desire to return to work despite postwar lay‐offs; their fashion trends and styles; and their tendency to associate the female sex with pacifism. This feminine ideal upheld in Soviet Woman was created in consultation with the USSR’s capitalist opponents. The article presents Soviet Woman as evidence of Soviet women’s diplomatic activities and of cultural borrowing across the Iron Curtain during the late Stalin years, an era characterized by isolationism and anti‐Western sentiment. It focuses on the first ten years of the magazine’s publication (1945–56) and ends with the Thaw, when Soviet readers voiced opposition to the Western‐inspired Soviet woman disseminated by the magazine. [Wiley Online Library]

Short TitleRussian Review
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