'My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness': Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia's Great War, 1914-1917

Title'My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness': Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia's Great War, 1914-1917
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsStockdale, Melissa K.
JournalAmerican Historical Review
Volume109
Issue1
Pagination78-116
Date Published2004
Abstract

Investigates the phenomenon of women soldiers in World War I, focusing on the revolutionary Women's Battalions of Death in the Russian army. The analysis is placed within the Western tradition of armed civic virtue and its linkage of rights of modern citizenship with the citizen's obligation to bear arms. The creation of the first government-sanctioned female combat units in modern history was a product of the intersection of total war, national emergency, and democratizing revolution that profoundly affected ideas about gender roles and citizenship in Russia. The women's battalions were a national, mass movement that cut across class and political identities. The article illuminates the contingencies of Russian patriotism in a critical era and suggests why gender beliefs and practices, as well as the larger omission of the war experience from Russian historical narratives for some seven decades, ensured that the story of these once-celebrated women soldiers would be largely forgotten.

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