Masculinity at War: Did Gender Matter in the Soviet Army?

TitleMasculinity at War: Did Gender Matter in the Soviet Army?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMerridale, Catherine
JournalJournal of War & Culture Studies
Date Published12/2012

Of all the forces that took to the field in World War II, the Soviet army must surely be the one whose reputation for toughness, endurance and near-suicidal determination marks it out as a model of masculine virtue. Soviet propaganda images of soldiers at the front certainly used gender-specific images. Square-jawed and fit, the young white male stands firm in almost every photograph, and to press the point still further, Soviet reporting also featured his pretty wife and mother and the children whom he fought to save. In this article, the author argues that, nonetheless, gender was less important in the Soviet case than may at first appear. I shall also suggest that policies that aimed to emphasize the masculine were ultimately damaging to the men who survived. In particular, the notion of the ideal Soviet male may well have made post-war adaptation harder in the longer term for almost everyone.

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