Yugoslav Female Partisans in World War II

TitleYugoslav Female Partisans in World War II
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPantelić, Ivana
JournalCahiers balkaniques
Date Published04/2013

Women public engagement, during the war, was very important for process of emancipation in post war Yugoslavia. This was first time that women joined military forces, especially combat unites. In addition to the Soviet partisan units that from 1941 sprang up over the large territories under the German occupation and the great French resistance, the two largest guerrilla forces in Europe operated in the Balkans: the communist movement in Yugoslavia and The Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS). The Yugoslav Partisans and the ELAS were not only fighting for liberation from the occupier, but they also began the Communist Revolution. In addition to establishing the socialist system following the model of the Soviet Republic, one goal was to legalize gender equality and to accelerate the emancipation of women. During the war female partisans (partizanke) gained their role in the new society, the role that would, in the ideal new society after the war, be secured for the entire female gender. By the end of 1941, People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia had accepted a new concept of warfare: the establishment of highly mobile proletarian brigades in which women constituted a significant part of the medical corps. In early 1942, however, the partisan leadership decided to make combat roles officially available to women. During the war women were not able to progress to the higher command or political positions in the military. Also, there were no women in the top ranks of the Communist Party leadership (Politburo). Women were indeed in symbolic numbers chosen to the highest institutions of the Partisan state. A body that gave an opportunity to women to self-organize politically and through this to activate as many women as possible was the Women's Antifascist Front of Yugoslavia (Antifašistički front žena Jugoslavije – AFŽJ). AFŽJ held its first conference in Bosanski Petrovac (northwestern Bosnia) on 5–7 December 1942. The fact that women, despite the aspirations of the Party to win them over, and in spite of customized organizational structure, were poorly represented in the membership of the Party and its leadership, limited the participation of women during the war. Although they were not equally represented in political parties and the partisan institutions of the state, partizanke were more proportionally represented in People's Liberation Army than in the most other similar armies, and won more of the highest awards than female members of the Red Army.

Translated TitleLes femmes partisanes yougoslaves pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale
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