They Fought for the Motherland: Russia's Women Soldiers in World War I and the Revolution

TitleThey Fought for the Motherland: Russia's Women Soldiers in World War I and the Revolution
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsStoff, Laurie S.
Number of Pages294
PublisherUniversity Press of Kansas

Women have participated in war throughout history, but their experience in Russia during the First World War was truly exceptional. Between the war's beginning and the October Revolution of 1917, approximately 6,000 women answered their country's call as the army was faced with insubordination and desertion in the ranks while the provisional government prepared for a new offensive. The author of this volume draws on deep archival research into previously unplumbed material, including many first-person accounts, to examine the roots, motivations, and legacy of these women. She reveals that Russia was the only nation in World War I that systematically employed women in the military, marking the first time that a government run by men had organized women for combat. And although they were originally envisioned as propaganda--promoting patriotism and citizenship to inspire the thousands of males who had been deserting or refusing to fight--Russian women also proved themselves more than capable in combat. This volume rescues from oblivion an important but still little-known aspect of Russia's experience in World War I. It also provides new insights into gender roles during a pivotal period of Russia's development and, more broadly speaking, resonates with the current debates over the role of women in warfare. 

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