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Woman Rights in Tsarist Russia
Transcript of Woman Rights in Tsarist Russia
In Tsarist Russia, a woman shared in the general exclusion from political rights that characterized the period, and was barred from all but the most limited civil rights. Her position was particularly humiliating in relation to her husband and family. She was, under Tsarist law, literally a slave to her husband. A married woman had no right of unrestricted movement: every time her husband changed his abode she was obliged to follow him. Her possessions were under her husband’s complete control. She could go to work only with his consent. If her marriage turned out badly, she had to submit to her fate, since she had no lawful means of redress. If she left her husband, he had the right to invoke the aid of the police in searching for her. Divorce was granted only in exceptional instances; and even then it could be obtained only with extreme difficulty and after the woman had undergone humiliating formalities and had submitted to gross intrusion into her private life by judge and police. Moreover, divorce was beyond the means of any but a rich woman.
Woman Rights in Tsarist Russia
• In Tsarist Russia, higher education was almost completely closed to women; only after 1905 was there some improvement, and then only in certain branches of education. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were only three high schools for women abolished all restrictions against women, opened the middle and higher educational institutions to them, and did all in their power to attract them into these schools.But when the Great October Socialist Revolution occurred which Many Russian women actively participated in the revolution, and many more were affected by the events of that period and the new policies of the Soviet Union, emancipated woman, giving woman full equal rights with man.
• Lenin, the organizer and leader of the Soviet State, always devoted much attention to the problems of women’s life and work. He taught that the Socialist ideal, which is now in process of being realised in the Soviet Union, demands the abolition of all kinds of exploitation of man by man, and thus of all forms of social inequality, including the inequality between man and woman that exists in every society that is divided into classes. Women in the U.S.S.R. are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life.The Soviet Government abolished all marriage and family laws that were based on the enslavement of women, and created a new legal system founded on the complete equality of women in marriage and in the family. The Soviet authorities attach particular significance to the strengthening of the family and the creation of enduring and stable marital relations – ends which can only be attained on a basis of equal rights and mutual respect between husband and wife.
• These principles underlie all aspects of married life in the Soviet Union. Formerly the husband was always “head of the family”; but this conception is quite foreign to Soviet life, as is exemplified in the fact that a woman is not obliged to take her husband’s name after marriage. But in practice, there were also double standards in social norms and expectations. "A man can fool around with other women, drink, even be lackadaisical toward his job, and this is generally forgiven," wrote Hedrick Smith, former Russian correspondent for The New York Times, but "if a woman does the same things, she is criticized for taking a light-hearted approach toward her marriage and her work.
• Together with the complete equality of the sexes in personal civil rights, there exists in the Soviet Union complete equality for men and women in all political respects. According to the Soviet Constitution, the right to elect and be elected to the soviets, the supreme organs of authority, is open to all persons of both sexes above eighteen years of age.But in reality,because of the time and effort which they expend at work and at home, most Soviet women participate for extended periods of time in economic and social roles, rather than in political roles. Although women in most advanced industrial nations tend to be less politically active than men, in the USSR there is a sounder excuse for this since a higher percentage of women work full time, often in physically demanding work, unsupported by their husbands in housework and children. Thus, many women simply do not have much spare time to devote to political meetings.Although the proportion of women in the Communist Party has increased over the years, from 7.4% in 1920 to 24.7% in 1977, No woman currently sits on the Politburo.
• Of enormous significance, both in principle and practice, is the fact that women are paid the same rates as men: “equal pay for equal work.”
• To help women take an active part in production and in public life in general, the Soviet state has established numerous nurseries and kindergartens, where the mother can leave her child while she is at work.
• In 1936, 39 per cent of all the women employed in the U.S.S.R. were working in large-scale industry or the building trades, 15 per cent were employed in shops, stores, etc., transport and public catering establishments, 20 per cent were doctors or teachers, and only 2 per cent were domestic workers, or servants, to use the terminology of the old days. The remaining 24 per cent worked in various other branches of industry, science or the arts.
high participation rate of women in the economy has not come about from the ideological commitment to equality alone. Demographic and economic factors have played a major role in their mobilization. Indeed, with the regime's goal of maintaining a high rate of economic growth, it was inevitable that a large percentage of women would be active in the labour force, especially at a time when they comprised the majority of the population.
• In the mid-1980s Mikhail Gorbachev instituted glasnost, allowing greater freedom of speech and organization than ever before in the USSR. This openness generated burst political action, academic research, and artistic and business ventures. Additionally, women were aware that the new government would offer little assistance with their economic and social struggles. Citizens of the Soviet Union could file complaints and receive redress through the Communist Party, but the post-Soviet government had not developed systems of state recourse. Women began to form their own networks of resource sharing and emotional support, which sometimes developed into grassroots organization.
• Political and economic transformation in post-Soviet Russia caused deep economic decline in the 1990s and particular financial struggles for women. Although many held jobs, women were also expected to be homemaker. Soviet working women often received extensive employment benefits, such as long child-care leaves, which pushed women into the role of housewife. In the 1990s domestic work grew increasingly demanding as acquiring goods became more time-consuming in the restructured economy. Women’s benefits also made them less attractive employees, and during privatization many companies fired women.
• Women's profile in post-Soviet Russia has extended to politics. At the national level, the most notable manifestation of women's newfound political success has been the Women of Russia party, which won 11 percent of the vote and twenty-five seats in the 1993 national parliamentary elections. Subsequently, the party became active in a number of issues, including the opposition to the military campaign in Chechnya that began in 1994. In the 1995 national parliamentary elections, the Women of Russia chose to maintain its platform unchanged, emphasizing social issues such as the protection of children and women rather than entering into a coalition with other liberal parties. As a result, the party failed to reach the 5 percent threshold of votes required for proportional representation in the new State Duma, gaining only three seats in the single-seat portion of the elections .The party considered running a candidate in the 1996 presidential election but remained outside the crowded field.
• During glasnost and after the fall of the Soviet Union, feminist circles began to emerge among intelligentsia women in major cultural centers like Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the 1990s, Russian women were hesitant to use the term "feminist" to describe themselves, because they believed it to have negative connotations throughout Russian history, and especially after the Revolution, when it was equated with the "proletariat" woman who only cares for her career, not her family. Russian women’s activism in the 1990s was not explicitly feminist; women attempted to improve their financial and social conditions through any practical means. From this struggle emerged female communities which empowered.many women to assert themselves in their pursuit of work, equitable treatment and political voice.