By Alexey Tereshchenko
January 20, 2017
“After the war, no job was difficult for a Russian woman.”
War can have a huge affect on society and the roles of the people within it. Under the circumstances of war, Russia showed a huge shift in the roles of women and men as well as parents and grandparents.
In World War II Russia lost millions of men.
A popular song says that a mother who saw both her sons back from war was the only lucky one in three villages. In fact, of all males born in Russia in 1922–1924, only one-third survived.
It had many implications.
After the war, no job was difficult for a Russian woman. They worked as agricultural laborers, as loaders, as miners. As for jobs that were physically easier, they came to be monopolized by women. Even now, it is hard to find male teachers in Russian schools (except sports teachers); a male librarian is something absolutely unheard of.
A Russian woman was expected not only to work from 9-6 but even more. She was also expected to raise children and to keep her home tidy. And, if possible, to study in her spare time.
It was quite the contrary for a Russian man.
Those who survived were surrounded by female attention. They always had choices. They were not expected to do a lot. They could be lazy drunkards but everyone knew that if Russia gets attacked again, these men would go to fight the aggressor and win. That is why they needed to be preserved.
It created a weird situation in which a woman could be the breadwinner and child rearer and housewife and psychological support for her husband and was still expected to be happy with her marriage.
Of course, the situation gradually improved as new generations came to life. Today the disparity has pretty much diminished. However, there are still more women than men in Russia.
The one sad consequence we are still experiencing is the father-child relations.
Since many after-war children were raised by their mothers, it became a cultural stereotype that child rearing is only done by mothers. And grandmothers, of course. The grandmother became a sacred figure in Russia. A recent joke is that most Russians were raised by same-sex couples— a mother and a grandmother.
Of course, there are many Russian fathers who do not fit the stereotype but generally, it is accepted that the mother does all the work.
A father is expected only to contribute with money (in most cases, though, the mother works as well). If a father busies himself with his children, universal acclaim is guaranteed.
That’s why although war can create several financial and status related changes within a country, it can also have a huge affect on the way a society works.
Alexey Tereshchenko is a translator, historian, traveller, active member of Servas International. He has also worked as an editor at Vokrug Sveta magazine. He also received the Wachsmacher Prize in 2015.