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Women and state socialism: failed promises and radical changes revisited

  • Maria Bucur (a1)


Imagine all history written as if all people, even women, mattered. Until a couple of decades ago, that was at most an aspiration for those of us working on East European history. Since then, however, and especially with the fall of Communism, feminist scholars have made significant inroads toward achieving this goal. This review essay reflects on the contributions made by five such studies that focus on different aspects of women's lives under state socialism in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Poland, and Romania. In one way or another, each author asks similar questions about the relationship between the Communist ideological emphasis on gender equality as a core moral value, on the one hand, and the policies and actions of these regimes with regard to women, on the other hand. Moreover, all studies focus on how women themselves participated in articulating, reacting to, and in some cases successfully challenging these policies. In short, they present us with excellent examples of how pertinent gender analysis is for understanding the most essential aspects of the history of Communism in Eastern Europe: how this authoritarian regime transformed individual identity and social relations.



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Ghodsee, Kristen. 2012. “Rethinking State Socialist Mass Women's Organizations: The Committee of the Bulgarian Women's Movement and the United Nationals Decade for Women, 1975-1985.” Journal of Women's History 24 (4): 4973.
Wood, Elizabeth A. 2000. The Baba and the Comrade. Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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Nationalities Papers
  • ISSN: 0090-5992
  • EISSN: 1465-3923
  • URL: /core/journals/nationalities-papers
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