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Women in Russian Revolutionary Movements

Women in Russian Revolution


During the mid and late nineteenth century, female political activists in Russia played a vital role in terms of the broad spectrum of Russian political circles. In 1917, the Russian Revolution brought about vast political and social changes. During that time, thousands of Russian women joined the revolution and became revolutionaries for a variety of reasons. Initially, they focused on women’s rights, but later they started to oppose the political pragmatism. Russian women revolutionaries fought against gender roles and demanded social equality for all people.

Background Information

In 1917, a small group of Russian women started revolutionary movements. Officially, there were 2,500 members, who initiated the revolutionary movement on October, 1917. The main reasons of women’s revolutionary movement were to provide equal political, economic and social rights to women. This revolution has changed and reshaped the lifestyle of Russian women for generations. The revolution has provided plenty of new women rights. For example, currently, Russian women have a substantial degree of economic equality with male co-workers, state-supported childcare institutions, access to a wide range of professions and trades and full abortion rights. Before the women’s revolution movement, they had limited rights (Rychkova).

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Evidence Changes made by Russian Revolutionary Women

In 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party initiated a classical social revolution. This revolution has remade the society by smashing capitalist rules. On October, 1917, the revolutionaries created the workers and peasants’ council. This council abolished new laws, which led the new workers towards taking first steps in planning the economy. Such laws helped the women’s society to work equally in offices and factories. The revolution helped Russian women to participate in the social, political and economic life (“Women and the Russian Revolution”).

However, the Russian counterrevolution restored capitalism in 1991-1992. As a result, women of ex-Soviet Union faced worse conditions. The country had undergone a massive unemployment. The capital investment dropped over ninety percent (International Communist League).

Women’s revolution and socialist revolution

The Bolshevik party understood that without a qualitative economic development, the liberation of women was impossible. Therefore, they maximized the resources of Bolshevik regime to improve the women’s life. They made a party department to address women’s needs (Clements).

The soviet Russia faced a disruption in the patriarchal gender after the World War I. Millions of Russian men fought actively in the war. As a result, a number of women workers was increased over one million. About 250,000 women joined the workforce in between 1914-1917. The wives of peasants took their husbands’ farm work. Moreover, a small number of front line women’s armies fought in the war. Thousands of women served as nurses in order to look after the wounded soldiers (Fairfax).

The February Revolution

In 1917, as a result of the February Revolution, the tsarist regime was overthrown, and a provisional government was formed. In this revolution, thousands of women came to the street to demand their political rights. They created a mass protest on the International Women’s day to call for political rights. As a result of the revolution, they gained the rights under the provisional soviet government. Their rights included the right to vote, equal rights in civil service and possibility to serve as attorneys. Most of the women, who advocated for those rights, were from the middle or upper-class background. Some of the poorer women protested for bread and peace. Before the revolution, feminism was disapproved, because it was considered to be coming from the middle or upper class, so Bolsheviks strongly opposed the division of the working class, including men and women. The party thought that men and women needed to work together without any divisions. Thus, Bolsheviks opposed to establish an especial bureau for women workers. During 1917, they complied with the demand of Russian feminist movement and founded the Women’s Bureau (International Communist League).

Actions Taken by Women Revolutionaries October Revolution and Civil War

During the early 20th century, Bolsheviks came to power with a particular ideology of the liberation of women and transformation of families. They legalized women’s rights, such as the right to own earnings and property, made divorce available upon request and granted the same rights to the children, who were born outside and within the wedlock. Bolsheviks created a movement for the women’s self-activity, which is also known as the women’s section of Communist Party from 1919 to 1930. During the leadership of Alexandra Kollontai, the party launched its new revolution with the newly enforced laws. According to the new law, the state had to set up literacy classes and political education for peasant and working class women. In addition, they fought against the prostitution (The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies).

However, the provisional government did not last for long. In October, the Bolshevik party created another great revolution. The October Revolution established new laws for women, which allowed them to stay away from war. Women were not required to participate in any civil war. Bolsheviks had gained some women’s support. However, in 1920s, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 women joined the Russian Red Army. Lenin strongly supported Bolshevik feminism. He explained the significance of relieving women from house works in terms of their ability to join official organizations. Lenin legalized the principle “Equal pay for equal work.” Furthermore, he made some changes in the traditional emphasis, such as making a divorce easily attainable and granting full social rights to illegitimate children (Rossi).

However, most of the peasant women were not involved in the “bourgeois” feminist movement, because many peasants saw the revolution as a dangerous threat to their village life. Moreover, the isolation and economic devastation of Soviet workers created a strong bureaucratization and material pressure. In early 1924, Stalin became the president of Soviet Russia, and he controlled the state and the Soviet Communist Party. He was not interested in the women’s independence. Thus, the matter was suppressed by the government. In addition, Stalinist bureaucratic distortions abandoned the fight for the international revolution. As a result, the unity of Soviet Union States broke in 1991-92 (Rossi).

The Russian Revolution inspired the working class internationally. The Bolsheviks created a good deal of the Soviet state’s ancient resources. After the Russian Revolution, Russian women got lots of new facilities and rights. For instance, Bolsheviks forced in swapping away the property laws that gave male a privilege. Some scholars consider that the 1918 code of Soviet Russia was the most progressive family legislation of the world (Rossi). 

Women’s Concerns, Strategies, and Objections

In most of the cases, women’s concerns, strategies and objections differed from those of men in Soviet Russia, because till the early 19th century, men controlled the whole country. They made laws, which supported the rights of men. The nation did not have the equality of men and women. Women could not vote for their leaders, but after the revolution, the strategies were completely changed. Women ended up having voting rights, same property rights as men, as well as the ability to work in a similar administrative position as men with the same salary. During the early Bolshevik work, the Russian society was permeated with anti-grossest anti-woman behavior. The ancient communal village and institutions of the Soviet household enforced the degradation of women. Such extreme oppression caused a low productivity of the Russian agriculture. They used old technologies, where peasant women were drudges. For instance, a “batrachka” was a special laborer hired for a season to work in the field. Most of the men called them their “wives” for a certain time, and then threw them out upon their pregnancy. According to a peasant woman, in the Russian countryside, they were treated like a work horse, but they could not take any actions, because they were not allowed to go anywhere outside of the territory. They faced an enduring beating and different kinds of humiliations every day (Macdonald).

However, in 1914, the Bolshevik program started to protect women. They made one-third of Russian women a powerful industrial labor force. Bolsheviks addressed specific demands of women such as the equal pay for the equal work, childcare facilities at factories and paid maternity leave. Furthermore, they gave a special attention to the infant mortality of children, as two-thirds of babies of women factory workers died in a year or two (Rossi).


From the above discussion, one can come to the conclusion that Russian revolutionary movements of women helped the country in creating the equality between men and women in Soviet Russia. The revolutionaries gave a special attention to women’s rights by opposing the political pragmatism. It was started in 1917 by the Bolshevik party. President Lenin supported the party and their perspective. He supported the party in terms of regulating equality laws. Bolsheviks established a special department to address women’s needs, which helped women to improve their lives. As a result of the 1917 revolution, women have got political rights, including the right to vote, equal rights in the civil service and ability to serve as attorneys. In addition, Bolsheviks created the liberation of women and transformation of families, which allowed women to earn and own properties. Some women leaders, such as Alexandra Kollontai, made the revolution more successful by giving an immense pressure to the government. Moreover, they fought against the prostitution. Thus, they created the Russian women revolutionary movement all over Soviet Russia.