Panel: Her Side of The Story: Women Dissident Practices in the Soviet Union and Beyond
Chair: Tatsiana Astrouskaya
This panel will focus on the women’s experience of dissidence and resistance in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet countries, which are still largely overlooked in the scholarship. Not attempting to undermine or reverse the general understanding of dissent, the panel seeks to diversify its meaning but looking for and looking into specifically women’s practices, which developed outside the main known centres of the dissident movement. Additionally, it seeks to answer the question about the reasons for women’s „invisibility“ in the narratives of dissent.
Uladzimir Valodzin (European University Institute): Male and female autobiographic written and oral accounts on the ‚thaw‘ period (Belarusian SSR, early 1960s): (in)visibility of women
Ismene Brown: The unacknowledged role of Ekaterina Furtseva in Khrushchev’s defeat of the ‘Anti-Party Group’ in 1957
Sofia Lopatina (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology): Women practices and invisibility: the case of non-conformist youth groups in Leningrad in the 1960s
Tatsiana Astrouskaya (Herder Institute): Women in the Jewish Movement for Emigration from the USSR: The Case of Soviet Minsk
In the late 1960s, the Soviet Union opened the emigration to Israel for its Jewish citizens. Nevertheless, emigration was a prolonged and challenging process, which often included lengthy periods of uncertainty and the need to assert the right to emigrate. When it came to the open confrontation with the Soviet authorities, men were often at the forefront. They wrote petitions, visited responsible officials during the special reception hours, manifested, went on hunger strikes, telephoned correspondents and activists abroad, gave interviews, and, finally, wrote memoirs. In these memoirs, women habitually appear as accompaniers, though devoted and supportive, of the men’s struggle for emigration.
Also, the Soviet media and propaganda materials tended to represent women not as active participants of the movement but as ignorant victims or unwitting accomplices of the “Zionist aggression.”
Despite fifty years of the Soviet women’s emancipation project, the traditional distribution of roles within the family became one of the effects of Jewish migration; arguably, this effect was more substantial outside the known emigration centers, such as Moscow, Leningrad, and Riga.
This paper aims to overcome a specific “double blindness” of the previous research on Soviet Jewish emigration. It intends to look closer into the women’s emigration experiences on the periphery of the Soviet Union as represented in both men’s and women’s memoirs, correspondence, and contemporary media reports, as well as official documents.