Bringing the revolution to the women of the East. The Zhenotdel experience in Soviet Central Asia through the lens of Kommunistka

McShane, Anne (2019) Bringing the revolution to the women of the East. The Zhenotdel experience in Soviet Central Asia through the lens of Kommunistka. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis considers the role of the Zhenotdel (Woman’s Bureau) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in Soviet Central Asia through a close reading of its activist journal Kommunistka from 1920-1930.
This research seeks to address conflicting narratives within academic literature concerning the Zhenotdel’s status within the CPSU, and in particular between accounts of its role in Central Asia rather than in European parts of the Soviet Union. Historians who have written on a campaign, known as the Hujum, launched by the CPSU in a direct attack on indigenous society in Central Asia in 1927, have tended to view the Zhenotdel as a compliant part of the Party apparatus. This interpretation contrasts with accounts of the Zhenotdel’s far more problematic relationship with the Party outside of Central Asia during the same period.
A close reading of Kommunistka throughout the entire period of the Zhenotdel’s work in Central Asia has not previously been undertaken, although the journal has been relied on along with other source materials by various historians. Therefore, this study brings new and original material and analysis to further our understanding of the Zhenotdel’s activities in Central Asia. It provides a close examination of the views of activists and leaders, and a better understanding of the Zhenotdel project on its own terms, as opposed to the goals of the CPSU. The shifts within Zhenotdel policy over the decade can also be situated within the changing conditions of the 1920s within Soviet Central Asia, and the discussions within its ranks.
This thesis analyses the opinions expressed by Zhenotdel activists about indigenous women, along with the methods employed to interact with these women. It gives a detailed account of the Zhenotdel’s social, economic and legal strategy and contrasts it with that of the CPSU. This thesis also considers the relationship of the Zhenotdel to the CPSU in the context of Central Asia. It shows how the tensions and conflicts within that relationship, already discussed through research focusing on the experience in the RSFSR and other European Republics, expressed themselves in the specific conditions of Central Asia. This research throws new light on many of the assumptions made about the Zhenotdel’s programme in Central Asia and shows how this programme actually diverged very significantly from that of the Party leadership. A revaluation of the role of the Zhenotdel in the Hujum has been possible, based on this study. It shows that the involvement of the Zhenotdel in the Hujum and all other aspects of its activity in Central Asia has to be understood on the terms of an organisation which was committed to a woman-centred socialism. Ultimately this research shows the Zhenotdel in a struggle to make progress for its own programme while at the same time seeking to establish itself as a core part of the Soviet strategy in Central Asia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Soviet Union history, women, Zhenotdel, Central Asia, Hujum in Uzbekistan, CPSU and Central Asian women, Kommunistka.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Kay, Professor Rebecca and Bracke, Doctor Maud
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Ms Anne G. McShane
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-40903
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2019 08:40
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2020 21:43
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.40903

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