Men and Masculinities under Socialism: Toward a Social and Cultural History

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  • 1 University of Bern, Switzerland


This introduction to Aspasia's Special Forum on the history of men and masculinities under socialism demonstrates the interest and originality of applying critical men's studies and the history of masculinities to state-socialist Eastern Europe. It reviews existing scholarship within this field, stresses the persisting difficulties in analyzing everyday performances of gender and masculinities in socialist societies, and argues for adopting new approaches in order to get closer to a social and cultural history of masculinities. It puts the contributions to this Special Forum in their broader historiographical context—in particular, concerning studies on work, family, violence, war, disability, and generational change and youth—and shows how they will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics and everyday performances of gender in state-socialist societies.

For several decades now, scholars have taken an interest in analyzing the socialist attempts to transform traditional gender arrangements and revolutionize the family. They have studied the different efforts to “emancipate” women under socialism, such as their integration in the labor market, their education and training, their legal equality and access to divorce, the “socialization” of—traditionally female—domestic work through the establishment of public canteens, collective laundries, and childcare institutions. In contrasting the ideal of women's emancipation with everyday experience under socialism, studies have also demonstrated the limits of the socialist “solution” to “the woman question” and its subordination to state interests, such as mass mobilization and extension of power, promotion of modernization and industrialization.1 However, recent debates about the legacies of the state-socialist “emancipation” of women and the very notion, meaning, and existence of feminism(s) under socialist rule show the ongoing relevance of the topic.2 Central and Eastern European gender history is a dynamic field and current efforts include overcoming the continuing Cold War stereotypes and paradigms3 and writing a nonlinear history of socialist feminism. This means to acknowledge also its multiple contradictions and complexities due to the simultaneity of both revolutionary efforts and conservative backlashes.4

Another current challenge is to consider critical men's studies and the history of masculinities, and make these approaches fruitful for Eastern European gender studies and the gender history of socialism. The understanding of masculinities—like femininities—as a social and cultural construct that necessarily underlies historical change, and the performative and multifaceted view on male domination (over women and over other men), provide important avenues to write a truly relational, interactive, and dynamic gender history.5 Applying critical men's studies and the history of masculinities to the history of state-socialist Eastern Europe opens new possibilities for further research. What impact did the making of “new” socialist women—better educated, economically independent, and enjoying more legal rights—have on the constructions of masculinity and fatherhood in state-socialist societies? How did men react to socialist gender agendas? What did socialism mean for men, and what did masculinity mean for socialists?

So far, most studies dealing with gender in socialist societies have concentrated on women. For a long time, they have not questioned the role of men and of masculinities. To some extent, this may be explained by the communists’ failure to see men as gendered beings and by their lack of interest in modifying masculinities. Indeed, Marxist feminism aimed primarily at changing femininities and at “promoting” women to a new role as “essentially, honorary or surrogate men.”6 Thus, the “woman question” was often regarded as of no concern for men, or, as legal scholar Barbara Havelková put it, “men were completely left out of the picture.”7 Scholars have acknowledged that socialist constructions of masculinity changed “out of necessity” (as a reaction to the changing situation of women), but they have insisted that “official” representations of masculinity remained unchanged under socialist rule.8 However, this is also a result of the historian's perspective. For instance, Lewis Siegelbaum, well known for his works on the social and labor history of the Soviet Union, retrospectively acknowledged the importance of gender and masculinity, which he simply overlooked at that time: “The ‘maleness’ of the Soviet workers I studied similarly appeared secondary to other characteristics—urban versus rural, skilled versus unskilled, for example.”9

Recent scholarship has complicated this picture. Scholars have shown an increasing interest in questions of masculinities in Eastern Europe.10 Historians have, first, revealed that even though they were not priorities, masculinity, manhood, and fatherhood have been discussed by communists and even the highest bodies of the communist parties. Second, they have stressed that socialist attempts at remodeling the family and at creating the “new woman” necessarily had an influence on the construction of social as well as individual identities of men under socialism. Thus, historians increasingly have understood also the “first sex” as a cultural and historical construct and have included the analysis of masculinities in a dynamic and performative analysis of gender history under socialism.

Yet, a particular challenge in studying masculinities under socialism is to question the oft-cited ideal of the new socialist, or Soviet, man; that is, an image of virility and hyper-masculinity referring to industrial work, soldierly attributes, and bodily perfection.11 The communist subject, as Éva Fodor has convincingly shown, was exclusively situated in the public sphere and had, therefore, “distinctly masculine features,” even if it was, at first glance, genderless. Indeed, due to their unchallenged domestic and reproductive duties, women could never fully correspond to the ideal image of the communist subject—loyal, reliable, engaged in work, and devoted to the communist cause.12 Literary and film scholars, who have been among the first to turn toward the study of masculinities under socialism, have discussed largely the virile imagery behind the ideal of the “new” socialist man, its continuities and its contradictions.13 However, this ideal image—a product of propaganda stressing male self-sacrifice for the sake of constructing communism—has sometimes been mistaken for what Raewyn Connell has coined “hegemonic masculinity” in the socialist states. However, this notion cannot be reduced to an ideal image, sanctioned by the state. Connell understands hegemonic masculinity as the configuration of gender practice, which reproduces men's domination over women and over other men. So, hegemonic masculinity implies the existence of, and the relations between, multiple conceptions of men and masculinities. While being dominant at a certain point in time, hegemonic masculinity is being constantly contested and is, thus, subject to change.14 Contrary to this understanding, the image of the new socialist man has long been considered as a homogenous picture and a consistent idea, “as if this ideal were utterly impervious to political upheavals and social change.”15 Sylka Scholz, among others, has criticized this view, for the figures of the worker-hero or the soldier-hero were (and remained) normative models only (or mainly) thanks to their promotion by the communist state.16 Still, Raewyn Connell and James Messerschmidt clearly stated that even if hegemonic masculinity may, indeed, be supported by the state, it cannot be reduced to “a pattern of simple domination based on force.”17 Hegemonic masculinity refers, thus, to social diversity, interaction, and dynamics; to contestation, compliance and consent; that is, attributes that scholars still struggle to fully acknowledge regarding socialist societies. So, the main reason this propagandistic model of the “new” socialist man is believed to have shaped individual behavior and subjectivities is the continued perception of state-socialist societies as homogenous and compliant with the communist state.18

Toward a Social and Cultural History of Masculinities?

Contrary to this, however, research in the last few decades has stressed both the diversity of socialist societies and the changes that these societies underwent throughout socialist rule. Recent studies on masculinities have contributed to this interpretation of socialism, in highlighting diverse subjectivities, alternative identities, and contradictory practices of men and fathers in state-socialist Eastern Europe. This Special Forum of Aspasia contributes to this growing research field. Whereas earlier scholarship on masculinities under socialism has focused in particular, or exclusively, on representations—especially in cinema, poster art, literature, or the media19—this Special Forum inscribes itself in a renewed historiography, interested in a social and cultural history. It aims to stimulate new paths for writing the history of masculinities under socialism, focusing especially on examining the meanings of masculinities in everyday life.20 Case studies in this Forum address topics such as work, family, fatherhood, domestic violence, the army, disability, youth, and love. In using new sources and in applying original approaches, the contributions to this Special Forum address the methodological challenges of writing a history of masculinities under socialism and demonstrate the richness of this research field. They do, of course, draw on previous research, which I will briefly review here.


Work, workers, and working classes are extremely significant for Marxism and communism. Marxist and communist thinkers have idealized work as a means of emancipation, and they have glorified the working classes as the driving force to implement socialism and prepare the communist future. This led to an actual cult of work and, in particular, of industrial work, which was associated not only with progress and modernity, but also with masculinity.21 Agriculture, in contrast, was considered “feminine” and backward. Indeed, several studies have revealed how much the representations of workers under socialism drew on images of virility and strong and healthy male bodies. Be it in the early Soviet Union or in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II, the worker hero, the hero of socialist labor, was male, even if the socialist states integrated women massively into wage labor.22 This was true concerning industrial work as during the forced industrialization of socialist states, as well as, for instance, in the fields of science and technology.23 Scholars have stressed the fact that these propagandistic representations of workers did not necessarily reflect the meanings of work for individuals living under socialist rule.24 Nevertheless, the issue of everyday masculinities at work and the meaning of work for men during socialism have remained less studied, so far. Work certainly represented an important aspect of men's biographies, even if men did not adhere to the official, communist ideals, such as Stakhanovism.25 Work even continued to be seen often as a male homosocial site, and women as “intruders into the male club.”26 This is also why—despite the socialist idea of gender equality and the frequency of dual-earner families during socialism—the idea, and ideal, of men as the family's breadwinners has not been fully eradicated.27 Historians have stressed the obstacles in women's professional achievements, especially the persisting wage differences and the lack of women in executive positions.28 Research has also shown the different kinds of men's hostilities to female wage labor, for instance in overt harassment of women at the workplace or men's efforts to prevent women from further training and acquiring advanced skills.29 However, female wage labor met men's resistance also in the private sphere. This idea is developed by Natalia Jarska in this Special Forum, who draws on a particularly rich collection of unpublished memoirs written for different “memoir contests” in post-Stalinist Poland, allowing Jarska to study male practices in everyday life. She focuses on men's resistance not only to women's work, but, more precisely, men's resistance to having a working woman at home, and this shows perfectly the relational nature of femininity and masculinity, and the fluid borders between “public” and “private” (or “political” and “social”) spheres. Jarska stresses not only the long continuities of this resistance to female work, but also its dependence on class and education.

Family and Fatherhood

Socialist policies affected private life, marriage, and family, even if they were not directed explicitly at remodeling them. Much research, nevertheless, has concentrated explicitly on the creation of a socialist family and partnership.30 When it comes to the position of family men and fathers, the impact of socialism has often been described in negative terms only. In the early Soviet Union, the family had been regarded as potentially counter-revolutionary, since it had been considered the “depository of tradition,” which, thus, “embodied the very society which had to be transformed.”31 Therefore, the state showed profound distrust in the education of children by their parents, likely to transmit “bourgeois,” pre-revolutionary values.32 Men's central tasks were seen as workers and soldiers in constructing socialism. Therefore, several historians have stressed that the socialist state “alienated” and “marginalized” men within the family, for it took over paternal functions, in particular the role of the provider, and formed an “alliance” with women and mothers, giving them financial independence both as workers and as mothers, and facilitating access to divorce.33 For Katherine Verdery, this “usurpation of allocative decisions” by the socialist state strengthened what she has called “socialist paternalism.”34 Sheila Fitzpatrick, as well, described Soviet family policies and propaganda in the 1930s clearly as “anti-men.”35 Several historians consider the 1944 family law, a clear result of pronatalist policies, as the apex of Stalinist family policies, oriented exclusively at women as mothers; that is to say, oriented at women, but profoundly male-centered, ignoring female perspectives and needs, and benefitting men who were incited to have extramarital affairs.36 Indeed, this law freed fathers from any (legal and financial) responsibility toward their offspring and led to a massive increase of single mothers.37

The alienation of men from family life was, however, not only a product of socialist family policies; it was reinforced by large-scale (and mainly male) work migration, but also political repression and deportation, which both led to a distance between many fathers and their families. Modernization and new technologies, such as running water, electricity, or gas heat, also contributed to the fact that men's traditional household duties disappeared.38 The outcomes of these policies have been described as the “emasculation” and “infantilization” of men by the state.39 Cultural representations of the Stalinist period strengthened this image by favoring communist surrogate fathers over biological fathers.40 Especially under Stalin, the Soviet state “assume[d] symbolically the role of father,”41 and Stalin himself incarnated the “universal father.”42

Several recent works on masculinities nuance earlier evaluations, such as the “marginalization” of men within the family, and they reveal contradictions and dynamics that were at work even in the Stalinist period. Political change, nevertheless, had an impact on these dynamics. De-Stalinization played, without any doubt, an important role, or as Marko Dumančić put it: “With the death of the man to whom no other man could compare, it finally became possible to build alternative masculine forms.”43 The Khrushchev era in the Soviet Union, for instance, with its more liberal political and cultural context, but also with its focus on communist “morality” and the moral renewal of the society,44 brought about a “veritable discursive explosion” about men's family roles and prepared the “conditions that allowed for a reconceptualization of Soviet fatherhood.”45 In this issue, Amy Randall further investigates this idea of the family man as a “new form of legitimate socialist masculinity.” Within debates about communist “morality,” the moral-ideological education of the youth played a particular role. Brendan McElmeel analyzes that, drawing on a regional Komsomol newspaper, and demonstrates that preparing men to become husbands and fathers resulted in a surprising mix of romantic love and communist morality.

Not only political change in general, but concrete political measures too played an important role in this reconceptualization of post-Stalinist fatherhood, for instance the re-legalization of abortion, which, in the Soviet Union happened in 1955. As Amy Randall, Yulia Hilevych, and Chizu Sato have shown, this re-legalization was accompanied by a wide-ranging anti-abortion campaign, which gave partners and husbands a new role as responsible fathers-to-be who would protect their wife's and their future newborn's health, thus backing the state in its effort to fight abortion and regulate gender, reproduction, and women's bodies.46 Similar trends can be observed in other state-socialist countries, for instance in Poland, where access to abortion was equally facilitated in 1956 and husbands were assigned increasing responsibility in family planning.47 This example demonstrates that this new model of caring husbands and fathers was not free from political instrumentalization, for instance, for the sake of pronatalism. However, it is undeniable that the postwar period in state-socialist Central and Eastern Europe saw a proliferation of representations of caring fathers, involved in childcare and family life and expressing emotions, which contributed to a new understanding of men as fathers.48

Especially from the 1960s on, men began to be explicitly targeted in order to realize gender equality, that is as equal husbands in a companionate (and heterosexual) marriage and as fathers, responsible for childcare and education.49 Admittedly, this “struggle” for a socialist fatherhood was not fully successful, as suggested by statistics from the late-socialist period about the share of household duties and childcare. Also, this attempt to create companionate partnerships and egalitarian marriages was, to a certain extent, part of socialist propaganda and of Cold War rhetoric, when authors claimed that only under socialism is partnership and marriage based on “real,” that is, sincere and mutual, love, whereas marriage in capitalist societies continued to be motivated by financial, material, and social considerations. However, as Brendan McElmeel suggests in this issue, this does not mean that ordinary people were not invested in debating the meaning and practices of love and partnership. Quite the contrary, state-socialist societies engaged in “serious discussions about the need for a more sincere and democratic form of intimacy” that we know well from Western Europe and the United States.50 Part of this were, for instance, also discussions about the involvement of men in early childcare, the affective benefits of men's presence during childbirth, or their greater inclusion in issues of pregnancy.51

Deviations and Domestic Violence

We have at our disposal a considerable number of prescriptive texts concerning the ideal husband or father. However, it is much more difficult for historians to assess everyday masculinities. Statistics and sociological surveys provide a partial insight into everyday gender performances.52 In this issue, two contributions adopt original approaches that allow us to analyze those everyday gender performances that clearly deviate from the socialist norm.

Erica Fraser and Kateryna Tonkykh do so in re-reading Nikolai P. Kamanin's diaries. The well-known diaries of this aviator and high official within the Soviet space program have already been used to study Soviet space policies, space science, and technology. However, Fraser and Tonkykh demonstrate how these diaries and the numerous anecdotes about marital tensions and infidelity, alcohol abuse, or domestic abuse they contain can also be used to analyze everyday gender performances. The diaries are meaningful for discussing the contradictions to publicly displayed communist morality, since gossip's function—as Fraser and Tonkykh remind us—is also to touch on taboo topics. Thus, this original reading of Kamanin's diaries offers a fresh perspective on debates about the private lives and the “proper” behavior of Soviet citizens in the post-Stalin era.

Cristina Diac focuses in her article on domestic violence—a widespread phenomenon, but one that has attracted relatively little attention in the study of state-socialist societies.53 This certainly has to do with the fact that intimate and sexual violence was socially taboo and banalized on the pretext of men's “uncontrollable” sexuality and alcohol consumption.54 However, the few historical studies about domestic violence are also a result of the lack of available sources, since everyday domestic violence is often not reported and, thus, recorded. Apart from official institutions and courts, women had nowhere to turn in the case of domestic violence; they had to wait until the 1990s to see the emergence of women's shelters and NGOs combating domestic violence in Eastern Europe, often with institutional and financial aid from the West.55 Although socialist courts considered wife beating to be incompatible with socialist norms of gender equality,56 socialist states—similar to Western liberal democracies—did not criminalize rape within marriage, with the sole exception of Poland. Though, the communist parties did become more intrusive, in the post-Stalin era.57 Nevertheless, while officially propagating gender equality, they only hesitantly intervened in cases of domestic violence among party members, and did so mostly when additional charges were put forward against the violent men. Cristina Diac shows this in studying files from the party control commission, which was one of the mechanisms and institutions in charge of disciplining party members and of implementing ideals about social and family life into reality. This commission, as with other social and legal institutions dealing with domestic violence, clearly had a pedagogical mission, contributing to the project to create the “new” socialist person. Thus, as Jane Freeland put it in studying the courts’ responses to domestic violence in East Berlin: “the court was frequently more preoccupied with improving men's commitment to socialism than it was with protecting women from violence.” That means that East German courts considered not only the crime perpetrated by the husband, but also his attitude at the workplace, his work ethic, and his public activity, especially within the party. This led to the perception that domestic violence was not a problem in itself, but rather part of the overall failure to adhere and to live according to socialist values.58

War and Military Masculinities

Among the factors that caused historical change in gender arrangements, scholars often cite political change (such as installing a socialist regime, de-Stalinization, or pronatalist policies) or generational change that can be observed in both Eastern and Western Europe.59 However, a decisive factor for change was also World War II. Its impact on gender and masculinities has, in particular, been studied in connection with Soviet society, where the experience of war and the loss of (mainly male) life had an “enormous impact on how men and women thought of themselves” and how they “redefined interpersonal relations between the sexes.”60 The war reinforced the pronatalist policies under Stalin, leading to the above-mentioned 1944 family law. At the same time, World War II was also the culminating point of female soldiers’ integration into the Red Army and thus led to questioning about the military as a purely male space. Furthermore, experiences of fear, cowardice, and desertion contributed to challenging the often-portrayed ideal male soldier.

Yet, military masculinities as a particular form of idealized masculinity played an important role in the history of socialism and the Soviet Union even before World War II. Indeed, the “new Soviet man” of the early Soviet era was very much linked with ideas of mythic hypermasculinity, the exaggeration and idealization of soldierly attributes, and the idea to “fight” for the construction of socialism together with a much-needed “defense” of the country facing permanent threat from capitalist enemies. This implied also a unity of (male) comrades devoted to their leader. So, socialism in the interwar period had “a pronounced militaristic tone,”61 as Eric Weitz wrote, and this is undoubtedly one of the reasons that considerable research has been conducted on heroic-military masculinity and the soldier-hero as a particular Soviet and socialist model.62

In addition, in recent years, historians have increasingly adopted sociohistorical perspectives to analyze the impact of this idealized military masculinity on the subjectivities of male soldiers and everyday gender performances within the army. Steven Jug, for instance, has shown the clear contradictions between officially propagated ideals of male heroism, courage, strength, discipline, and self-sacrifice, on the one hand, and very diverse individual experiences that included cowardice and fear, but also support and care for each other, that is, activities that were traditionally considered “female” tasks. However, on the basis of war letters, Jug has also shown that over the course of World War II and, in particular, with the experience of an existential threat of the Soviet Union, male soldiers turned to traditional gendered perceptions, identifying the front with masculinity and the home as a female sphere that has to be protected.63

The Soviet experiment of including female soldiers in the Red Army is of particular interest for studying military masculinity, for this confuses the idea of the army as a space of male solidarity and the homosocial bonding of male soldiers. The presence of female soldiers challenged this image especially when they were appointed in combat units or in superior positions, where women were in charge, for instance, of the political instruction of male soldiers. Already during the Civil War, tens of thousands of women had served in the Red Army, but had encountered considerable resistance and harassment by male soldiers. The latter claimed that women “disrupted the male camaraderie on which unit cohesion was built” and that female soldiers in combat units represented an “affront to male sensibilities.”64 World War II saw a much more massive integration of female soldiers (around a million women served in the Soviet army) and historians assess differently the impact of women's presence in the Red Army. Anna Krylova, for instance, considers the huge participation of women in the Red Army a result of the education and socialization of young women in a more gender egalitarian school system of the 1920s and 1930s. Krylova takes female participation in the Red Army as an example for the inner contradictions of socialist feminism and contributes thus to the critique of the idea that Soviet gender arrangements and policies underwent an overall gender “backlash” in the 1930s.65 While Krylova focuses on women in combat roles and reveals positive cases of the integration of women into these units, including men's supportive stance toward female soldiers, Steven Jug and Kerstin Bischl stress the many cases where female soldiers met with resistance and rejection. In particular, they discuss male soldiers’ perceptions of female soldiers as sexualized objects rather than professional colleagues, and highlight the sexual harassment and violence to which women were subjected. Thus, according to Jug, the presence of female soldiers “did not lead to lasting change in gender ideologies or military service policies.”66

This was confirmed at the end of the war, which meant also a step toward what was perceived by many as “normality,” that is, the rapid demobilization of female soldiers. This must be seen as part of the attempt to “remasculinize” the Soviet military, to recreate it as an all-male space, and to reestablish a military masculinity, which again was seen necessary for the reconstruction of the Soviet postwar society.67

Postwar Masculinities and Generational Changes: Toward a “Crisis” of Masculinity?

The army and military specialists, but also the media aimed at re-creating a martial masculinity, adapted to the postwar situation in the Soviet Union, as Erica Fraser has shown.68 Considerable effort was put into promoting military ideals among the younger generation, and in glorifying World War II.69 In the state-socialist regimes of East-Central and South-Eastern Europe, antifascist war heroes were promoted and their war efforts against Nazi Germany and, more generally, against fascism and capitalism were glorified.70

Recreating military masculinity as a shared norm in the state-socialist societies after 1945, however, encountered serious problems. The obvious negative impact of the war on men became more than clear as they faced considerable difficulties reintegrating into civil life after the end of the war. Historians have observed post-traumatic reactions and various “disruptive masculine behaviours” that were provoked by the war, in particular violent behavior and alcohol abuse.71 Many men also encountered challenges in trying to rebuild a “normal” family life after the experience of alienation between family members during the war. Therefore, the postwar emphasis on domesticity, with its new ideal of family life, also included the challenge for men to (re-)integrate into it. Indeed, historians have observed a clear transition from military masculinity to familial masculinity and representations of masculinity in the postwar period “were increasingly linked to paternity.”72 Even public heroes became more and more depicted as family-oriented persons, loyal husbands, and loving fathers.73 Thus, domesticity was considered a space to restore shattered masculinities, and the family should help men to adapt to postwar realities.74

These difficulties were particularly serious for war-disabled veterans. Injured soldiers encountered particular problems re-integrating into postwar society, civil life, and families. The difficulties in making a living and retraining for new jobs, and the discriminations faced at the workplace, were manifold. Women were expected to nurse formers soldiers and war-disabled veterans back to full health in their families. At the same time, veterans’ efforts in the Soviet victory were glorified and war injuries were even considered a prestigious symbol of military masculinity. This, however, was not translated into any kind of protection after the war, and there was a “growing gap between propaganda and social performance.”75 The war-disabled were confronted with the paradox between war injuries as a prestigious symbol of military masculinity and their increasingly common perception as signs of fragilized masculinity, imperfection, and emasculation.76

In this Special Forum, Wojciech Śmieja further investigates this contradiction between veteran's glorification as antifascist and national heroes and the difficulties or even hostility the war-disabled encountered in postwar societies. In analyzing personal memoirs, collected as one of several “memoir contests,” quite popular in post-Stalinist Poland, Śmieja reveals that these memoirs could be perfectly integrated into the socialist vision of masculinity in stressing the individual capacity to overcome their handicap. This idea reproduces typical characteristics of the ideal socialist man, in emphasizing the importance of discipline, mental strength, and self-will. It also combines two major aspects of socialist masculinities: work and military. Indeed, for war veterans, and in particular, for the injured among them, postwar civilian labor was considered in its continuity to war service, that is, “as if it was an extension of battle.”77 Śmieja calls this “fight-as-work” and suggests that social recognition was not based solely on merits during the war, but especially on the adaptation to the postwar situation, ability to work, and devotion to the construction of communism.

As has been shown for the Soviet Union,78 realistic depictions of the difficult reintegration of war-disabled in postwar Polish society are very rare, and Śmieja therefore suggests reading between the lines of these published memoirs, which allows him to analyze the diversity of individual experiences and subjectivities, but also to make critical statements concerning the postwar status and the difficult integration of war-disabled veterans.

Another aspect—which Eastern and Western European societies shared, at least to a certain extent—is the challenge to military masculinity and the masculine ideal as a soldier by the younger generation, especially from the 1960s on.79 Be it in the Soviet Union or in East-Central Europe, one can clearly observe a “gradual erosion of traditional military-based models of masculinity celebrated and supported by the regime,”80 and historians have shown that the generational conflict over male role models was first and foremost directed against norms associated with veteran masculinity. Neither Stalinist ideals of masculinity nor military masculinity provided adequate models for the younger generation of the 1960s, which, combined with limited opportunities for public engagement and the decline of male authority within the family, led to a period of “searching”81 and a perceived “lack” of male role models in late socialism.82 Increasing concerns about men's health, their risk behavior, alcoholism, and higher mortality rates enticed several observers and scholars to declare a “crisis” of masculinity under late socialism.83 This idea of a “crisis”—though open to criticism when used as an analytical tool—certainly reflected individual anxieties and subjective perceptions of change, which were often seen as being provoked by socialism and women.84 Historians have shown how this “crisis,” that is, the perceived “emasculation” or “demasculinization,” contributed to male engagement in alternative and dissident public spaces.85 Less often, however, historians have linked the male re-appropriation of a (dissident) public space with the beginning of masculinist tendencies in late-socialist Eastern Europe, aiming at a “re-naturalization” of the societies and, thus, of the gender order. “The claim of demasculinization stereotyped traditional gender roles” and led to what Anna Rotkirch called an “anxious masculinization.”86 And Peggy Watson added that liberty at the turn from late socialism to postsocialism was not only perceived in political terms, but also as liberty to live “traditional” or “natural” gender arrangements.87 This trend toward a re-naturalization of the gender order and an “aggressive re-masculinization” of postsocialist societies has been confirmed by scholars studying the impact of the transition from planned economy to market economy in the early 1990s.88

Magali Delaloye contributes to this research about masculinities in late socialism in an original way. The Soviet-Afghan War, as Delaloye shows, was an opportunity for at least some men—in her case study, in particular, male military doctors—to reaffirm their authority, paternal position as protectors of the weaker, and thus their masculinity. They contributed to challenging the stereotype of that period that Soviet men were weak, emasculated, and lacking responsibilities. On the contrary, they reproduced typical traits of military masculinity, considering combat, courage, and self-discipline as essentially “male” features.89 This reproduction of traditional gender stereotypes, however, did not contribute to renewing the ideal of a military masculinity more generally. Quite the contrary, the Soviet-Afghan War was accompanied by a considerable decrease in the army's prestige and in its perception “as a pillar of society and educator of Soviet citizens.”90


Masculinity studies represent a very dynamic and interdisciplinary field of research. This Special Forum builds upon this research and at the same time aims to go beyond it. It resulted from the assessment that there is growing interest in the history of masculinities under socialism, but that this research is often dispersed. Therefore, two international workshops, organized at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris, in 2017, and at the University of Bern, in 2020, preceded this publication.

The written outcome is not intended to be a comprehensive inventory of all the existing work done in this field; it can deal with a few topics only. Others remain unaddressed, or not sufficiently addressed, for instance, sports, bodies, sexualities and homosexualities, religion, and alternative cultures or subcultures. The Forum's main goal is to demonstrate the fruitfulness of analyzing masculinities for a gender, social, and cultural history of state-socialist societies. The case studies presented here strengthen sociohistorical approaches toward men and masculinities under socialism by raising new questions, adopting new perspectives, and using new sources. Convinced that they will deepen our knowledge about the everyday performances of gender and masculinities in state-socialist societies, the Special Forum hopes, thus, to stimulate new research that applies critical studies on men and masculinities to Eastern Europe.


Work on the Special Forum and on this text has been made possible by an Ambizione grant of the Swiss National Science Foundation and by support of the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris. I would like to thank the participants of both workshops and the institutions that supported the workshops financially (that is, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the fund for the promotion of early career researchers of the University of Bern, and the Center for Global Studies, Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bern; the Centre d'étude des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen (CERCEC), the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), the Fondation maison des sciences de l'homme (FMSH), and the Labex EHNE. Furthermore, I would like to thank the members of the academic committees of both workshops: Alain Blum (INED / EHESS), Erica L. Fraser (Carleton University), Fabio Giomi (CNRS), Mona Claro (INED / EHESS), Pavel Kolář (University of Konstanz), Maike Lehmann (University of Cologne), Thomas Lindenberger (TU Dresden), Marianna Muravyeva (University of Helsinki), Juliette Rennes (EHESS), Julia Richers (University of Bern), Régis Schlagdenhauffen (EHESS), and Brigitte Studer (University of Bern). I am most grateful to Aspasia and, in particular, to Sharon Kowalsky for their great support in preparing this Special Forum, and I would like to thank Natalia Jarska, Sharon Kowalsky, and Amy Randall for comments on an earlier version of this text.



There is no space here to give a comprehensive review of the extremely rich literature on these issues. For good overviews, see Donna Harsch, “Communism and Women,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, ed. Stephen Anthony Smith (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2014), 488–504; Kateřina Lišková and Stanislav Holubec, “Women between the Public and Private Spheres,” in The Routledge History Handbook of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Volume 1: Challenges of Modernity, ed. Włodzimierz Borodziej, Stanislav Holubec, and Joachim von Puttkamer (London: Routledge, 2020), 183–234.


Forum “Ten Years After: Communism and Feminism Revisited,” ed. Francisca de Haan, Aspasia 10 (2016), 102–168; Forum “Is ‘Communist Feminism’ a Contradictio in Terminus,” Aspasia 1 (2007), 197–246; Nanette Funk, “A Very Tangled Knot: Official State Socialist Women's Organizations, Women's Agency and Feminism in Eastern European State Socialism,” European Journal of Women's Studies 21, no. 4 (2014), 344–360; Kristen Ghodsee, “Untangling the Knot: A Response to Nanette Funk,” European Journal of Women's Studies 22, no. 2 (2015), 248–252; Libora Oates-Indruchová, “Unraveling a Tradition, or Spinning a Myth? Gender Critique in Czech Society and Culture,” Slavic Review 75, no. 4 (2016), 919–943.


Francisca de Haan, “Continuing Cold War Paradigms in the Western Historiography of Transnational Women's Organisations: The Case of the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF),” Women's History Review 19, no. 4 (2010), 547–573.


Especially historians of the Soviet Union increasingly question the analytical framework, dividing Soviet gender policies into a “progressive” (the 1920s) and a “reactionary” period (the Stalin era). See, for instance, Anna Krylova, “Bolshevik Feminism and Gender Agendas of Communism,” in The Cambridge History of Communism, Volume 1: World Revolution and Socialism in One Country 1917–1941, ed. Silvio Pons and Stephen A. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 424–448; Amy Randall, “Gender and Sexuality,” in Life in Stalin's Soviet Union, ed. Kees Boterbloem (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), 139–166. For East-Central Europe under communist rule, this view of a “revolutionary” approach to gender, which was, in the post-Stalin era, replaced by more “traditional” policies, is still very dominant. See, among many others, Kateřina Lišková, Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–1989 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Dobrochna Kałwa, “Backlash post-stalinien en Pologne” [Post-Stalinist backlash in Poland], Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire 41 (2015), 165–174.


R. W. Connell, Masculinities, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); John Tosh, “What Should Historians Do with Masculinity: Reflections on Nineteenth-Century Britain,” History Workshop Journal 38 (1994), 179–202.


Thomas G. Schrand, “Socialism in One Gender: Masculine Values in the Stalin Revolution,” in Russian Masculinities in History and Culture, ed. Barbara Evans Clements, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Healey (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002), 194–209, here 196.


Barbara Havelková, “The Three Stages of Gender in Law,” in The Politics of Gender Culture under State Socialism: An Expropriated Voice, ed. Hana Havelková and Libora Oates-Indruchová (London: Routledge, 2014), 31–56, here 37.


Mary Fulbrook, The People's State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 141.


Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Stuck on Communism: Memoir of a Russian Historian (Ithaca, NY: Northern Illinois University Press, 2019), 78.


For first overviews, see, for instance, Alexander Wöll, “Männlichkeitsforschung in Russland und Ostmitteleuropa” [Research on masculinity in Russia and East Central Europe], in Männlichkeit: Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch [Masculinity: An interdisciplinary handbook], ed. Stefan Horlacher, Bettina Jansen, and Wieland Schwanebeck (Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 2016), 42–51; Michaela Mudure, “East European Masculinities,” in International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities, ed. Michael Flood, Judith Kegan Gardiner, Bob Pease, and Keith Pringle (New York: Routledge, 2007), 156–157; various contributions in Keith Pringle, Jeff Hearn, Harry Ferguson, Dimitar Kambourov, Voldemar Kolga, Emmi Lattu, Ursula Müller, Marie Nordberg, Irina Novikova, Elżbieta Oleksy, Joanna Rydzewska, Iva Šmídová, Teemu Tallberg, and Hertta Niemi, Men and Masculinities in Europe (London: Whiting & Birch, 2006).


Schrand, “Socialism in One Gender.”


Éva Fodor, “Smiling Women and Fighting Men: The Gender of the Communist Subject in State Socialist Hungary,” Gender & Society 16, no. 2 (2002), 240–263.


Lilya Kaganovsky, How the Soviet Man Was (Un)made: Cultural Fantasy and Male Subjectivity under Stalin (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008); Eliot Borenstein, Men without Women: Masculinity and Revolution in Russian Fiction, 1917–1929 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); John Haynes, New Soviet Man: Gender and Masculinity in Stalinist Soviet Cinema (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003); Libora Oates-Indruchová, “The Void of Acceptable Masculinity during Czech State Socialism: The Case of Radek John's Memento,” Men and Masculinities 8, no. 4 (2006), 428–450; Ewa Mazierska, Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak Cinema: Black Peters and Men of Marble (New York: Berghahn, 2008).


For the definition of the concept “hegemonic masculinity,” see especially Connell, Masculinities; R. W. Connell and J. W. Messerschmidt, “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept,” Gender and Society 19, no. 6 (2005), 829–859.


Claire E. McCallum, The Fate of the New Man: Representing & Reconstructing Masculinity in Soviet Visual Culture, 1945–1965 (De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2018), 6.


Sylka Scholz, “Everyday Socialist Heroes and Hegemonic Masculinity in the German Democratic Republic, 1949–1989,” in Extraordinary Ordinariness: Everyday Heroism in the United States, Germany, and Britain, 1800–2015, ed. Simon Wendt (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2016), 185–215; Sylka Scholz, “‘Sozialistische Helden’: Hegemoniale Männlichkeit in der DDR” [‘Socialist heroes’: Hegemonic masculinity in the GDR], in Postsozialistische Männlichkeiten in einer globalisierten Welt [Post-socialist masculinity in a globalized world], ed. Sylka Scholz and Weertje Willms (Berlin: Lit, 2008), 11–35.


Connell and Messerschmidt, “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept,” 846.


I have developed this argument in Peter Hallama, “Questioning Gender Stereotypes under Socialism: Fatherly Emotions and the Case of Single Fathers,” in Gender and Power in Eastern Europe: Changing Concepts of Femininity and Masculinity in Power Relations, ed. Katharina Bluhm, Gertrud Pickhan, Justyna Stypińska, and Agnieszka Wierzcholska (Cham: Springer, 2020), 209–225.


Victoria E. Bonnell, Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); Borenstein, Men without Women; Helena Goscilo and Yana Hashamova, eds., Cinepaternity: Fathers and Sons in Soviet and Post-Soviet Film (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010); Haynes, New Soviet Man; Kaganovsky, How the Soviet Man Was (Un)made; György Kalmár, Formations of Masculinity in Post-Communist Hungarian Cinema: Labyrinthian Men (Cham: Springer, 2017); Mazierska, Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak Cinema; Oates-Indruchová, “The Void of Acceptable Masculinity”; Alfred Thomas, The Bohemian Body: Gender and Sexuality in Modern Czech Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007).


See John Tosh, “The History of Masculinity: An Outdated Concept?” in What Is Masculinity? Historical Dynamics from Antiquity to the Contemporary World, ed. John H. Arnold and Sean Brady (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 17–34.


Katherine Verdery, “From Parent-State to Family Patriarchs: Gender and Nation in Contemporary Eastern Europe,” in What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 61–82, here 69–70.


Victoria E. Bonnell, “The Iconography of the Worker in Soviet Political Art,” in Making Workers Soviet: Power, Class, and Identity, ed. Lewis H. Siegelbaum and Suny Ronald Grigor (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994), 341–375; Rainer Gries and Silke Satjukow, eds., Sozialistische Helden: Eine Kulturgeschichte von Propagandafiguren in Osteuropa und der DDR [Socialist heroes: A cultural history of propaganda figures in Eastern Europe and the GDR] (Berlin: Links, 2002); Padraic Kenney, Rebuilding Poland: Workers and Communists, 1945–1950 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), 237–286.


Erica L. Fraser, “Yuri Gagarin and Celebrity Masculinity in Soviet Culture,” in Gender, Sexuality, and the Cold War: A Global Perspective, ed. Philip E. Muehlenbeck (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2017), 270–289.


Scholz, “Everyday Socialist Heroes”; Holger Brandes, “Hegemonic Masculinities in East and West Germany (German Democratic Republic and Federal Republic of Germany),” Men and Masculinities 10, no. 2 (2007), 178–196.


Sylka Scholz, Männlichkeit erzählen: Lebensgeschichtliche Identitätskonstruktionen ostdeutscher Männer [Telling masculinity: Biographical identity constructions of East German men] (Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot, 2004), 165–186.


Diane P. Koenker, “Men against Women on the Shop Floor in Early Soviet Russia: Gender and Class in the Socialist Workplace,” The American Historical Review 100, no. 5 (1995), 1438–1464, here 1447.


Mark Pittaway, “Retreat from Collective Protest: Household, Gender, Work and Popular Opposition in Stalinist Hungary,” in From the Vanguard to the Margins: Workers in Hungary, 1939 to the Present, ed. Adam Fabry (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 121–155, here 125.


Wendy Goldman, Women at the Gates: Gender and Industry in Stalin's Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).


Malgorzata Fidelis, Women, Communism, and Industrialization in Postwar Poland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), especially chapters 2 and 4; Koenker, “Men against Women”; Jill Massino, Ambiguous Transitions: Gender, the State, and Everyday Life in Socialist and Postsocialist Romania (New York: Berghahn, 2019), 140–194; Ivan Simic, Soviet Influences on Postwar Yugoslav Gender Policies (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 99–104; Susan Zimmermann, “Gender Regime and Gender Struggle in Hungarian State Socialism,” Aspasia 4 (2010), 1–24.


On the remodeling of the communist family immediately after the Russian Revolution, see Wendy Z. Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917–1936 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). Valuable contributions to the history of the socialist family are, among others, Donna Harsch, Revenge of the Domestic. Women, the Family, and Communism in the German Democratic Republic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007); David L. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917–1941 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 88–117.


Basile Kerblay, “Socialist Families,” in A History of the Family: The Impact of Modernity, ed. André Burguière, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Martine Segalen, and Françoise Zonabend (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996), 443.


See, for instance, Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, Small Comrades: Revolutionizing Childhood in Soviet Russia, 1917–1932 (New York: Routledge, 2001), especially 50–62.


Zhanna Chernova, “The Model of ‘Soviet’ Fatherhood: Discursive Prescriptions,” Russian Studies in History 51, no. 2 (2012), 35–62; Sergei Kukhterin, “Fathers and Patriarchs in Communist and Post-Communist Russia,” in Gender, State and Society in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia, ed. Sarah Ashwin (London: Routledge 2000), 71–89.


Verdery, “From Parent-State to Family Patriarchs,” 65.


Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 143.


Mie Nakachi, “Gender, Marriage, and Reproduction in the Postwar Soviet Union,” in Writing the Stalin Era: Sheila Fitzpatrick and Soviet Historiography, ed. Golfo Alexopoulos, Julie Hessler, and Kiril Tomoff (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 101–116; Mie Nakachi, “N. S. Khrushchev and the 1944 Soviet Family Law: Politics, Reproduction, and Language,” East European Politics and Societies 20, no. 1 (2006), 40–68.


Helene Carlbäck, “Lone Motherhood in Soviet Russia in the Mid-20th Century—in a European Context,” in And They Lived Happily Ever After: Norms and Everyday Practices of Family and Parenthood in Russia and Eastern Europe, ed. Helene Carlbäck, Yulia Gradskova, and Zhanna Kravchenko (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2012), 25–46; Helene Carlbäck, “Lone Mothers and Fatherless Children: Public Discourse on Marriage and Family Law,” in Soviet State and Society under Nikita Khrushchev, ed. Melanie Ilic and Jeremy Smith (London: Routledge, 2009), 86–103. For a similar case study, showing the impact of socialism on single mothers within the context of demographic changes after the war, see Elizabeth D. Heineman, What Difference Does a Husband Make? Women and Marital Status in Nazi and Postwar Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).


Greta Bucher, “Stalinist Families: Motherhood, Fatherhood, and Building the New Soviet Person,” in The Making of Russian History: Society, Culture, and the Politics of Modern Russia, ed. John W. Steinberg and Rex A. Wade (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2009), 129–152, here 136.


Verdery, “From Parent-State to Family Patriarchs,” 69; Mazierska, Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak Cinema, 83–130.


Mazierska, Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak Cinema, 90–110; McCallum, The Fate of the New Man, 8.


Schrand, “Socialism in One Gender,” 203.


Amy E. Randall, “Soviet and Russian Masculinities: Rethinking Soviet Fatherhood after Stalin and Renewing Virility in the Russian Nation under Putin,” The Journal of Modern History 92, no. 4 (2020), 859–898, here 864.


Marko Dumančić, Men Out of Focus: The Soviet Masculinity Crisis in the Long Sixties (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021), 15.


Deborah A. Field, Private Life and Communist Morality in Khrushchev's Russia (New York: Peter Lang, 2007).


Randall, “Soviet and Russian Masculinities,” 860 and 867.


Amy E. Randall, “‘Abortion Will Deprive You of Happiness!’ Soviet Reproductive Politics in the Post-Stalin Era,” Journal of Women's History 23, no. 3 (2011), 13–38; Yuliya Hilevych and Chizu Sato, “Popular Medical Discourses on Birth Control in the Soviet Union during the Cold War: Shifting Responsibilities and Relational Values,” in Children by Choice? Changing Values, Reproduction, and Family Planning in the 20th Century, ed. Ann-Katrin Gembries, Theresia Theuke, and Isabel Heinemann (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018), 99–122. See also Yuliya Hilevych, “Abortion and Gender Relationships in Ukraine, 1955–1970,” The History of the Family 20, no. 1 (2015), 86–105.


Agata Ignaciuk, “No Man's Land? Gendering Contraception in Family Planning Advice Literature in State-Socialist Poland (1950s–1980s),” Social History of Medicine 33, no. 4 (2020), 1327–1349.


Helene Carlbäck, “Fatherly Emotions in Soviet Russia,” Baltic Worlds 10, no. 1–2 (2017), 20–29; Hallama, “Questioning Gender Stereotypes under Socialism”; Peter Hallama, “Struggling for a Socialist Fatherhood: ‘Re-Educating’ Men in East Germany, 1960–1989,” East European Politics and Societies 34, no. 4 (2020), 817–836; Natalia Jarska, “Men as Husbands and Fathers in Postwar Poland (1956–1975): Towards New Masculine Identities?” Men and Masculinities, March 2020 (online first),; Jill Massino, “Something Old, Something New: Marital Roles and Relations in State Socialist Romania,” Journal of Women's History 22, no. 1 (2010), 34–60; Randall, “Soviet and Russian Masculinities.”


For the earlier lack of targeting men in their domestic responsibilities, see, for instance, Tricia Starks, The Body Soviet: Propaganda, Hygiene, and the Revolutionary State (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), especially 95–134.


Brendan McElmeel, in this issue. For questions of socialist marriage, gender equality, and sexuality, see Dagmar Herzog, Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 184–219; Josie McLellan, Love in the Time of Communism: Intimacy and Sexuality in the GDR (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Kateřina Lišková and Gábor Szegedi, “Sex and Gender Norms in Marriage: Comparing Expert Advice in Socialist Czechoslovakia and Hungary Between the 1950s and 1980s,” History of Psychology 24, no. 1 (2021), 77–99.


Paula A. Michaels, Lamaze: An International History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Ema Hrešanová, “The Island of Alternatives: Power, Medical Science, and ‘Gentle Birthing’ in Socialist Czechoslovakia,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 73, no. 1 (2017), 73–95; Ema Hrešanová, “The Psychoprophylactic Method of Painless Childbirth in Socialist Czechoslovakia: From State Propaganda to Activism of Enthusiasts,” Medical History 60, no. 4 (2016), 534–556; Peter Hallama, “‘Are We Afraid of Fathers in the Delivery Room?’ Experiments in Obstetrics in Late Socialist Czechoslovakia,” in After Utopia: Czechoslovak Normalization between Experiment and Experience, 1968–1989, ed. Christiane Brenner, Michal Pullmann, and Anja Tippner (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, forthcoming).


See, for instance, Martine Mespoulet, “Travail domestique et construction du socialisme en URSS d'après les enquêtes de budget-temps” [Domestic work and the construction of socialism in the USSR according to time-budget surveys], Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire 41 (2015), 21–40.


See, however, Barbara Klich-Kluczewska, Family, Taboo and Communism in Poland, 1956–1989 (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2021), 157–201; Marianna Muravyeva, “Bytovukha: Family Violence in Soviet Russia,” Aspasia 8 (2014), 90–124; Brian LaPierre, “Private Matters or Public Crimes: The Emergence of Domestic Hooliganism in the Soviet Union, 1939–1966,” in Borders of Socialism: Private Spheres of Soviet Russia, ed. Lewis H. Siegelbaum (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 191–207; Sharon A. Kowalsky, “Transforming Society: Criminologists, Violence, and Family in War and Revolution,” in Russia's Home Front in War and Revolution, 1914–22. Book 2: The Experience of War and Revolution, ed. Adele Lindenmeyr, Christopher Read, and Peter Waldron (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2016), 343–363; Isabel Marcus, “Wife Beating: Ideology and Practice under State Socialism in Hungary, Poland and Romania,” in Gender Politics and Everyday Life in State Socialist Eastern and Central Europe, ed. Shana Penn and Jill Massino (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 115–132; Luciana M. Jinga, “Comrade First, Baba Second: State Violence against Women in Communist Romania,” History of Communism in Europe 8 (2017), 63–86.


See, for instance, Agnieszka Kościańska, Gender, Pleasure, and Violence: The Construction of Expert Knowledge of Sexuality in Poland (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2021), especially 159–184.


Katalin Fábián, ed., Domestic Violence in Postcommunist States: Local Activism, National Policies, and Global Forces (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010); Janet Elise Johnson, Gender Violence in Russia: The Politics of Feminist Intervention (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009).


Eva Schäffler, Paarbeziehungen in Ostdeutschland: Auf dem Weg vom Realzum Postsozialismus [Couple relationships in East Germany: On the way from real socialism to post socialism] (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017), 103–104.


Edward D. Cohn, “Sex and the Married Communist: Family Troubles, Marital Infidelity, and Party Discipline in the Postwar USSR, 1945–64,” The Russian Review 68, no. 3 (2009): 429–450.


Jane Freeland, “Behind Closed Doors: Domestic Violence, Citizenship and State-Making in Divided Berlin, 1969–1990,” (PhD diss., Carleton University, 2015), 18 and 73–117.


The history of alternative youth cultures under socialism, for instance, has attracted some attention. See, among others, Mark Edele, “Strange Young Men in Stalin's Moscow: The Birth and Life of the Stiliagi, 1945–1953,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 50, no. 1 (2002), 37–61; Rodger P. Potocki, “The Life and Times of Poland's ‘Bikini Boys,’” The Polish Review 39, no. 3 (1994), 259–290; Katherine Lebow, “Kontra Kultura: Leisure and Youthful Rebellion in Stalinist Poland,” in Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc, ed. David Crowley and Susan E. Reid (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010), 71–92.


Juliane Fürst, Stalin's Last Generation: Soviet Post-War Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 270.


Eric D. Weitz, “The Heroic Man and the Ever-Changing Woman: Gender and Politics in European Communism, 1917–1950,” in Gender and Class in Modern Europe, ed. Laura L. Frader and Sonya O. Rose (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 311–352, here 313.


Karen Petrone, “Masculinity and Heroism in Imperial and Soviet Military-Patriotic Cultures,” in Russian Masculinities in History and Culture, ed. Barbara Evans Clements, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Healey (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), 172–193; Catherine Merridale, “Masculinity at War: Did Gender Matter in the Soviet Army?” Journal of War & Culture Studies 5, no. 3 (2012), 307–320.


Steven G. Jug, “Red Army Romance: Preserving Masculine Hegemony in Mixed Gender Combat Units, 1943–1944,” Journal of War & Culture Studies 5, no. 3 (2012), 321–334; Steven G. Jug, “Militarizing Masculinities in Red Army Discourse and Subjectivity, 1942–1943,” Masculinities: A Journal of Identity and Culture 3 (2015), 189–212.


Barbara Evans Clements, Bolshevik Women (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 175–176.


Anna Krylova, Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Krylova, “Bolshevik Feminism.”


Jug, “Red Army Romance,” 323. Kerstin Bischl, “Telling Stories: Gender Relationships and Masculinity in the Red Army 1941–45,” in Women and Men at War: A Gender Perspective on World War II and Its Aftermath in Central and Eastern Europe, ed. Maren Röger and Ruth Leiserowitz (Osnabrück: Fibre, 2012), 117–133; Kerstin Bischl, Frontbeziehungen: Geschlechterverhältnisse und Gewaltdynamiken in der Roten Armee 1941–1945 [On the front: Gender relations and the dynamics of violence in the Red Army, 1941–1945] (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2019), especially 169–185 and 222–240.


Erica L. Fraser, Military Masculinity and Postwar Recovery in the Soviet Union (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).




Amir Weiner, “The Making of a Dominant Myth: The Second World War and the Construction of Political Identities within the Soviet Polity,” The Russian Review 55, no. 4 (1996), 638–660.


See, for instance, Gries and Satjukow, Sozialistische Helden.


Robert Dale, “‘Being a Real Man’: Masculinities in Soviet Russia during and after the Great Patriotic War,” in Gender and the Second World War: Lessons of War, ed. Corinna Peniston-Bird and Emma Vickers (London: Palgrave, 2017), 116–134, here 130; Robert Dale, “‘No Longer Normal’: Traumatized Red Army Veterans in Post-war Leningrad,” in Traumatic Memories of the Second World War and After, ed. Peter Leese and Jason Crouthamel (Cham: Springer, 2018), 119–141; Mark Edele, Soviet Veterans of the Second World War: A Popular Movement in an Authoritarian Society, 1941–1991 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 26–28.


Dale, “‘Being a Real Man,’” 127. Claire E. McCallum, “The Return: Postwar Masculinity and the Domestic Space in Stalinist Visual Culture, 1945–53,” The Russian Review 74, no. 1 (2015), 117–143.


Fraser, “Yuri Gagarin and Celebrity Masculinity.”


Edele, Soviet Veterans, 55–58; Anna Krylova, “‘Healers of Wounded Souls’: The Crisis of Private Life in Soviet Literature, 1944–1946,” The Journal of Modern History 73, no. 2 (2001), 307–331.


Beate Fieseler, “The Bitter Legacy of the ‘Great Patriotic War’: Red Army Disabled Soldiers under Late Stalinism,” in Late Stalinist Russia: Society between Reconstruction and Reinvention, ed. Juliane Fürst (London: Routledge, 2006), 46–61, here 49.


Frances Bernstein, “Prosthetic Manhood in the Soviet Union at the End of World War II,” Osiris 30, no. 1 (2015), 113–133.


Dale, “‘Being a Real Man,’” 124. For the importance of work on the perception of disability before the war, see Frances Bernstein, “The History of Disability during Stalinism,” in Life in Stalin's Soviet Union, ed. Kees Boterbloem (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), 115–137.


Claire E. McCallum, “Scorched by the Fire of War: Masculinity, War Wounds and Disability in Soviet Visual Culture, 1941–65,” The Slavonic and East European Review 93, no. 2 (2015), 251–285; Krylova, “‘Healers of Wounded Souls.’”


Fraser, Military Masculinity; Fürst, Stalin's Last Generation, 275.


Wojciech Śmieja in this issue.


See Marko Dumančić's analysis of the “cinema of searching”: Dumančić, Men Out of Focus, 217.


Oates-Indruchová, “The Void of Acceptable Masculinity”; Dietlind Hüchtker, “Gender, Youth and Popular Culture During Socialism: The Polish Example,” in Imaginations and Configurations of Polish Society: From the Middle Ages through the 20th Century, ed. Yvonne Kleinmann, Jürgen Heyde, Dietlind Hüchtker, Dobrochna Kałwa, Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, Katrin Steffen, and Tomasz Wiślicz (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2017), 313–334; Dietlind Hüchtker, “Traktoristinnen, Rockstars und der polnische James Dean: Die Performativität popkultureller Geschlechterbilder in der Volksrepublik Polen” [Female tractor drivers, rock stars, and the Polish James Dean: The performativity of pop cultural gender images in the People's Republic of Poland], L'Homme 29, no. 1 (2018), 87–105.


Elena Zdravomyslova and Anna Temkina, “The Crisis of Masculinity in Late Soviet Discourse,” Russian Studies in History 51, no. 2 (2012), 13–34.


Rebecca Kay, Men in Contemporary Russia: The Fallen Heroes of Post-Soviet Change? (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006).


One has to add, however, that the way the history of dissent in late socialism has been written is almost exclusively male-focused, casting, thus, mainly male dissidents as agents and heroes of this history. For a gender perspective on dissent, see Padraic Kenney, “The Gender of Resistance in Communist Poland,” The American Historical Review 104, no. 2 (1999), 399–425; Claudia Kraft, “Paradoxien der Emanzipation: Regime, Opposition und Geschlechterordnungen im Staatssozialismus seit den späten 1960er-Jahren” [Paradoxes of emancipation: Regime, opposition, and gender orders in state socialism since the late 1960s], Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History 3, no. 3 (2006), 381–400,; Claudia Kraft, “Die Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen: Die Rolle der Kategorie Geschlecht in den Demokratisierungsprozessen in Ost- und Westeuropa seit 1968” [The simultaneity of the non-simultaneous: The role of the gender category in the democratization processes in Eastern and Western Europe since 1968], L'Homme 20, no. 2 (2009), 13–30; Anna Muller, “Masculinity and Dissidence in Eastern Europe in the 1980s,” in Gender in 20th Century Eastern Europe and the USSR, ed. Catherine Baker (London: Palgrave, 2017), 185–200.


Anna Rotkirch, The Man Question: Loves and Lives in Late 20th Century Russia (Helsinki: University of Helsinki, 2000), 267–272.


Peggy Watson, “The Rise of Masculinism in Eastern Europe,” New Left Review 198 (1993), 71–82, here 71–72.


Lynne Attwood, “The Post-Soviet Woman in the Move to the Market: A Return to Domesticity and Dependence?” in Women in Russia and Ukraine, ed. Rosalind Marsh (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 255–266.


Andrew Bickford makes a similar point in studying the renewal of military masculinity in the late GDR as an attempt to resist the society's “demasculinization.” Andrew Bickford, “The Militarization of Masculinity in the Former German Democratic Republic,” in Military Masculinities: Identity and the State, ed. Paul R. Higate (Westport: Praeger, 2003), 157–173.


Maya Eichler, Militarizing Men: Gender, Conscription, and War in Post-Soviet Russia (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 15–34.

Contributor Notes

Peter Hallama is a research fellow at the University of Bern, where he is principal investigator of a research project entitled “Socialist Fatherhood: Revolutionary Visions of the Future Family and Everyday Life in 20th-Century Europe,” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. His publications, including two monographs and an edited volume, concentrate on the contemporary history of East Central Europe, Holocaust memory, the history of communism, and gender history. ORCID: 0000-0001-5081-3825.


The International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women's and Gender History