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Open access

Behind Closed Doors?

The Private Lives of the Minor Communist Party Activists in Romania, 1945–1960

Cristina Diac

This article explores the relationship between men, spousal violence, and politics in Romania in the 1950s and aims to analyze how the Romanian Communist Party (RCP), as an institution, dealt with spousal violence perpetrated by its officials. The RCP was a significant player within state socialist regime. Thus, the way the Party managed the discussed cases of spousal violence gives an idea about how gender relations functioned in reality, beyond the official discourse and the letter of the law. This article argues that spousal violence was the result of inequality within the family and a manifestation of patriarchy and male dominance. This analysis draws on files from the archive of the Committee of Party Control of the Central Committee of the RCP, which contains cases of Party members with a history of spousal violence.

Open access

Kristen Ghodsee, Hülya Adak, Elsa Stéphan, Chiara Bonfiglioli, Ivan Stankov, Rumiana Stoilova, Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild, Mara Lazda, Adrienne Harris, Ayşe Durakbaşa, Lex Heerma van Voss, Lejila Mušić, Zdeňka Kalnická, Sylwia Kuźma-Markowska, Evguenia Davidova, Tsoneva Tsoneva, Georgi Medarov, and Irina Genova

Anna Artwinska and Agnieszka Mrozik, eds., Gender, Generations, and Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and Beyond, New York: Routledge, 2020, 352 pp., £120.00 (hardback), ISBN: 978-0-36742-323-0.

Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire, 48, no. 2 (2018)

Lisa Greenwald, Daughters of 1968: Redefining French Feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement

Gal Kirn, The Partisan Counter-Archive: Retracing the Ruptures of Art and Memory in the Yugoslav People’s Liberation Struggle

Milena Kirova, Performing Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible

Andrea Krizsan and Conny Roggeband, eds., Gendering Democratic Backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe: A Comparative Agenda

Ludmila Miklashevskaya, Gender and Survival in Soviet Russia: A Life in the Shadow of Stalin’s Terror

Barbara Molony and Jennifer Nelson, eds., Women’s Activism and “Second Wave” Feminism: Transnational Histories

N. K. Petrova, Zhenskie sud’by voiny (Women’s war fates)

Feryal Saygılıgil and Nacide Berber, eds. Feminizm: Modern Türkiye’de Siyasi Düşünce, Cilt 10 (Feminism: Thought in modern Turkey, vol. 10)

Marsha Siefert, ed., Labor in State-Socialist Europe, 1945–1989: Contributions to a History of Work

Zilka Šiljak Spahić, Sociologija roda: Feministička kritika (Sociology of gender: Feminist critique)

Věra Sokolová and Ľubica Kobová, eds., Odvaha nesouhlasit: Feministické myšlení Hany Havelkové a jeho reflexe (The courage to disagree: Hana Havelková’s feminist thought and its reflections)

Katarzyna Stańczak-Wiślicz, Piotr Perkowski, Małgorzata Fidelis, Barbara Klich-Kluczewska, Kobiety w Polsce, 1945–1989: Nowoczesność – równouprawnienie – komunizmp (Women in Poland, 1945–1989: Modernity, equality, communism)

Vassiliki Theodorou and Despina Karakatsani, Strengthening Young Bodies, Building the Nation: A Social History of Children’s Health and Welfare in Greece (1890–1940)

Maria Todorova, The Lost World of Socialists at Europe’s Margins: Imagining Utopia, 1870s–1920s

Jessica Zychowicz, Superfluous Women: Art, Feminism and Revolution in Twenty-First-Century Ukraine

Open access

Comment: Socialism’s Mal(e)contents

Masculinity as Performance Art in Postwar and Late Socialism

Marko Dumančić

This article reflects on how the authors in this Special Forum collectively advance the work in the subfield of critical masculinity studies. The several significant themes emerging in this collection of articles include: persistent state intervention in gender relations, the impact of longstanding patriarchal norms, the rapidly changing postwar gender equilibrium, and the continuing significance of war and martial masculinity. Furthermore, the Special Forum illuminates the importance of micro-histories and ego-documents to the study of masculinities in Central and East Europe. Finally, by framing agency as a relational process affected by a variety of constraints, these authors’ work marks a productive forward movement for the future study of critical masculinity studies more generally.

Open access

Cosmonaut Gossip

Socialist Masculinity as Private-Public Performance in the Kamanin Diaries

Erica L. Fraser and Kateryna Tonkykh

The diaries of Nikolai P. Kamanin, a well-placed official in the early Soviet space program in charge of cosmonaut selection and chaperoning, have been an important source for historians since their publication in the 1990s. This article reevaluates the diary entries from 1961 to 1965, using the framework of gossip. The diaries’ salacious tales of infidelity, drinking, and other violations of communist morality provide cultural historians with as much insightful material as the parallel technological entries have done for historians of science and space engineering. The cosmonaut gossip that Kamanin records comprised a mix of knowledge production and moralizing that built and reinforced his self-fashioning among the Soviet elite. Furthermore, reading the diaries (a private text) through the lens of gossip (a public act) helps us see how socialist masculinity was forged in part through the specific hybridized private-public performances required of elite men.

Open access

Sharon A Kowalsky

When Peter Hallama approached the Aspasia editorial board about publishing the proceedings of a conference he was organizing on Socialist Masculinities, we jumped at the opportunity. It seemed that Aspasia, as a journal of women’s and gender history, would be the perfect venue to showcase the innovative and important historical scholarship being conducted on masculinities in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Although the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his plans and necessitated holding a virtual conference, the results that make up the contents of this volume do not disappoint. As Hallama mentions in his Introduction to the Special Forum articles, and as Marko Dumančić highlights in his concluding Comments, the works included here reflect a deep engagement with the lived experiences of men, assessed through memoirs, diaries, photographs, newspapers, and internal party documents. These articles explore some of the many and shifting masculinities constructed throughout the region during the socialist period, showing that individuals and the state constantly engaged in their negotiation and renegotiation.

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For the Father of a Newborn

Soviet Obstetrics and the Mobilization of Men as Medical Allies

Amy E. Randall

This article introduces the translated pamphlet For the Father of a Newborn by contextualizing it in Soviet medical efforts to deploy men as allies in safeguarding reproduction and bolstering procreation in the 1960s and 1970s. It examines the pamphlet as an illustration of how doctors and other health personnel tried to educate men to protect their wives’ pregnancy and the health of their wives and newborns in the postpartum period, and it considers the implications of these initiatives for women’s bodies, gender norms, sexual practices, models of masculinity, and the socialist goal of promoting women’s equality.

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From Don Juan to Comrade Ivan

Educating the Young Men of the Urals for Love and Marriage, 1953–1964

Brendan McElmeel

This article examines discussions of love and marriage in a regional newspaper of the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) in the central Urals region. Although framed around the intention to communicate official communist morality and ideals about the family, these discussions included stories and readers’ letters that expressed a range of views that could both draw on and challenge Party ideals. While scholarship has emphasized the conservative elements of communist morality and the lack of support for men in the domestic sphere, these sources point to an understanding of love as central to a man’s life and comradely partnership as fundamental to Soviet marriage.

Open access

Heal and Serve

Soviet Military Doctors “Doing Masculinity” during the Afghan War (1979–1989)

Magali Delaloye

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan can be seen as a laboratory for examining the Soviet construction of masculinity during the last decade of the USSR. Focusing on male Soviet military doctors as individuals, this article aims to present how these doctors constructed their virile presentation of self in a war situation and how they managed their position within the military community. Taking a pragmatic historical approach, the article considers the doctors through their interactions with both women and men, examining gendered practices such as “protecting weak people,” “asserting authority,” “expressing emotions (or not),” and “impressing others.” It offers a case study for the analysis of one of the many forms of Soviet military masculinity under late socialism and its place in Soviet society.

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Introduction

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

Peter Hallama

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.

Open access

Wojciech Śmieja

This article offers a contextualized analysis of disabled Polish war veterans’ memoirs published in 1971. This set of documents constitutes a remarkable source for understanding how masculinity and male corporeality are narrated and negotiated between politics, social and family lives, private and public spheres. The article focuses on the conventions and conditions of war-disability discourse production in Poland during the long sixties; it also highlights biographical tensions between appreciation of veterans’ masculinity in political discourse and their often emasculated position in social structures, families and private lives.