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The Return of Mother Russia

Representations of Women in Soviet Wartime Cinema

Elena Baraban

This article examines the process of symbolisation in the images of women in Soviet cinema. It argues that during the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945) many female characters served as symbolic representations of the country itself, of Mother Russia, determined to defeat the enemy and ready to endure hardships and to cope with deprivation and grief. The start of the resistance against Nazi Germany called for many more depictions of women than was typical in the thoroughly masculinised culture of the 1930s. At the same time, wartime images of women were quite abstract: they recalled posters and often relied on a symbolically charged mise-en-scène.