The Baba and the Comrade

The Baba and the Comrade

Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia
Elizabeth A. Wood
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/22/2000
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-21430-0
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Meticulously researched, impressively documented, and engrossingly written,... [it] contributes to a long-overdue reconception of the New Economic Policy (NEP)...." —Choice

... a well-organized, sophisticated analysis of the difficulties involved in attempting to reconcile ideology with political, economic, and cultural realities.: —The Russian Review

... a highly persuasive, revealing, and well-documented account of early Bolshevik policy, practice, and language pertaining to the ‘baba problem’ and the unexpected ways female and male comrades responded to the party-state’s tutelary role toward women." —Slavic Review

This is a rich and densely argued study that embeds the story of the zhenotdel in the context of the political struggles and institutional structures of this formative period of the Russian Revolution. Wood demonstrates clearly the dilemma of whether women party activists should serve the party or their constituents." —American Historical Review

Wood’s convincing work is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the gender-role traditionalism the Communists reinstitutionalized with their revolution." —The Women’s Review of Books

How could the baba—traditionally, the "backward" Russian woman—be mobilized as a "comrade" in the construction of a new state and society? Drawing on recently opened archives, Elizabeth A. Wood explains why the Bolsheviks proved unable and ultimately unwilling to realize their ideological notions of a gender-neutral society. Focusing on the creation and activities of the zhenotdel, a special women’s section within the Russian Communist Party, Wood reconstructs the ways in which notions of gender sameness and difference both facilitated and complicated Bolshevik efforts at state building during the Civil War and the New Economic Policy.

Author Bio

Elizabeth A. Wood is Associate Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:


I. The Woman Question
1. The Bolsheviks and the Genealogy of the Woman Question

II. Gender in the Context of State-Making and Civil War
2. Sharp Eyes and Tender Hearts: Passing New Legislation and Fighting the Civil War
3. Identity and Organization: Creating the Women's Sections of the Communist Party
4. War Communism at Its Height: Lobbying on Behalf of Women Workers

III. The New Threat to the Social Contract
5. The Liquidation Crisis in Zhenotdel Politics
6. The Crisis in Economics: The Social Contract Endangered
7. The New Threat: Zhenotdel Criticisms of the Social Costs of NEP
8. Daily Life and Gender Transformation