Soviet Heroines and Public Identity

Choi Chatterjee


The decade of the 1930s is a notoriously diffi cult period for the historian to approach with an “objective” perspective. On the one hand, the observer has to constantly grapple with the moral caveats inherent in dealing with Stalinism; on the other, Soviet culture in the 1930s was in a profound state of fl ux. This sociopolitical fl uidity makes it diffi cult to trace enduring cultural myths that span the continuum of Stalinist ideology.The Stalinist revolution had a decisive impact, not only on the material status of Soviet women, but on the state discourse reserved for them. During the 1930s the narrative structures and symbolic imagery used to represent Soviet women in the public sphere underwent important modifi cations. Perhaps the most prominent feature in the process of reimaging public female identity was the creation of Soviet heroines. Heroines were feted and lavishly promoted by the media in a language peculiarly overladen with Stalinist hyperbole. The process of heroicization, to coin a cumbersome noun, lay at the epicenter of the Stalinist discourse about women and served as a legitimizing myth in a society of uncertain social values and cultural forms.

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