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Trapped between State and Society: Women's Liberation and Islam in Soviet Uzbekistan, 1926-1941

From: Journal of Women's History
Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 1998
pp. 20-44 | 10.1353/jowh.2010.0552

Abstract

Abstract:

The Soviet campaign for the liberation of women in Uzbekistan consisted of two major components. The first was freeing women from Muslim social and religious strictures. The second was moving large numbers of women into the new agricultural and industrial workforce. This article focuses on the method and results of the first component. The Communist Party attempted to destroy by administrative fiat arranged marriage, bride-price, the marriage of young girls to adult men, the seclusion of women from public life, polygyny, and other customs. While the Soviets made significant changes in women's status, particularly among the educated classes, in the end they failed to stamp out any of the traditional practices they had campaigned against. The liberation effort, while claiming to help Uzbek women, instead bound them in a terrible dilemma. Women found themselves caught between obeying the government, remaining loyal to their families, communities, and customs, and trying to realize their own desires in a bewildering sea of new opportunities. Ultimately, thousands of women became victims of the very forces claiming to help them.