Gender and War in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe
Publication Year: 2006
This volume explores the role of gender on both the home and fighting
fronts in eastern Europe during World Wars I and II. By using gender as a category
of analysis, the authors seek to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the
subjective nature of wartime experience and its representations. While historians
have long equated the fighting front with the masculine and the home front with the
feminine, the contributors challenge these dichotomies, demonstrating that they are
based on culturally embedded assumptions
about heroism and sacrifice. Major themes include the ways in which wartime experiences challenge traditional gender roles; postwar restoration of gender order; collaboration and resistance; the body; and memory and commemoration.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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While attending a conference celebrating women’s history in eastern Europe in Minsk, the capital of post-Soviet Belarus, in autumn 1999, we began contemplating projects worth pursuing as a group of committed gender historians. Taking a break from the conference, we visited the nearby museum dedicated to the Great Fatherland War that was replete with gender connotations. Together with...
1. Introduction: Gender and War in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe
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The essays in this collection grow out of two fundamental questions: What does it mean to “gender the front”? And why it is particularly fruitful to bring gender to the front in twentieth-century eastern Europe? At the most basic level, gendering the front means deconstructing the notion that wartime heroism is exclusively masculine. More generally, gendering the front means defining war as a historical subject...
part one: challenging gender roles/restoring order
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2. “Female Generals” and “Siberian Angels”: Aristocratic Nurses and the Austro-Hungarian POW Relief
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In the course of World War I enemy forces captured an estimated 2.77 million Austro-Hungarian soldiers.1 This astonishingly high number constituted about one third of the 8.32 million men mobilized by Austria-Hungary during the war, and about 11 percent of the total male population of the Dual Monarchy.2 The great majority of these prisoners—2.11 million—were captured by Russian...
3. Civilizing the Soldier in Postwar Austria
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Among ads for prosthetic limbs, gravestone engraving services, training courses for returning soldiers, and artificial glass eyes (“indistinguishable from the real thing”), we find an ad in an Austrian newspaper from 1919 that reads: “Civilize yourselves.”1 Der Invalide, the newspaper running the ad, carried many articles and announcements of interest to Austria’s returning soldiers, the...
4. Between Red Army and White Guard: Women in Budapest, 1919
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“It was like a plague of locusts had devastated the place. Consumed and exhausted, the town lay on the rubbish heap,” wrote Dezső Kosztolányi of the Hungarian capital Budapest in the late summer of 1919.1 Since the end of the World War in October, the city had indeed suffered a great deal: two revolutions (one democratic, the other soviet), a flu epidemic, Romanian occupation, a...
part two: gendered collaborating and resisting
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5. Dumplings and Domesticity: Women, Collaboration, and Resistance in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
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This chapter examines the work of a Czech women’s organization active during World War II, looking particularly at its efforts to show housewives how best to cook meals during a time of shortages and rationing. My analysis of these “kitchen politics” will show how living in an occupied territory changed the character of everyday tasks, bringing the moral choices of the war into the lives...
6. Denouncers and Fraternizers: Gender, Collaboration, and Retribution in Bohemia and Moravia during World War II and After
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In the wake of World War II, Czechoslovakia sent investigators to occupied Germany in search of war criminals on the lam. Among the hundreds of suspects extradited over the next several years, one stood out not for her wartime crimes, but for her prewar fame. Along with SS and Gestapo officers, the captured included the femme fatale of interwar Czech film, L
7. Family, Gender, and Ideology in World War II Latvia
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Latvia won its independence after World War I, with the defeat of Germany and the fall of tsarist Russia. World War II, however, brought this independence to an end. On 23 August 1939, Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop signed a nonagression agreement. Significantly for Latvia, the secret provisions added to the...
part three: Remembering War: Gendered Bodies, Gendered Stories
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8. Kosovo Maiden(s): Serbian Women Commemorate the Wars of National Liberation, 1912–1918
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Shortly after the end of World War I and the unification of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes into one kingdom, the Serbian National Women’s Union invited the representatives of fifty women’s organizations from throughout the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (hereafter Yugoslavia) to attend a meeting in Belgrade, the nation’s capital. Convening in September 1919, the...
9. Women’s Stories as Sites of Memory: Gender and Remembering Romania’s World Wars
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The two major European wars of the past century (1914–1918 and 1939–1945) were intensely personal events. The direct experience of these ravaging conflicts encompassed entire populations, civilians and soldiers, and the full territory of the countries engaged in the war, through combat and/or occupation. This is certainly the case in Romania. Yet the official memory of the two world wars...
10. The Nation’s Pain and Women’s Shame: Polish Women and Wartime Violence
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When disaster struck the Polish nation in September 1939, its members had a historical narrative and national mythology to provide meaning to the new calamity. The Nazi and Soviet occupations seemed to parallel the partitions of the late eighteenth century, after which the Polish nation endured 123 years of foreign domination. Linking their loss of statehood to their Christian beliefs, Poles...
11. “The Alienated Body”: Gender Identity and the Memory of the Siege of Leningrad
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Leningrad during World War II, a “city front” where it was possible to travel to the front lines by urban tram, constitutes a particularly rich site for an examination of gender identity during wartime. Not only did the war disrupt traditional gender roles; in the besieged, starving city, bodies lost the visible signs of sex differences. Blockaded for almost three years, subject to German bombing...
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 13 b&w photos, 1 index
Publication Year: 2006