Women in the Red Army, 1941-1945

Lecture | November 15 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 270 Stephens Hall

 Oleg Budnitskii, Professor of History, and Director, International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences, National Research University - Higher School of Economics, Moscow

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES)

During the years of the Great Patriotic War about 500,000 women were called up to serve in the Red Army. In the Second World War, the Soviet Union was not the only country to enlist women in the military. But the Soviet experience was unique in the fact that a significant number of women served in combat units. Female pilots and snipers attained the greatest fame. Some women served as tank crew members, machine gunners, and some did other combat-related jobs. It is these women whose experiences have been studied in significant detail in a scholarly literature that focuses solely on women’s combat roles. In my paper, which is based on the analysis of diaries and memoirs by female war veterans that became available in post-Soviet period, I intend to look at the social aspects of these women’s lives during the war. The heroines of this paper faced the realities of Soviet life, which these city dwellers and students of elite universities knew only superficially. Lastly, this was a specifically female experience – an experience of young women finding themselves in a male environment.