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Matriarchy in USSR

home | back to Russian article: "Matriarchy in USSR"

1917 - 1955
"Working class has made the most resolute upheaval in legislation concerning women since initial months of Soviet power existence. There is no remain of anything in laws that can put women in subordinated position in Soviet republic."

(V. I. Lenin. "About the tasks of women's workers' movement in Soviet republic". The speech to the IVth Moscow all-city non-party conference of women-workers on September 23, 1919. V. I. Lenin. Complete works. 4th ed., vol. XXX, p. 23.)

Poster "We shall overcome the kitchen servitude!"
They told about equality of sexes at that stage. They confessed that earlier male sex occupied privileged position (though, it was fraud, a husband never actually totally dominated in a family in Russia, despite some patriarchal laws). Speech of the leader of ruling communist party to "women's movement" conference (that was simply well-known "feminism") showed that soviet power "from the first months of its existence" without any doubt had declared itself as a feministic power.

Female position in society, family, matriarchy were always a matter of great concern for communists (Marxists). Female position in capitalist and in future socialist societies were investigated in profound work "The origin of a family, private property and a state" by F.Engels, in famous "Manifest" by K.Marx- F.Engels. Large part of Engels' work "The origin of a family, private property and a state" was an investigation of theories of family rule, and matriarchy was a matter of special interest. Revolutionary communists obviously considered feminism as a mean for family rule change, thus they could change all society. Social revolution was only the first step in society transformation.

Some other steps are examined in this article.

Article 122th of the Constitution of USSR (1936) fixed women and men up with equality of rights. This article stated that

"women's rights were made equal to men's rights in all spheres of economic, political, cultural and social life. Possibility of their realization was provided under giving women an equal to men rights for labor and its payment, for leave, for social insurance, for education, for state protection of motherhood and childhood, for monetary help solitary mothers and mothers with many children, for women's payable pregnancy holidays, for the network of maternity hospitals and baby-gardens".

"Long live the women enjoying equal rights in USSR!" Poster, 1938. Note the mannish image and "Cossack" hairstyle of the woman to the right.

"Fascism is the most cruel enemy of the women". Poster by N.N.Vatolina, 1941

Practically in this article of Stalin's Constitution they told not only about equal rights, but also about establishment of female sex privileges. It was spoken about motherhood and childhood protection, about help solitary mothers, but it was not spoken about fatherhood and childhood protection, it was not spoken about help solitary fathers. It had no any relation to rights' equality. Protective tone of the article was excessive: ordinary men in USSR had no possibility to made any attempt on "women's labor, its payment, leave, social insurance and motherhood and childhood" in condition of completely state property and regime that made any person a screw in machine.

Declarations did not remain the mere words. Women had equal electoral rights, equal access to education, to governmental and electoral posts. Women worked in industry, science, where they were paid for their labor the same pay that men of equal qualification were paid. Legislation in USSR did not allow any discrimination of women. Feminine organizations functioned in the country, while male organizations did not exist.

One of the articles of Constitution proclaimed the next immutability: "Article 123. Equality of people of USSR regardless of their nationality and race in all areas of economic, state, cultural and political life is immutable law.
Any direct or indirect restriction of rights or, on the contrary, determination of direct or indirect advantages of the people in dependence on their race and nation, as well as any sermon of race or national uniqueness, or hate and contempts - are punished by the law."

However, Constitution spoke about equality of sexes rather dryly: equality of sexes was mentioned either in connection with electoral rights only or in strange provocative tone of protection the women from the men. And any direct or indirect restriction of rights or determination of advantages of the people in dependence on their sex flourished in USSR. After investigation of legal and practical aspects of the question, any independent observer should conclude that it was male sex that suffered from discrimination.

In sex and family question, the policy of ruling party in USSR was subjected to fluctuations. Feminism, family weakening (aiming to almost total substitution of family by commune living) and promiscuity in 1920s. Tendency to return to traditional "bourgeois" family in 1930s. That tendency was brightly described and blamed by L.Trozki in book "Betrayed revolution" (L.Trozki was expelled from the USSR in 1929). They even partly limited the liberty of abortion in 1936. But what never subjected to fluctuations was the policy directed to improvement of female dominant position in family, female social privileges, discrimination of male and heavy conditions for male. So there was matriarchy and not feminism in USSR. (Feminism declares equality of sexes.)

The Edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of USSR in 1944 established the honorable rank of Mother-heroine, the order of Maternal glory and the medal of Motherhood.

Sexual segregation and apartheid thinking had taken so deep root in soviet society that it made possible to create the poster titled "Fascism is the most cruel enemy of the women" by one of female-artists. The poster was issued in the days of the Great patriotic war of 1941-1945 when one could expect the unity of all the people. It is impossible to imagine a poster titled "Fascism is the most cruel enemy of the males".

1955 - 1990

The book "Health of a woman" ("Medicine" publishing-house, Moscow, 1964) under editing of prof. O.V.Makeeva, published in distant soviet years, reports:

"One of the most humane resolutions is the Edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of USSR ... "About canceling the prohibition of abortion", which saved woman the harm of out-of-hospital abortion and gave woman a possibility to settle questions of motherhood by herself."

The date of this edict publishing (November 23, 1955) seems to be the beginning of mature matriarchy period.

Matriarchy has to be understood as public formation, where woman occupies ruling position in a family (a primary cell of society). Usually position in family is accompanied by the same position in other spheres of society. Though, it does not mean that woman always occupies top posts in special branches like management of enterprises and government. Strange situation was widespread in USSR: husband was a big chief at his work, but every time he returned back to his home he became a "boy beck and call" for his wife. Also, pro-feminine government and top management work in behalf of women despite its sexual structure. Regulations and ideology determine its work. As we know, those regulations are pro-feminine in socialist states.

In USSR, the government established matriarchy. Matriarchy based on full material and legal independence of women. Before 1955 the state defined what sex would receive a material help directed for family support, the state freed the woman from the need to get full family. And in 1955 soviet state excused a woman from need to ask her husband's opinion in such key-moment as life of infant conceived together. Life and death of infant became dependent on wife's desire; and statistics of USSR showed that USSR occupy the 1st place in the world in amount of abortion. Thus soviet state showed that it had been considering man a secondary place in household family life. That was not a single action providing woman's domination in a family life, but as the most bright expression of the efforts the Edict of 1955 deserves the exclusive estimation. Further weakening of links between husband and wife in weak soviet family inevitably became the one of the effects of the Edict; it knocked down the institute of the family.

Governmental abortion support had denuded hypocrisy of the state, it allowed to understand the price for its care about childhood protection. Sincerity of its care about women also raised doubts. What if this care was simply a use of women for men suppression? If so, women played the role well.

There was a "Committee of women and family, motherhood and childhood protection" in soviet parliament (the Supreme Soviet of USSR). All keywords (woman, family, motherhood, child) were gathered in its title, which expressed evident association of a family with a woman. There were no only words "father", "man" or even "parenthood". Terminology of defense calls attention. Soviet woman and her guardian government always felt themselves surrounded by enemies. Enemies probably were men.

Association of a family with a woman was so strong that a ceremony of registration of a marriage was executed only by female-officers. (This registration constituted all the wedding ceremony in USSR and was executed in special government body; men were eliminated from this body). The state obviously showed who was a symbol of a marriage to couples.

Code of labor laws forbade female labor usage in those works, which could render harmful influence on woman's organism. It is impossible to put in here the list of all women's privileges at work because of its enormous volume (see it in Russian). Privileges involved payment and regime. For instance: feminine labor was forbidden in night time, the upper limit of loads to rise was fixed on 16 kg. Night time work was not forbidden for the men, the man's limit of loads to rise was much higher. Women's privileges in connection with pregnancy were particularly extensive.

Nobody can explain why feminine sex was deprived of happiness of military service in epoch of officially proclaimed equality of sexes. Only young soviet men had a duty of "temporary" (interim) compulsory service in the army (that means violent recruiting for 2-3 years term of private soldiering). Article 132 of soviet Constitution stated: "General soldierly duty is a law. Soldierly service in rows of Armed Powers of USSR is the honorable duty of citizens of USSR". But even now feminism of ex-soviet states strangely forget about women's right (and duty!) for "temporary" military service.

From the definite moment, the equality of women rights in USSR became to be understood as female waiver of heavy duties and making only men responsible for most heavy duties.

In above-given examples we can see manifestation of the matriarchy in non-family society spheres, because the liberation from heavy duties is a privilege, which is available only for dominating society groups. Matriarchy means women's domination in family and society, and subordination men to women. Subordination can be seen in facts of unequal position, discrimination. Domination can be seen in facts of privileges. So we give examples of discrimination and of unequal position of male sex in this article. We find it useless to focus only at such matriarchy characteristics like matrilineality, matrilocality etc.

We made analysis of family legislation at Russian version of this page. It showed evident existence of matrilineality in USSR and in modern ex-USSR societies. That analysis would be difficult for foreign reader, it relates to special fields of soviet life (laws, behavior and modes of acting). So we omited it.

Millions of men in USSR lived in matriarchal society and did not guess about the fact.

Technology of matriarchy installation (or consolidation?) consists of constant proclamation of female position improvement need. They simultaneously ignore the fact that female position is actually much better than the men's one. Some objective indicators can help to define the type of society.

1. Woman is fully emancipated in a family. She has work and she is independent from her husband. She can divorce anytime. State lends family support through hands of woman, amounts of money are given not to husband, but to wife.

Did it exist in USSR? Yes!
Statistic reports that women constituted 51% of all employee in 1987 in USSR. Only in 1952 Soviet state paid 6,355,000,000 roubles as mothers' allowance. The state paid fathers nothing.

2. Wife and not husband makes decisions on important questions of family life, property and budget.

Did it exist in USSR? Yes!
For example, wife makes a deal in a real estate bargain (for example selling a flat) in most CIS families. Knowledge of this fact can make negotiation of a buyer and a seller easier. It is important to understand that husband in such negotiations means nothing, though he can be active and participative. But finally everything will be done as wife decides.

Soviet town street, 1960s.
Wife keeps in hand nothing but her husband-servant

3. Wife is dressed better than her husband. Wife defines the route of family walk and limits her husband's talks to his acquaintance fellows met at streets.

Man has to vacate a seat in public transport for a woman coming into salon of the bus with fully busy places. If a man hesitates a woman can aggressively demand to give the seat in to her. Such cases were widely spread in USSR. That was not a matter of politeness or personal sympathy. Such behavior of a man was obligatory and was ordered by official propaganda. It reflected public hierarchy. Woman was a senior to man, and women strictly kept an eye on observance of this principle in public transport.

Wide-spread picture of husband carrying bags for wife also illustrates subordinated to women position of men in USSR. Actually a family man was turned into a servant of his mistress-wife.

4. In the process of divorce women obtain children in 90% of cases. Former husband practically never is able to obtain children, his will is ignored in courts. This situation discovers existence of benefit in the right for children in matriarchal society.
Did it exist in USSR? Yes!

5. All heavy work in society is laid on men's shoulders. Men's heavy duties are not accompanied with privileges. In the contrary, women have plenty of privileges and light duties. They live in another world - and they live at the average for 7-13 years longer than men of the country live.
Did it exist in USSR? Yes!

Despite this, women retire at the age of 55, men retire at 60. Taking into consideration the difference in life expectancy for different sexes, male sex pay by its pension insurance more for women than for men.

6. Women constitute more than 50% of employees, most of them are employed at light and well-paid office work. Men are employed at heavy industry, transport etc.
Did it exist in USSR? Yes!

7. A cult of Mother had been formed in USSR, they always praised her in governmental media. Man and husband were rarely mentioned. There was the day of women (the 8th of March) which was a holiday. The day of men (the 23th of February) was not a holiday and it was combined with a day of Soviet Army.

8. Nobody spoke about rights of men, about their problems, but rights of women and their problems were always a matter of great concern. "Men rights" were forbidden words. They stay so now.

9. Since 1960s amazing sight has been seen in newly erected memorial complexes dedicated to USSR's victory in the Great War of 1941-1945. Giant figures of aggressive woman with a sword appeared in the center of those sculpture groups, though women never participated that war and before 1960s a sculpture of man-soldier always was situated at the central place of memorials. The next two photos illustrate the progress of matriarchy:

Treptov park, Berlin, 1949 Mamaev kurgan, Stalingrad (Volgograd), 1967

10. Women occupied high managing posts in soviet state. In 1985 - 1990 woman V.Shevchenko occupied the post of Chairman of Presidium of Supreme Soviet of Ukrainian SSR. Since 1975 she had been a vice-chairman of Presidium of Supreme Soviet of Ukrainian SSR. Another example is a woman J.Nasriddinova who occupied consecutively the post of chairman of Presidium of Supreme Soviet of Uzbek SSR and then the one of two highest posts in Supreme Soviet of USSR.

Except official political power, there was unofficial one. The most known event was the wife of M.Gorbachov Raisa. She was openly written and spoken about as conductress of her husband, the president of USSR at critical moment of existence of the country.

Communist party and its ideology was a branch of European socialism. Communism was connected with Marx, Engels and their group in XIX c. (the first International). Another branch of socialism was so called democratic parliamentarian socialism (liberalism), which was represented by Bernstein, Kautski, Lassal, Zetkin etc. (the second International). (Smaller branches of socialism were nation-socialism, anarchy etc.) All kinds of socialists had common feature: concern for "female question" that led to female dominance and destruction of traditional family of Europeans. The territory of the communist rule was USSR and its ally in XX c. Territory of parliamentarian socialism rule was the Western Europe, North America and their dependants. In sex and family question, western socialism was different from the eastern one as far as homosexual practice was concerned. It was not supported by official ideology in USSR, but it was (and is) considered to be important part of society (Bernstein works, The League of sexual reforms) in Western Europe.

We do not speak about "capitalism" because Marx did not define this word in his monograph named "Capital", so this word is only simulacra. Also, capitals always exist in any economy, where production exists, and always profit (surplus value) exists, even in socialist/communist countries.

When at our days representatives of so named women's movement debate about unequal position of women in ex-USSR, it would be useful to recall the real position, which was got to contemporary society from the times of USSR. Mature soviet society was a society of developed matriarchy, and motion to mature matriarchy was a content of soviet history since 1917.


It would be strange and new for some people that we consider modern society and analyse it. Scientists are accustomed to search matriarchy somewhere at far away islands or in Africa. We know it but we can only be surprised at their waiting for future to study our societies as a past in their academic manner.

Possibly matriarchal modern society is Israel. Its laws openly assert matrilineality and there is no need to prove and analyse anything (see article "Who is a Jew" in Wikipedia).

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