Equality just Over the Horizon: Soviet Gender Equality in Law and Policy

In: Lithuanian Historical Studies
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  • 1 (Vilnius University)

This article presents an analysis of Soviet law on the family which was valid in Lithuania from 1940, in order to ascertain how it reflected gender equality, how (or if ) it was formed, the legal measures the state harnessed in order to create family and gender relation models in various areas of life, and what kind of family and gender policy formed as a result. The law is contextualised in this paper by immersing it in the social reality of its time. This allows us to determine what norms and provisions determined the political and legal resolutions of the Soviet authorities, and to discuss their influence on society. The two most important periods in Soviet gender policy are distinguished. Initially revolutionary and radical in Lithuania, with the aim of changing society to realise its goals, after the 1950s, state policy became more reactive, and adapted to the changed, modernised society and its needs. This paper proposes to see changes to women’s situation during the Soviet period not as emancipation, but as (double) mobilisation. The reasons for the stagnation in masculinity in Soviet law and policy, for not keeping up with or adapting to the rapidly changing social reality, are also analysed. The contradictions in Soviet policy regarding the family and gender are shown, where it proved impossible to unambiguously apply ‘conservative-liberal’ or ‘traditional- liberal’ distinctions in both policy and reality.

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