‘Soviet woman’ digital archive on trial access : the January 2021 Slavonic item of the month

The 10/1973 front cover, showing a teacher from Yakutia.

As the Electronic Collection Management team announced in this blog post, Cambridge readers with Raven accounts now have trial access to the East View digital archive of Soviet woman.

The first issue came out in late 1945.  Its introduction discussed the purpose and place of this new bi-monthly title, saying “Soviet Woman is a new illustrated literary, art, and socio-political magazine whose purpose is to deal comprehensively with the work of Soviet women in industry and their part in social, political and cultural activities.  Our magazine will study and summarize in the light of peacetime problems the experience gained by women during the war”.

The war was indeed a major focus in its first few years; the first illustration in issue 1 shows a bas-relief of the snipers Mariia Polivanova and Natal’ia Kovshova who died together at the ages of 19 and 21 respectively, blowing themselves and approaching enemy soldiers up with grenades when they ran out of ammunition.  Yet even in this first, momentous issue, the more standard aspects of a woman’s life also featured; the final section of the issue is called ‘The housewife’s corner’ where Professor “Georgi Bosset” (the Soviet botanist Georgiĭ Bosse) describes how to maximise vitamin intake in winter diets.

The magazine came out in Russian (as Sovetskai︠a︡ zhenshchina) as well as in various other languages, including English, French, and German from the start and latterly also in wide variety of languages such as Arabic, Bengali, and Chinese.  The magazine, which moved to monthly publication in the 1950s, was therefore aimed at far more than the domestic Soviet market.  The first issue itself includes a Louis Aragon poem, for example, and an article about Maya Bartel, a French Communist and Résistance member who was arrested by the Nazis and died in a camp in 1943.

The issue’s front cover, featuring a helicopter pilot who is the focus of the issue’s article ‘Swans fly south’.

Looking as an example at the issue released 50 years ago, in January 1971, its table of contents (a very useful function supplied by the East View platform) features many articles relating to international affairs and connections, such as:

  • Veterans of the international democratic women’s movement speak
  • In defence of working women’s rights
  • V.V. Giri in the USSR / Shahida Basu
  • Volgograd-Coventry / Marion Mellor
  • UNO seminar in Moscow

Cambridge has got the first few years’ worth of issues of Soviet woman in print, at the Library Storage Facility (iDiscover record here).  We do not seem to have any of the Russian original, but our holdings of Russian-language magazines have always been very patchy.  Plenty has been written about the publication, including articles that are available online such as Christine Varga-Harris’ ‘Between national tradition and western modernization‘ (2019) and Alexis Peri’s ‘New Soviet woman’ (2018).

Trial access to the Soviet woman digital archive lasts until 26 February.  Please do make use of it while access lasts and send in feedback using this form.

Mel Bach

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s