How Accurate Is It to Describe Soviet Social Policy in the 1930’s as a “Great Retreat”?

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The “Great Retreat” was the abandonment of the new communist lifestyle brought in when the Bolsheviks took power, in favour of more traditional gender roles and sexual attitudes. There is great debate over whether this turn can be regarded as a “great retreat”. The amount of women employed in industrial labour increased by 10 million from1928 to 1940, 41 percent of workers in heavy industry were women and in some cities women were over half the workforce. Pasha Angelica gained national fame as the organiser of the first women’s tractor brigade. Maria Demchanko was made famous due to her pledge to harvest four times the average yield of sugar beet. This was not a traditional gender role for women, most peasant women in pre-revolutionary Russia worked on the farms and looked after the family, middle and upper class women certainly did no manual labour but with Stalin’s abolition of the class system this changed. However there were still inequalities between women and men, women were still expected to provide unpaid childcare, run the home, produce children and educate them. Even the women who did work were paid only up to 65 percent of what men were being paid for the same job. By 1945 80 percent of collective farm workers were women, providing a more traditional role for women in manual labour. The rapid growth of industrialisation and collectivisation led to a dramatic decrease in births in the early 1930’s. The government tried to implement measures to bring the birth rate back up. Women who had more than 6 children qualified for state help. The rewards were considerable amounts of money, women with 7 children received 2,000 roubles a year for five years and 5,000 a year for women with 11 children. The Moscow registry office received four thousand applications for support within the first month of the new policy, the government proclaimed it a success. However a

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