Page 2 of 4

    The dependency on men that crippled women’s chances for independence vanished in the NEP years. In the story, “Vasilisa Malygina,” after Vasilisa separates from Volodya, and learns that she is pregnant with his baby, she concludes, “After all it should be possible to bring up a child in true communist fashion. There was no need for women to set up with husbands, in families if it merely tied them to the cooking and domestic chores” (Kollontai 175). Vasilisa also responds to her friend, saying, “I am perfectly capable of bringing up a child myself.  What do I need a husband for?” (Kollontai 181). The Bolsheviks did not challenge men to share in “women’s work,” but aimed to transfer the childcare and household tasks to the public domain (Goldman 10). The author argues that under socialism all individual household tasks are to be eliminated.  The public dining hall will replace the private kitchen. The family, in the author’s estimation, constitutes an insufficient use of labor, food, and fuel. “From the point of view of the people’s economy,” the family becomes “not only useless, but harmful,” argues Kollontai (Goldman 5). Bolshevik Party leaders began to give serious attention to the socialization of household labor.

    Public childcare centers in the 1920s became a pressing necessity. In the story, “Vasilisa Malygina,” Vasilisa responds to her friend about how she is planning to raise a child on her own. “ What do you mean on my own? Everything will be arranged perfectly, and we’ll set up a crèche,” Vasilisa exclaims to her friend, Grusha, in the story. (Kollontai 181). A crèche will relieve the mother from the double burden of work and childcare. The typical family, where the woman has no time of her own and no money of her own, is changing before our very eyes. The author, Alexandra Kollontai, predicts, “Just as housework withers away, so the obligation of parents to their children withers away… society will feed, bring up, and educate the child” (Goldman 10). Vasilisa will raise a baby for “all of us,” “a communist baby!” (Kollontai 181).  In return, the “communist baby” will grow up to become a skilled and honest worker for the new industrialized society.  The author believes that the working mother must learn to differentiate between “yours” and “mine.” She must remember that there are only “our” children, the children of Russia’s communist workers. In historical reality, childcare became tied to the need to involve women in production. Women gained the opportunity to combine motherhood and work without worrying about the welfare of their children. According to the author, a woman could give birth and then return “to the work she does for the large family-society” (Goldman 10). The number of childcare facilities expanded rapidly.  Crèches for infants increase between 1928 and 1934 from 257,000 to 5,143,400 (Goldman 314). The maternal condition for the “withering away” of the family and the liberation of women appears even more favorable.

    The second short story, called “Three Generations,” touches on the question of the new morality. In the story, the author relates the biographies of three generations of women.  The first woman, Maria Stepanovna Olshivich, leaves her husband, after living the provincial life of a regimental officer’s lady during the Imperial period. She leaves him for another man, Sergei Ivanovich, whom she loves: “Love for her was something great and sacred, she was incapable of toying with emotions” (Kollontai 186).  Prior to the Revolution, Russian law recognized religion to control marriage and divorce according to its own laws, and incorporated this right into state law. Women were accorded few rights by either the church or the state. According to the state law, a wife owed complete obedience to her husband.  The Orthodox Church considered marriage a holy sacrament that few circumstances could dissolve.


works cited