Topic 7

Families and social policy

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Abolishing the family

  • One particularly striking attempt by the state to shape family life was the policy followed after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
  • The government of the newly formed Soviet Union sought to destroy the old pre-revolutionary patriarchal family structure, which it regarded as an obstacle to the creation of a socialist society based pn equality.
  • It changed the laws in the 1920s to make divorce and abortion easy to obtain.
  • The constitution guaranteed equality between sexes, women entered paid employment on a vast scale, and the state began to provide workplace and other communal nurseries.
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Abolishing the family

  • It was expected that the abolition of capitalist ownership of the means of production would lead to the traditional family 'withering away'.
  • However, the new Soviet state was beset by many difficulties, including civil war, famine and, after Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the threat of war with Nazi Germany. The need to industrialise rapidly and to prepare for war meant a change of policy.
  • Divorce laws were tightened, abortion made illegal, and parents encouraged to have more children and rewarded with bigger family allowances.
  • The state and media glorified parenthood, and highly fertile women were given the title of 'Hero Mother of the Soviet Union'.
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