Oleg Budnitskii Delivered a Lecture on 'Women in the Red Army, 1941-45' at European University Institute
On April 1 Oleg Budnitskii, Director of the International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences delivered a lecture on 'Women in the Red Army, 1941-45' at European University Institute in Florence.
During the years of the Great Patriotic War about 500,000 women were called up to serve in the Red Army. In the Second World War, the Soviet Union was not the only country to enlist women in the military. But the Soviet experience was unique in the fact that a significant number of women served in combat units. Female pilots and snipers attained the greatest fame. Some women served as tank crew members, machine gunners, and some did other combat-related jobs. It is these women, in particular pilots and snipers, whose experiences have been studied in significant detail in a scholarly literature that focuses solely on women's combat roles. The social, and (even more so) sexual, aspects of their lives at war have never become the subject of study. In my paper, which is based on the analysis of diaries and memoirs by female war veterans that became available in post-Soviet period, I intend to look at the social aspects of these women's lives during the war. The heroines of this paper faced the realities of Soviet life, which these city dwellers and students of elite universities knew only superficially. Lastly, this was a specifically female experience – an experience of young women finding themselves in a male environment.