Women and revolution!


According to Burcu Özdemir, whose work entitled Communist Women’s Movement in the Soviet Union: 1919-1930 (Yordam Book) was published recently, “at that time, the Soviet Union was the only country that was able to take the issue of women’s liberation beyond the legal privileges.”

The implementation of the most radical ideas on women’s issues was made possible by the union of the women’s movement with the growing workers’ movement and revolutionary activities.

The book, which consists of three chapters titled “History of Women’s Activism in Russia”, “Development of Women’s Movement in Azerbaijan” and “The Liquidation of Jenotdel and Its Consequence”, the women’s politics of the Communist Party, the establishment of Jenotdel and the ideological debates within this structure, It provides important evaluations on the effects of Jenotdel on the women’s movement in Azerbaijan and its organization there, the process leading to the dissolution of Jenotdel, the reasons for this, and Jenotdel’s contributions to the women’s movement in the Soviet Union.

The “References” at the end can be considered as a guiding guide for those who want to do more in-depth studies on these issues.


Feminism, which emerged in Europe in the 19th century, expanded its sphere of influence in Russia at the same time.

In the second half of the 19th century, when women did not have legal and political rights, their social existence was not recognized, and they did not have the right to terminate marriage, the women’s movement gained strength and reached its peak in the 20th century.

The rising women’s struggle was at the forefront in the process leading up to the 1917 October Revolution. With the October Revolution, the women’s movement broke away from the feminist movement and gained a communist content; A women’s movement was formed on the basis of the class struggle.

The Women’s Unit of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Jenotdel), which was founded by important revolutionary women such as Inessa Armand, Aleksandra Kollontay and Nadejda Krupskaya, has a critical importance in the growth of this women’s movement.

The main goal of the Jenotdel unit, which existed between 1919 and 1930, was the political, economic and social equality of women.

Although women’s participation in the economic life outside the home increased and they gained their economic independence, “obligations” such as childcare, family pressure, and housework that kept women in the home continued to exist.

To compensate for this, nurseries, cafeterias and laundries were established after the revolution; Abortion was legalized and women had access to it. (Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion.)

Communal communities were established by opposing the burden of domestic labor on women and “domestic slavery” in order to ensure the participation of women in social life.

One of the important pillars of the struggle for social equality was education. Literacy courses, political trainings and conferences were organized for women in conditions where access to education was very difficult.


Jenotdel also worked in the eastern geography of the Soviet Union and made a special effort to reach women in this region. Despite difficulties due to religious and traditional differences, Jenotdel developed special methods to reach these places.

The women’s movement was intertwined with the workers’ movement in Azerbaijan, as in Russia.

In Azerbaijan, which lived according to the social rules of Islam before the revolution, unlike Russia, the activities of wealthy and educated women in charitable societies were prominent.

Educating Muslim girls was generally the primary goal of these societies.

As in Russia, broadcasting activity was important in the organization of women. Many magazines and newspapers were making publications for women.

However, aside from the importance of these societies and publications, the growing number of women workers with the increase in industrialization and the struggle of these women played a decisive role in the emergence of the Azerbaijani women’s movement on the political scene.

From November 1920, Jenotdel spread all over Azerbaijan. Although they were organizationally affiliated with the headquarters in Moscow, the number of local personnel was substantial.

They tried to conduct their work here sensitively and carefully, taking into account the unique conditions of the region (the cultural and social traditions of the Muslims).

“Because Jenotdel was faced with religious and traditional prejudices, as well as a nationalist prejudice as a representative of a ‘foreign/different’ national identity. Therefore, reaching Azerbaijani women, most of whom live in isolation at home, has not been easy for Jenotdel activists.”


There is one point that Burcu Özdemir emphasized about this struggle: Although the freedom struggle of Azerbaijani women started long before the Soviet rule, the establishment of the Soviets gave impetus to the women’s movement here.

Legal changes made by the Soviet government included the abolition of sharia courts, the official registration of marriages, the prohibition of early marriages and polygamy, the abolition of bride price, divorce, inheritance, alimony, and the right to vote.

The emphasis on the equality of women with men was added to the constitution. Special arrangements were made for pregnant or women with children.

Another difference between Azerbaijan Jenotdel and Russia was the structuring of women’s clubs. These clubs, where men are not allowed, provided an important opportunity for Jenotdel to organize among women.

Jenotdel gave vocational courses to women in these clubs, where almost all of the management staff consists of Azerbaijani women; opened a space where they could relax and be interested in various branches of art such as music, painting and theatre.

Party propaganda was also carried out here. Jenotdel also tried to mobilize women by organizing many women’s congresses and meetings.


The struggle against chador in Azerbaijan turned into a solid state with the Soviet period. The campaign against the chaff was led by the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist Party itself; Special commissions were set up to run this campaign in party committees and party cells.

As part of this campaign, large-scale meetings were held, family gatherings, demonstrations and rallies were organized to which women and their spouses were invited.

Articles on the importance of the campaign and the class nature of the chador were also published in the publications. While doing this, it was emphasized that it was necessary to work cautiously and patiently by considering the sensitivity of the subject.

Jenotdel, on the other hand, focused on raising awareness of women and men on this issue rather than strict anti-chair policies; She argued that change should be achieved by carrying out cultural and social studies rather than legal regulations or punitive attitudes, and women’s participation in social life, production, and the Soviets should be ensured.


The anti-bed sheet campaign also caused great reactions. In particular, clergy and even some party members were seen protesting the campaign. These reactions, which were not limited to demonstrations, turned into acts of violence against women; femicides were committed.

In order to finally stop the violence, all murders committed with the motive of preventing the “emancipation of women from slavery” were included in the scope of “counter-revolutionary crimes”.


In this important work of Burcu Özdemir, “Will Jenotdel carry out the Communist Party’s propaganda among women, or will she bring ‘women’s freedom’ to the agenda by representing the word and will of women in state institutions and the party?” of the question; While conveying the debates created by these two different perspectives within the party, he also questions the role of this tension in the liquidation of Jenotdel.

This includes how women made room for themselves with their unique struggles during and after the revolution, the debates they entered with male dominance within the party, the multidimensional content of the struggle for women’s equality, their ability to transform women’s area and traditional structures through a wide variety of methods by recognizing them, and to reproduce and reproduce the forms of struggle according to changing conditions. appear in the archives of the period.

Communist Women’s Movement in the Soviet Union (1919-1930) / Burcu Özdemir / Yordam Kitap / 143 p.

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