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The Family In Soviet Times

Before the Revolution of 1917 (that replaced tsarist rule with Soviet rule), arranged marriages were common and family life was heavily patriarchal. Early Soviet law reflected more egalitarian beliefs. Marriages were to be voluntary and based on mutual respect and love. On paper, men and women were given roughly equal rights. However, in reality, discrimination at work and at home continued. Though Soviet ideology and financial need led virtually all women into the workplace, few held positions of prestige or equal pay. At home, the double-shift prevailed—employed women returned home from work to a full measure of housework and little participation by their husbands (Ispa 1984; Boss and Gurko 1994).

On the positive side, important supports for families were put into place. Partially because the government wanted to increase the birth rate and partially because such practices fit with socialist ideology, liberal maternity leave policies were put into place, families with small children were paid stipends, families with three or more children were given priority access to some goods and services, and the availability of childcare centers and after-school programs was widened. At the same time, the government did little to make safe, reliable birth control available. Many women resorted to abortion (legalized in 1955) as a form of birth control.

Soviet ideology stipulated that the family existed to serve the state. In that vein, the Marriage and Family Code of 1969 promoted government oversight of important marital and childrearing decisions. Parents were to obey the prescriptions of teachers and pediatric health care providers and to foster communist morality in their children (putting the collective interest above personal concerns). Coworkers, teachers, and others who detected breaches of proper parenting strategies or marital relations were encouraged to intervene.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsRussia - The Demographic Crisis, The Family In Soviet Times, Post-soviet Legal Codes Affecting The Family