Section 4b: Women and the family USSR 1917-1991

Between 1917 and 1940, what role did women play in Soviet art?
A supporting role
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What's an example of this?
The Stalin-era statue "Worker and Kolkhoz Woman" (1937)
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What does this statue depict?
Two figures, a male factory worker and a female collective farm worker
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What does the difference in role between men and women represent?
The difference in role between men and women
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What did Lenin believe about urban workers and peasants?
While both played an important role in the overthrowing of capitalism; urban workers played the decisive role
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What does this reflect about Soviet attitudes towards women?
The Soviet government believed that men played the primary role in society
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What did Civil War posters depict?
Male soldiers; women tended to be either mothers or children
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What does this indicate about Soviet women?
They were expected to be maternal rather than fight or work on the front line of building socialism
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How did the propaganda change during the Second World War?
Celebrated the vital female work during the war
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What did the poster "The Motherland is Calling" depict?
A woman as the symbol of the Russian nation
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However, how else were women presented by wartime propaganda?
As vulnerable and in need of male protection
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What was an example of this?
A woman nicknamed "Tanya" who was beaten, tortured and mutilated by the Germans
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What did Soviet propaganda link?
Defending the motherland with defending Soviet women; in order to encourage men to fight
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Who became symbols of the absolute sexual equality after the war?
Girl-warriors were a feature of top-level speeches
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Who was Valentina Tereshkova?
The first woman in space
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What did the head of the Soviet space programme refer to Tereshkova as?
"Nothing less than Yuri Gagarin in a skirt"
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Why was Tereshkova considered a heroine?
Born on a Soviet collective farm, yet through Soviet education and industry became the first female cosmonaut
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What was ongoing at the same time?
Campaigns against women who adopted Western fashion
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What happened under Brezhnev?
Propaganda became more traditional
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What led to yet more traditionalism in the mid-1970s?
A falling birth rate led to a pronatal campaign by Brezhnev
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What did this campaign stress?
Natural differences between the sexes
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What did Brezhnev's propaganda blame working women for?
Working women were responsible for juvenile delinquency, rising crime, drug taking, alcoholism and family breakup
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By 1955, what proportion of the Soviet workforce were women?
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What issues still faced women in the workplace?
Promotions for women were rare; there were significant inequalities in pay
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During the Civil War, what did Zhenotdel recruit women for?
To fill jobs in nursing and food distribution
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What did Alexandra Kollontai believe?
This reflected a natural division in labour; men should fight and women should be nurturing
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What happened at the end of the Civil War?
Women were sacked so that men could take their places in industrial jobs
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What happened under the NEP?
Female prostitution was widespread
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During the 1920s, how many men were estimated to have used prostitutes?
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How many women worked in industry in 1928 (the last year of the NEP)?
Only 3 million women worked in Soviet industry
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What was this figure by 1940?
13 million
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By 1940, what percent of workers in heavy industry were women?
41% of workers in heavy industry
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What issues still faced women in labour?
Significant pay differentials; women doing the same job were only paid 60-65% of what a man was paid
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At the same time, what did the Soviet government recognise?
The importance of women in industry
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What did they do as a result?
Increase the number of places in higher education and technical education from 20% in 1929 to 40% in 1940
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What percentage of the workforce did women make up in some towns?
Up to 75% of the workforce
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What did women tend to be restricted to after the war?
Production line work in light industry; heavy manual labour (both of these were low-skilled)
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Amongst the high-ranking jobs, what proportion of factory foremen were women between 1959 and 1965?
Less than 1%
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What did women tend to work in in the towns?
Clerical positions
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What was the BAM?
The Baikal-Amur Mainline which connected the Russian Far East
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Why did Brezhnev want to recruit women to go there?
He knew the male workers would need female company
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Who did Brezhnev aim to recruit?
Urban women in their mid-20s
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What were the women promised if they worked on the BAM?
Bamovkas would have the pick of the men
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What were bamovkas expected to be?
Delicate, caring and feminine
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What did the BAM campaign emphasise?
The status of Soviet women; they were expected to be independent and equal, but in a way that served the interests of men
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By the 1960s what did women make up?
Half of the Soviet Union's graduates
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By 1985, what percentage of medical doctors were women?
70% of medical doctors were women
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What were the pay scales in these "feminised" industries?
They were lower than in factory management, which was dominated by men
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What was the "triple shift" of women in the countryside?
They provided agricultural labour on farms; were responsible for household chores; engaged in handicraft to supplement the household income
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What was an example of one profession in which women could achieve a high social status?
Female tractor drivers could earn a high wage
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How much had the proportion of female tractor drivers risen by?
During the NEP, there were only eight female tractor drivers; by 1940 there were 50,000
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However, what proportion of rural women were tractor drivers?
Less than 0.5%
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What did this mean for most women?
They did unskilled jobs; had little wealth or social status
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What were women recruited to work as in the Virgin Lands?
Milkmaids; gardeners; to start families
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Who did government officials want to recruit?
Girls, young women of around 25, rather than older women
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Who was turned down for the scheme?
Single women over the age of 26; single mothers
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What did women in the Virgin Lands tend to do?
The lowest paid and most demanding jobs
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Of the 6400 women recruited in August 1958, how many found work in well-paid, professional jobs?
Fewer than 450
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What cultural clashes affected the lives of women in the Virgin Lands?
Women from Moscow complained about the conditions as they were used to a far more comfortable life in the capital
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What horrified local women?
The immorality of the women from Moscow who enjoyed dancing and singing Western songs
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What often happened to female farm workers in the Virgin Lands?
They were often subjected to sexual abuse and ****
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What was supposed to make women's lives easier?
The mechanisation of farming
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What prevented this?
The scarcity of machinery
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What else?
Men tended to be given priority in terms of access to the machines
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By 1983, what percentage of farm work was unmechanised?
Around 65% of work on farms
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What left women over-represented in the lowest paid jobs?
Men left collective farms to get jobs in factories
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By 1970, what percentage of the lowest paid farmers were women?
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What limited professional opportunities?
The prejudice that women played a nurturing role rather than a leadership role
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What reflected this?
By 1980, 80% of teachers in rural schools were women
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What percentage of farm managers were women?
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By 1945, how many women had served in combat roles?
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How were female fliers initially regarded?
With disdain by their male counterparts
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Who was Lydia Litvyak?
Shot down 12 German planes before being killed in combat
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What suggests that women had the respect of their male colleagues?
Reports of sexual harassment were rare
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However, what happened after the war?
Many soldiers went on to have long careers in the military, whereas women were demobilised and denied entry to Soviet military academies
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How were government jobs distributed?
Women tended to work in the Commissariat of Social Welfare and Education; male Party members worked in the government departments dealing with the economy or the military
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In 1918, what percentage of delegates to the Party Congress were women?
Only 5%
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What was the general trend during the earliest years of communist rule?
Women's participation in politics stagnated
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What can be used as evidence of this?
Around 10% of Party members in 1918 were women; by 1928 that figure was 12%
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What were female party members expected to do in the early years?
Employ nannies so that they could continue with their political work
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How had this changed by the 1930s?
Women were expected to be exemplary wives and mothers
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What was the "Wife Activist" movement?
Women were encouraged to give up work and join the Wife Activists movement
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What did Wife Activists do?
Helped to organise nurseries; engage in charity work; supervise factory canteens
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From 1953, what was women's role in Soviet politics?
A slightly larger role; yet still focus on political work that concerned health, social services and education
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Where did women make up a significant proportion?
In the soviets
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Why did this not have much of an effect?
The soviets made up a very small proportion of Soviet government
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What was female participation in the Party in 1956?
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What was female participation in the Party in 1983?
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What percentage of the Central Committee were women?
Only 4%
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What can be said about this?
Increased participation of women in the workforce and an increasingly educated female population did not lead to a rise in the proportion of women in government
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How did Alexandra Kollontai view the family?
She believed that the family was an oppressive social organisation
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What did she advocate replacing it with?
Communal living and free love
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For Kollontai, what did the family encourage?
Selfishness and individualism
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What was Lenin's view on marriage?
Lenin was critical of free love; however he recognised the abuses that went on in traditional marriage and the need to reform laws
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What was Zhenotdel?
A Soviet organisation that aimed to protect women's rights
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What did Zhenotdel do in education?
Established women's reading rooms in urban centres where women could study
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What did Zhenotdel do to ensure women were represented at all levels of education?
Enforced quotas
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What can be used as evidence of the success of this?
By 1930; 28% of university students were women: compared to 12% in Germany and 20% in Britain
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What rights did women have from 1919?
Right to equal pay for equal work; equal voting rights
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What reproductive rights did women gain?
Soviet Union was the first country to introduce a legal right to abortion on demand
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What was "postcard divorce"?
One partner could end a marriage simply by sending a letter or postcard telling their partner that the relationship was over
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What did this reflect?
The government view of marriage; it was a simple contract that could be dissolved simply and easily by either husband or wife
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What made these rights largely meaningless?
Soviet law courts had very little real authority
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What made legal and political equality meaningless?
Democracy was suspended in mid-1918 and effectively abolished in 1921
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What meant that divorce was a curse in disguise?
Men made use of the new divorce rights to divorce women as soon as they became pregnant
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What happened between 1917 and 1928?
70% of divorces were initiated by men
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What had happened by 1925?
Experiments with communal living had ended
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What was this replaced by?
The 1926 Marriage Code
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What was contained within the 1926 Marriage Code?
Reflected belief in the traditional family; made adoption easier; gave men and women who were living together the same rights as married couples
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What was not a crime in the USSR?
Sexual harassment
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What did this mean?
Zhenotdel was unwilling to help women who were victims of sexual harassment
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What happened under the NEP?
Gov't did not fund creches or day care facilities
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What developed as a result?
Street gangs, groups of children who had lost their parents in the Civil War lived through petty crime
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How did Trotsky describe the period during the 1930s?
As "the Great Retreat"
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Why did Stalin bring in conservative policies?
They were designed to create a stable society that put all its energies into industrialisation
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What was Stalin's key aim?
Increase birth rates and cut divorce rates
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What new policies were brought in?
Abortion was criminalised unless the life of the woman was in danger; male homosexuality was criminalised; divorce was made expensive and difficult to obtain
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What happened following divorce now?
Fathers were expected to pay a minimum of one-third of their income to their former wives to support their children
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How did Stalin's pronatalist policies work?
Women with seven children received 2000 roubles a year for seven years
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What was this accompanied by?
State campaigns criticising men who abandoned themselves to lives of "wildness, degeneracy and baseness"
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How did the role and status of women change under Khrushchev?
Khrushchev wanted women to continue with their traditional roles; yet he wanted to make these roles easier
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What was one example of a women's magazine that existed by 1956?
Woman Worker
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What did women's magazines tend to carry?
Carried articles exposing the inequalities that existed in Soviet society, particularly the poorly paid jobs and the double shift
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Why were women becoming an increasing focus of Khrushchev's government?
The proportion of women in society had risen as a result of the deaths of men in the Second World War
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How much had the proportion of women in society risen by?
From 52% in 1939 to 55% in 1959
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What legal changes did Khrushchev make to the lives of women?
In 1955 legalised abortion; increased state paid maternity leave
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What economically did Khrushchev aim to achieve?
The Seven-Year Plan aimed to eliminate the double shift by introducing convenience foods and mass produced clothing
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What else did the Seven Year Plan aim to do?
Make refrigerators more widely available; ending the need for daily shopping trips
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What issues still faced women?
Contraception remained hard to acquire; some employers refused to recognise the new maternity leave entitlements
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What was published in 1959 to help women deal with domestic chores?
"A Short Encyclopaedia of Housekeeping" to help women deal with their domestic role
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What did the government under Brezhnev officially proclaim?
Sexual equality had been achieved
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How were the lack of women in the most senior jobs in industry, agriculture, and government explained?
Women's "natural" desire to focus on their families
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What did the government ban?
Information about women's campaigns from the west prompting debates about women's role in the USSR
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What was sexual morality like?
It was strict: male homosexuality was a crime; lesbianism was a mental disorder and sex was about making babies rather than pleasure
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What did the government do to address inequalities in domestic labour?
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


What's an example of this?


The Stalin-era statue "Worker and Kolkhoz Woman" (1937)

Card 3


What does this statue depict?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


What does the difference in role between men and women represent?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


What did Lenin believe about urban workers and peasants?


Preview of the front of card 5
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