What are the Women's Political and Social Roles in Post-Soviet Russia?


The main trends in the transformation of the post-soviet Russian society have led to the gradual integration of social equality, social justice and tolerance principles as well as the intensification of the interaction of cultures, including the gender aspect. The gender disparity and asymmetrical unfolding perspectives of demographic changes in the post-soviet Russian society contribute to the development of new gender-oriented projects in the social and political spheres, taking into account the skills of women and men as well as the effects of changes in gender projections. The current situation in the gender culture of the post-soviet Russian society needs to be updated by scientific discourse and undergo the development and refinement of the relevant issues of sociology in order to obtain the construction of new perspectives on the problem.


The essential research question the paper is aimed at answering is what role women play in the social and political areas of the post-Soviet Russian society.

This paper hypothesizes that as soon as the USSR has been destroyed, the processes in political and social life of the post-Soviet Russian society changed. These changes resulted in the fact that women obtained more freedom and tended to develop themselves in various social and political directions in order to show that they were not worse than men. Thus, the role of women in post-Soviet Russia had become more significant.  

Background of the Issue

The relevance of studying the social and political role of women is determined by the dynamic penetration of women in the sphere of economy, the emergence of new social cohorts of “women in politics” and “women's business.” This increases the scale of activity and participation of women in business, social, and political spheres. The phenomenon of the gender specificity of the post-soviet Russian society and culture is that a woman is known to be the head, the leader, the entrepreneur, who possesses a high potential and is capable of becoming a generator of social and political development. However, women are faced by a skeptical society, and in order to overcome their own gender stereotypes it is necessary to show that they are not worse than men. 

In addition to this, this topic is of an importance because a study of gender helps explain many public problems and make recommendations to address them. This issue will serve as a new relationship between the genders in society. The research can help evaluate women's personal strategy in the post-soviet Russian society. Moreover, the study of the social role of women in gender specificity is a necessary condition for scientific analysis of the trends of gender culture as a whole. The study of this problem is an urgent task of sociology of gender relations. This topic has been chosen due to the fact that in the conditions of transformation of the post-soviet Russian society, there appeared an objective necessity of scientific understanding and detailed consideration of the theory and practice of the gender changes that occur in the field of politics and leadership of the post-soviet Russian society.

Literature Review

Currently, the constantly undergoing changes in society and culture, show that the “women's issue” is extremely actualized. The status of women depends on the situation in the society, on how quick and successful is a socio-cultural reform and reform of the legal aspects of life of secular development began in the family institution. The role and status of Russian women changed over time. The most significant changes in society have occurred during the post-soviet period. The genuinely equal status of women in society is hindered by various social stereotypes and religious restrictions. Nevertheless, the society leads a secular life, where equality of rights between men and women enshrined in the constitutions of various countries and women are included in the socio-cultural and political society. They have a right to express personal views, opinions, beliefs and access to education, but the situation of women remains largely ambivalent. This shows the necessity of studying the already conducted investigations on the women's role in social and political fields of post-Soviet Russia. The investigations which have been included into the Literature Review Section are the most recent cases and are characterized by the analytical approach to the problem.

According to the investigation that has been conducted by Coleman, Edmond, and Sandfort, women are not interested in traditional roles like marrying a wealthy man and having full comfort. Inspired by feminism and a desire for more importance, women want to be the organizers of their lives and value personal independence very highly. They are not ready to sacrifice their achievements for the sake of the family. However, at the same time they suffer from loneliness. This is the main contradiction for the younger generation of women. This means that women still tend to get higher education in order to be self-fulfilled. This idea singled out by Coleman, Edmond, and Sandfort is strongly supported by Etkind who has a conviction that this had served as the essential reason for the post-Soviet women to be more engaged into the social and political life of Russia.  

In addition to the opinion presented by Coleman, Edmond, and Sandfort and Etkind, Ljubownikow, Crotty, and Rodgers believe that, in modern Russia, there has been a new and booming trend which stimulated the growth of the roles of women – women's emancipation. At the same time, it is not the aggressive feminism that struck America and some European countries, but rather a change of priorities, as Ljubownikow, Crotty, and Rodgers mention. There was a completely new type of Russian women: a “woman in business” regardless of the type of activity. This type of women, as Ljubownikow, Crotty, and Rodgers note, are usually about 36 years old; they are married and have children. Interestingly, women with traditional family values appear to be more successful in business than single ones. Most often, they are working in the field of medium-sized businesses, have higher education and are constantly striving to improve its level. They, as Coleman, Edmond, and Sandfort and Ljubownikow, Crotty, and Rodgers agree, have profile education, mainly economic or humanitarian. In most cases, it is their own business, political affairs, social activity, or enterprise managers. They are characterized by high social mobility, generation of new ideas, entrepreneurial spirit. They are usually very busy at work and engaged in the solution of business, social, or political problems even after hours. These problems, obviously, lead to the transformation of the roles women are expected to play within the new Russian society. 

Social regulation of the women's role, as Hemment mentions, is influenced by the information function of gender culture as a continuous flow of foreign culture information that is considered a collection of signs, symbols and values. Due to the early periods of a woman's gender identity, gender definition remains unconscious for people, affecting the further choices and goal-setting women make. In their investigation, Nashi, Youth Voluntarism, and Potemkin NGOs, Hemment provides a clear understanding of how women's lifestyle had been changed after the USSR ceased to exist. The author states that in the context of the transformation of Russian society, women's careers have become an urgent problem. Under such conditions, career advancement regardless of the area of the woman's expertise is a way of achieving the desired social status. A professional career presupposes the result of the behavior that is associated with the competency growth, the distribution of power roles, and includes the personal aspect of activity of her official and professional advancement. 

Salmenniemi and Adamson find that Hemment's interpretation reveals a hierarchy of factors affecting social and political lives which impact the professional careers of women. Along with this, Salmenniemi and Adamson state that, in order to succeed in political or social role, a post-Soviet Russian woman is expected to have a wide range of skills. These skills, in the authors' point of view, comprise of psychological (the charm, friendliness), business (professional, performance, persistence, integrity) and communication (activity, ability to establish communication, communicative) skills. Salmenniemi and Adamson conclude that, in course of this formation of a professional career, women are largely limited to gender relations in society.

An interesting point of view can be found in the work by Marsh. In his investigation, The Concepts of Gender, Citizenship, and Empire and Their Reflection in Post-Soviet Culture, the author concluded that a post-Soviet Russian a woman cannot afford to have one social role only, whether it is a mother or a business woman. The most appropriate is a combination of a number of status positions, roles, and relations within the family and within society as a macro-institution. A modern woman seeks to orchestrate and successfully implement the social roles that are important and interesting to her. 

Another point of view towards how women in post-Soviet Russia changed and what roles they play can be found in the investigation by Duiker and Spielvogel. The radical socio-cultural transformation of the institute of family is still in its first phase, as the authors believe. Furthermore, the authors make an emphasis on the fact that the change of women's role in post-Soviet Russia had influenced the demographic indicators such as the state of marriage and family relations in the sphere of relations between spouses, distribution and achievement of status-role positions.

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The position of Duiker and Spielvogel is supported by Johnson and Saarinen and Katz and Pallot. All of the authors agree on the fact that intensified gender asymmetry of the labor market and upward social mobility have become the lot of many of today's women and have stimulated the growth of the women's desire to struggle and succeed after the fall of the USSR. In this regard, Johnson and Saarinen and Katz and Pallot have a conviction that there was a revaluation of the family as a social institution, the importance of its problems and needs that are necessary and appropriate to meet the family. Thus, the status and roles of women are changing not only by the external socially determined conditions, but also because of the internal processes of development. 

Gerber and Radl seem to continue the thoughts of Johnson and Saarinen and Katz and Pallot and state that it is also significant to pay attention to the common social space in contemporary gender stereotypes in the investigated problems such as the transformation of a status and/or a role and position of women in the institute of family and marriage, political and social activity. In recent years, Gerber and Radl claim, under the influence of a rapidly growing Western culture, the social, political and family roles of women had undergone significant changes. Therefore, transforming statuses and roles of modern women appears as a quite objective factor around which the gender stereotypes originate and distort reality, corresponding to the reality of the position of women in society.


The research is based on the analysis of sociological studies on the problems of Russian social situation of the post-Soviet women, the statistics on the employment of women, and the secondary analysis of a number of sociological and political studies on certain aspects of the problem. Thus, the methods applied in the paper are documentary and archival research and the use of existing statistics. The process of literature search was not difficult due to the fact that the problem of the women's political and social roles in the post-Soviet period Russia has already been studied by a certain number of investigators. The only obstacle for the current investigation consisted in Russian lifestyle understanding and the way women behaved in the conditions of the USSR's fall. In general, the research of this topic cannot be characterized as full of difficulties and provides a concise insight into the formation of the women's political and social roles in post-Soviet Russia. The tools of research included searching for appropriate articles and book in the scientific databases, which are dedicated to the political and sociological fields of human activity.

Findings and Discussion

The investigation found that the problematical social role of women in the post-soviet Russian society is due to the contradiction between the socio-cultural gender stereotypes of masculine and feminine characteristics of a person and arise from the leadership potential of women after the fall of the USSR. The role of gender conflicts arises on the grounds of time constraints and discrimination against women in the field of management, increasing in times of crisis periods of social development.

The stable material status in most cases is provided by a man – the husband, the head of the family. However, this factor serves as a pushing mechanism for a woman to achieve her independence and take more and more active roles in political and social areas of post-Soviet Russia. Finally, in spite of the widespread educational services and a growing range of professional self-realization, a modern woman prefers the creation of a family, birth and educating her children a wife, a mother, and a homemaker.

On this basis, the socio-cultural change in the status-role position of women is mainly affected by families. These desires of a woman are refracted in its value orientations, which are currently characterized by increasing complexity and diversity. In spite of this, the traditional status-role position of women in political and social areas in post-Soviet Russia remains dominant, creating an atmosphere of favorable development and self-realization of the female identity in contemporary social reality.

When discussing the problem of the social and political roles of women in the post-Soviet Russian society, it is significantly important to pay attention to the Soviet past and ideology. The Soviet government and its leaders were aware of the need to attract women to their side. The interests and needs of women of the working classes were presented as common to all the oppressed people and diametrically opposed the interests of oppressed minorities. Contradictions also existed between men and women of the working classes and especially between different groups of women, belonging to the class of the oppressed (women workers, wives of the workers, peasant women, domestic workers, etc.). Women from other estates – merchant class, the nobility, the clergy and intellectuals – were declared to be as the so-called alien class and have not had any political rights. The whole tone of the party applications during post-revolutionary years, despite the overall orientation of liberation, put women in the position of "the recipient of the gifts" of liberators, not self-aware of their own role as liberators.

When enhancing the social and political participation of women it was thought of as a natural transition to achieve a comprehensive political literacy and political engagement. The need for women's education in the spirit of communism and bringing them to socialist construction led to the creation of women's departments at party committees. Raising the political consciousness of women and instilling in them the habit of action in the public sphere was tasked to women's departments at various levels. Women's departments and their activists participated in the creation of committees who helped the sick and wounded of the Red Army. 

After the Civil War, they participated in the fight against hunger and devastation, organized voluntary work, public canteens, orphanages, and boarding schools. At the initiative of women's departments decrees on the family, legal, marital and property status of women were adopted. In fact, it meant an active women's participation in the work of the departments of social welfare, labor, education, health. Initially, there were women's departments in the cities only. Then, their activities were extended to the village, where the women were promoting economic growth and educating farmers. The work of women delegates has motivated thousands of women to try their hand in the implementation of government functions. In turn, this activity could not have an impact on the representation of women and their surrounding social reality. Activities focused on women in their familiar field and, despite giving them the functions of national importance, were not comparable to the tasks of defense, finance, industrial production, and ideology, which were still run by men. Thus, it founded a tradition that persists to this day. All these premises of the Soviet education pushed the post-Soviet women to liberation and instilled a desire of leadership in them. 


The research, which is based on an analysis of a number of empirical studies, outlines a set of socially desirable characteristics of a woman, showing a social and political order for the gender of the post-Soviet and modern Russian society. Hence, it is possible to note that all of the gender stereotypes that emerged in the post-Soviet Russian society are, to some extent, responsible for the real situation in modern society. However, it should be emphasized that, based on the these stereotypes, it is impossible to reflect the social portrait of status-role positions of the post-Soviet woman and her political and social role. The education of women and their professional activities do not project a major factor in limiting their family roles and positions in marriage. The birth of children in the family is conditioned by the desire to create a strong and reliable unit of society and lay the foundation for decent education of the younger generation. It is also less dependent on the professional position and role of women in society. Most women, acording to the data posted in the reviewed articles, recognize the value of having a family, career, and professional self-realization.  Thus, the active social and political role of women in the post-Soviet Russian society has been determined by the historic circumstances and the essence of the soviet epoch, as well as by the desire to to overcome gender stereotypes which have existed in the society of that time.

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