How to Be a Good Wife and Mother, Soviet-Style, I
It is curious how often ideological foes end up promoting the same beliefs and supporting the same practices. Spain’s fascist dictator Franco hated the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union responded with an equally powerful dislike. However, there are many striking similarities in the way the two regimes functioned. Franco’s dictatorship is notorious for forcing all women to undergo humiliating classes where women were taught how to be good wives and mothers. (As you can imagine, it never occurred to anybody to offer any suggestions to men on how to be good husbands and fathers.)
Franco died the year before I was born, but I still had to take such classes. That was in 1995-1998, in the post-Soviet Ukraine. The USSR had collapsed a few years earlier, but nobody had had either the resources or the time to change the Soviet curricula in schools and universities. I majored in English and German, which meant that I had to undergo 4 years of military training.
“We are preparing you to serve as military translators in case a nuclear war begins,” the former KGB colonel who was the head of the Military Training Department explained to us.
“Excuse me,” I asked, “who will we fight against in this war?”
“The US, of course,” said the colonel.
“Can I fight on the Americans’ side, then?” I asked.
The poor elderly KGB officer blanched. Youth is cruel, and today I would have never hurt the guy’s feelings this way. He was obviously unprepared to deal with a bunch of loud-mouthed, painted, rude and cynical female students who were so unlike the earnest, shy Communist young women of his younger days.
Every Thursday for four years was dedicated exclusively to military training. Male and female students were separated for these classes. Our male colleagues were supposed to learn to march, shoot, run and jump, but there never was an instructor available to teach them, so they simply had a free day on Thursdays.
Female students, however, had to take courses on:
1. Basic human anatomy;
2. First aid;
4. And the infamous course on “Motherhood and Family Relations.”
[To be continued. . .]