Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia


When writing, talking or even thinking about Soviet Russia, there is always a great temptation to preface the matter to be dealt with by a review of Communist policy. Such a tendency is, I think, the result of an inadequate comprehension of the ideals of a Bolshevik, plus a still less adequate knowledge of conditions in Soviet Russia, and how they compare with the Ideal of the Soviet State. For this reason, we are more or less forced to review consciously our knowledge of Communism, in theory, and as we see it practiced, before forming an opinion on any phase of Communistic life. I am sure that when the ideas regarding the theories and practice of Marxianism become more familiar to us, we shall not be forced to repeat what we already know regarding it, before venturing into a new phase or uttering a new opinion.

I found it constantly necessary to go over what I know of Communism while I was studying the Russian system of Protection of Mothers and their Children. Many things were inconsistent with my ideas of Soviet principles, but on studying the system they Showed thorough consistency with the needs of the present-day U.S.S R. There is one thing above all which must be kept in mind, and that is that nearly everything which present-day Russian Communists are doing is a means to an end; not the accomplishment of their ideals, but the best way, in the circumstances, of fulfilling the ideals for which they have revolted. The managing of a truly Utopian Communistic State requires a much more substantial budget than that now possessed by the U.S.S.R., and a great deal more sympathy for the regime by those who live under it. It also requires at least neutrality, if not friendship, on the part of other nations. There is only one thing to say for the Soviets. They are doing the best they can with what they have, and what they have done is remarkable.

In order not to be misleading, above all I want to make it clear that in no sense am I equipped to make generalizations about the U.S.S.R. on this subject or on any other. The reasons are obvious: I cannot speak Russian and I was not there long enough to get to know the people in general intimately; and further, I did not travel enough to form any opinions worth holding on conditions in the rural districts. The vastness of the U.S.S.R. excludes the possibility of drawing general conclusions on the mechanism of the Soviet Union. To my mind there is only one possibility for the serious student of Russia who suffers from not knowing the language, and that possibility is to choose one subject which is not too vast, and which still has a definite value from the sociological point of view, to exhaust that subject of all its possibilities; to record as accurately as possible what is unearthed by the research made; and then to state any conclusions which can be deduced from the material in hand, so long as they are not made as generalisations applying to the whole of the U.S.S.R. My problem, therefore, was to discover the social status of Soviet women and children in the years 1929 and 1931. The problem involved primarily a thorough research in the means of allowing women and mothers to maintain an economic and social position equivalent to that of men. In addition, I tried to discover how universally these methods were applied; but that, as I said before, was impossible to discover for myself, and I had to take the statements of those Russian specialists in this line who were kind enough to give me their own conclusions. For that reason, this book will deal solely with what is being done for women and children in Moscow and its environs, with only an occasional reference to other localities where I can be sure that my statements are true and fact. To the best of my ability, I have completed an accurate research in this study in the Moscow district and I feel that it justifies itself not only because it reveals some very excellent work on the part of the Russians, but also because Moscow is at present the model for Soviet activities in all Russia. It is there that most sociological experiments are being carried out; it is there that the workers in all phases of life are being trained; and it is from there that they are being sent all over the Soviet Union to teach what they have learned. The experts in Moscow are the final arbitrators in all discussions; in a word, Moscow is the ideal which is being held up by the Government to the whole of the U.S.S.R. It is logical, therefore, that the best of their work should be concentrated in Moscow, and that it should be the nucleus of study for all students of the various phases of Russian life. It must be remembered, too, that Moscow is not by any means a Marxian Utopia. It has a long way to go before it realises that, but it is still closer than any other place in the Soviet Union and because of this fact, it deserves to be studied by outsiders, and to be copied by the Communists of other districts. By taking the stand that Moscow is the model from which the rest of the U.S.S.R. is expected to copy, I have destroyed the possibility of falling into the common error of making generalisations on the conditions in the whole of Russia after having seen or studied only a very small area, which is essentially more perfect than any other part of the Union. A popular slogan in Russia is: "We are not only improving our conditions here in Moscow, but we are spreading these conditions to every district in the "Union." I am very sure that the intelligent Russian is under no false illusions regarding the extent of the task in front of the Government, and I am equally sure he knows that work in this line has barely been started.

I feel that I have been well advised in using the title, "Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia," since I am convinced that this protection is applied in all districts which are in any sense Soviet; and that fact that up to the present such protection is not yet universal in the U.S.S.R., only goes to show that they have a tremendous territory to communize, which, as yet, is not truly Soviet; and when such sections are actually contributing to the welfare of the Soviet Union and are truly a part of that Union, they will all perforce enjoy Soviet benefits. A part of the chapter "Abortion and Birth Control" has had to be omitted because of the stringent laws in the United States on the dissemination of contraceptive information. I am very loathe to make the necessary omissions because, although they do give birth control methods used in Russia in considerable detail, what is more important, they reveal the excellent technique the Russians have already developed in the handling of difficult social questions. In addition, the methods used in approaching the Moscow women and educating them to a proper conception of their duties as citizens and mothers can best be understood by a close study of their contacts with the clinics especially in the birth control departments. For the first time in the history of Russia there is an attempt being made to lay the foundations for a far-reaching and effective public hygiene--a public hygiene which is demanding the conscious cooperation of every Russian man and woman. By leaving out of my book the contraceptive methods now used in Russia and the original research being made there in the field of birth control, I have been forced to omit also the Russian women's reactions to them. At the present stage of Russian development it is the aggregate of individual opinions which is forming communist policies in many lines; consequently, when individual contacts with the medical Profession cannot be revealed it leaves a wide gap in the picture of Soviet life.

I should like to thank the many doctors, nurses social workers, and private citizens in Russia who aided me in collecting the material for this book. I am indebted particularly to the doctors and nurses attached to the Krupskaya clinic in Moscow; the specialists at the Institute for the Protection of Women and Children; those in charge of the two Museums of Mother and Child in Moscow; Dr. Rudnic of the Moscow House of Child; Dr. Danishenski of the Prophelactorium for Prostitutes; Mr. Leo Kondratoff who translated for me; and Mrs. Rosa Hanna of the Open Road who made possible many of my contacts in Moscow. I should like also to give my thanks to the following who very kindly gave their criticisms and comments on my book, William Osgood Field, Jr., Professor James Withrow, Dr. Richard Pierson, Havelock Ellis, and Dean George F. Arps who wrote the Preface.