Newspaper, Women’s Activism

This article reflects a more complex example of state-controlled media. It is more negative in tone, by providing examples of problems in daily life, including shortages of housing and food, unequal treatment at work, and lack of services for families. Once again, the intention is to assert the achievements of the Soviet regime while also referring to problems that needed to be overcome through even greater efforts. In this case, however, the article also seeks to attribute blame for these problems to specific individuals, offices, or practices that could be made accountable. Women continued to bear a disproportionate burden of family responsibilities, and the actual availability of maternity leave, services for new mothers, and child care fell short of promises and propaganda. This article, from the regional newspaper for Uzbekistan, reflects a shift in the tone of the Soviet press during the Great Terror, when articles became almost hysterical in making accusations against alleged “enemies” and “traitors” accused of “anti-Soviet” activities. This extreme language served the dual purpose of explaining continued difficulties by finding scapegoats and legitimizing the repressive measures taken by Stalin, the secret police, and the regime as a whole against so-called “enemies of the people.” In this article, the increased activism in women is contrasted to the continued discrimination, harassment, and even violence that they encountered at the hands of men, as a husband was sentenced to death for attempting to kill his wife in retaliation for her increased political activism in support of the Soviet government.

Source: Pravda Vostoka, “Defending the Rights of a Soviet Woman,” June 22, 1938.

In the collective farm “Communism,” in the Kokandskii distrct [Uzbek SSR], a determined struggle between Milidzhan Gafurovyi and his wife Rakhmalia-bibi Rustamova has been going on for the last few years. Rustamova threw off her veil, eliminated her illiteracy, works like a Stakhanovite in the collective farm, and was elected to serve as a brigade leader. With all his strength, Gafurov obstructed the political development of his wife by persecuting her and more than once threatening to kill her.

As an activist and public organizer, Rustmova was nominated and actively participated as a member of the electoral commission for the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

Gafurov began to persecute his wife even more strongly, and forced her to leave the collective farm and stop her work in the electoral commission.

Realizing his powerlessness to force his wife to submit to his influence, Gafurov decided to commit a terrorist act. The first time, he tried to kill his wife at night in their apartment, but Rustamova saved herself by running away. The second time, during the drying of the cotton crop, Gafurov again attacked his wife with a knife. This time, she was saved by the intervention of other collective farmers.

The third time, December 12, 1937, on the election day for the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, when Rustamova as a member of the electoral commission and busy with work on the elections, Gafurov forced his way into the village soviet and demanded that Rustomova immediately quit everything and return home. Rustamova refused and went into the electoral commission’s room. Following after her, Gafurov attacked his wife with a knife, but was restrained.

This matter was investigated on June 11-12 of this year [1938] in the village of Arzyk-Tepe, in the presence of the collective farm’s Military tribunal SAVO composed of acting military jurist second rank comrade Pensin and court members lieutenants Anisenko and Spichkin.

The court determined that Gafurov is a descendant of a kulak-bai family, was a merchant, and has for the last few years lived on the income of his wife. The court sentenced Gafurov to be executed.

The collective farm members attending the trial greeted the sentence with expressions of satisfaction.