“Women in the U.S.S.R. are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, government, cultural, political and other public activity.”
–Constitution of the U.S.S.R., Article 122
With this declaration in the Constitution of the U.S.S.R in 1924 the Bolsheviks stated that women would be considered the equal to men in society and in the eyes of the law. Their concern with the roles of women stemmed from their visions of revolution and the necessity for a complete upheaval of societal institutions, traditions, and values. The reorientation and changes of the roles of women were considered one of the most important steps in building the new nation as it would involve part of the nation that had previously been excluded politically and socially.
With the creation of the Zhenotdel (Women’s Department) in 1917 the Soviet Union had established a political organization run by women, for women. This organization along with the main government helped to change the rules and regulations placed on women by making them equal to men under the law. Marriage was also removed from Church control and could only be legally accepted and performed by a government official. Divorce which had previously been controlled by the Church was now under the authority of the government. Divorce was also something which women could ask for without requiring permission of their fathers or husbands. The ability to divorce their husbands was the most significant change for Soviet women, as they did so in droves. Divorce was also the most successful Bolshevik policy for establishing a true revolution as it aided in creating gender equality and removing some of the patriarchal authority that came from marriage. Most importantly however, was the fact that divorce gave women new abilities in her life to be something besides a wife or a mother.
Despite all of these gains for women, the Soviet family system risked its traditional structure and the protection of its most vulnerable part: the children. With women being able to get divorced, many were forced to raise their children by themselves with only one paycheck. While child support or alimony was supposed to be given by the father, it was difficult to collect as fathers could run and hide or challenge their paternity over their supposed child. Soviet changes to the societal position of women and its own inabilities to create an alternative childcare system as a proper replacement effected the ability of children to receive proper care. Despite the intent of the Soviet government to create a welfare system that would allow for mothers to work and their children to receive care from government sponsored daycares, the Soviet Union lacked the resources to do so. Thus, the Soviet Union could not be the type of welfare state that it advocated for and those in the most vulnerable positions suffered as a result.
To help educate the Soviet youth on Bolshevik ideology and teach them skills needed for future work, organizations such as the Komsomol, or the Young Communist League were created. The Komsomol was tasked with helping to create a generation of the “New Soviet Man,” which would be literate, understanding of life and society, and knowledgeable of the skills needed to be a successful worker and countryman. With these lofty goals came several issues that the majority of government sponsored programs faced: A lack of funding. The inability of the Bolsheviks to fund these youth organizations and the constant harassment and discrimination the female members faced helped to enforce gender norms that the Soviet Union wanted to do away with. With limited funding the Komsomol and related schools were forced to have fees for students to become members and participate. With this system, prevailing gender norms continued as parents would enroll their sons instead of their daughters at higher rates, which limited the potential education and skills daughters would need economic security.
The issue of gangs and illegal activities amongst teenagers was also placed upon the Komsomol by the Soviet society. The Komsomol was criticized for not being able to control underage drinking, smoking, and fighting, while also promoting something positive for the Soviet youths to focus on. Mark G. Field states in his work that drinking and smoking were not only problems associated with the youth in the Komsomol and other organizations, but that they were widespread issues that affected everyone from the upper-class to the white-collar workers to the rural farmers. Field argues that the combination of the Russian drinking culture and the effects of industrialization led to the increase in underage gang activity. Because of industrialization family functions began to disappear with the need to work more for wages. Thus, fathers were out of the home more, while women began to enter the job market in droves to support their families. He states that this removal of family functions and parents at home left children without proper role models to teach and guide them. The result of this was male teenagers having to discover their own version of manliness, which mimicked their fathers and older Soviet workers, which included the common habits of hard drinking and picking fights with strangers.
 Stalin Society of North America, “On Women’s Rights and Abortion in the USSR,” Stalinsociety, Web. 25 Feb. 2018.
 Gregory L. Freeze, Russia: A History, Third Edition. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 329.
 James von Geldern, “The New Woman,” Soviethistory, Web. 25 Feb. 2018.
 Freeze, 331.
 Ibid., 332.
 Ibid., 334.
 Sean Guillory, “Revolutionary Manliness,” Soviethistory, Web. 25 Feb. 2018.
 Freeze, 335.
 Mark G. Field, “Alcoholism, Crime, and Delinquency in Soviet Society,” Social Problems Vol 3. No., 2, (1955): 101.
 Ibid., 107.
 Ibid., 103.
Field, Mark G. “Alcoholism, Crime, and Delinquency in Soviet Society.” Social Problems Vol 3. No., 2. (1955): 100-109.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009.
Geldren, James von. “The New Woman.” Soviethistory. Web. 25 Feb. 2018. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/the-new-woman/
Guillory, Sean. “Revolutionary Manliness.” Soviethistory. Web. 25 Feb. 2018. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1924-2/revolutionary-manliness/
Stalin Society of North America. “On Women’s Rights and Abortion in the USSR.” Stalinsociety. Web. 25 Feb. 2018. http://www.stalinsociety.org/2015/04/08/on-womens-rights-and-abortion-in-the-ussr/