“Why Shouldn’t a Comrade be Chic?”: constructions of the Soviet woman’s Image in international Soviet propaganda and its reception in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 1945-1970.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the construction and reconstruction of the Soviet woman’s image in official Soviet propaganda magazines, Soviet Woman and Soviet Union, in the Stalin and Khrushchev eras, and how successful this propaganda was in shaping the image of the Soviet woman in newspapers from the United Kingdom and Ireland. While the Soviet woman’s image has been briefly explored in the American imagination, UK and Irish newspapers have been neglected and the official Soviet propaganda narrative has yet to be considered alongside its intended audience. In the Stalin era, the Soviet woman was an androgynous figure as the regime prioritised women’s participation in industries, which created depictions of masculinised bodies, dress and an absence of beauty products in the working figures. By the Khrushchev era, these figures had been deemed undesirable by the Soviet regime and UK and Irish newspapers. Consequently, Khrushchev’s foreign policy of “peaceful coexistence” caused a reconstruction of the ideal Soviet woman as the image became a form of soft power used to display the superiority of Soviet socialism and appeal to the West through familiar means. Soviet women were then depicted in official propaganda with feminine fashion, utilising beauty products and luxury goods. This new, chic, feminine and fashionable figure was epitomized by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Tereshkova’s image helped dissipate the cliché image of androgynous Soviet women fastened to articles on Soviet women in the UK and Irish press since the early Stalin era. Tereshkova generated discussions in newspapers on gender equality in UK and Irish societies. This was due to her ability to combine an intentionally conventional feminine appearance while participating in a traditionally male sphere. This thesis considers the impact that the constructed image of the ideal Soviet woman had on UK and Irish newspapers by considering official propaganda narratives in the magazines Soviet Woman and Soviet Union. Even though the newspapers examined certainly recognised Soviet propaganda around Tereshkova and Soviet women for what it was, the projected propaganda achieved its desired effect because the message and image of Tereshkova made the media consider whether the Soviet Union had greater gender equality than Western societies.