A. Nukhrat, Collective Farm Women of Tataria. 1933
Original Source: Revolutsiia i natsionalnosti, No. 11 (1933).
At the first All-Union Congress of kolkhoz shock-workers Comrade Stalin said: ‘The kolkhoz women members represent a great force. To keep it back would be a crime. It is our duty henceforth to promote the women in the kolkhozes so as to release that power for action.’
The women of Tataria have displayed real Bolshevik power in collectivization. Their contribution to Tataria’s victory in socialist agriculture has been far from negligible. Already in 1932, according to the calculation of labor days earned, female labor in the Tatar kolkhozes amounted to 37 per cent-against 31 per cent in the Russian kolkhozes. That year the Republic had 162 women tractor drivers, dozens of brigade-leaders, and several women were chairmen of the best kolkhozes.
… The victory of collectivization, a factor of the greatest significance in Tataria and due to the active participation of the women, has radically altered the status of the peasant woman, especially among the Tatars.
What was the position of the Tatar woman in the past?
The lot of the Tatar working woman was the same as that customary to all the women of the East. There was the yoke of poverty without means of escape-for the woman’s path into the world, to independent life, was blocked by the interdictions of religion and the Shariat laws. There was the yoke of spiritual darkness and illiteracy-the power of superstitions, mullahs and quacks. The arbitrary rule of the father and husband to which the woman had meekly to submit-the docile submission of the woman. The joyless, unprotected toil for the kulak, the mullah and huckster. Child-birth in the bath-house, illness and death of the children. Clandestine or open sales of women, when their fate, their marriage was decided by the kalym (bride money), when women, like cattle, had a price. Bad harvests and famine generally led to overt sales of Tatar women. They were taken to market to Bukhara, Azerbaijan, and, via the Crimea, to Turkey. Was there a harem of khans, beys, merchants and industrialists without Tatar women? They were sold literally for a pood of flour.
But the past has gone for ever-our victories are a pledge of that. The kolkhozes have introduced a new way of life, in which labor has become a matter of joy and honor, the guarantee of prosperity, and the source of equal rights for women. Kolkhoz farming is crushing the mullah, the quack and the Shariat laws. In the kolkhoz is no place for the kalym, for the people here are linked by socialist labor.
This has been beautifully expressed by the Tatar poet Akhmed Erikeev. His poems express man’s new attitude towards women, the truth of the new life.
Ransom for the bride?-‘What nonsense.’
Bridegrooms do not pay it nowadays.
Your customs of life, granddads, fade like smoke.
We have done with your kalym.
I will no longer buy for money
The girl I love.
If she will marry for money
She is not worth a farthing.
If you want to marry me,
And your kin expect the kalym,
Tell them that the great kalym
Has been paid by the one you love.
My kalym is not silver coin.
It is the lead that riddled me,
Lead from the rifles of the Basmachi.
It is well worth silk and brocade. My kalym is not added up in cash.
The Soviet passport is my kalym.
It is contained in the shock-work I do.
It is in my fight for the new life.
It is in the dozens of textbooks
Whose great wisdom I have grasped.
In our days even the best girl
Can expect no finer kalym.
(Komsomol’skaia Pravda, October 8, 1933.)
The kolkhoz movement has advanced to leading posts a great many remarkable and capable women’ (Stalin). Let me introduce the remarkable women of Tataria-the best of the best-kolkhoz chairmen and village soviet chairmen.
The whole of Tataria knows the chairman of the kolkhoz Gigant, in the Nizhnie-Chelny district-the Komsomol member Gaisha Shamsutdinova. Her kolkhoz has been entered on the red board. She was the first in the Republic to complete the grain delivery.
Here is the chairman of the Russko-Krasin village soviet of the Aksubiisk district-Varvara Efimovna Vanchurina. Let her tell us her own story:
‘I have been chairman for two years. Our men called me “Fortnight”. You won’t, they said, work on for more than a fortnight: this is not a woman’s job. But here I am at it already for two years, and my village soviet, formerly the most backward, has become the leading one in the district.
‘In my village soviet, the kolkhoz Komsomolets had 24 households which did not own cows, but now there are only three, and they too have received assistance from us in the form of permanent work throughout the year that they may be able to buy cows. In my kolkhoz, members who are fit to work are allotted at least 200 labor days each. My husband, for instance, has received 280 poods of grain, i.e. 180 poods of wheat, and 100 poods of rye. And this does not include vegetable crops. There can be no argument about it: we are leading a prosperous life.
‘Our living conditions, too, are changing. Our kolkhoz has two nursery schools for 60 children, a canteen for 130 people, and field canteens for each brigade.
‘In my village soviet, since I am there, almost all the officials are women. My deputy, Comrade Anna Petrina, is a good activist. The chairman of the group assisting the Public Prosecutor, Comrade Pelageia Zakharova, too, is working well. The chairman of the group assisting the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate, Mariia Vladimirova, is one of the best women activists. The chairman of the finance section, Tat’iana Kozlova, is an untiring worker. I am saying this because, before I came, there was not a single woman in the village soviet.
‘As for myself, I have worked for the kulaks from the age of ten. After the Revolution, I took a charwoman’s job in the office of the elevator. Here I learned to read and write. In 1929, from the moment our kolkhoz was organized, I was the first to join it. My husband, Comrade Vanchurin, did not want me to work in the village soviet. Yielding to kulak propaganda, he began to demand that I should give up the work. But I called him to account in the kolkhoz wall newspaper. He recognized his error and admitted that he had fallen into the trap laid by the kulaks. By now Comrade Vanchurin has become a good shock-worker and communist.’ (Rabotnitsa [The Woman Worker] 1933, No. 29, p. 4.)
In 1933, approximately 10 per cent of the tractor drivers were women, i.e. 220 (against 162 in 1932). Combine-harvesters were introduced in Tataria, and to-day the Republic has already 38 women combine operators (out of a total of 232); in the Sarmatov district, four women kolkhoz members served as senior combine operators.
‘Nine women tractor drivers are working in the Tumutuk Machine Tractor Station (Aznakai district). Nine pairs of strong women’s arms are driving the steel horses confidently over the spacious kolkhoz fields. The tractor of Zigan Shakirova works better than all the others; having completed the spring sowing plan three days before the appointed time, she has worked 32 hectares “in excess”.
‘During the harvesting, the Inter driven by Zigan has threshed the grain, all the time exceeding its quota: instead of 200 centners it threshed 300-350 centners per day. At the same time, the steel horse “did not eat up” the food norm allotted to it: 2-5-3 kilograms of fuel per hectare were saved where it did the work.
‘Shakirova’s tractor was never idle. There were no cases of breakage during the whole spring and summer. Zigan knows the minutest detail of the interior, all the habits and caprices of her Inter tractor. It obeys the slightest movement of her strong small hand.
‘Zigan Shakirova is quite young. She is only 19, but already she wears the shock-worker’s badge, and tucked away at the bottom of her little camping trunk is a diploma. She received both tokens of honor at the 1st All-Tatar Congress of kolkhoz shock-workers. By September 1, she had already earned 220 days-days. For every day-day she will receive 10 kilograms of grain crops-138 poods of grain! Zigan had never seen such wealth before. Last year she had received only 32 poods’ for the whole of the twelve months.’ …
Tatar women work in pig farms (how long did they regard the pig as the most unclean and sinful animal!). Kaliullina Gulsum has been working as a pig breeder in the kolkhoz Magarif from February 1933. The farm has achieved great successes. The number of its pigs has increased from 226 in 1932 to 542 in 1933. Kaliullina intends to earn as much as 400 days-days.
Here we have one more woman shock-worker-Praskovya Antonovna Kuznetsova. She is forty years old and the best stable attendant of the kolkhoz NA SHTURM in the Spasskii district. Before collectivization, the Kuznetsov family had never had a horse of their own; they ‘were always kow-towing before the kulaks’, working all their lives, yet never able to escape from poverty. How can a peasant do without a horse? But now, in the kolkhoz, this is the third year that she is looking after a dozen horses, sparing neither strength nor time … By September 1, 1933, Comrade Kuznetsova had earned 250 days-days, and her husband and young son 220. For every day-day they will receive half a pood of grain, including six pounds of wheat. And the family has only five mouths to feed.
Kuznetsova has been awarded five prizes, a diploma and the shock-worker’s badge. She was a delegate to the 1st Congress of shock-workers, and has traveled to Moscow to report to Comrade Kalinin. She has achieved a good and prosperous life, (and) her only concern now is to buy spectacles and to learn reading and writing, so as to improve further the care of kolkhoz horses.
Among the working women of Tataria there are still many illiterates, which causes us great concern. All the kolkhoz women have now been given the task of spending the winter on study, and study is a must. The whole Republic has taken up Comrade Krupskaia slogan: ‘The shock-workers of the socialized agriculture must become the shock-workers of proletarian culture.’
The activity of the kolkhoz women was brought on primarily by the mass work among the women undertaken by the party organization of Tataria, and by the provision of nursery schools and playgrounds for the children of the kolkhoz women. This received a great deal of attention in Tataria …
During the harvesting campaign alone, 179,867 kolkhoz children have been admitted to the nursery schools (against 150,000 provided by the plan); 18,837 children (against 3,000 provided by the plan) have been admitted to mobile and field nursery schools, and as many as 4,000 people were trained to serve as staff in the kolkhoz nursery schools. The development of kindergartens presents the following picture: in 1933 the Republic had 1,216 permanent kindergartens with 64,750 children (including 34,059 Tatar children). Five thousand six hundred and eighty-nine playgrounds were used by 170,690 children (including 95,454 Tatar children). As many as 5,000 people were trained as kindergarten and playground staff.
The nursery schools and playgrounds are greatly effective in facilitating women’s labor in the kolkhozes. Let us illustrate this by referring to the field camp of the Krasnoznamenskii kolkhoz Alda, in the Aktinsk district (in the sector of the Machine Tractor Station). Here every brigade had its nursery school. The days-days put in by women whose children were in the nursery schools have considerably increased. Thus, a harvesting, the kolkhoz woman Gubaidullina has earned 41.19 days-days, Sirazeeva 46.30, and Sibirzianova, 42.23.
On the other hand, of the women who did not have their children in the nursery schools, Mukhametsianova earned only 13 days-days, and Akhmetova 10.
This is why the party organizations of Tataria, at present, are raising the question of establishing children’s institutions permanent in every respect with a permanent and well-trained staff. They are most energetically supported in this program by the prosperous kolkhoz members, who desire their children to be given proper education and to grow up in good health, with bright and active minds that are not poisoned by religious dope …
Source: Rudolf Schlesinger, ed., Changing Attitudes in Soviet Russia; the nationalities problem and Soviet administration (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1956), pp. 152-157.