Olena Styazhkina. Stigma of Occupation: Soviet Women of the 1940s in Self-Vision

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This is a book about war and the inability of people to comprehend the occupation experience both when living it and in the first years after the expulsion of the Nazis.

The study is based on the story of three women and two regimes, one of which forced its citizens to be Soviet and die heroically, and the other, the Nazi one, to renounce what they had both Soviet and human. The book is about despair and survival, differences in understanding and perception of good and evil, the search for and choice between the strategies of living and dying, the subtle and uncertain boundaries between collaboration and righteousness, resistance and alienation, looting and support for others.

It is also an analysis of women’s experiences, of their traumatic and unstable search for words and mechanisms of self-description in the contexts of the “feat”, “betrayal”, “enemies”, and “heroes”. Those concepts were changing in the 1940s both due to the women’s internal intentions and the pressure of established state propaganda guidelines on the “correct conduct” of Soviet citizens under occupation. This is the story of the formation of a state policy of stigmatizing the occupied, as well as the self-stigmatization of people who considered themselves Soviet. It is a story of the nonlinearity of war experience, told in the uncodified language of women themselves, one of whom sought a canonical heroic biography, the second fought bravely and desperately for survival, and the third saved others despite the risk of punishment by Nazi or Soviet authorities.

Olena Styazhkina
Стигма окупації: Радянські жінки у самобаченні 1940-х років = Stigma of Occupation: Soviet Women of the 1940s in Self-Vision. – Kyiv: Dukh i Litera, 2019. – 384 p. – (Library of Resistance, Library of Hope).

ISBN 978-966-378-653-7

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