All is Fair in Love and War, or is it?

In the midst of violence and animosity, romance was a common denominator between all opposing sides. However, the traditional idea of ‘forever’ was foreign and the knowledge that they may never see each other ever again made wartime love even more appealing in such dark times. The 1940’s reintroduced the diminishment of traditional gender roles, courting and mating. Romance challenged the socialist movement that was to have made traditional gender roles antiquated. The men were to fight for their wives and lovers, while women depended on the marital valor of their men. The belief of full-scale mobilization of men to the frontline and women in leading roles at factories, kolkhozes and in the family, was common during war efforts. With such violence and terror occurring on the home front, the concept of constructing courtships and romance gave living a whole new meaning.

Not only did the idea of ‘newfound’ romance influence the reintroduction of gender roles, it also presented itself through Soviet music, films and poems. Konstantin Simonov was a playwright and wartime correspondent that established a voice of love and emotion that made an impression on millions. While covering the catastrophic retreat of the summer of 1941 from the front lines, he wrote “Wait for Me. It became a powerful message about a solider in war asking his beloved one to wait for his return. The power of the message conferred throughout the poem presented a real-life conversation that many soldiers and their significant others were experiencing during wartime. The poem became, and remains, one of the best-known poems in Russian literature. Klavdiia Shulzhenko was a strong women and artist, breaking the barriers for women during wartime. She inspired the Soviet Union with her songs “Blue Scarf” and “Let’s Have a Smoke”. Shulzhenko voluntarily joined the ranks with her husband, preforming in trenches and under bomb shelters. The two gave people the hope for victory and love. They exhibited positivity and reinforced the importance of love, destined to enter the history of the heroic defense of wartime efforts.

With all things comes consequences, especially romance. The state and society quickly recognized the implications that ‘love’ was leaving. In the early 1930’s the Soviet Union attempted to reinforce the importance of family life. However, the need to bear soldiers and workers resulted in the incline of illegitimate births. The abrupt population drop from the previous decade forced the state to acknowledge unwed mothers. Eventually a tax was introduced that taxed families that were childless. The need for healthy men were high and the state was willing to give rewards to the families that provided such for them. But above all, nothing could be of aid to those grieving from losing a loved one. While love played a positive role during wartime it negatively impacted so just as equally. It built up society’s spirits and tore them down just as fast. It was simply a concept that could change an individuals life, forever.

The return home of some Soviet soldiers in Moscow in 1945

In fact, all was not fair in love and war.

10 thoughts on “All is Fair in Love and War, or is it?

  1. Gabrielle, what an interesting exploration of love before and during the war! “Wait for Me” is such a powerful and beautiful song, I’m so glad you included it in your post! You’ve done some really good analysis of gender and the impact of WWII here – great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post about wartime romance! I think it is really interesting that at first they didn’t acknowledge unwed mothers, however after the rise in illegitimate births they were forced to do so, it seems progressive however then they contradicted it by reinforcing traditional values

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting post about relationships within the war-torn USSR. There were a lot of different components here that shows many of the conflicting elements within society, especially the concept of love and the human capital needs of the state. There’s a lot going on in this time frame and I think your post captures many of the participating elements and why they are significant.

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  4. Excellent analysis of the effect of WWII on Soviet gender identity. I enjoyed you inclusion of “Wait for me.” It brings the reader to perspective of how often these types of conversations were had. Also, how droves of men were leaving for battle leaving women to carry the slack in production and taking on new roles in society.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. What an interesting and nuanced post! I really like how you integrated the contradictory policies around gender and the family into the broader narrative of loss and death at a result of the war. And thanks for writing about “Wait for me,” which is so haunting. Here’s a musical setting of the poem that gives a good sense of the longing and heartache behind itl:

        Liked by 1 person

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