Motherhood, Patriotism, and Ethnicity: Soviet Kazakhstan and the 1936 Abortion Ban

by Paula A. Michaels
Motherhood, Patriotism, and Ethnicity: Soviet Kazakhstan and the 1936 Abortion Ban
Paula A. Michaels
Feminist Studies
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Women's reproductive capacity has long been a terrain for politi- cal struggle, linked to causes and aspirations that often have little to do with the women whose lives and destinies are at stake. The fierce and violent anti-abortion campaign in the United States of recent years is only one chapter in the ongoing story of women's bodies as a battleground for wars of religious faith, constitutional rights, and human rights and dignity. Be they poor African Amer- ican women forcibly sterilized in the southern United States in the 1950s or Italian women encouraged by the Mussolini government to fulfill their patriotic duty by having more children, modern women and their reproductive capabilities have been the center of political debate the world over.' Yet, even as public attention has centered on state policy, feminist historians are all too aware that women will ultimately seek to control their own childbearing by any means available. In the final analysis, our ability to ensure reproductive freedom for women depends on our understanding of the many dimensions of social, cultural, and political life that play themselves out in debates on state abortion policy.

The history of abortion in the Soviet Union provides a powerful example of the potential for and limitations of state control over women's reproduction. Perhaps more than any other country, the USSR provides a striking counterpoint to the trajectory of the abortion question in the United States. In 1920, the Soviet Union became the first country to legalize abortion on demand. For pro- gressive medical professionals and women's rights activists across Europe and North America, the USSR's decision became an example of pathbreaking policy and enlightened, modern thinking by the Soviet government.' However, Soviet officials

Feminist Studies 27, no. 2 (summer 2001). O 2001 by Feminist Studies, Inc. 307

legalized abortion not because of high-minded views on the rights of women. Authorities believed that the economic crisis from which the USSR suffered, after nearly a decade of unrest, war, revolution, and civil war, made legalized abortion a tempo- rary necessity. Soviet officials argued that under these conditions women would seek abortions by any means necessary, and only if abortion was legalized could the state oversee the procedure and guarantee that women received abortions in safe, sanitary conditions. From the beginning, Communist party and state authorities emphasized the legalization of abortion as a tempo- rary measure that would no longer be necessary once economic conditions stabilized.

After sixteen years of legalized abortion, in June 1936, the state declared that the economic situation in the USSR had changed fundamentally and that Soviet women now lived in a society free from the need for abortion. Through a proclamation commonly known as "The Decree in Defense of Mother and Child," the Communist Party of the Soviet Union banned abortion in all cases, except when the mother's life was in danger.3 Historians have viewed this decree as a turning point in the history of Soviet women and a high-water mark in Stalin's renewed emphasis on the family as the foundation of society. A more revolutionary era in Soviet women's lives had ended, and Soviet women, like women elsewhere in Europe and in North America, had to face the horrors of illegal, unsanitary abortions in order to end unwanted pregnancies.

The ban on abortion affected all Soviet women, but its impact was felt differently in various parts of the vast Soviet Union. This article focuses on anti-abortion discourse and legislation in Kazakhstan, a region far from the Russian heartland. To the extent that historians have addressed the abortion issue, they have focused on Russia, where the impact of the abortion ban was more profound than in non-European regions of the USSR.4 Particularly in urban areas, Russian women relied heavily on state abortion facilities. The turn toward pronatalism, however, disrupted their efforts at family planning and forced them to rely increasingly on back-alley abortions. Here I will draw attention away from the center and toward the periphery, where events unfolded in a multiethnic setting removed from the better-devel- oped medical infrastructure, party cadres, and state bureaucracy of central Russia. The pronatalist and anti-abortion campaigns that operated in tandem across Kazakhstan expose the ways in which the state used the construction of gender and ethnic identi- ties to further its political and social agenda in the periphery. The state deployed pronatalist policies and rhetoric to legitimate Soviet power, claiming that the 1936 ban demonstrated its con- cern for and benevolence toward all Soviet women. The example of Kazakhstan illustrates the ways in which policies and goals established at the center took on unique contours when imple- mented in the non-Russian periphery.

BACKGROUND Few in the West had heard of Kazakhstan before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when it emerged as a newly indepen- dent, oil-rich state. Located south of Siberia, east of the Caspian Sea, and west of China, Kazakhstan had been under Russian domination for over two hundred years. A Turkic people, Ka- zakhs had lived for centuries as nomadic pastoralists and were renowned across Asia for their skills in horseback riding and fal- conry. Islam arrived in southern Kazakhstan with the Arab con- quests of the tenth century, but it took nearly 900 years before this religion penetrated the inner reaches of the steppe. The Kazakhs' nomadic way of life largely precluded the emergence of certain institutions and customs associated with Islam. Kazakhstan lacked the mosques and shrines common in Muslim cities, and Kazakh women never adopted the veil. From the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, the Russian Empire conquered and brought under its nominal con- trol all the Kazakhs' vast territory. Although many Kazakhs con- tinued to live their lives as they had earlier, Russian annexation meant the influx of hundreds of thousands of peasant settlers from European Russia. Russians and Kazakhs lived in separate communities, and the divide between the Muslim Kazakhs and the Orthodox Christian Russians remained fairly rigid in prerevo- lutionary times. Ethnic and sectarian divisions largely overlapped and served to reinforce one another. By 1897, Russians and other Slavs constituted nearly 16 percent of Kazakhstan's p~pulation.~ The collapse of the Russian autocracy in 1917 and the outbreak of the Civil War (1917-21) temporarily liberated Kazakhstan from

Russian domination, but by 1920 the Bolsheviks were strong enough to force the Kazakh government to capitulate and join Soviet Russia.

Throughout the early- and mid-1920s, the Communists largely continued the tsarist policy of benign neglect. The Soviet Union had few financial and personnel resources to attend to the nation's many diverse, pressing demands. Marxist ideology gave the new Communist government little guidance in bringing so- cialism to the nomadic Kazakhs. The gulf between Central Asia and the socialist state that the Comm~~&ts

envisioned seemed unbridgeable until the Soviet government came to see Central Asian women as susceptible to calls for modernization of the region. Communist activists looked to women in Central Asia as a "surrogate proletariat" that would lead the social and economic revolution in the regi~n.~

In lieu of an industrial workforce to act as the revolutionary vanguard, women in Central Asia would embrace the state's plans and lead the attack on the traditional, patriarchal society that officials believed threatened the Soviet monopoly of power at the local level. The state enacted legisla- tion, disseminated propaganda, and pursued policies hostile to indigenous institutions and practices believed to oppress women. Throughout Uzbekistan and Tajikistan the Soviet government engaged in a high-profile, although largely unsuccessful, deveil- ing drive. In Kazakhstan, officials decried underage marriage, bride-price, and polygamy. At a time when all aspects of tradi- tional Kazakh life were under attack, the realm of women and the family was targeted as a particularly significant battle. The prona- talist/anti-abortion drive in Kazakhstan must be understood against the background of this ongoing attack on all aspects of traditional Kazakh life.

To agitate among the Kazakhs and implement its policies at *e local level, the Soviet government relied primarily on party and state activists drawn from Kazakhstan's Slavic population. The central government also sent Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, and oth- ers from the USSR's European territories to remote areas of Ka- zakhstan and Central Asia, where they attempted to convey the economic, political, and social aspirations of the regime to the region's indigenous population. Authorities recognized that cul- tural and linguistic boundaries undermined the effectiveness of their efforts to reach the non-Russian population and therefore attempted to draw Kazakhs into the Soviet state and Communist Party apparatus. The state adopted a policy known as nativiza- tion, which attempted to advance local cadres and to speed the integration of non-Russians into the political ~ystem.~

The nativi- zation program advanced the careers of some non-Russians, but the policy never drew large numbers of Kazakhs into the ranks of professionals, party activists, or government officials. Real politi- cal power remained primarily in Russian hands and the values they tried to bring to Kazakh villages reflected their biases and prejudices.

In 1928,the Soviet government entered an era of rapid industri- alization and forced collectivization commonly known as the Stalin Revolution. This period witnessed a full-scale war against the traditional Kazakh social, economic, and political structure. Officials saw the Kazakhs' nomadic and seminomadic pastoral economy as inconsistent with the Soviet modernization drive. A wide variety of state-sponsored programs worked in concert to reshape Kazakh practices and fashion a new, pan-Soviet culture. Although collectivization and the forced settlement of the nomads formed the cornerstone of this project, the state and party at- tempted to bring their vision of modernity to every aspect of daily life. In industry, education, medicine, and the arts, the Soviet government mobilized the masses to forge a new culture based on socialist, urban, Russian values. Newspapers, newsreels, pamphlets, festivals, and public speeches are just some of the venues used to represent traditional Kazakh life as backward, dirty, and primitive. In contrast, Soviet economic, political, and social goals seemingly stood for progress, rationality, and moder- nity.

As noted above, although the Soviet government legalized abor- tion on demand in 1920, doctors and political activists alike had ambivalent feelings about the procedure, which most endorsed only as a temporary measure to alleviate poverty and free women from the constraints of childbearing. Physicians warned from the outset that there were health risks associated with frequent resort to abortion. Theoreticians argued that the combination of redistri- bution of wealth and socialized childcare facilities would eventu- ally end the need for abortion. Beyond ideological considerations, genuine concern existed at the time for ending underground abortions, which babki (lay-midwives) and znakharki (sorceresses) across the USSR conducted in unsanitary, life-threatening condi- tions. The state argued that only in the clean, controlled Soviet hospital environment could abortions be undertaken safely. Needless to say, abortion practices throughout the 1920s and early 1930s fell far short of the sweeping reform envisioned at the out- set. More often than not, abortions were offered for a fee. Abortion clinics received no local, regional, or national funding, indicative of the state's ambivalent attitude toward abortion from the begin- ning. Until the 1936 ban, abortion clinics operated under a policy of khozrashchet (economic accountability), which meant they had to be fully self-supportive. Proceeds from abortions went to irnproving women's and children's clinics, and maternity wards run by the Okhrana Materinstva i Mladenchestva (Defense of maternal and child health agency [OMM]). Medical workers assessed the fee on a sliding scale based on family income. Social position also played a role in fees, as workers in cooperatives and other entities organized along socialist lines, such as collective farms, paid from one-third to one-half less than laborers in private employ in the late 1920s. Only the poorest workers and peasants, unemployed wives of Red Army soldiers, and those who had become disabled on the job qualified for free abortions.'

Women having abortions in Kazakhstan came almost exclu- sively from the Slavic population, which accounted for 32 percent of Kazakhstan's population by 192ti9 Of 1,997 cases in southern Kazakhstan's Kzyl-Orda Municipal Hospital abortion clinic, Kazakh women accounted for only 5. If this figure is representa- tive, only about 0.002 percent of abortions were performed on Kazakh women. This figure highlights the almost total irrelevance of legalized abortion for the indigenous population. Kazakh women married younger, had more children, and lived in a soci- ety that deemed abortion a terrible taboo. Living in remote, rural areas far from abortion facilities further inhibited Kazakh women from terminating unwanted pregnancies. In my survey of elderly Kazakhs, respondents universally denied the use of any folk remedies for abortion purposes during the 1930s.'O They ex- pressed shock and outrage at the question, indicating the strong social constraints against abortion among rural Kazakhs even today. However, one must keep in mind that the stigma of abor- tion may well have prevented women from openly answering a question they perceived as sensitive. One respondent did make a vague, grudging reference to the existence of herbal abortifa- cients, and I therefore think it is reasonable to assume that some folk method of abortion was used by Kazakh women throughout the 1930s. Russian women, particularly in urban settings, did not share Kazakh antipathy toward abortion, saw advantages to lim- iting family size, and sought abortions in public medical facilities in dramatically greater numbers. One should note that even dur- ing the period of legalized abortion, Russian authorities applaud- ed Kazakh reluctance to resort to this practice. Writing in 1932, two Kazakhstani medical workers asserted that Kazakh women's "negative relationship to abortion can only be welcomed and it hoped that Kazakh women's drive to have a 'bala' [child] will undoubtedly not change.""

Trends in Kazakhstan statistically mirrored those in Russia. The number of abortions climbed steadily in Kazakhstan during the 1920s, from 582 in 1925 to 6,127 in 1928. A particularly dramatic rise occurred from 1927 to 1928, when the number of abortions leapt by 160.2 percent. A variety of factors contributed to this jump, including increasing economic strain, a growing awareness of the availability of surgical abortion, and changing social mores.12 The increasing number of legal abortions led in turn to a sharp decline in back-alley abortions and the injuries and infec- tions associated with them.13 However, the rising abortion rate began to worry state officials despite the fact that these statistics pointed to their suppression of illegal abortions to a significant degree. The state deemed abortions disproportionately high in relation to the birthrate. In Russia and across the USSR, authori- ties began to fear the negative relationship between women's growing reliance on abortion and the declining birthrate.'%us, the very success of legalized abortion led to its downfall, as wom- en took their reproductive capacities into their own hands and came into conflict with the state's population agenda.

The government's early disenchantment with abortion can be seen in the statistics from the Kzyl Orda Municipal Hospital abor- tion clinic mentioned above (see table 1).From 1928 to 1932, doc- tors performed a total of 1,997 abortions. In the course of three months during 1928, an average of ninety-three fetuses were aborted. This figure peaked in 1930, with 664 abortions quarterly, and then dropped off dramatically to 209 by 1932. Although one can only speculate on the reasons for the falling abortion rate, one must consider several possible explanations. Women may have

Table 1 Quarterly Average Number of Abortions in Kzyl-Orda Municipal

Year  Number  
1928  93  
1929  488  
1930  664  
1931  548  
1932  209  
Total  1,997  

Source: A.N. Kustov and T.I. Skochko, Akusherko-ginekologicheskaiapomoshchi' v periode pervoi piatiletki po g. Kzyl-Orda Kazakhstan (Kzyl-Orda: Izdanie Gorz- dravotdela i lech-obUedineniia,1932),


been seeking abortions in fewer numbers, but given the absence of alternative birth control meth- ods and the continuing economic instability during the early 1930s, this explanation seems doubtful. More likely, abortions had per- haps become prohibitively ex- pensive. Medical workers may have also become disinclined to perform what some of them deemed "an evil, a danger, and a social ill."15 The tragic demo- graphic consequences of collec- tivization no doubt further rein- forced the state's fears about the declining birthrate. In 1932-33, famine swept Ukraine, the lower Volga region, and Kazakhstan,

where millions perished from starvation and disease.16 Not only was the birthrate declining but mortality rates were also on the rise, signaling to the state the pressing need to turn demographic trends around.

From the 1920s until the eve of the 1936 abortion ban, wide- spread need and desire for abortion among Slavic women, cou- pled with the high cost of abortion and the shortage of facilities, led to levels of back-alley abortions in Kazakhstan that the state found intolerable.17 Legalization had lowered rates of back-alley abortions among those in their first trimester and those in urban areas served by state-run facilities, but some women were none- theless driven into the hands of illegal practitioners. For health reasons, doctors denied abortions to women who had passed their first trimester, suffered from one of several potentially dan- gerous medical conditions, or were pregnant with their first child. When turned away by the state for these reasons, in fear of expo- sure of their pregnancy to relatives or employers, or unable to travel to a facility that provided legal abortions, Russian and other Slavic women were driven to babki and znakharki for abor- tions.18 Numerous press accounts covering trials of babki and znakharki during the late 1920s and early 1930s point to women's continued reliance on illegal abortions.19 According to a report to the Deputy People's Commissar of Public Health from the OMM's chief administrator, 99 percent of the women in an Alma- Ata hospital's gynecological department were undergoing treat- ment for bleeding and other complications associated with back- alley abortions. The Alma-Ata municipal public health depart- ment (gorzdrav), charged with opening an abortion clinic under the city hospital's auspices and another under the district (oblast) Red Cross by June 1,1935, was behind schedule. Given personnel shortages, the OMM remained pessimistic about its own efforts to conduct frequent, effective public lectures on the dangers of abor- tion and on other methods of birth control.20 Ultimately, the con- tinued availability of back-alley abortions and the state's failure to end these dangerous practices by offering an accessible alterna- tive would become partial justification for abortion's recrirninal- ization.'l Unable to supplant the babka, the state used her survival to support policies designed to stop falling birthrates.

The state began to circulate anti-abortion propaganda even before it enacted the 1936 abortion ban. Abortion in general was depicted as a threat to women's physical well-being, particularly because the practice could lead to infertility in an era when Soviet leaders believed that the state needed an expanding workforce and military. Danger to women's health had justified the legaliza- tion of abortion, and by the mid-1930s officials invoked the same claim to back its ban. By the early 1930s, changmg rhetoric about the abortion issue made its way into press accounts and debates within the healthcare community and party apparatus. Public health officials openly deemed abortion an evil, although they saw its practice as a necessity given the Soviet Union's low level of economic development. Abandoning the rhetoric that celebrat- ed the wonders of Soviet abortion facilities and applauded their sanitary conditions, one female party activist decried that even "in the best hospital environment with the observance of all rules guiding the use of antiseptics, nonetheless [a woman] endangers herself by having an aborti~n."~~

Activists such as this one placed increasing emphasis on the negative effect of even legal abortions and used this danger to advocate its ban. No longer did the bene- fits of a legal abortion outweigh those of a back-alley procedure.

Party activists in Kazakhstan agreed with national leaders that Russian and other Slavic women resorted too frequently to abor- tion. To alleviate this situation, they argued that abortion needed to be phased out gradually, not banned outright. The party's women workers insisted that making abortion illegal overnight would drive the practice fully underground again, rather than lead to its elimination. Moreover, no decline in abortion rates could occur without expanding obstetric facilities, daycare cen- ters, and programs for training new mothers in infant care. Party officials in Southern Kazakhstan oblasf, for example, argued that such measures would result not only in lowering the abortion rate but also in decreasing infant mortality rates, diminishing the number of complications associated with delivery, and freeing women to pursue both motherhood and work outside the home. Women students deserved particular attention, as they represent- ed the brightest hope for the future generation. Kazakhstan's Communist Youth League (Komsomol) activists asserted that the greatest effort should be made to teach women students about alternative birth control methods, as giving birth would affect a woman's career and having an abortion would have a negative impact on her health. One party activist suggested that women students should receive birth control advice during their years of study, so that they would finish their studies in good health and "be able to give birth to as many babies as you [the party? society?] like."23 Held just days before Moscow issued the decree banning abortion, these discussions show that in the periphery at least some activists felt strongly that a sudden shift in abortion policy would be misguided, if not dangerous. Although Moscow's final decision ended further party debate, consensus clearly did not reign among rank-and-file party workers on this issue. Discus- sions also reveal that on the local level questions about the need to increase population growth played a secondary role to more pragmatic, pressing concerns.

When the Central Committee issued its ban on abortion on June 27, 1936, it ended local and regional debates by adopting an ex- treme stance on this issue. The state did not ban abortion entirely but made it legal only in cases when pregnancy threatened the mother's life. In practice, doctors authorized abortions only in extremely rare circumstances. In the wake of the ban, each oblast established a "medical abortion commission" which oversaw every request for termination of pregnancy. In each case, written permission had to be granted the applicant, the decision record- ed, and monthly evaluations forwarded to the oblast public health department with a copy to the regional public health depart- ment.'qhis elaborate system of controls guaranteed the state would keep access to abortion in check and hold doctors account- able for failing to implement the ban fully.

Despite this system of oversight and control, after the 1936 decree Russian and other Slavic women in Kazakhstan continued to strive for control of their reproductive capacities and many turned to back-alley abortions to end unwanted pregnancies. Promises from the state about the wonders of rearing children under benevolent Soviet rule failed to eliminate the reluctance of these women to bear children. In response to women's continued resort to abortion despite its illegality, the state ordered that every single case of a woman who sought medical treatment with any symp- toms that could be construed as tied to an abortion should be referred to prosecutors for in~estigation.~~

Under section 140 of the Soviet Penal Code, any doctor or nonmedical personnel who performed an abortion in a case when it was not a medical neces- sity was subject to imprisonment for not less than three years. Babki, znakharki, and other unauthorized abortionists placed themselves in jeopardy of additional prosecution under section 180, which provided for incarceration for up to six months or a fine of 500 rubles for practicing medicine without a license. Both the women who had the abortions and the abortionists were liable under the law.26 No cumulative figures exist on the number of illegal abortions that came to the state's attention, let alone the total number of back-alley abortions performed, in the years immediately following the recrirninalization of abortion.

Kazakhstan's Russian-language press gave high profile to sever- al cases of back-alley abortionists prosecuted for transgressing the law, revealing how the state and party used these cases to buttress the anti-abortion campaign in hopes of deterring future offenders. Rhetoric surrounding abortion prosecutions embedded anti- Soviet, antipatriotic meaning into abortion. One September 1936 letter to the editor of Knzakhstanskaia pravda emphasized that both a woman currently under prosecution for an illegal abortion and her abortionist should be considered "enemies of our socialist society." The letter was signed by G.P. Momot, a member of an elite group of workers known as Stakhanovites, who overfulfilled production quotas and were viewed as heroes in the industrial- ization drive. Momot's letter reveals that he is married to a Slavic woman who underwent an abortion. The letter juxtaposes the image of him as a loyal, brave Soviet worker to his wife's betrayal of her husband and country through an abortion. A gendered reading of the Momot story points to the way in which the state used abortion prosecutions to reinforce patriarchy and the tradi- tional roles of women in Soviet society. According to the article, Momot's wife, Anfisa Feodorovna, deceived him and made the decision to terminate her pregnancy without his knowledge or consent, while he was out of town. In the wake of her criminal act, he struggled to understand her behavior that denied him the son for whom he had long hoped. Expressing his grief, Momot lamented: "I waited so long for the arrival of that joyous day and instead of that happiness I received a In the Momot case, the press presented a picture of a man and his unborn son as the innocent victims of the machinations of a woman driven for no apparent reason to deny her biological destiny and patriotic duty, and of the financial greed of her abortionist accomplice, also a woman. One can view Anfisa Feodorovna as a discursive symbol for the state's view of women who resist the mission of mother- hood with which the state has charged them. Characterized by cruelty and disloyalty and transformed into political enemies of the state, Momot's wife and others prosecuted for abortion stand in stark contrast to women concurrently appearing in the press as heroic, patriotic citizens who relish fulfillment of their roles as mothers.

As part of the vilification of women who sought and performed abortions, the press had to discredit their motivations for trans- gressing the law. In a case against a woman named Novikova and her abortionist, Vintovkina, the press emphasized the absence of financial or other explanations that might justify her reluctance to bear a child. Novikova allegedly testified: "I am twenty-two years old. I have a child. I work at a printing press. My husband also works, and materially we are well off. I only had an abortion, because my plfriends at work told me 'it doesn't pay to be bur- dened with another kid. It's better just to have an abortion.' So I found out that Vintovkina does aborti~ns."~~

Novikova's decision, according to this account, appeared capricious and without foun- dation in any objective social or economic circumstances that might have compelled her to break the law. Momot, in the case discussed above, reinforced this idea that in 1930s' Soviet society a family's economic position failed to explain resorting to abor- tion. In his letter, Momot emphasized: "I earn 350 rubles per month, sometimes even more. I am fully capable of supporting a familynz9The press and, by inference, prosecutors framed cases against these women in terms of their complete lack of rational reasons for aborting their fetuses. Men able and willing to sup- port their families become victims of women's frivolity and light- hearted attitude toward their duty to husbands and country. Abortion prosecutions became high-profile show trials conducted typically in courtrooms, but on occasion in worker clubs and, in at least one instance, a theater in Al~na-Ata.~' In such an environ- ment, women under prosecution became actors in a drama about good and evil, vilified in morality plays designed to teach both them and the public a lesson.

Behind this facade of capricious women, victimized men, and the unrnet greater needs of society lay a complex web of circum- stances that made up each individual illegal abortion case. Al- though the scanty archival evidence paints a very different pic- ture from the scenarios depicted in public discourse, rhetoric and real life overlap in one important respect: the ethnic composition of women having and performing abortions. Slavic last names ex- clusively are found among cases both that received wide press at- tention and that were prosecuted by the state. Kazakh women may have on rare occasions attempted to terminate pregnancies, but if so, they did not fall into the state's hands. Kazakh attitudes toward abortion, as seen by the dramatically lower rates while abortion remained legal, and the relative remoteness of the Ka- zakh population from state power concentrated in urban areas explain why prosecution for illegal abortions affected only the Slavic population of Kazakhstan.

Press representations focused on illegal abortions among mar- ried women, but archival evidence suggests that prosecutions centered on single women. Of six illegal abortion cases for which I located the judicial files, only one involved a married woman.31 The women's motivations remained unspecified in the docu- ments, but a variety of factors no doubt pushed them to choose abortions. Far from the selfish and almost whimsical motivations depicted in the press, financial desperation or social pressure probably drove most of the women to break the law. Given the harsh punishment for illegal abortion, it seems unlikely that women took this step lightly. For example, during 1940 eleven women past their first trimester came to the Turkestan city hospi- tal with symptoms that indicated they had attempted to abort their pregnancies. Hospital authorities referred each case to the prosecutor's office.32 Even if eventually cleared of the charges, these eleven women endured detention while under investiga- tion, separation from their families, state scrutiny, and public humiliation. Their example may have in turn deterred others from resorting to abortion lightly or, more dangerously, from seeking medical attention in the wake of a botched abortion. The eleven women at that one hospital perhaps in actuality constitute only a small sample of the total number of women who resorted to illegal abortions. Available sources do not allow for a conclu- sive understanding of what motivated women and how many felt compelled to jeopardize their health and freedom in order to terminate a pregnancy. However, at the very least, press accounts must be read with a skeptical eye, as other sources seem to point to greater complexity than the media depicted about who sought abortions and why.

Anti-abortion efforts were only part of a large-scale drive to increase population growth following the 1936 ban on abortion. The state well understood that without improved social services to support increasing birthrates, the abortion ban would merely drive women into the hands of unlicensed abortionists. Expansion of maternity wards to provide care for the increasing numbers of women carrying their babies to term constituted a primary pre- requisite for the state's pronatalist agenda. In Kazakhstan, eight birth clinics with accommodations for 133 expectant mothers were slated for construction immediately following the 1936 decree.33 The Kazakh Regional Committee of the Communist Party (Kazkraikom) reiterated the center's dedication to increas- ing the number of birth clinics and threw its support enthusiasti- cally behind the abortion ban by demanding action on birth clinic construction plans.34

Linked to the expansion of birth clinics, other OMM facilities had to grow as well in order to accommodate the rising birthrate. To support the growth of children's clinics, nurseries, and kinder- gartens, the Kazakh People's Commissariat of Public Health (Kaz- narkomzdrav) increased the OMM budget from 9.7 million rubles in 1935 to 17.8 million in 1936 and to 38 million in 1937. The funds were desperately needed, as the birthrate in Kazakhstan allegedly rose by 25 to 30 percent annually during this same three-year peri-

Other factors no doubt contributed to the rising birthrate, such as the relative economic and social stability of the late 1930s compared with earlier years. Nonetheless, Soviet officials inter- preted rising birthrates as testimony to the effectiveness of abor- tion's recriminalization and dedicated increasing financial sup- port to women's and children's health. With this greater financial support, the OMM opened women's and children's clinics. The growing ranks of medical cadres graduating from educational institutions founded during the First Five-Year Plan (1928-32) provided staff for the expanding women's and children's health- care institutions during the Third Five-Year Plan (1938-41).

Financial assistance to women with large families served as the cornerstone of the state's pronatalism campaign.36 The state de- fined large families as those with seven or more children, with the youngest child under five years of age. For each child under age five, the mother received approximately 2,000 rubles per year until that child reached the age of five. Women who at the time of the 1936 decree had eleven or more children, including one child under five, received 5,000 rubles per year during 1936 and 3,000 rubles in subsequent years. These grants did not allow large fami- lies to live in luxury, but they were not insubstantial by the stan- dards of the time. A few thousand rubles could help a family make ends meet, particularly in rural areas where wages were low and crops often unreliable. Although the abortion policy affected the Slavic population of Kazakhstan to the almost total exclusion of the Kazakhs, the pronatalism campaign had an impact on the indigenous population that was considerable, given its higher birthrate. Statistics do not indicate what percentage of applicants were Kazakh, but one can assume Kazakh women who knew about the program took advantage of its benefits. One year after the decree was issued, a total of 7,018 mothers in rural Kazakhstan had applied for the financial assistance. It is irnpossi- ble to determine the percentage of eligible women that this figure represents, but it translates into the distribution of millions of rubles in assistance to women. Newspaper articles and local party and state organizations spread word of the policy following the 1936 decree, yet information about state financial support may have taken months, if not years, to reach eligible but illiterate Kazakh mothers. By 1940, in the Turkistan region (Southern Kazakhstan oblast) 134 women received a total of 268,000 rubles annually in financial assistance to large families. In this predorni- nantly Kazakh and Uzbek region, many recipients were probably from the indigenous population. Problems occurred, including delays in payment caused by bureaucratic red tape, but overall the policy functioned successfully.37 One cannot ignore that when the state finally put money behind its rhetoric, it was in order to reinforce the position of women in their most traditional role. Women, in turn, seized the state's financial assistance readily, sug- gesting a pragmatic assessment of genuine financial need irre- spective of their views of Russians, Communist ideology, or the Soviet government. Taking advantage of state assistance can cer- tainly not be seen as an indication of collusion with or support for the regime, despite the state's aspirations in this regard.

In addition to the concrete measures the state adopted to fur- ther its pronatalist agenda, propaganda figured as a prominent strategy to increase the birthrate in Kazakhstan, as throughout the USSR.38 The government instructed the public on the political sig- nificance of procreation and, in Slavic areas of Kazakhstan, the need to abandon reliance on abortion. Kazakhstan's Commissariat of Public Health ordered medical workers at OMM facilities and throughout the healthcare system to spread the word regarding the ills of abortion. Medical propagandists responded by attempt- ing to conduct outreach programs to bring health education work into student dormitories and into the workplace, but personnel shortages limited the extent to which anti-abortion propaganda made its way to the population. Over a year after the 1936 decree, officials of Kazakhstan's Commissariat of Public Health com- plained that not only had medical workers failed to reach the community at large but that even within healthcare institutions propaganda against abortion was "almost completely absent." In response to this unacceptable situation, the Kaznarkomzdrav or- dered that the directors of the local-level health departments take personal responsibility for overseeing anti-abortion propaganda, indicating its high priority in the state's eyes.39 Auditoriums in clubs, dormitories, and other public meeting facilities were to become centers for anti-abortion activity, although it remains unclear to what extent propagandists realized this goal.

The state and party used a variety of venues to disseminate their pronatalist agenda. Rhetoric and visual images in republic and local newspapers offered positive representations of motherhood and mothers, Kazakh and Russian alike. Photos and articles emphasized women's primary role as mothers and motherhood as the source of all happiness. They did more than merely reiterate prevailing notions about women's roles. First, they represented the rejection of whatever remnants of revolutionary rhetoric had sur- vived into the 1930s regarding women's position in society. Al- though equality of women remained a popular theme, Com- munists now without reservation embraced traditional, conven- tional images of women. Second, while the state spread images of women as mothers, it did so with the idea that the experience of Soviet motherhood represented a break with the past. The press conveyed the notion that, led by the Communist Party under the wise guidance of Joseph Stalin, Soviet mothers across the USSR found their lives easier than ever before because of the care and support accorded them by the regime. For example, one article entitled "Happy Motherhood" told the story of Evdokiia Petrovna Balabanova, a Russian woman living in Kazakhstan. To help sup- port her eight children, she received 4,000 rubles from the state. The paper quoted her as saying: " 'Now my biggest job is to raise healthy children. The possibility for it exists. I will be receiving 4,000 rubles and I will spend it exclusively on my children. Thanks to Comrade Stalin for the concern, with which he sur- rounds us-happy mothers that we are.' '14' Whether Balabanova actually said this is less important than the subtext that stories like hers convey to the reader. The state propagated the image of Stalin as the benevolent father at the head of a national family in which women's highest duty was to raise children. In this sce- nario, women were to deny any other aspirations in the face of achieving this all-consuming goal that inevitably paved the way to their personal fulfillment.

Having on average more children than their Russian compatri- ots, Kazakh women made particularly appealing examples for these romanticized visions of maternity. The suffering of women under the yoke of traditional Kazakh society stood in stark con- trast to the benefits they received under the Soviet regime. Rus- sian-language newspapers in particular devoted considerable space to highlighting for Slavic readers the joys of large families and the Soviet government's role in "liberating" Kazakh (and, by inference, other) women from the material and financial burdens of motherhood. The story of forty-year-old Mariam, which ap- peared in an April 1938 issue of Kazakhstanskaia pravda, illustrates the way in which the Soviet press depicted the new lives of Ka- zakh mothers. The demands of eight children filled her day, "but Mariam had a golden touch and cheerful disposition," which facilitated her work and created a happy environment for her children. Upon receipt of 2,000 rubles from the Soviet govern- ment for supporting her youngest child, Mariam's mother ex- claimed:" 'In my day a new child meant new burdens, but now infants in swaddling clothes become helpers; . . . this regularized assistance for Mariam is unthinkable anywhere but on Soviet soil.'"41 These words, and the numerous newspaper photos of joy- ful mothers and their laughing, healthy infants, point to the state's attempt to construct an idealized, romanticized vision of motherhood and inscribe it with uniquely Soviet traits. Soviet motherhood stood for the rejection of tradition and female op- pression. Expectant mothers need not fear the burden of raising a child with the Soviet state and Comrade Stalin standing by with aid. By inference, a mother overwhelmed by chores was herself to blame for not possessing the skills and easygoing demeanor of exemplary women like Mariam. The Soviet state had created ideal conditions for the mother, and she had a responsibility to fulfill her proper role and express her gratitude to the state for allowing her to realize her maternal potential. Fear, failure, finan- cial hardship, and overwork had been written out of the script for motherhood, which became not just the biological destiny of women but the fulfillment of their every desire for personal hap- piness as well.

Given the limited archival information available on abortion, it is difficult to assess the impact of pronatalist propaganda on its target, the Slavic population of Kazakhstan. In 1945, suggesting the long-term failure of these efforts, the party called upon its members to police the activities of medical workers following a spate of illegal abortions in Southern Kazakhstan obla~t.~

Nearly a decade after the dawn of the anti-abortion campaign, Soviet authorities still struggled to convince women of the dangers of abortion. As noted earlier, no cumulative statistics exist on the prewar years that might allow historians to make inferences about either the influence of the pronatalism campaign or the effectiveness of abortion's recriminalization. Rising birthrates in the late 1930s do not offer a complete picture, especially as they can be attributed at least in part to other important factors, such as the overall stabilization of economic conditions. Statistics on both legal and illegal abortions are available for a later period, pointing toward a more long-range assessment of the state's suc- cesses. The Commissariat of Public Health amassed statistics on both legally authorized abortions and abortions later classified as "criminal." At times the state deemed abortions criminal but did not have adequate evidence to prosecute, accounting for a differ- ence between the number of abortions labeled criminal and those prosecuted. An abortion commission staffed by certified physi- cians approved legal abortions, while medical professionals with- out the commission's authorization or back-alley abortionists per- formed criminal abortions. A high proportion of legal abortions to live births in 1944 led to a 1945 evaluation of the work of abor- tion commission^.^^ The total number of abortions decreased dra- matically in 1944, but the percent of legal abortions relative to the birthrate leapt from 2 percent in 1943 to 8 percent in 1944 (see table 2). This jump suggests that either the birthrate declined while the number of abortions remained steady, or the rate of legal abortions increased fourfold in one year. Officials attributed the rise of legal abortions "primarily to the difficult material con- ditions of wartime," although, according to the 1936 abortion ban, economic grounds were not sufficient for state authorization of an abortion.44 The investigation in 1945 failed to conclude that the commissions had authorized abortions in inappropriate cases, but it is difficult otherwise to explain the high rate in 1944. The in- quiry led to closer supervision of these commissions, perhaps in part accounting for a drop in the proportion of abortions relative

Table 2
Abortion in Kazakhstan, 1942-1948

Year Total Percentage of Abortions Percentage of Criminal Percentage

Abortions Legal Deemed Total Abortions Abortions of Criminal

Abortions to Criminal Deemed Prosecuted Abortions

Live Births Criminal Prosecuted

1942 11,214 1.5 1,675 14.9 1,356 80.9
1943 n/a 2.0 n/a n/a n/a n/a
1944 7,811 8.0 1,278 16.4 844 66.0
1945 10,303 2.3 1,684 16.3 1,409 83.6
1946 15,901 n/a 3,866 24.3 3,172 82.0
1947 16,263 n/a 3,096 19.0 2,589 83.6
1948 n/a n/a 4,079 n/a 3,541 86.0

Source: Republic of Kazakhstan Central State Archive, f. 1473, op. 2, d. 14,l. 3; op. 2,

d. 49,l. 60b; op. 2, d. 79,l. 50b; op. 2, d. 115,l. 6; op. 4, d. 5,l. 138; op. 4, d. 8,l. 6; op. 4, d. 85,l. 6.

to the birthrate to 2.3 percent.45 Amid war and dislocation, for a brief period women may have been able to find doctors syrnpa- thetic to their plight and willing to bend the rules, but by 1945 this window had closed.

The postwar years saw a steady increase in the absolute num- ber of abortions, an indication of the state's failure to reach women through pronatalist and anti-abortion propaganda. Not surprisingly, criminal abortions peaked in the harsh two-year period after the war's conclusion. Women sought marriage and companionship from returning soldiers, but economic hardship no doubt made many reluctant to start or expand their families. The state denied the validity of these obstacles and annually pros- ecuted an average of 84 percent of the women accused of having criminal abortions. Wartime and postwar abortion statistics are not broken down by age, marital status, or ethnicity, making it impossible to offer a substantive analysis of which women sought abortions and why. Nonetheless, official statistics suggest that after a decade a significant portion of the population remained undeterred by the state's anti-abortion and pronatalist campaign, despite the state's commitment to prosecute offenders. Figures from the mid-1940s may or may not be higher than prewar num- bers, but these statistics demonstrate that the state had clearly not won the battle against abortion. This fact became even clearer when the state largely abandoned prosecution of illegal abortions in the years after Stalin's death in 1953. Doctors performed first- trimester abortions on demand without fear of reprisals by the mid-1950s, and in 1968, the state officially restored women's right to abortion on demand.46

Public discourse on abortion and pronatalism in Kazakhstan reminds us that the USSR was a vast, diverse, multiethnic state. Policies designed in Moscow and driven primarily by central, Russian concerns unfolded in distinctive ways when deployed in Kazakhstan's multiethnic setting. Local conditions were an im- portant factor in the implementation of the state's anti-abortion program, as it was largely up to local authorities to figure out how to enact policies dictated by the center. At both the national and local level, the Soviet government was well aware of the di- versity of its population and shaped, redefined, and manipulated the representation of ethnic identities and ethnic stereotypes to serve its broader political agenda. When it was in the state's inter- ests Kazakh women were defined as "backward," but just as easi- ly they could be shining examples of liberation and the achieve- ments of socialism. In fact, of course, little had changed about their reproductive patterns, gender relations, or childcare prac- tices, despite the state's shifting representation of Kazakh wom- en's lives.

Pronatalist press coverage in Kazakhstan also underscores the supremacy of the population agenda over other considerations in the late 1930s. From its inception, the Soviet government stressed the need to transform Kazakh and other Muslim societies. Ad- hering to a nomadic way of life, Kazakh women were viewed as particularly backward. The central feature of the state's policies toward indigenous women in Central Asia became subordinated to the pronatalist agenda. Whatever its desires to draw women into the industrial workforce, for example, those considerations were overshadowed by the state's commitment to pronatalist policies. Above all else, women's primary political, social, and economic function in society became reduced to producing and rearing children.

The Soviet government's pronatalist policies demonstrate the way in which the state legitimated its power in part through the

issue of women's health and reproduction. Anti-abortion rhetoric emphasized that the 1936 ban was motivated by the state's con- cern for women's health and well-being. State subsidies to large families were intended not just to boost population growth but also to testify to the regime's benevolence toward and support of women and their families. Even when the expansion of OMM facilities, daycare centers, and communal kitchens fell short of ambitious goals, the state could still claim that the effort itself represented the regime's commitment to women who, in turn, should support the state's agenda in other arenas, such as collec- tivization and industrialization. But frequenting a clinic or accept- ing a subsidy did not necessarily signal endorsement of the state or its modernization project. In the case of Kazakhstan, it seems unlikely that the regme's efforts to woo either Kazakh or Russian women could have translated into genuine support for the regime. Kazakh women, in particular, had suffered terribly during collec- tivization and the subsequent famine, and the state offered little to offset the animosity many no doubt harbored toward the regime.

The Soviet government was not alone, of course, in its efforts to use women's health issues and reproductive rights for political aims. Across Europe from the late 1920s to the late 1940s, prona- talism like that practiced in the USSR was common. Most European countries during this period introduced some form of tax incentives and child allowances to encourage population growth. In fascist Italy, for example, the state implemented many of the same policies adopted in the USSR, including efforts to expand the medicalization of childbirth and to establish public rituals celebrating motherhood, albeit in an ethnically homoge- nous setting.47 Through her examination of antinatalist policies such as forced abortion and sterilization in Nazi Germany, histori- an Gisela Bock illuminates the horrific way in which an authori- tarian, multiethnic state used women's bodies in the struggle for state power and legitimation. For those of desirable racial and class background, Hitler's Germany encouraged procreation and essentially outlawed abortion, policies not unlike those in the USSR during the same period. However, the Nazi regime based its pronatalism in racialist biology and eugenic science; and it adopted antinatalist practices toward "undesirable" minority groups, including Jews, Roma, and the disabled. Bock argues that forced abortions and sterilizations were dominant features in the regime's population policies.48 Although important differences exist among the Italian, German, and Soviet examples, these cases collectively demonstrate a pan-European preoccupation with and a wide range of responses to issues of women's health, reproduc- tion, and state power.

The use of women's health issues and reproductive rights to legitimate a political agenda is by no means universal. In colonial India, where the state's public health efforts played a role in British representation of colonial rule as a positive and progressive force, the issue of women's health was largely ignored. British officials saw Indian women as inaccessible to the state's hand and sought to bring sanitation projects, smallpox vaccination programs, and other initiatives to the population through men. Although mis- sionary doctors and others decried indigenous practices sur- rounding childbirth, such as the lack of attention to maintaining a sterile environment, little effort was made to impose biomedical approaches on native women.j9 By contrast, the Soviet case offers an example of a system that made women's health issues central to its state-building efforts. Whether calling for women's libera- tion through the legalization of abortion in 1920 or declaring its support of women as mothers by offering financial support to women with large families, the Soviet state chose to keep wom- en's health and their reproductive capacities at the center of its focus and made it an essential part of its domestic agenda. Although, especially prior to 1936, the regime did not always put financial force behind its promises, the government clearly saw women and their support as an indispensable component of its state-building efforts.

Finally, the anti-abortion campaign in the Kazakhstani press reminds us that the 1936 ban on abortion, like all laws, touched women's lives in different ways and that in a diverse country like the USSR it is particularly difficult to make generalizations. The negative impact of the abortion ban on Russian and other Slavic women in all comers of the USSR, including Kazakhstan, cannot be denied. The ban forced these women to turn to back-alley abortions in unprecedented numbers despite the considerable risks to their health, freedom, and standing in the community. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that for a significant number of Soviet women the law had little or no effect. Kazakh and other Central Asian women were essentially untouched by the ban.

They continued to avail themselves of whatever traditional means they used to end unwanted pregnancies. Their reproduc- tive lives remained almost totally beyond the state's intrusive controls, even during the years of harshest oppression. In fact, for Kazakh women the ban on abortion brought with it stipends for mothers of large families, and they were quick to take advantage of this aid. The inclusion of non-Russian women in our picture of Soviet women and their reproductive lives thus greatly compli- cates our understanding of this period, in which Kazakh women- if only with respect to questions of pronatalism-appear to have enjoyed some real benefits.

As women in the United States and around the world grapple with political battles over women's reproductive rights, it serves us well to be reminded of the limitations of state power. The Soviet example demonstrates that even with enormous resources at its disposal, from a governmental monopoly of the press to the careful state oversight of medical professionals, officials could not stop Slavic women from ending unwanted pregnancies. Threats of arrest and time in a Soviet prison did little to stem the tide of women seeking abortions. Their options were few, but these women chose to resist the state's intrusion into their private lives with little regard for the consequences. State restrictions may make it more difficult and dangerous for women to choose abor- tion, but they far from eliminate this option from consideration.


This article is based on a paper presented at the American Historical Association's Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, in January 1998. The research and writing of this article was supported in part by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the United States Information Agency, and the United States Department of State; the Title VIII Program of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies, with funds provided by the State Department under the Program for Research and Training in Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (Title VIII); and the University of Iowa, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School, and the UNC Department of History. I wish to thank the Feminist Studies editors and anonymous readers; and Daniel Coleman, Atina Grossman, Elizabeth Jones Hemenway, Donald J. Raleigh, Johanna Schoen, and Sarah Shields for their helpful comments and suggestions on this article and its earlier incarnations.

1. For two examples of the large body of literature on the history of women and repro- ductive control, see Johanna Schoen, "'A Great Thing for Poor Folks': Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare in the Twentieth Century" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, 1995); and Victoria de Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945 (Berkeley: University of Califomia Press, 1992).

For an example of this perception in the West, see Henry Harris, "Abortion in Soviet Russia: Has the Time Come to Legalize It Elsewhere?" Eugenics Review 25 (April 1933): 19-22.

The decree was officially titled "On the Ban of Abortions, Increasing Material Assistance to New Mothers, the Establishment of State Assistance to Mothers of Large Families, and the Expansion of the System of Maternity Wards, Nurseries, and Kinder- gartens." See Janet Evans, "The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Women's Question: The Case of the 1936 Decree 'In Defense of Mother and Child,'" Iournal of Contemporary History 16 (October 1981): 757-75.

Ibid.; Wendy Z. Goldman, Women, the State, and Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 254-95.

Robert A. Lewis, Richard H. Rowland, and Ralph S. Clem, Nationality and Population Change in Russia and the USSR: An Evaluation of Census Data, 1897-1970 (New York: Praeger, 1976), 149.

6. Gregory Massell, The Surrogate Proletariat: Moslem Women and Revolutionary Strategies in Soviet Central Asia, 1919-1929 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974).

On nativization (korenizatsiia) in Kazakhstan, see Martha Brill Olcott, The Kazakhs (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1987), 169. For an in-depth study of the program, see Terry D. Martin, "Affirmative Action Empire: Ethnicity and the Soviet State, 1923- 1938" (Ph.D. diss., University of Chcago, 1996).

Dr. [N.V.] Manannikova and Dr. Vilenskii, "Aborty v Kazakhstane v 1928 godu," Zdravookhranenie v Kazakhstane, no. 2 (September 1929): 9. Republic of Kazakhstan Central State Archive (hereafter cited as TsGARK), Almaty, fond 82, opis 2, delo 49, listy 17-17 obverse. (Hereafter "f.," "op.," "d.," "l.," and "ob." stand for "fond" [fund], "opis" [section], "delo" [file], "list" [page], and "obverse" [reverse], respectively.)

V. Gorbunov, Putevoditel' po Kazakstanu (Moscow and Alma-Ata: Kazakhstanskoe Kraevoe izdatel'svto, 1932), 17. Only 57 percent of Kazakhstan's population was Kazakh by 1928. In addition to a large number of Russians (19 percent) and Ukrainians (13 per- cent), Uzbeks, Uighers, and other Central Asian minorities enhanced the ethnic diversi- ty of Kazakhstan's population.

With the help of three local research assistants, I conducted a survey of almost fifty elderly Kazakh women and men in Turkistan, Kazakhstan, in April 1995. They respond- ed to questions about traditional Kazakh medicine and the introduction into their com- munity of Western biomedical techniques during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Although the sample was small, the surveys give voice to the Kazakh perspective in a way that official newspapers and archival documents do not.

A. N. Kustov and T. I. Skochko, Akushersko-ginekologicheskaia pomoshch' v periode per- voi piatiletki po g. Kzyl-Orda Kazakhstan (Kzyl-Orda: Izdanie Gorzdravotdela i lech- obMedineniia, 1932), 51.

Manannikova and Vilenskii, 10. Goldman (275-80) offers a variety of reasons that ex- plain why Russian women sought abortions in the 1920s. Many claimed that poverty drove them to abortions, while others simply did not want to have any more children. As a consequence of the Cultural Revolution, by the early 1930s women began to cite their desires for education and a career as motivation. Illness and illegitimacy were more common explanations for seeking abortion among rural women than urban women.

Novyi step', 11Mar. 1931,3.

Goldman, 291-93.

Kustov and Skochko, 48.

On collectivization, see Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Collectivization and the Terror Famine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). See also Martha Brill Olcott, "The Collectivization Drive in Kazakhstan,"Russian Review 40 (April 1981): 122-42.

Throughout the period of legalized abortion, Kazakhstan suffered from a severe shortage of facilities, even in the capital. As late as 1935 no specialized abortion clinic existed in Alma-Ata. Staff at women's clinics performed abortions in addition to their never-ending list of other duties. See Kustov and Skochko, 48; Manannikova and Vilenskii, 9-10.

Goldman, 281.

For example, see Dzhefisuiiskaia iskra, 26 Apr. 1928,4.

Republic of Kazakhstan Presidential Archive (hereafter cited as APRK), Almaty, f. 141, op. 1, d. 10136,111-lob.

Shymkent Affiliate of the Southern Kazakhstan Oblast State Archive (hereafter cited as ShFGAIuKO), Shymkent, f. 40, op. 2, d. 162,l. 17. Although, of course, the ban on abortion would be expected to increase demand for the babki's services, officials had faith that they could eradicate them through vigorous legal prosecution. Pronatalist initiatives would reduce demand for illegal abortions, but the state's suppression of babki would make it impossible for women who nonetheless desired an abortion to receive one.

ShFGAIuKO, f. 40, op. 2, d. 162,l. 17.

Ibid., 18 and 21; see also Mary Buckley, Women and Ideology in the Soviet Union (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989), 132.

Alma-Ata Oblast State Archive (hereafter cited as GAA-AO), Almaty, f. 385, op. 1,

d. 181,l. 44.

TsGARK, f. 1473, op. 1, d. 11,l. 505. Criminal investigations of any suspicious cases were pursued vigorously across the USSR. For example, a Russian informant told me that when she was a girl in Siberia, her mother was falsely imprisoned following a mis- carriage, as investigators believed she had had a back-alley abortion (anonymous inter- view by the author, Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 1995).

Ugolovnyi kodeks (Moscow: Iuridicheskoe izdatel'stvo NKIu SSSR, 1941), 76,89.

Kazakhsfanskaia pravda (hereafter cited as KP), 4 Sept. 1936, 3. See also KP, 26 Oct. 1936,3.

KP, 23 Nov. 1936,4. The name "Vintovkina" may be a pseudonym, derived from the Russian word for "rifle" (vintovka), alluding to the abortionist's skill at killing. Historian Elena Osokina suggested this possible interpretation to me.

KP, 4 Sept. 1936,3.

KP, 22 Nov. 1936,4; and 11 Dec. 1936,4.

GAA-AO, f. 438, op. 3, d. 228,l. 16; Southern Kazakhstan Oblast State Archive (here- after cited as GAIuKO), Shymkent, f. 983, op. 2, sv. 21; d. 326, 1. 48. These cases date from 1942 and 1950, but all files from earlier years, including those immediately after the abortion ban, have unfortunately been destroyed by the archives for what archivists termed a "lack of historical value." I see no reason to believe these patterns differed in any significant way from those during the 1930s. Despite the impact of the war in inter- vening years, the birth dates of these women indicate that they were likely never to have been married. One should bear in mind that statistically, this sample of cases is extraordinarily small, but it is all that remains for attempting to assess the abortion issue. The preponderance of single women among those prosecuted for illegal abortions indicates that the pattern during the 1920s, in which married women overwhelmingly dominated those having legal abortions, altered when abortion became illegal. The ban on abortion seems to have driven all but the most desperate women, that is, unmarried women, to stay within the bounds of the law.

Qyzyl Turkisfan (hereafter cited as QT), 7 Feb. 1941,4.

KP, 8 Aug. 1936,3.

APRK, f. 141, op. 1, d. 10607,l. 95.

Sotsialistiq Qazaqisfan (hereafter cited as SQ), 15 July 1937,2; SQ, 24 July 1937,4. The birthrate in Kazakhstan rose from 30 per 1,000 in 1935 to 40 per 1,000 in 1936 and 50 per 1,000 in 1937. These rates of growth seem extraordinary and may in fact be inflated to

demonstrate the effectiveness of the state's pronatalist campaign. However, no available data contradict these figures.

The Soviet Union was not alone in using financial incentives to encourage women to produce more children. European governments supported pronatalist agendas through both state subsidies to large families and tax incentives. See, for example, Mary Nash, "Pronatalism and Motherhood in Franco's Spain," in Maternity and Gender Policies: Women and the Rise of the European We2fare States, 1880s-1950s, ed. Gisela Bock and Pat Thane (New York: Routledge, 1991), 160-77. See also de Grazia, 69-70.

KP, 16 Nov. 1936,4; and 27 June 1937,3; QT, 7 Feb. 1941,4; KP, 3 Apr. 1938,3.

Buckley, 131-33.

TsGARK, f. 1473, op. 1, d. 11,l. 504 and 506.

KP, 5 Dec. 1938,l.

KP, 3 Apr. 1938,3. This one article illustrates a general pattern. For other examples, see KP,28 June 1937,3; and 4 Nov. 1939,4; SQ, 2 July 1936,2.

ShFGAIuKO, f. 40, op. 8, d. 45,l. 60.

TsGARK, f. 1473, op. 2, d. 72,ll. 24-26.

Ibid., op. 4, d. 5,l. 138. A 1946 report on abortion in Kazakhstan, this document gave only the percentage of abortions relative to live births for the 1941-45 period. Unfor- tunately, I was unable to locate elsewhere the absolute number of abortions and live births for 1943, making a more precise explanation for the 1944 jump in legal abortions impossible.

hid. The absolute numbers of both abortions and births increased in 1945, but the proportion returned to a level more in keeping with earlier years. The high ratio of abortions to live births in 1944 thus stands out as quite exceptional.

46. Richard Stites, The Women's Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 403.

de Grazia, 41-76.

Gisela Bock, "Antinatalism, Maternity, and Paternity in National Socialist Racism," inMaternity and Gender, 242-43.

49. David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth- Centuy India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 254-68.

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