behind the headlines

Women in the Russian armed forces | The secret weapon?

vrijdag, februari 25, 2011 · Category History · comments 1


Somewhere in 2005 a beauty contest was held between Russian's armed forces women to determine the most beautiful one, which happened to be Lieutenant Ksenya Agarkova. Everybody agreed that we were looking at some sort of public awareness campaign to try to reattract men to join the armed forces. Now I am wondering, looking at the way news networks are writing about and showing off the Russian female soldiers, when we get to buy Russian Army Women calendar's.

The role of women in the Russian armed forces

Napoleonic wars

One of the first know female officers in the Russian Army enlisted as Alexendar with her real name being Nadezhda Durova. She became a decorated soldier in the Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic wars. Her doing so understandably raised many eyebrows at the time because a war was traditionally believed to be a men’s job. The 1812 war saw her being enlisted in a hussar unit, where she displayed eyebrow-raising gallantry when fighting the enemy. Her performance as a military man was brilliant, contemporaries admitted, citing Durova drinking wine and smoking a pipe, among other things. She was ultimately identified as a woman in 1814.

World War I

One such recruit was Maria Bochkareva who served with the 25th Reserve Battalion of the Russian Army. She convinced interim prime minister Alexander Kerensky to let her form a women's battalion. The Women's Battalion of Death recruited women between the ages of 13 and 25 and appealed for support in a series of public meetings, enlisting approximately 2,000 soldiers. The Battalion fought during the June Offensive against German forces in 1917.

World War II

Some of the most famous female Russian soldiers could be found both in aviation as in the groundforces where they were notorilly known as very good snipers. The most famous Soviet aviator was by far Marina Raskova. The best know snipers from the Russian army were by far en large Nina Alexeyevna Lobkovskaya and Ukrainian Lyudmila Pavlichenko (who killed over 300 enemy soldiers).

Post Cold War

Women have had the legal right to serve in the Russian Armed Forces throughout the post Cold War period. In 2002, 10% of the Russian armed forces (100,000 of a total active strength of 988,100) were women. Nowadays the number is down to some 40.000. Female officers mainly serve in medical units (72%) and also in the signal corps (8%) and the financial sector (4%).

Russian investments into the army 2010 - 2020

Having lacked behind for more than 2 decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, lately Russian's President Medvedev has vowed to modernise the Russian army towards 2020 with huge investments. If you consider all the new material - mostly still copies of American technology - you might get the impression that the Russian army is preparing to become once again one of the leading forces in the world. Not so strange if you consider the fact that it's neighbours China, India and even Pakistan are becoming giants of there own.

Maybe all the new hardware and better wages will eventually attack servicemen more easy than a bunch of beauty contests.

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