During Russia’s Great Patriotic War, films about the war effort dominated Russia’s film industry. With the majority of film production safely moved to Kazakhstan, the studios began to release war films to rally the Soviet people, and many of these focused on the partisan war effort. The role of women in the partisan war effort was particularly popular, the most famous being “She Defends the Motherland” by Fridrikh Ermler.
“She Defends the Motherland” focuses on Pasha Lukyanova, or Comrade P. Pasha learns that her husband was killed in the war, and her young child is shot before her eyes by a German soldier and run over by a tank while the Germans invaded her village. Pasha responds by organizing the villagers into a guerilla force, ambushing German units, blowing up convoys, and burning down German outposts. She even avenges her child’s death, using a tank to run over the German who killed her son.
Though Comrade P is made into a warrior by the deaths of her husband and her child, her rhetoric is still nationalistic. In this iconic scene, Comrade P reacts to hearing the (fake) news that Moscow has been destroyed with disbelief, saying:
Our people could never give up what is dearest and most kindred to them. I know it, I see it. Our people collected themselves and drove them off and didn’t let them pass. They couldn’t let them pass. Moscow is ours. But you started mourning like women. Shame on you!
Comrade P’s story interested me because it reminded me of Fuller’s statements that “the greatest credit for the victory in the war surely belongs to the Soviet population itself” (Freeze 390). The partisans played an important role in antagonizing the Germans, making it difficult for them to keep Russia’s vast expanses of land under control. Comrade P showed that conscious decisions made by individuals can have huge impacts on the world, and her story showed the role that civilians can play in disrupting the German invasion.
I also found her use the of phrase “mourning like women” to be interesting, considering some of our past posts about Soviet masculinity. To me, this shows that Comrade P was not about advancing women toward equality in the Soviet Union, but rather it was about the role that women can play in the war while their husbands are off fighting.