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The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies

The Journal of power institutions in post-soviet societies. Revue électronique. Cette revue internationale de sciences sociales est consacrée aux forces armées et aux structures de force dans les sociétés post-soviétiques.


Interview with Olga Capatina, a Moldavian Afganka, Paris, 25th September 2015 (in Russian)


Olga Capatina in Afghanistan (1987)


Published July 31, 1987 (© CC - Olga Capatina)
Soviet War in Afghanistan, Afganka

Olga Capatina was born in Lencauti, Ocnita in Moldavia in May 1955. She graduated in philology, psychology and was trained as a nurse. After a career in journalism and due to a divorce that left her with two young children, she joined a military Commissariat where she was guaranteed a decent salary. In July 1987, she was sent to Afghanistan as a physiotherapist. A year later in July 1988, she joined the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) and took part in several GRU operations until the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan in February 1989.




30 May 1955: Birth in Lencauti, Ocnita (Moldavia)
1972-1979: Studies philology, psychology and nursing school
23 March 1976: Birth of her first child
7 July 1979: Birth of her second child
1979-1983: Works in a kindergarden in the North of Moldavia

Compte-rendu de la Journée d'étude « Le genre et la guerre : les femmes, la virilité et la violence »


Bien que la guerre ait été le plus souvent conçue comme une activité humaine essentiellement masculine, de récentes études ont montré que les femmes ont été fortement impliquées dans les activités militaires du passé. L'ambition de cette journée d'étude était donc de discuter la qualité intrinsèquement masculine de la guerre, de présenter de nouvelles recherches et de poser des questions méthodologiques inédites sur le genre et la guerre dans l'histoire européenne et mondiale de 1500 à nos jours.

La journée d'étude était divisée en quatre séquences. La première était intitulée « Femmes fortes, femmes en armes », la seconde « Sexualités et émotions en guerre », la troisième « Femmes combattantes et virilité de guerre » et la dernière « Corps en guerre ». On a pu entendre les communications de chercheurs français et étrangers, - une majorité d'entre eux étant historiens.

La journée d'étude a été ouverte par Brian Sandberg qui a souligné que le concept de genre s'était beaucoup médiatisé...

Introduction by Amandine Regamey and Brandon M. Schechter (17th Issue Editors)


The photographs that open this PIPSS issue are from two sources. On the left are two photographs of Liudmilla Pavlichenko, a sniper from Soviet Ukraine who fought in Odessa and Sebastopol in 1941-1942. She is credited with 309 kills, the highest score ever for a woman sniper, and was made Hero of the Soviet Union in 1943. After having toured the United States in 1942 to advocate for the opening of a second front, she became a military historian and was very active in Soviet veterans’ and women’s movements. As one of the most famous Soviet women soldiers she is frequently mentioned by historians, she continues to have a presence on the internet and recently became the hero of a film about the battle of Sebastopol.

On the right we see images from a calendar dedicated to the women who serve in or alongside Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine. The calendar was published by the Ukrainian Women Fund with the support of the Ukrainian Ministry of information in 2015, with the aim of highligh...

Maria Botchkareva, Yashka: Journal d’une femme combattante, Russie 1914–1917


Maria Botchkareva (1889-1920) – popularly known as Yashka – was the founder during the First World War of the first female battalion in the history of the Russian Army. Over the course of the war, she recorded her tremendous history in a diary full of impressions, reflections, and details of everyday life. The French edition features a rich introduction by Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Nicolas Werth, specialists highly regarded for their work on the First World War and the violence of the Soviet system, respectively.

Yashka’s destiny was one of tragic heroism. In her early life she endured beatings by her father, followed by two abusive marriages; she fled her second husband to enlist with the army upon the outbreak of the war. During the first months of the war, about 600–800 women (out of 6 million men mobilised in 1914) of all social classes volunteered for army service, Yashka among them. In May 1917, after a few years of meritorious service, she decided to create a women’s bat...

Women in Arms from the Russian Empire to the Post-Soviet States: a Suggested Bibliography


Women in Arms in 19th Century Russia

S. Boniece, “The Spiridonova Case, 1906. Terror, Myth and Martyrdom”, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Vol. 4, # 3, 2003, pp. 571–606.

O.V. Budnitskii, Zhenshchiny-terroristki v Rossii, Rostov n. D., Feniks, 1996.

N. Durova, Cavalry Maiden. Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars, Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1988. [In Russian, Durova Nadezhda, Kavalerist-devitsa, (1836), on-line at].

A. Hilbrenner, “The Perovskaia Paradox or the Scandal of Female Terrorism in Nineteenth Century Russia”, The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies, # 17, 2016,

I. I. Ivanova,Zhenshchiny v istorii Rossiiskoi armii, Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, # 3, 1992, pp. 86-89.

I. I. Ivanova, Khrabreishie iz prekrasnykh. Zhenshchiny Rossii v voinakh, Moscow, Rosspen, 2002.

Women in Arms during the First World War and Russi...

A Muslim Woman Officer in the Soviet Army During the Soviet-Afghan War. A Soviet “Anti-Hero”


This research note based on an anthropological fieldwork retraces the life of Mamura, an Uzbek woman who became a hero among her peers, Afghan war veterans. Born in the 1960s in Southern Uzbekistan, into the Muslim faith, Mamura was a Komsomol and volunteered for Afghanistan, where she served in particular as an army censor. She became a legend, albeit not for her military deeds, but thanks to her love story with a Russian officer. Mamura’s story casts a special light on several aspects of Uzbek history and society: gender and family relations, the place of Uzbek soldiers among Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan, but also the situation of Afghan war veterans in Uzbekistan.

The Perovskaia Paradox or the Scandal of Female Terrorism in Nineteenth Century Russia


Female terrorism played a decisive role in the making of modern terrorism in the Russian Empire in the late 19th century. Vera Zasulich pulled the trigger on Russian terrorism by shooting at the General governor Fedor Trepov in 1878 and Sofia Perovskaia was the mastermind behind the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, on the 1st of March 1881. This article explores how tsarist authorities and radicals were trying to make sense of the seemingly paradox of violent women. Both were stripping the violent deeds of women of their political content. Moreover the Perovskaia case can show how both sides were using the same set of gender ideals in order to either condemn or to worship the female terrorist.

Representations of Armed Women in Soviet and Post-Soviet Tajikistan: Describing and Restricting Women’s Agency


In both Soviet and post-Soviet Tajikistan, representations of armed women are a key propaganda topic for the regime, as it allows the production and imposition of gender roles, including norms of femininity. This article analyses the representations of armed women presented in both the state press and state-funded research in Soviet and post-Soviet Tajikistan. The analysis reveals the making of the Soviet periphery and questions the continuities and ruptures between Soviet and post-Soviet regimes. Part one analyses how Tajikistani armed women were represented in the collective memories of the Great Patriotic War, revealing gender hierarchies and hierarchies between Soviet centre and periphery. In the second part of the article, I analyse how representations of armed women changed in the post-Soviet regime. In the post-conflict context, women are mainly celebrated by the nationalist state for their peaceful attitude and “pure” behaviour. Whilst Tajikistani women are encouraged to joi...

A Good Soldier and a Good Mother: New Conditions and New Roles in the Nagorno-Karabakh War


This article dedicated to the study of women’s behaviour in times of war is based on several interviews with “Satenik”, a woman who served as a senior lieutenant and head of a medical battalion during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The article explores the social trajectory and the reasons that led her to go to the front; it reflects on the difficulties faced by a woman at the front, the relations to her fellow soldiers and the consequences of her confrontation to violence; it shows somehow paradoxically that it was easier for here to find her place at the front, when social norms were temporarily lifted, than after the war. The articles concludes with a reflection on gender and national identity through the experience of those rare women who deviated from generally accepted gender roles.

“Girls” and “Women”. Love, Sex, Duty and Sexual Harassment in the Ranks of the Red Army 1941-1945


This article focuses on the tension between female soldiers’ military duties and sex/romance in the ranks of the Red Army. Drawing on terminology used during the war, the author posits “girls” and “women” as two models of behavior – the former emphasizing soldierly duties, the later the realization of civilian norms. Female soldiers were placed in a highly ambiguous situation, in which the Komsomol, which had recruited large numbers of “girls” into the army, promoted sexual abstinence and feminine culturedness, while the Party and Army acquiesced to the desire of commanders to take lovers from among their subordinates. The article ends with a discussion of pregnancy and its implications.