Staunton, VA, July 18, 2016 – Sexual repression, which was an inherent and inalienable part of the Soviet system of control, continues to cast a shadow on Russia today, according to Aleksey Baier, who grew up in Moscow but now lives in New York where he writes for various Russian publications in his homeland.
In a commentary at Snob.ru, Baier says that the reason for the rise of sexual repression in Soviet times is rooted in the failure of Karl Marx to see that with modernization, society becomes ever more complex and the relations between its parts become ever more finely balanced as well.
Instead, Marx argued that society would become ever simpler, reduced in fact to two classes, one of the property-owning rich and the other of the far more numerous wage slaves. That vision informed Lenin and the other founders of the Soviet state who sought to create “a simplified classless society on the basis of Marxist dogma,” Baier continues.
Guided or more correctly misguided by this doctrine, the Bolsheviks “nationalized the means of production, destroyed classes and social divisions, and transformed the population into a uniform mass which did not own any property.” In this way, “they destroyed bourgeois civilization … and they promised to create their own proletarian one” in its place.
But because “bourgeois civilization was the only one existing” at that time, the Bolsheviks by destroying it “returned the former Russian Empire into a kind of primitive condition,” one in which “the checks and balances” of complex society were destroyed, including those regulating relations between the sexes.
In this way, Baier says, Lenin and his party “converted citizens into a herd” that could produce products and reproduce themselves for the greater “convenience” of those in charge. The Bolsheviks said they were ending the exploitation of women, but in reality, they destroyed what protections women had had prior to that time.
As Rousseau observed, the commentator says, “a social contract exists in civilized society,” but “where the institutions of civilization are lacking, the human herd must be restrained by fear and subordination. Force works well to produce fear, but sexual force in this regard is much more effective since it also gives rise to humiliation.”
Consequently, and not surprisingly, “sexual force [was] at the foundation of Soviet society.” Stalin had his “male harem,” who had to party with him even as many of their wives were in the GULAG. Beria was notorious for his exploitation of women, arresting their husbands and then taking advantage of them sexually.
But these things were symptoms of something much worse, Baier says. “Rape like shooting was an organic part of all Soviet society … And those [Soviet citizens] who didn’t know this were about as numerous as Germans who didn’t know anything about the gas chambers.”
“Women and daughters of ‘enemies of the people’ were raped during interrogations. They were thrown into the hands of ordinary criminals, and they were used as sexual slaves in the camps.” And just as so many aspects of the GULAG bled back into Soviet life as a whole, so too did this horrific one.
As is now well-documented, “the victory over Hitler was marked by mass group rape of the civilian population wherever the Red Army won.” Many know this happened in Poland, Hungary and Germany, but it also happened in areas of the Soviet Union “liberated” by Russian forces. And “this smacks of international action, not the excesses of military times.”
Group rape is one of the central themes of Vladimir Sorokin’s 2006 novel, The Day of the Oprichnik. In it, he describes how when an official loses the support of the ruler, the ruler’s guards execute him, destroy his property, and “ritually rape his wife.” As on many issues, Sorokin shows in this “a precise understanding of the nature of the Soviet state.”
According to Baier, “more than half of all rapes” in the USSR in the 1980s were “group rapes,” a far higher figure than in other countries, and these were overwhelmingly committed by young men under the age of 18. He says that when he lived in Moscow in the 1960s and 1970s, he personally knew about three groups involved in such crimes.
“Group rape was the most typical Soviet crime,” he continues. It had “everything” which the then powers-that-be wanted to ensure their power over citizens — men and women alike: “force, force over women, sexual force and the subordination of the individual to the will of the collective.”
However “paradoxical” it may seem, Baier writes, “women typically were firmer than men in resisting the inhuman and wild aspects of the Soviet system,” and because that was the case, those in power were especially interested in “putting them in their place” by various means including rape and the threat of rape.
At the same time, he argues, “group rape [was and] is an act of sexual force also with regard to men. For young people, it was a kind of rite of passage, of showing that you are a member of the collective and that you share with it collective guilt.” To stand against this was “in the eyes of Soviet society, a crime much worse than any gang rape.”
Unfortunately, Baier says, “this mentality defines many aspects of post-Soviet societies,” including the cowardice of many of their citizens, their “hostility to those who are brave enough to stand up in defense of their own moral principles,” and their willingness to engage in real or symbolic rape against those who do.
The latest example of this, Baier says, is the response of many Russians to Darya Klishina, the only Russian track and field athlete not caught up in the doping scandal and consequently the only one allowed to participate at the Rio Olympics, something she has announced she will do.
As so often in the past, once again, the individual prepared to break ranks with the herd is a woman; and also as so often in the past, Klishina has been subject to all kinds of attacks in the media and social networks, all of which are Baier says “a kind of collective ritual group rape of an outcast.”