The Principles of War Podcast
Unwomanly Face of War

39 – The unwomanly face of war and the moral centre of gravity

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Women in this photo:

Aleksandra Samusenko

Tanker.  Guards Captain. Only female tanker in the 1st Guards Tank Army.  Died 3 March 1945 (Age 22-23)

Lyudmila Pavlichenko:

Sniper.  309 confirmed kills, Hero of the Soviet Union. Nicknamed Lady Death.

Natalya Meklin:

Po-2 pilot.  Major in the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment (Night Witches)  Hero of the Soviet Union. Completed 840 sorties.

Roza Shanina:

Sniper.  59 kills.   Died 28 January 1945 (Age 20), during the East Prussia Offensive.  “The essence of my happiness is fighting for the happiness of others.”



We continue our look at women’s service in the Great Patriotic War with the book by Svetlana Alexievich.  If you haven’t already listened to it, please listen to the first episode that looks at some of the history of women in war.

Maria Ivanovna Morozova – Accountant

We start with the story of an accountant in a car factory in Minsk – Maria Ivanovna Morozova.  She was the first woman that Svetlana interviewed.  She served as a sniper and had 75 confirmed kills.  What lengths did she go to in order to be allowed to enlist and what drove her to want to be a sniper?

Women in the Armoured Corps

We look at the service of Aleksandra Boiko.  Aleksandra and her husband donated 50,000 roubles to purchase a tank and wrote to Moscow stating that she wanted to drive the tank.  She ended up as an IS-2 Tank Commander.  She wasn’t the only women who commanded a tank in the war.

What role did Komsomol play in increasing female participation in the Second World War?

Many of the women talked about being ‘Good Komsomol Girls’.  What did this mean and how did it impact Soviet womens military service?

All Union Lenin Pioneer organisation and the Little Octoberists.  Member of these organisations meant you were less likely to be accused as a class enemy and able to get better jobs.  It was also an opportunity to shape the children of Soviet Union.

We look at the story of Pavlik Morozov, a member of the young pioneers who turned his father in who was a class enemy.  We look at the Soviet whole of government approach to shaping the attitudes of the

These youth organisations were just one way that the Soviet Union shaped attitudes Kill ilya Ehrinberg 1942.

We discuss Lady Death, Lyudmila Pavlichenko.  She was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union and ended the war with 309 kills.  She ended the war as a Major, having instructed at a Sniper School.  One of the most interesting part of her story is the way that she was received in the United States and the difference in attitudes towards the employment of women between the Soviet Union and the United States.

We finish with the female experience post the war, including PTSD and the physical wounds that many women suffered.

What was it like to serve in a Totalitarian regime?  How was the Soviet Union able to mobilise so many people to be so passionate about a Communist victory when so many had suffered some much under Stalin?

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Simon Galpern June 2, 2019 at 5:50 am

Great podcast. My mother was in the Russian army on the front lines as a morse code operator for bombers. Didn’t talk a great deal about it. She was a Sargent Major in charge of a group of virtually girls being 20 herself. Lost many of hr girls both to the enemy and from friendly fire being bombed by her own planes.
Met my father there who was twice badly wounded. He was a mortar man on survived the battle of Kursk. Brought my brother and me to Australia for a better life for us

James Eling June 4, 2019 at 1:16 am

They would have had some very interesting stories. They had a hard war.


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