Gender and professional work in Hungary and the USSR: intersecting and diverging histories
Gender in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe and the USSR
Gender and History
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This chapter explores the similarities and differences in the histories of women’s advancement in professional work in the 20th-century state socialist context of Hungary and Russia (the largest republic of the USSR). The dramatic increase in the number of women in paid labour was heralded as a major socialist achievement: women constituted 51 per cent of the workforce in Soviet Russia and 41 per cent in Hungary in 1970. Moreover, women in socialist countries seemed to have achieved the holy grail of western feminist pursuit by gaining access to professions such as law, medicine and engineering, traditionally dominated by men in most western countries. By the mid-1970s, 60 per cent of workers in professional occupations in the USSR were women. The USSR and other socialist countries are often referred to as an (Eastern) bloc due to similarities in politics and policies; however, the difference between the countries within the bloc must not be underplayed. This chapter demonstrates similarities and differences between the histories of women’s work in Soviet Russia and Hungary through exploring women’s advances in two professions – medicine and law. In doing so, it aims to understand how far one can speak of a common history of gender and professional work in 20th-century state socialist countries.