Gender and totalitarianism : Soviet and Nazi occupations of Latvia, 1940-1945 / Mara Irene Lazda.
World War II brought two totalitarian occupations to Latvia: the Soviet regime from 1940 to 1941 and the Nazi regime from 1941 to 1945. Both caused great destruction to the physical, cultural, and political landscapes, but Latvian memories of the two occupations differ. The first year of Soviet occupation, which brought mass arrests and deportation, is remembered as the “Year of Horror.” Many Latvians remember the Nazi occupation, however, as a time when fighting for an independent Latvia was possible, in spite of Nazi policies of repression and the Holocaust. This dissertation analyzes official correspondence and documents, the periodical press, and oral histories to examine the contrasting memories and to understand how Latvians constructed ideas of autonomy even under the constraints of occupation.The ideological bases of each regime differed—Stalin based his on class and Hitler based his on race—but both states focused on women and family policies to build support. Although each regime professed a distinct societal ideal, the ways that Nazi and Soviet officials defined class and race were not static. The very fluidity and ambiguity of gender roles made gendered images particularly effective tools of propaganda for these ideologically opposed regimes in the attempt to build support and disseminate their ideas. The Soviet regime reconstructed gender roles to sever Latvia's ties to interwar independence. The Nazi regime restored gender roles associated with the interwar period that contributed to support for the Nazis and served as a channel for antisemitic ideology. Some Latvians, however, co-opted these same gender roles to create hope for Latvian sovereignty and resist occupation. This study aims to contribute to scholarship on collaboration and resistance in World War II, as well as on the memory of this period.
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