A Woman Soldier on the Russian Front

Russian women soldiers who served in the all-female “Battalion of Death,” which was formed in 1917 by Maria Leont’evna Botchkareva

Below please find a set of web questions on Maria Botchkareva’s account of being a woman soldier who organized the all-female “Battalion of Death” in 1917 to fight the Germans. These questions were written by your classmate, Jonathan Qin. You can find the text of Botchkareva’s account in The Shaping of the Modern World, pp. 311-315. Remember to answer one of these questions with a response of a paragraph or more.

  • What was the situation on the battlefield as depicted by Maria Botchkareva?
  • According to Botchkareva, how did men and women soldiers differ?
  • In your opinion, do you think gender is still an issue in today’s military?
Leave a comment


  1. I believe that gender is an issue that is still dealt with in the military today. Most women are harassed either sexually or verbally. In some cases, women are even assaulted. The military does a good job keeping this information hidden from the public. In today’s society, women play a more important role as compared to a half century ago. For some people, that is something that they simply can not get over.They still have the mentality that combat is only for big strong men and women should be housewives. For anyone to say that gender is not an issues within the military is just foolish. I compare that to someone saying that racism is dead. I know racism still exist, however we just don’t hear much about it.

  2. I believe the opportunity for women in the military has improved and that in today’s day and age being a female soldier and a male soldier is not that different. However, you will still find fewer women in the military than men. The only real issue that still remains is that women are still not found in direct ground combat like men are. I believe that women should be able to fight in direct combat if they are qualified. In addition women still feel the need to prove themselves more than men do.All in all, I think this mentality still remains somewhat and will only improve if more women join the military.

  3. After reading the passage by Botchkareva I believe that the women soldiers were more mature and realistic than the men soldiers. To explain further, it seems that the women were more serious about fighting and more serious about “brotherhood” as well as a sense of courage. In the passage it is written, “Ha,ha! Women and officers will fight!…just watch those women run!”.(Shaping, p. 313) The male soldiers were humored by the possible pain of the women soldiers and did not care about the well being of the women soldiers. However, the women also seemed more naïve because even after these occurrences the women still had some hope that the men were going to help them. However, in the end the women were killed and the men did not save them. In the end it showed that the women soldiers were more caring and naive as opposed to the men. In addition the men soldiers became drunk while the women took the alcohol away from them. This event showed that the women were more mature as well as being more realistic in this horrible situation.

  4. George Papageorgiou

     /  December 9, 2012

    Women were harassed by male soldiers on the battlefield because men thought they shouldn’t be the ones fighting. Women were more serious on the battlefield as the men were the ones joking around and laughing. The men would constantly drink alcohol while the women would try to convince them that it was harmful. Gender is an issue in todays military, however it is not as it was back then. Women who want to join the military are still laughed at and told to do other things with their loves. The present military welcomes all women to join, but it is not known whether or not these women are being treated equally once they have joined.

  5. Aroosa Altaf

     /  December 11, 2012

    In as depicted by Maria Botchkareva, the situation at the war was that the women took the war more seriously than the man did, as the man just joked about the women being here but women still kept their hopes in men and avoided to alienate themselves (Shaping, p.313). It turned out to be completely opposite, as women were being killed, the soldiers just let-it-be sort of a thing and didn’t help. Rather than joining together in this situation, men isolated themselves from women just because of gender ideology. Regardless, women had shown more courage, the last line the women who was dying had said, as translated: “Oh my dear, it’s nothing!” (p. 315). I would agree to my classmates who have stated that there is still gender issue in today’s military, the reasons being the same. I think it would be a “false consciousness” phenomena to believe that there isn’t any gender issue in the military, when there is still existing gender issues within the society.

  6. dina bychkova

     /  December 12, 2012

    Women in the military were nurses and some even in the air force.However they were not allowed to fight.They were ridiculed because they were thought to be weak and a mans job is a mans job not a women’s job.So women had to work twice as hard to disprove that stereotype. Women now are treated better but still most of the fighting is done by men.women are unfortunately sexually harassed.Now women are able to have any position in the army(91%)Women however aren’t allowed to fight as men are on the battle field.However if a women is well equipped and qualified enough she should be allowed to fight.Military conditions have improved but there is still many gender issues and inequalities.

  7. Gender is definitely still an issue today in the military. Not only the solders think that gender is an issue, but for surely females who do not want to participate in the military think that going to the war is only for male. I am one of those females who think the military is only for big buffed male. When the society shaped our thinking, we will end up imply the ideology of going to the war is only for big strong men in reality. I am not saying that women should not join the military, but it is not for me.
    Comparing to the past and today’s society, there are lot more women joined the military. It is very true that women are welcome to join and being treated fairly in the army, but it does not mean that gender is not a matter. In fact, in today’s society, women who are serving in the United States military are unable to serve on the front lines in direct ground combat. It means those women are not allowed to use weapons on the ground while enemies are approaching. This shows us that even in our enlightened society; the men are those who should serve on the front lines.
    However, women can be better soldiers than men. Since ideology implied, men are those who should serve in the military, they do not take fighting in the war seriously. On the other hand, it is not common for women to contribute in the military, so women would want to be more serious to prove themselves from joining the military.

  8. Max Barlow

     /  December 14, 2012

    I believe gender is still an issue in today’s military. Women have been serving in the military for many years, but they still experience many barriers to their acceptance. These barriers are based on the ideas of military leadership and government regarding what a woman’s role is or should be. These ideas are formed as a result of traditional prejudices that create stereotypical roles for the female gender. Women are often referred to as the inferior sex and men are taught to protect and care for their women. As a result, women are strictly prohibited to participate in combat and gain little power when they first choose to enroll in the military.

  9. Elizabeth Adler

     /  December 16, 2012

    #3. Gender is still a big issue in today’s military. Although we have made vast improvements since the age when women could serve as nurses, not soldiers, we still have not closed the gap between men and women who serve our country. In addition, the women that do serve are not publicly awarded or provided with the same type of care that men gain from their services. Difference because of gender roles also depend on sector since the NAVY has a larger difference than the ARMY since there are more rules about who can serve on a submarine. If you think about it, advertisement still appeals to men as it used to with the ARMY’s slogan being Army Strong, usually depicted with a man in uniform. This contributes to the skewed gender roles the army still faces.

  10. Jonathan Qin

     /  December 16, 2012

    #3. Although much has changed within the military, I believe that gender is still an issue in today’s military. The fact that the stereotypes of women within the military is constantly portrayed for all female soldiers creates a difficult environment for women. Such as being constantly harassed by other male soldiers and even being ridiculed as being “weak”. The role of power and dominant is also another constant factor being played within gender, as males being better than females. While gender is no longer an issue within enlisting for the military, gender is still an issue within today’s military.

  11. Maria Sultana

     /  December 17, 2012

    In my opinion, I concur to the idea that gender is still an issue in today’s military. Men are still more superior than women. They are rewarded more for their duties then females. They believe that the tasks male can do, females cannot. It still seems as if females are still inferior in the army. Even though females are put into the military, they aren’t treated equally.

  12. Dimitri Antonopoulos

     /  December 19, 2012

    I believe that there’s still an issue with gender in today’s military even though a woman’s role has improved over the years. They are getting the same promotions, awards, and most jobs men do, but they are still are viewed of being incapable of going into combat. I think that military officials think that women lack the physical strength that men do to carry heavy weapons and injured soldiers as well as carry out some missions. I think the fact that women have that mother instinct may prevent them from killing which may cost the live of others in their team. Many male soldiers dont want women in combat. My brother was in the army and said that male soldiers dont feel comfortable or safe having a women on their side. They think women cant jeopardize their lives and the mission. They need reassurance in combat and thats not one of them.

  13. Gregory A.

     /  December 20, 2012

    Even though Botchkareva gave particular examples in her story that wasn’t true to all serving men. Russian army consisted of people of various age. Some soldiers were young and didn’t have families, others were mature and had wife and kids behind them. There are known cases when teenagers would actually lie about their age to get into army. So, not surprisingly it was hard to manage such diverse and immature army force. Now, regarding relations between men and women: let’s remember that Russia was agrarian country at that time, most people lived in villages where woman had always suffered secondary role in a household. So, there is no wonder that male soldiers despised woman, almost equal, presents on a front line.


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