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Article

Criminalized Liaisons: Soviet Women and Allied Sailors in Wartime Arkhangel'sk

Journal of Contemporary History. 2020. Vol. 55. No. 4. P. 745-763.

From 1941 to 1945 thousands of British and American sailors came to the northern Soviet ports of Arkhangel’sk and Molotovsk with Lend-Lease convoys. On the shore they made many casual contacts with local residents, in particular with Soviet women. These contacts came under close scrutiny of the Soviet authorities who tried to limit the alleged subversive influence of foreign nationals on Soviet citizens. Local women who dated Allied personnel faced harassment and repression that ranged from administrative exile to imprisonment in the Gulag. Resentments against women who had intimate relationships with foreigners during the war were widespread throughout the European theater, and not limited to the USSR. Still the Soviet authorities’ treatment of Arkhangel’sk women who dated nationals of ‘friendly’ countries was particularly harsh. They faced not just moral condemnation, but legal prosecution and long prison terms. The severity of their repression is comparable to how the Soviet side treated civilian Nazi collaborators. Ultimately, Soviet reactions to such wartime contacts with Allied nationals shed light on the broader social history of the Soviet home front, inter-Allied relationships on a grassroots level, and Soviet wartime and postwar justice that was arbitrary in nature and largely defined by local initiatives.