You are on page 1of 224

Sex in the Soviet Union

Sex in the
Soviet Union

Dr Mikhail Stern

Dr August Stern
Translated from the French by
Marc E. Heine

A Howard & Wyndham Company


Editions Albin Michel 1979

English translation copyright

Marc E. Heine 1981

This book or parts thereof may not be

reproduced in any form whatsoever without
permission in writing.
Printed and bound in Great Britain by

Redwood Burn Limited

Trowbridge & Esher
for the Publishers W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd,
44 Hill Street, London W1X 8LB

0 491 02743 5


In trod uction
The land of clandestine sex

Part One
The Soviet regime and sexuality

Politics and sexuality

The socialisation of women and the Communist family


Part Two
The family, marriage and the couple


The modern Soviet family

Marriage and divorce
The liberation of Soviet women
Sexual inhibitions and moral censure
Frigidity and impotence
Sexual licence
Sex education, contraception and abortion


Part Three
Prohibited practices


What is normal ?
Exhibitionism and voyeurism
Sexual intercourse in public places
Eroticism and pornography
Sex crimes



Part Four
Nationality, class and sexuality

Sex in the S oviet republics

The masses
The privileged
Sex in the camps

1 85

Revolution or catastrophe ?


Octobriana : an example of erotic samizdat


The land of clandestine sex

Sexuality in the Soviet Union : how wc make love, what we

say to our parmer, how and why we marry, how we rape, how
we lie, how we search after the truth, how we perceive the
sexual realities of the West . . . Sexuality in the land of the
Soviets, whether normal or pathological, whether that of free
men or of prisoners, whether that of ordinary people or of
the privileged . . . Marriage, divorce, the sexual emotions of
the young when they first become involved with the opposite
sex . . . Woman's liberation-does it exist in the US SR? And
homosexuality? And those relaxing weekends in the country
enjoyed by the top people in the regime, far from prying
eyes . ,.
This is the subject of my book.
No one can be ignorant of the fact these days : the immense
Soviet Union is a secret world, a closed world. Wh en a
foreigner lands at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, he imagines
that he is about to begin exploring the country. However, in
the overwhelming majority of cases his hopes remain unrealised,
because his visit has been programmed in advance and there
are hardly any surprises in store for him. He will be shown
Red Square, the Kremlin, the historie monuments of Lenin
grad; he will be taken to visit a factory or a model collective
farm specially intended for that purpose in itineraries care
fully prepared in advance. When he tries to make friends with
Soviet people, not his official guides but the man in the street,
he wiU most often find, if be is discerning enough to feel it, a
fear, a tension, a constraint, which distorts the smiles, however
sincere, that people try to give him. In a country where
deception has been elevated to raison d'tat, where every
thing is done to present the actual state of affairs as a kind of
earthly paradise, and where each citizen is obliged to rehearse
in public life the dogma of official ideology, everyone's time is
spent trying to hide something; so our foreigner will leave
the USSR without having learned anything about it-neither

what constitutes the daily Iife of Soviet people, nor their in

timate thoughts.
Let us consider only one paradox : on the one han d, the Red
Arrow, that comfortable, elegant train between Moscow and
Leningrad in which foreigners travel first class only; and on
the other hand the through train that took fourteen days trans
porting me from Vinnitsa prison to Kharkov concentration
camp, a train into which prisoners were packed ten to a com
partment, amidst filth and a stifling heat and stench. 1 have
purposely chosen this brutal image to give an idea of the gulf
that separates the external appearance of things from the hidden
reality, concealed by the screen of official ideology.
Let me say straight away, this gulf constitutes the very essence
of Soviet reality. The splitting of the personality, the unten
able contradiction between the public, official attitude of people
and their private, secret conduct-it is this, even more than
the absence of political and individual liberties, which is de
stroying the Soviets, their bodies and their souls.
Yes, even their bodies. For nothing is more revealing of the
splitting of t,he Soviets' personality than their sex life. As early
as the Stalinist period, the ideology of the regime had banished
sex from Soviet territory. The 'Soviet man' claimed to have
been created was supposed to be a kind of superman with
irreproachable morals, whose amorous activities, reduced any
way to a strict minimum and to the most chaste manifesta
tions possible, were meant only to serve to strengthen the 'Red
Soviet family' and the socialist economy. A woman depicted
in official iconography was always armed with a gun or a
sickle; and if by chance she happened to have a breast exposed,
this audacity was invariably tolerated only for the noble pur
pose of suckling a future 'pioneer' of the socialist fatherland.
This essential characteristic of the regime, one which 1 shall
be emphasising, remains very mu ch alive in the Soviet Union,
despite the passage of time. This partly explains the present
situation, where there is more informaton available about life
in Soviet camps than about the sexual behaviour of Soviet
men and women.
Admittedly, the suppression and silence that surround
everything relating to sex are not .an invention of the Soviet
regime : many countries have experienced the same and still
do. However what is distinctive of the USSR is the strikingly
omnipresent censorship of each and every moment, which has

as a result become second nature to homo sovieticus; a moral

norm imposed from above, which, unlike traditional moral
codes, corresponds ta no reality; what is ultimately a brutal
intervention by the State into the most intimate depths of
human existence. In the totalitarian regime conceived by Orwell
in 1984, the unsupervised sexual act is considered a defiance
of the system : 1 have no doubt that at the heart of Com
munism thei"e has always been a tendency towards this 'ideal'
This rhen is the subject of my book : sexuality in the Soviet
Union. It is neither a medical treatise nor a political pamphlet.
1 wish to express my point of view-that of a endocrinologist
and sexologist--on the socio-sexual anomalies forced on people
by the Soviet way of life, and to describe my own experience,
based on thirty years of medical practice. 1 do not daim to
have written a piece of sociological research, which is anyway
impossible foi" reasons which 1 shaH expand on later; but 1
wish to acquaint my readers with everything that 1 have been
able to observe, even dealing with such concealed practices as
homosexuality and certain activities of top people in the regime
when they relax iri the sedusion of their dachas. If someone
in the Soviet Union were to undertake a book of this kind, his
temerity would automatically put him on the black list of dis
sidents or suspect persons. Foi" censorship in the Soviet Union
is such that all objective rese'arch in this field is impossible.
ln Western countries numerous reports on the sexual life
of men and women have seen the light of day in recent years.
One need think only of The Hite Report or of Beyond the Male
Myth by A. Pietropinto and J. Simenauer. From the official
Soviet point of view, these reports only serve to confirm the
moral decadence of Western society, which is in a state of
decay and has sunk so low that sexual perversions alone are
likely to arouse interest. It goes without saying that in the
USSR sexology is not recognised. Even the term 'sexologist'
hardly exists, used briefiy during those rare and fieeting periods
of liberalisni which the country has known in recent years.
Neither scientific discipline, nor the practice of sexology has
ever been penin tted in the USSR; so that the Soviet citizen
who wants advice is obliged to turn to a psychiatrist, endocrino
logist, gynaecologist, urologist or venei"eologist who might be
willing to listen to him. The specialist who agrees to take on

problems of this kind will never be short of work, because in

the USSR the incidence of sexual deviation has reached cata
strophic proportions, and there are no sexologists.
Doctors who carry out the functions of sexologists are brave
pioneers, obliged ta struggle against official taboos and the
moral prej udices and bewildering ignorance of the overwhelm
ing majority of the population. They can only rely on their
empirical experience and their personal talent-things they
cannot acquire via the official medical establishment in a
country which claims world supremacy for the quality and
effectiveness of its health service.
If the reader could have been present at my consultations, he
would have undoubtedly been astonished. Even with a good
knowledge of Russian,

1 am sure he would have understood

nothing except the endless repetition of the word 'it', which

can be used to refer simultaneously to the penis, the sexual
act, the vagina, pregnancy, masturbation, orgasm and many
other concepts the correct and current usage of whose ter
minology it would be futile to expect. The physician's skill
entirely consists in relying on his experience and his knowledge
of psychology to determine a diagnosis on the basis of ail
these 'it's'-or even on. the basis of their not being said at aIl
and to decide on the appropriate treatment or ad vice. Very often
these consultations coincide with a routine medical visit. Patients
frequently came to me about sorne glandular illness and at the
end of the consultation, suddenly feeling that they could con
fide in me, added with sorne embarrassment: 'Doctor, there's
one other little thing l'd like to ask you about ...'
ln spite of aIl these handicaps, the 'clandestine' sexologist's
task is facilitated by a peculiarity of Soviet medicine, whereby
the physician's role in fact greatly exceeds the strictly medical
framework of his activities. In the past, when Russians wanted
to confess their sins, ask advice or simply air their problems,
they went to see the priest. Nowadays, with religion virtually
eradicated, the priests are suspected of connivance with the
police, and no one knows any longer in whom to confide. This
is where the physician plays his part, for it faIls to him to
receive confidences and, as it were, to heal souls as weIl as
bodies. The physician undoubtedly embodies one of the rare
oases of humanity which have remained safe from the Com
munist regime; people willingly speak to him of personal or
intimate problems which they will never raise with others. He


enjoys the confidence of the population and is thus in a posi

tion to receive information of which the KGB itself is often
Such, therefore, is the status, or rather the lack of status, of
sexology in the USSR. It is a sort of semi-clandestine craft, a
combination of medicine proper, psychotherapy and ordinary
friendly conversation.
My personal experience as an endocrinologist and sexologist
lies precisely within the general framework which I have just
outlined. It is on the facts gathered in the course of practising
medicine that I have based the greater part of this book. As a
doctor in the Soviet Union, I have always worked among what
in Russia one still caUs the 'masses'. My patients included
people of aU ages, from the very young to the very aged. They
came from every section of the population, from the simple
peasant to the government minister or KGB general. It would
be difficult to estlmalte the number of patients who passed
through my hands over the thirty years. In the clinic which I
directed at Vinnitsa, the legal lirnit on the number of patients
was between thirty and thirty-five per day of consultation. In
practice the number was sometimes twice that. There were
even periods when I examined up to a hundred patients a day,
to say nothing of the terrible famine of 1947 when the number
could reach two hundred patients a day.
Although for the major part of the time that I was active
in the USSR I lived and worked only in the Ukraine, I have
met or treated patients from all the regions of the Soviet Union:
from Norilsk and Vorkuta in the far north, from Baku on the
Caspian Sea, from Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean; from
Leningrad, Moscow, Odessa, I<iev, Minsk, Yerevan; from open
cities like Tashkent, Novosibirsk and Ivanovo, and cIosed cities
like Gorki, Sverdlovsk and Perm.
The variety of my patients' nationalities was no less wide:
Ukrainians, J ews, Russians, Georgians, Czechs, Poles, Buryat
Buddhists, Azerbaijani Muslims, Armenian Christians-this
whole mosaic of the Soviet population, believers and atheists,
has en able me to acquire through direct contact a fairly com
prehensive range of experience.
Vinnitsa, where I directed a clinic, is a typical Soviet town.
It is often said that France is not Paris; it is even more the
case that the USSR is neither Moscow nor Leningrad. The
real Russia in the average middle-sized town, and for this reason


1 believe that my essentia11y provincial experience is more re

presentative of Soviet reality than that which 1 might have been
able to acquire in chies like Moscow and Leningrad, which
usua11y serve as points of reference. Indeed, Westerners and
Soviets too pften tend to extrapolate from what are after aIl
the showcases of the Soviet world on display to the West.
Vinnitsa is an interesting town for other reasons. In the
course of the last war, it housed the staff of the Soviet army;
Hitler installed hirnself there during the occupation. An agree
able climate has meant that it has now becorne a summer resort
reserved for highly placed persons: generals, Party bosses and
other representatives of the privileged class. One street in the
old part of town is inhabited almost exclusively by retired
generals. It was not unusual for the bosses to have me visit
them, or to come and see me for consultation. 1 once had the
honour of a visit from the First Secretary of the Party in
Vinnitsa, in other words the most important person in the
Vinnitsa region.
ln the course of my thirty years' practice, 1 have been able
to observe a11 sorts of sexual or hormonal anomalies; 1 have
learned of unbelievable tragedies and the etraordinary fates
lived out in secret by sorne of my patients. The most common
problems were sexual immaturity, impotence, premature
ejaculation and frigidity. Sorne patients came to see me of
their own accord, others against their will. Sometimes it was
a wife who urged her impotent husband to speak to the doctor;
or it might be parents who had discovered that their child
masturbated. Sorne patients were driven to me by despair
or the distress caused by a pathological phobia. Sorne were
aware of their anomalies, others identified them as such in
the course of a consultation. 1 have treated people by proxy
when the close relatives of a patient came to ask my assistance.
Others who were too embarrassed to come and see me even had
themselves treated by telephone. The patients who came to my
home for private consultation were often those who dared not
show themselves in an official clinic-genera11y homosexuals
or people with venereal disease; women who had come from
Kiev to have an abortion in secret; men who wanted to be
treated secretly for their 'shameful' impotence; and a lesbian
from Leningrad sent to me by one of my colleagues. Some
times when 1 sensed that the patient was reluctant to discuss
his problems in my clinic, 1 myself would suggest his coming


to see me at home. During these priva te consultations patients

were less reticent. My colleagues and friends from Kharkov,
Kiev and Moscow often sent me patients. Now and then 1
would travel to other towns to treat the privileged and ordinary
1 have had to cite these thousands of cases from memory:
when 1 left the USSR, 1 was able to take out only a few notes,
together with sorne letters and photographs, but aIl my files
had been confiscated by the police. It must he realised that
in a totalitarian society memory plays a more important role
than elsewhere. In the West no one is afraid to commit his
experience to writing (unless he is a criminal or a spy). In
the USSR, on the other hand, it is essential that facts and
names should he engraved on one's mind. Because no one dares
to keep written records, which can be confiscated and le ad to
prosecution, the memory sometimes becomes extraordinarily
acute. Nadezhda Mandelstam, the widow of the poet, forced
herseIf to learn hundreds of her husband's poems by heart, the
only possible way to preserve his work for posterity. This
phenomenon explains the inevitably empirical and autobio
graphical character of the writings of Soviet dissidents, and my
book is no exception.
This study, as 1 have said, is based primarily on my medical
experience. But the reader will also find other sources of
information here. Firstly, information received from a11 the
people 1 met outside my practice: acquaintances, friends, col
leagues, etc. Also, information which came to me from 'special'
patients : Party dignitaries and their wives, government minis
ters, retired military men, functionaries of the K.GB, Intourist
and the Public Prosecutor's Office, and journalists from Pravda.
This is not an unimportant source. It is com'mon knowledge
that information is not generally available in the USSR; it is
withheld from almost aIl sections of Soviet society and is
usually reserved for small, closed circles. The Soviet Union
is a country where news is transmitted by word of mouth,
where anecdotes replace the local newspaper. However, be
cause of my profession, 1 was often confided in by the best
informed class of the population, and as an ex-Party member
1 was able to consult secret documents inaccessible to ordinary
1 have also drawn on a number of Soviet sociological works
where information has managed to slip through the wall of

censorship; articles that have appeared in the Soviet press,

medical or otherwise, in which an eye practised in reading be
tween the lines will every so often glean something of interest; as
well as sorne Western historical sociological works which I
have been able to consult since leaving the USSR (particularly
I. Kurganov, Women and Communism, (in Russian), New
York, 1968).
Last but not least, I shall cite as my final source the 1,500
inmates of concentration camp ITK-1 2 (a camp for re-education
through labour) in the city of Kharkov, where 1 spent my last
three years in the USS R and where 1 discovered a new aspect
of Soviet sexuality. A camp is not of course a research labora
tory, and the inmates are more preoccupied with survival than
with observing the sexual behaviour of their companions in
misfortune. But even there, the respect in which a doctor is
held earned me the position of confidant and observer, the
expert who could offer advice. Now, having emerged from this
nightmare, 1 am amazed how c1early the names, the stories of
violence, murder and suicide, the tragic or tragi-comic events,
and the faces of the living and the de ad are imprinted on my
ln the camp I realised something which had not been
evident to me before my imprisonment; namely, that there is
a connection between the bloody vicissitudes which mark the
history of the Soviet Republic, between the terror and the hor
rors on the one hand, and the profound anomalies in Soviet
sex life on the other. I realised that the totalitarian regime
established in 1917 has engendered pathological problems
peculiar to itself, which have become disastrously widespread.
This book is not only the fruit of my personal experience
as a doctor and a dissident. To a certain extent it reflects the
experience of the thousands of patients whom 1 have observed
and whose distress 1 have sometimes been able to relieve. The
fact that 1 have spent the greater part of my life under a totali
tarian regime, inc1uding three years behind barbed wire, has
given me a political identity and bias for which I take full
responsibility and which will be apparent to the reader.
Two years lived outside Soviet Russia have enabled me to
measure the gulf that separa tes the \Vestern and Soviet worlds.
Even taking into account the nature of the system and the
character of the Russian people, the backwardness of medicine
and the great naivety of the Soviets with regard to problems

of sexuality will astonish Many Westerners. Before going any

further 1 must stress that the terminology used in the Soviet
Union is much less precise than that current in the West.
Medicine uses a universal language that has been standardised
in all countries foUowing a UNESCO conference; the USSR
has adopted this standardised terminology without, however
and this of course is no accident-extending it ta the field of
sexology. For example, the terms 'impotence' and 'frigidity'
are used to refer ta a variety of phenomena which Western
science defines more analytically th an we do (premature ej acula
tian, anorgasm, etc.). The words 'satisfaction', 'pieasure' and
'orgasm' are used indiscriminately, with no understanding of
their specifie meaning.
ln my book 1 have deliberately used the terminology current
in the USSR ta preserve a sense of the authenticity of the
report. 1 beg the reader's indulgence for this. My aim is ta
present as detailed a picture as possible of Soviet sex life, but
nothing is more difficult than ta translate empirical experience
into precise language. This work has seemed ta me essential,
and 1 have ventured to attempt it.
Conscious of the naiveties, the weaknesses and the contradic
tions to be found in it, 1 hope that this report will at least
have the merit of encouraging other research into sex life in
the USSR.


Part One

The Soviet regime and sexuality

Politics and sexuality

It may seem ridiculous to start by looking at the political

regime in a report on sexuality. Indeed, what connection can
there be between the functioning of a state, with its political,
economic and international concerns, and that which is most
intimate in Man's existence ? Is the author not yielding to
anti-Communist obsessions in taking politics below the belt?
To these understandable reservations, my only reply is an
instance drawn from my experience as a doctor, which has
always seemed to me terrifyingly illustrative of this nexus.
It was 1937 in the Ukraine. Elena and Andrii woke up that
morning feeling very happy : they had just got married and
were looking forward to the j oys of their new life-a feeling
as old as mankind, as life itself, which knows no barriers, no
frontiers or ideologies.
And yet the whole country was in the throes of the purges.
The year 1937 saw the peak of Stalin's pre-war Great Purge.
Millions of innocent people were arrested without reason, sent
to prisons and camps or shot on the most improbable pretexts.
Fear was everywhere, in peasant cottages and in old town
houses, in working-class quarters and in dignitaries' villas.
Can one love when one is condernned to death ? Yes, and
perhaps even more intensely than the executioner, who enjoys
a life of peace and quietness. Nobody wanted to die; everyone
clung to life, to its most elementary joys, to its craziest hopes.
Everyone expected to be arrested at any moment, but people
went on living and gritting their teeth; and wh en evening came,
after an exhausting day's work, people went to bed always
expecting to hear a knock on the door in the middle of the
night; people fell asleep wondering if it was the last night
they would spend in their own bed.
The NKVD agents liked to operate at night. For someone
who would face twenty-five years in a labour camp or the
death penalty it made little difference to know that he would
be taken while seated at table, or pulled out of his conjugal

bed. But for those who survived this ghastly period the effects
of the noctutnal arrests have been traumatie and their historieal
significance cannot be overestimated. In those years the popu
lation was possessed by fear, a basie emotion common to aIl.
Fear not only caused tragedies of a psychologieal nature in
millions of people but for a great number of them, it also led
to serious sexual problems. Fear is the enemy of sex. To prove
this, it is enough to try to make love when a jealous wife is
beating on the door. But one can have it out with a wife;
one can even keep the door shut or escape through the window
with one's mistress. But there was no escaping the NKVD,
and no explanations were possible. The knocking on the door
meant that one had to open it-for the last time.
Let us return to' the story of Andrii and Elena. Andrii was
arrested in 1 938, on the night of 20 April, 'Hitler's birthday,' as
he liked to joke later. Not long after, he was sentenced to
twenty years in a labour camp; but in 1 941, when Russia
joined the war, he was sent to the front in a special battalion of
'criminals' and 'enemies of the people'. He told me that aU his
companions perished, but that he was only wounded and, for
obscure bureaucratie reasons or very possibly owing to the
chaos of the war, he was not sent back to the camp, but re
turned home-minus an arm, but basieaUy safe and sound.
But really safe and sound ? At the time of his marriage to Elena,
Andrii had been a perfectly normal man sexually. On his
return, he was unable to rid himself of his fears at night : the
slightest noise in the street plunged him into veritable par
oxysms of anxiety : 'They are coming to get me aga in.' Some
times he would get up and creep up to the window to look out
into the street. Seeing nobody, he would go back to bed. But
once more he would feel his throat tighten with fear. His wife
was understanding, making him feel that she still loved him as
mu ch as before. But in spite of a very strong sense of desire,
the fear whieh dominated him made him impotent.
Years passed without the slightest improvement. When 1 met
Andrii in 1950, he could recaU aIl the details of the six or seven
occasions on which he had had sexual relations with his wife
during this entire time. Andrii was about to offer his wife her
freedom, despite his love for her. 1 did not believe that Elena
would have accepted this generous gesture : she was prepared
to sacrifice her sex life for her love.
A series of hypnosis sessions yielded no results. 1 despaired

of being able to help these people who had been ruined by the
system. 1 advised Andrii to give up sleeping in the same
bed as his wife, to go away for a week or two, and then to try
once more to have intercourse with her, but this time during
the day, something which is quite unusual in the Soviet
1 cannot remember how this idea came to me; perhaps 1
had already grasped the whole significance of this knock-on
the-door syndrome; perhaps it was intuition. But 1 shall never
forget when Elena and Andrii came to see me with a bottle of
vodka and an enormous cake. Both of them wept openly and
we embraced each other. This was in 1952, and in Moscow
the Doctors' Plot, a new purge prepared by Stalin, was making
news headlines, but it was as if we were protesting: 'No! We
will remain human beings! We will live! We will not renounce
love! '
It is not by chance that 1 begin my book with a reflection
on the consequences the violence of the regime has had on Soviet
sex life. It is the intrusion of the regime into the intimacy of the
conjugal life of ordinary men and women which forces this upon
The twentieth century has taught us that aIl societies, all
social and political regimes, have their sexual taboos and rules
of conduct, imposed on their members with greater or lesser
success-in short, ideological and moral codes which become
part of the collective conscience. People have distanced them
selves from the purely biological functions of sexuality and
very often do not realise the profound links between the
elementary forms of sexual activity, erotic sentiment and
orgasm on the one hand, and the history of society and of
each nation on the other. It is now generally understood that
so-called primitive societies, far from indulging in the unbridled
promiscuity once ascribed to them, observe very rigid laws
governing family relationships and incest.
The Soviet regime, which aspires to total control of the
individual's behaviour and even his thoughts, cannot remain
indifferent to sex. Lenin wrote to Inessa Armand, his platonic
friend, that 'as for the question of love, the whole problem is
in the objective logic of c1ass relations'. Like it or not, love in
the USSR belongs to the public dom1in: the family must be
Communist, the woman liberated in the Soviet manner; homo
sexuality has been illegal since 1934.

Any understanding of the sex life of the Soviet people is

impossible without an awareness of the political and social
context, which l should now like to examine in greater detail.


The Socialisation of women

and the Communist family



for Eros!

Moscow, 1922. A crowd of naked men and women are demon-'

strating in the street. Sorne of the women are holding hastily
prepared placards; sorne of the men are carrying flowers.
Women, their faces bright with joy, have joined hands and
are singing:
'Love! Love!'
'Down with shame. Down with shame!'
The passers-by are dumbfounded, victims of righteous in
dignation or rapturous happiness. Every so often a woman takes
off her clothes and joins the demonstration. A disgusted
looking member of the Cheka (political police) wonders whether
he ought not to fire into the crowd .. .
Today it is difficult to believe that such a scene could ever
have occurred in Soviet Russia. Yet it could not have been
invented, and old people who lived through the 'crazy years'
have vivid memories of these events. 1 personally knew a man
who participated in this nude demonstration in Moscow.
According to him, it was a very brief period of astonishing
freedom, of an emancipation of the spirit.
The 1 922 Moscow demonstration is only one example
among many. They took place here and there between 1917 and
1923, in Russian cities, particularly in Petrograd and Moscow,
but also in Odessa, Saratov, etc. It was a period when societies
for free love came into being, as in the Ukraine, where people
imagined that henceforth aIl would be permitted.
The nude demonstrations had only a very ephemeral exis
tence. They were quickly suppressed and the participants dis
persed by the police and 'indignant workers' specially recruited
for this purpose. The demonstrators then had to return home
naked} and not without difficulty; the women were sometimes
attacked and raped, occasionally by the same 'indignant
To understand the period better, we must try to im'lgine
the nature of the 1917 revolution, with the total collapse of

traditional values and institutions which it entailed. Even if

the regime already established was a regime of unequailed
terror and repression, the opium of liberty which had spread
throughout Russia in 1917 was still in the air. That is why the
1920S often appeared to contemporary eyes as a libertarian
explosion, when the most daring ideas, the craziest experiences,
kindled the spirits of impassioned youth.
There is undoubtedly sorne truth in this image. In the social
chaos which had spread across Russia during the civil war,
the sexual crisis toc had erupted, boiling over after too long a
suppression of elemental forces.
Throughout Russian history, there is no other period when
sexual problems were so uppermost in people's minds. Hence
forth, they would be a matter of public concern. Sexual dramas
and the relations between the sexes became an inexhaustible
source of inspiration for ail the art forms, and particularly
Let us take a typical story: Dog Lane, a novel by Lev
Gumilevsky published in Moscow in 1927. The action takes
place among young Communists of the Komsomol (a Com
munist Youth organisation). The central character professes
the theory of cfree, biological love': love is only a physiological
need, to be satisfied as simply as hunger or thirst. So he goes
to see a student friend, likewise a Komsomol member, and
tells her:
'1t's quite natural: 1 need a woman, so 1 turn to you, quite simply
and frankly, as a friend. Anna is away. So can't you do me This
favour? C
) If 1 told you that 1 was hungry and that 1 had to go
off to work, as a friend, you would willingly share a piece of bread
with me, wouldn't you?'

This emancipated language (to put it mildly) turns up again

and again throughout the period. Free love was very fashion
able. The mnage trois involving the poet Mayakovsky and
the Briks was just one well-known example. Far from being
thought scandalous, it was at that time considered to be an
example of open-mindedness.
Alexandra Kollontai, whose ideas have made her famous even
in the West, sang the praises of free love, unfettered by posses
siveness and jealousy:

'Jealousy belongs to the past. We are banishlng the notion of

property from the life of the emotions. If one aspires to liberty for
oneself, one must grant it to one's partner. Vitriol and hateful caIum
nies are now giving way to a tolerant attitude towards rivaIs, a
feeling born of a collective "comradeshlp", hitherto unknown.'

Kollontai was at the time a Communist Party leader, so her

ideas were not confined to sorne hot heads on the fringe, but
were definitely from the mainstream;
Love itself became 'physiological', to use a Soviet expres
sion, or, as the then currently popular phrase would have it,
'minus the cherry blossoms'. (This was an allusion to a short
story by P. Romanov, in which a young girl allows herself to
be seduced in a very unromantic, animal fashion.) The sexual
act is compared to a glass of water. In her essay Make Way for
Winged Eros, Kollontai says that sexual re1ationships should be
conducted, as sorne were already, 'casually, as one activity
among many others, in order to satisfy biological needs which
both partners are eager to relieve so that they can concentrate
their energies on what is essential: revolutionary activity'
(The Young Guard, no. 10, 1923).
The new enthusiasts were recruited particularly from amongst
the members of the Komsomol. A certain S. Smidovich gives
this ironical summary-scarcely a caricature-of their 'rules'
(cited in Sociological Studies, no. 4, Moscow):
'Every Komsomol member, student in a workers' or proletarian
faculty, or beardless youth, can and ought to satisfy his sexual urges.
1 do not know why this is considered an irrefutable truth. Sexual
abstinence is typical of the petit bourgeois. Every young Communist
girl, whether a student in a workers' faculty or an ordinary student,
upon whom any male has fixed his choice (1 shall never understand
how such African passions can have developed amongst us Nordics)
ought to anticipate his desires; otherwise she is just a petit bourgeoise,
unwonhy to be a Komsomol member, or proletarian student ...'

Here one sees that free love is often anything but feminist
and operates to the advantage of only one of the parties in
volved. An extraordinary text, but one that is very revealing
of the period and of the thinking of certain circles in the
Communist Party, proposed a 'socialisation of women'. This
was a 'decree' (cited by A. G. Kharchev in Marriage and che
Farnily in che USSR, Moscow, 1964) issued by a Soviet citizen

from the town of Vladimir (there was a similar one in Sara

'From the age of eighteen, every young girl is dec1ared State
'Every young girl who has reached the age of eighteen and who
is not married, is obliged, under pain of prosecution and severe
punishment, to be registered at a bureau of free love.
'Once they have been registered, young girls have the right to
choose a spouse between the ages of nineteen and fifty.
'Men likewise have the right to choose a young girl who has
reached the age of eighteen, if they are in possession of a certificate
confirming that they belong to the proletariat.
'For those who so desire, the choice of a husband or wife can
be made once a month.
'In the interests of the State, men between the ages of nineteen
and fifty have the right to choose women registered at the bureau,
even without the assent of the latter. The children who are the
fruit of this type of cohabitation become the property of the Re

Of course such extremism is exceptional, and the attempts

at 'sexual communism' were short-lived. But the period was
full of ideas of this kind: societies for free love, group sex,
nude marches and a project for the installation of public rooms
for sexual intercourse, to be situated next to lavatories in parks
and on the streets-all this was seriously discussed at meetings
and aired in the press and in literary works.
Contrary to the male chauvinist 'decree', Kollontai gives the
feminist variant of free love-a feminism, by the way, which
had already been a reality as early as the tsarist period,
manifested in a Union for the Equality of Women with a
membership of five thousand in 1905, a Pan-Russian Women's
Congress in Petersburg in 1908, a petition to the Duma (Parlia
ment) signed by seven thousand women, etc.
The heroine of Alexandra Kollontai's Love of Three Genera
tions expresses herself thus:
'For me, sexual activity is a simple physical need. 1 change my
lovers according to my mood. At the moment 1 am pregnant, but
1 do not know who the father of my future child is; it makes no
difference to me.'

Still a good c1imate for 'new ideas', but on a different level,


the 1920S were also a period when there was a craze for psycho
analysis. Even before the War, it had already been taken up in
certain intellectual and medical circles. A psychoanalytical
association was founded in Moscow in 1921. Vera Schmidt
attempted to bring up children according to principles which
she derived from Freud. Other associations were founded in
Kiev, Odessa, Rostov .. .

The liberation of morals?

Up to now we have dealt only with people's opmlOns. What
about the way people behaved? In other words, social
mores really liberalised after the Revolution?
Certain statistics indicate that this 'liberation' was genuine.
People seem to have had their fust sexual experience at a
much younger age. A survey on Moscow students conducted
in 1 922 shows that 41 . 5 per cent of the students had begun
their sex Iife before the age of sixteen and a half, and 7.5 per
cent before the age of thirteen. People do indeed seem to have
started putting into practice the theories of free love.
The ironical article by S. Smidovich cited above provoked
an avalanche of letters: Pravda of 7 May 1925 quotes sorne
extracts. A young girl writes:
'Male students distrust young Communists who refuse to sleep
with them. They consider them old-fashioned and petit bourgeois,
unable to free themselves of the prejudices of the pasto There is a
belief that not only abstinence but motherhood as weIl derive from
bourgeois ideology.'

This picture tallies with many literary descriptions. In the late

1920S, with the backlash following a clampdown by the Party,
there was no shortage of reports in the press describing scan
daIs of a sexual nature, notably in the Teacher's 'journal. Con
sider the following examples:
-At Yeysk, a small port on the Azov Sea, a sixteen-year-old
pupil killed herself; her diary reveals a precocious sex life amongst
the students of her class. (I9 June I926)
-At school 49 in Odessa, after the school play, dances were
organised which made adults blush (...) There is a club called
'Tiso' for readings of pornographie literature . . . (29 June I928)


-In Novosibirsk another 'secret society', eonslstmg of sixteen

pupils, was editing a pornographie journal ealled Down with Vir
ginity! (22 June 1928) . . .

At the same time new legislation championed the 'sexual

revolution'. The regime suddenly proclaimed the emancipa
tion of women, who were now to have the same rights as men.
The formalities of divorce were simplified in the extreme:
as a result of the deeree of December 1917 legalising the 'dis
solution of marriage', it became practically free, and could be
obtained simply by demand of one of the partners. Illegitimate
children were given the same rights as others, the so-called
free unions thus gaining official recognition (law of 1923). In a
country so traditionally attached to the family as Russia, a11
these measures were radical shocks to a society aIready in a
state of upheaval.
Last but not least, the liberalisation of abortion, in 1920,
had immense consequences for Russian behaviour. It immedi
ately became the number one method of contraception. This
practice was not only one of the tattier themes of Komsomol
literature in the twenties (where abortion is dealt with along
side numerous sentimental dramas, meetings at which one
coupling or another is analysed in detail, and discussions of
Communist morality), there was also a very sharp rise in the
number of abortions actually performed. The number of abor
tions quadrupled between 1922 and 1926 (Rudolph Schlesinger,
The Farnily in the USSR, London, 1949). In Leningrad in
1928, there were 31.5 abortions per 1,000 inhabitants against
22.6 births! The rate did not stop rising until 1934 when in
Moscow three abortions were recorded for every birth and in
the countryside, in the same year, three abortions for every
two births.
But let us put this into perspective. If divorce and abortion
introduced completely new elements to the sexual behaviour of
Soviet man, they hardly signified that the family had begun
to disintegrate, or that a sudden metamorphosis had led to
goodness knows what new forms of sexual life, both revolu
tionary and in keeping with the futurist vision. For a truly
objective view of the period requires a more subtle interpreta
First of aIl, the liberalisation of morals seems to have affected
only a minority of the population. In the countryside, despite

all the new laws, the family remained an irreplaceable institu

tion. As a result of the civil war and agrarian reform, the
Russians turned back to the land and family life. When discus
sions were organised in the villages to explain the proposed
new family code (adopted in 1926), the peasants protested: the
liberalisation of divorce was seen as an invitation to debauchery.
Above aIl, it represented a threat to the economic unit em
bodied by the patriarchal family: the newly-wed couple instal
led themselves on the husband's family farm, joining a social
group dominated by the towering figure of the head of the
family. If the woman wanted to get divorced and leave the
farm, it dealt a heavy blow to the joint enterprise, a11 the more
so as she had also recently acquired the right to demand
alimony. Why on earth, asked the peasant delegates, should
the brothers or the father of the 'bad husband' (because, for
the peasant, if there was a divorce, the guilt redounded to the
husband-perhaps he hadn't beaten her enough?), or even the
whole family, be obliged to pay? Worse, the divorced woman,
the man's equal in the eyes of statute law, would have the
right to demand a share of the land, whereas common law
guaranteed the integrity and individuality of family property.
So there was an enormous discrepancy between revolutionary
ideas and moral codes actua11y in force, which had remained
practically unchanged for centuries. It was easy-and this is
exactly what the new regime did-to prodaim on paper the
liberation of women, to promulgate laws which for the peasants
of the period had about as much tneaning as extraterrestrial
signaIs, and then to boast of having established 'socialism',
without any concern for the sometimes catastrophic con
sequences of this irresponsibility. The newspapers of the same
period complained too of a phenomenon which they termed
'seasonal wives'. Sorne peasants wished to profit by the law on
divorce, not to ep,joy sexual freedom, but to very utilitarian
ends: they would get married at the beginning of spring and
divorced with the approach of winter. It was a very simple
calculation: they had the use of an extra pair of hands for
work during the summer months and then rid themselves of
the burden of an extra mouth to feed during the winter (from
Kent Geiger, The Farnily in Soviet Russia, Cambride, 1968).
Even amongst the urban population, we must not think that
aIl milieux were atfected. A 1923 survey of Moscow students
shows that 72 per cent of the men and 81 per cent of the


women were in favour of lasting sexual liaisons, as opposed to

the fashionable glass-of-water type of relationship (Sociological
Studies, no. 4, Moscow, 19o, p. 104).
What is particularly striking is that the 'new ideas' were
grafted into traditional ways of thinking, resulting in the oddest
cocktails. Here, for example, is a question put to a lecturer
who had just stated that love does not exist, and that sexual
desire alone is real:
'Comrade lecturer ! If

a person marries does his wife belong oo1y

to him, or to everyone ?'

'Belong' : a decent chap, the good old-fashioned male

chauvinist that he is, does not for a single instant doubt that
his wife is a chattel. The problem for someone who wants to
be a good collectivist is whether this property is individually or
collectively owned.
So, was there a sexual revolution? Certainly not. A relaxa
tion of morals? Doubtless. And one which most benefitted
those who were best placed to profit by it: the new ruling
c1ass. Naturally 1 am not thinking of the hard-line, dedicated
Boisheviks like Lenin, who, as we know, had too lofty an idea
of his mission to devote time to triftes. 1 am thinking rather of
the middle-Ievel leadership, aIl those local commissars, new
Cheka men and upstarts of every kind, who flung themselves
upon the spoils of power determii1ed to obtain the maximum
For them the ease of divorce and ideas of sexual communism
proved very convenient. To repudiate one's spouse and avail
oneself of the possibilities offered by one's new status was
child's play. As a Communist girl student writing to Pravda
(issue of 7 May 1925) describes:
'It is not only the young Communists but also the older mem
bers of the Party who suifer from this malady. They enter into
liaisons lightly, denying them any permanence. In their opinion
fidelity is horing and the terms "husband" and "wife" bourgeois in
ventIons. They are shocked when asked about their wives. In reply
they snicker or ask, "Which one ? " 1 knew a man in high position
who had a wife in each town he visited. C
) Another Communist,
the husband of a friend of mine, suggested that 1 should sleep
with him one night, on the pretext that his wife, who was unwell,
was temporarily unable to satisfy him. When 1 refused, he called me


a stupid bourgeois, incapable of rising ta the heights of the Com

muni st spirit. Since then, he no longer greets me. 1 found this
particularly distressing because 1 respected him as a well-informed
Party member.'

The local commissars, those rural Don Juans (as the Teacher's
Journal of 4 December 1926 calls them), compelled young
schoolmistresses newIy arrived in their village to cohabit with
them, under threat of administrative sanctions.
Nor should we lose sight of what was an essential part of the
background to tbis period: the state of anarchy which pre
vailed after the war. The civil war had ravaged entire districts,
causing millions of deaths. Pogroms, devastation, rape, and all
manner of violence had become commonplace. During the great
famine of 1921-22, sorne inhabitants of the Volga region were
reduced to eating children. The number of young vagrants,
abandoned children, orphans, refugees and juvenile delin
quents amounted to between seven and nine million in 1922.
It was that which truly shattered the traditional family-that
was the real revolution-much more effectively than all the
fashionable trends. In the course of the civil war, chaos reigned,
a state of barbarism which spared no one.
There were innumerable cases of rape and sexual violence,
which led to scandaIs, trials, and ideological discussions con
ducted by th authorities. There was a gang rape of a school
girl at Chelyabinsk, in 1926, by a number of her classmates
(Teacher's Journal, 26 June 1926). A group of seven men,
including several Communists, went on trial for the rape of
two women-an affair that gave rise to the expression 'Chubarov
moraIs', after the name of the street where the rape was com
mited (Prvda of Leningrad, 17 December 1926). As the
newspaper article stresses, this episode seems typical of current
moral attitudes. Had Mayakovsky himself not written:
'1 shaH ravish

any beautiful young girl

And spit
on her heart
. in derision ! '

This is of course only a fantasy, but a cynical fantasy, un

ambiguously illustrating the breakdown of moral values.
1 shaH conclude with a story 1 heard from a patient. It is

certainly an exceptional-indeed a pathological-case, yet

neverthe1ess indicative of the incredible barbarisation of moraIs,
and it gives us pause to reflect on the hidden connections
which can link power and sexual sadism. My patient's mother
was a peasant in Bashkiria. During the famine she had travelIed
as far as Ufa to find bread. On a railway platform she was
accosted by an armed Cheka man who took her home. In
experienced though she was in lovemaking, the peasant woman
hoped to obtain a morsel of bread in exchange for her body.
But when they arrived at his home, the Cheka man ordered
her to undress and gave her to his dog. The famine was so
terrible that she consented, imagining that food would folIow.
When the dog had discharged its sperm, the Cheka man threw
her out with neither food nor money.
In this period then, people still clung to the family as part
of the tradition al way of life, but moral norms were collapsing
everywhere. The Communists had rejected them on the
principle that 'everything is allowed'-in the name of the
Revolution of course. At the heart of the Communist reality, con
cealed by a hypocritical morality, lies the desire to live without
any moral restrictions. 'Sexual freedom' in the USSR, despite
a striking resemblance to similar experiments in the West over
the last two decades, did not lead to the same emancipation of
thought and evolution of relationships between the sexes.

Sex-the enemy of the revolution

This phrase was a Communist Party slogan during the 1920S.

Of course the real state of affairs was more complex than this
epigrammatic formula would suggest. First of aIl, the Party
seemed to be doing everything to weaken the family and
traditional values, and to champion 'sexual freedom'. Then,
in a second phase, going back on itself, it progressively tight
ened aIl the screws, legally and socially, instituting a kind of
reign of virtue. To understand this contradiction we must go
back to the roots of Communist ideology.
The regime encountered an important obstacle to the realisa
tion of a society entirely remodelled in the image of 'Com
munist man': the family. The family is a refuge for the
individual when the rest of public life has passed into State
control. The family raises its children, who likewise look to it
as a refuge from state-controlled education. The family, par
ticularly the peasant family, represents the permanence of

ancestral traditions, which are of course anathema to the

pioneers of progress. An anachronistic 'reactionary' institution
obstructing the dissemination of Communist enlightenment?
It must he destroyed, annihilated!
That was Lenin's view of the traditional family. Posing as
the champion of women's liberation, he writes:
'Women are still domestic slaves C ), because the individual
domestic system, that of the private household, tramples on them,
strangles them, brutalises them C ) squandering their energy in
work of unbelievable sterility, petty, enervating, degrading and op

And he goes on to caU for a complete transformation of this

'aberrant system' into a 'great socialist economy'.
These views leave no doubt as to his intentions. The 'libera
tion of women' was to furnish manpower for the construction
of socialism, an ideal fully realised, as we shall see later. It
was not the sexual role of the family which worried Lenin, but
he wanted to fragment it, to abolish its raison d'tre. As
Lunacharsky, the Minister of Education and Culture, said in
1918, Lenin's ideal was that 'this small educational establish
ment which is the family, this small factory C. ..), this un
mitigated blight C. .. ) will become a thing of the past' CA.
Lunacharsky, Education and Teaching Cnew edition), Moscow,
1976). 'The State,' adds this worthy minister, weIl known for
his moderation and liberalism, 'should seize the infant the
moment the mother lets it out of her hands.' Sorne were to
remark that the millions of abandoned children already re
presented a step towards the dissolution of the 'bourgeois'
One begins to understand why Lenin signed the divorce
decree in December 1917, a truly extraordinary historical fact:
only one month after the October coup, at a very critical
period for the new regime, Lenin found the time to concem
himself with divorce legislation. We may conclu de from this
that the destruction of the traditional family occupied an
important place in his thoughts.
But for aIl that, Lenin was no supporter of sexual com
munism. His reaction to the glass-of-water theory and to his
Komsomol acolytes' indulgences was one of disgust.


'The so-called 'new sex life' of young people and adults seems
very ofcen petit bourgeois, a variety of th\! good oid bourgeois

he said, according to the memoirs of Klara Zetkin, the German

Communist leader. For him, the glass-of-water theory is 'anti
Marxist'. He is not opposed to the principles of marriage and
the family : he wants a 'civil proletarian marriage based on
love and ideology'. The proletarian ought not to marry any
bourgeois' daughter.
His dec!arations reveal a rather puritanical streak and favour
an ascetic refusaI of sex :
'The absence of slf-discipline in sexual life is a bourgeois pheno
menon. The Revolution requires that we concentrate our energies.
Wild excesses in sexual life are reactionary symptoms. We need
healthy attitudes . . .

Lenin's own private life is not notable for its eroticism. AlI
his attention and energies were monopolised by the desire to
hammer his party into shape. This obsession consumed his
days and his nights. Like Chernyshevsky's hero, whom he
admired, he had no time for sentiment or the desires of the
flesh. Everything he ate and drank, his c!othes, his daily life,
served only to keep him at his best for the good of the cause.
The pleasures of the body were banished : everything had to
serve the Revolution.
We know of only two women in Lenin's life : his wife
Krupskaya and his friend Inessa Armand, who died in 1920.
At present the Soviets are taking pains to cover up his re1ation
ship with Inessa Armand although this romance, which was
pure1y platonic, was perhaps the only human and truly moral
chapter in his life. He had no children. The only fruits of his
militant marriage to Krupskaya were the mythical ideas which
they shared regarding a Communist paradise.
1 do not know how historians will judge Lenin, but his be
haviour from a doctor's point of view, particularly his gestures
and physiognomy, suggest to me that the Communist giant
was a sexual pygmy. The impotence fairly generally attributed
to him in the USSR is perhaps not entirely fanciful. Compar
ing Lenin's 'case' with the countless cases of impotence which
1 have had to treat, a number of common traits emerge : very
energetic gesticulations when speaking-a form of compen34

satory sublimation; and of course his complete indifference

towards women.
Now we are in the realm of historical gossip. Nevertheless,
Lenin's personality is important. Far be it from me to imply
that his asexual character has exercised an exemplary influence
on the population as a whole (moreover, if 1 may be forgiven
the digression, the ritual visits of newly-weds to Lenin's
mausoleum, even before their wedding night, have no special
aphrodisiac effect). However, his ascetic ideal of the great
march towards the Revolution and the society of the future,
crushing in its path aIl aspects of life like a stearnroIler, did not
remain a merely personal trait; it has been adopted as an
essential feature of Communist ideology.
Soviet puritanism is a strange form of puritanism. Out
wardly the new morality abolishes the most oppressive taboos
while avoiding the opposite excesses and seems to confront
the question of sex with good sense. But in fact aIl the ideas
underlying the 'liberal' legislation, the projects for 'liberation',
point in one direction: Communism. Along the way love is
destroyed, eradicated in the name of a 'radiant future'. It is no
longer an individual experience, but a pretext for transforming
traditional society, a stepping-stone to the society of the future.
A certain Zalkind, noted for his psychological theories in
whicho he attempted to dress up Freud in Marxist-Leninist
guise, proclaimed in his collection of essays caIled The Revolu
tion and Youth, published in 1925 under the auspices of the
Communist University:
'Our point of view can only be revolutionary and proletarian, and
strictly practical. If any sexual activity contributes to the isolation
of a person from his class C ) , deprives him of his energy at
work (. . . ), diminishes his fighting qualities, he must put a stop to
it. The only sex life which is permissible is that which contributes
to the growth of collectivist feelings . . . '

Then he lists sorne rules, a few of which l cannot resist

The sexual act should not take place too often.
One should not change partners frequently.
Love should be monogamous.
During the sexual act, one should always beware of the possibility
that a child may be conceived (. . . ) .


Sexual choice ought to opera te according to class criteria; it ought

to conform with revolutionary and proIetarian goals ( . . . ).
The class (i.e. the Communist Party) has the right to intervene in
the sex life of its members.

The Party's intervention can, for example, forbid one to love

a 'c1ass enemy':
'Sexual attraction felt for someone belonging to a different, hos
tile and morally alien class is a perversion of the same order as
sexual attraction towards a crocodile or an orang-outang.'

Furthermore, it is the Party's responsibility to safeguard

the purity of the race. Zalkind advocates 'the total and uncondi
tional right of society by which it is authorised to intervene
in the sex Ille of the population for the purpose of improving
the race by the practice of artificial sexual selection'.
These lines will disturb contemporary readers. The theme
is a11 too familiar and the associations that spring to mind are
certainly no credit to the author. But he is not alone in holding
these opinions. His ideas concerning the purity of race were
shared, for example, by Preobrazhensky, an important Party
official. For him sex is a 'social problem, if only from the
simple point of view of the health of the race ...'; he also
wants sex to be controlled with a view to a 'better combination
of the physical qualities of the persons having intercourse'.
1 shall dwell no further on the Communist ideas of this
period. The reader will, 1 hope, agree that the essential point
is the utopian vision of complete control being exercised over
man even in his sexual impulses, a utopia aspired to through
out the entire history of the regime. It recurs in 1929 in the
writings of A. Sabsovich, who advocates 'taking the child
away as soon as it is born' and placing it under the control of
the State; it underlies pro;ects for future towns, where the
whole of everyday life will be collectivised, and even more im
mediate urban pro;ects.
Let me assure the reader straight away: the regime has
never completely destroyed the family nor built race-selection
centres . .. Never, with the possible exception of the Gulag.
A French ex-prisoner, Armand Maloumian, relates that in
1948 men and women in the camps were allowed almost un
restricted contact with each other, whereas up to that period
they had been rigorously kept apart. The prisoners were even

encouraged to have intercourse. The orgy which ensued was

indescribable. A good many women became pregnant. The
mothers-to-be were then led to believe that they would be
freed, but a year later they were sent back to camp : their
children were taken away and committed to the care of the
State, which in many cases trained them in special schools
to be policemen (A. Maloumian, Les Fils du Goulag, Paris,
As always, the Communist utopia is realised only in the
concentration camp. To deal with the monstrous problem of
depopulation caused by the purges and aIl the calamities the
country had suffered, the regime found no better solution than
to mate prisoners like cattle. As for the educational aspect of the
matter, the old idea of taking children away from their families
was actually put into practice in the USSR weIl before Com
munist Cambodia, where, admittedly, the 'family' period
(limited to the mother) appears to have been reduced to only
a few months.

Stalinist virtue

If legislation of the Leninist period aimed to destroy the

family, that of the Stalinist period reinstated it-not the tradi
tional 'bourgeois' family of course, but the 'Soviet family'.
And virtue reigned.
Abortion was all but made illegal in 1936. In 1934 homo
sexuality became a criminal offence, and in 1944 it became
difficult and costly to obtain a divorce. Illegitimate children
lost aIl their rights, so that they were in an even worse position
than un der the old regime.
Of course this policy could be justified as being practical.
The series of catastrophes Russia had suffered-the First World
War, the civil war and the famine of 1921, collectivisation and
a second famine (1928-31), continuaI purges (notably that of
1937), the Second World War, another famine and more
purges-this whole chain of events had brought the USSR to
the verge of ruin. The total human loss, never fully acknowl
edged by the Soviets, has been reckoned by Western demo
graphers to be around sixt y million dead for the whole of the
period. The birth rate, which was very high at the beginning of
the regime, comparable with that of underdeveloped countries,
declined drastically after the Revolutionary period :

(per 1,000)
45 5
1920 = 3 1.2
1925 - 447
1926 - 44.0

(per 1,000)
1940 - 3 1.2
1950 - 267

Admittedly there was a dec1ine in the birth rate in Europe

generally as it became industrialised. But it must be emphasised
that in no European country has industrialisation caused
millions of deaths. A close examination of the figures reveal
that in the only period when Russian society (particularly the
peasantry) was left in relative peace, that is to say between
1922 and 1928, the birth rate almost regained its pre-war level,
whereas at the same time in Western Europe there was a
natural progress towards a faIl in the birth rate. In the US SR
this dec1ine took place chiefly as a result of the disasters of the
post-Revolutionary period.
To counter this demographic catastrophe, the regime sought
to reinforce family ties and to curb divorce and abortion,
which were so numerous the very survival of the population
was threatened. But that is not, in my opinion, the real reason
these measures were taken. The motivation seems to have
been Soviet puritanism, the seeds of which had already been
Sown in the 1920S and probably even in the nineteenth century,
and which truly blossomed after the 1930S.
This puritanism is reflected in certain actions taken which
have nothing to do with the encouragement of the birth-rate.
For example, mixed schools, introduced in 1918, were abolished
in 1943. Psychoanalysis had been prohibited since the end of
the 192oS, together with any related experiments, pedagogical
or medical.
I t was, above aIl, the ideological and moral codes imposed
by the regime which put an end to the 'crazy years'. They
were oppressive codes which even the most conservative
peasants had probably nevel' entertained, and which found
expression in millions of examples in the arts, literature,
speeches, the press, schools and meetings.
According ta these codes, no longer is the family only a
framework for living, a source of happiness, or an economic
unit. It is a duty. For Makarenko, the regime's official ideolo
gist for education, a family upbringing is a sort of delegation
of powers which society entrusts to the family: parents should

do their 'civic duty towards Soviet society', which is compared

to an orchard, where Stalin is the 'great gardener-in-chief'
(Book for Parents). Parents who do not understand their duty
'provide society with an unreliable human product'.
So it is not just any family that is 're-established': it is a
family at the service of the regime. The same goes for women,
whom the Soviet system boasts of having liberated: 'Never
has woman been the object of so much care and attention
from a state or a people as in socialist society.' The Soviet
woman is above all a model citizen. The conferences, con
gresses and meetings of all kinds where carefully selected women
prodaimed their loyalty to the regime were innumerable. As
militanta, the Soviet woman does her utmost to increase eco
nomic productivity, or at least to support her engineer, tech
nician, or worker husband in his exalted task (like the
participants at a conference for wives of engineers in heavy
industry, reported by Pravda, .10 May 1936). She is not only
a perlect mother by virtue of her Communist conscientious
ness, but also gives birth to numerous children, supplying
that 'human product' which Makarenko called for. Since 1944
medals have been awarded to particularly fertile mothers:
'Mother-heroine', 'MaternaI glory', 'Maternity medal'; an indi
cation of how the regime prefers persistent ideological indoctri
nation to the proposaI of rational of ways to deal with the
The model woman is a sort of Madonna and Joan of Arc
combined, like Dunyasha in The Zhurbin Farnily, a nove! by
Kochetov, one of the worst of the Stalinist writers who
flourished in the USSR. The book first appeared in 19)'2 ; since
then hundreds of millions of copies have been published. The
heroine in question is both charming and sweet, her notable
physical qualities being limited to her angelic face. She is an
e xemplary worker and a perfect mother; to crown her virtue,
she still finds time between her work, her children and aIl the
good Communist sayinQ's she never stops dispensing, to attend
Communist Youth meetings.
But predictably the children too have their own ideal. En
rolled into 'Pioneer' organisations, they take an oath and, by
the seventh and last commandment, promise to remain 'pure
in their thoughts, their words and their deeds' ; the oath was
adopted in 1922 when the organisation was founded.
For 'purity' is of course an essential attribute of the Com39

munist hero. As Makarenko says, the Soviet family has attained

a 'moral grandeur which is only possible in a classless society'
(Book for Parents, p. 5 1).
But the supreme hero of the regime is the militant male,
strong and pure. There is no lack of literary examples in the
novels of Leonov, Fadeyev and Ostrovsky, to cite only the
classics. He is a person who neither smokes nor drinks and
rarely makes love. Even platonic love is frequeny postponed
until a better tomorrow; it cannot and should not be an obstacle
to the political 'struggle' or to work. It seems a miracle that
he should ever become a family man, so capable is this human
machine of programming his entire existence without leaving
any time for his private life: he gets up, then there are morn
ing gymnastics, joyful labour, a trade union or political meet
ing where recalcitrants have to be put back on the right road,
and a reading from the works of Marx and Engels during the
few free moments which are left . . . Where the devil does he
find time for a bit of eroticism? The best example of this hero
appears in Ostrovsky's novel, How the Steel Was Tempered.
He begins by abandoning his unreciprocated love for a bour
geois' daughter because, owing to her background, she will
never become a good militant Communist. Then he falls in
love with a true militant, a pretty girl who is in love with
him. Tempted as he is, he ends up by renouncing her too:
even if she is a Communist, a life together might deprive him
of sorne of his potential militancy.
The ideal 'Soviet family' has never been anything but a
myth. In practice the regime has systematically sabotaged the
bases and structures of the traditional family. No legislation
was required, even had it been Stalin's intention to deal a
mortal blow to the family system. But the very existence of
the network of terror and the permanent intervention of the
State in aIl spheres of human life was enough to ensure that
it happened.
1 have already mentioned the demographic catastrophe. It is
easy to imagine how difficult it was to speak of the existence
of the family or of a sex life in a village devastated by famine,
or subject to punitive expeditions designed to 'collectivise' it.
This has also left its mark on people's minds, even when
their bodies escaped unharmed. So it was, for example, with
the phenomenon of denunciation. Throughout the country, no
one could trust his workmate, his neighbour, or even his rela40

tives; husbands and wives denounced one another. The case

of Pavlik Morozov, the Pioneer who denounced his father
during collectivisation, was he1d up as an example and earned
a" special entry in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia and even the
erection of commemorative statues. When a Soviet citizen was
arrested, the spouse had to be truly heroic not to repudiate
him, as authorised by law. To be the husband or wife of an
'enemy of the people' exposed one to terrible consequences,
which could often extend to arrest and imprisonment. Just
imagine how loving relationships could have been in a family
where each person was afraid to discuss even the slightest
political issue in front of the others, and where parents and
spouses were constantly putting on an act to present the
image of perfect 'Soviet happiness'!
It was a paradoxial situation: the State during the 1930S
attempted to strengthen the family structure, but the opposite
happened. As the regime became more terrorist and totali
tari an, the family disintegrated more and more. Another pheno
menon very characteristic of the USSR was fatherless families,
which played a significant part in the break-up of the family
generally. The war, but also the purges, affected the male
population most, so that at the 1959 census men represented
only 45 per cent of the total population and in the age group
thirty-two years and older 37 per cent (in other words, 170
women to every 100 men). This was precisely the age group
affected by the terrible years. It is an enormous disequilibrium,
further accentuated by the rural exodus (often it was the man
who left to find a better life), and it has truly traumatised the
Soviet family. The upheavals resulting from the father's
absence are weIl known in Russia and have been magnificently
depicted in Tarkovsky's film The Mirror. The full extent
of the phenomenon is indicated by the following statistics: in
the 1959 census (already post-Stalin), 29 per cent of Soviet
families were headed by a woman, whether widows, divorcees
or unmarried mothers; for the Republic of Russia alone, the
proportion is 31 per cent, and 34 per cent in rural areas; and
one survey conducted in the Kalinin region gives us a propor
tion of 41 per cent (L. Anokhina and M. Shmeleva, The Cul

ture and Everyday Life of Collective Farm Families in the

Kalinin Region, Moscow, 1964).
The disparity between the superiority and radiant happiness
of the Soviet family claimed by mendacious propaganda, and

the tragic reality of these traumatised families, brings me back

ta my thesis of the split personality of Soviet life. The goals
pursued by the regime-the de-erotisation of love, the sub
ordination of sexual drives ta the economic and political
interests of the Soviet State, a desire ta control the innermost
freedom of each individual-have ultimately borne fruit. It is
not that the average Soviet citizen obeys every order of the
totalitarian S tate like a weIl-run machine : OrweIl's terrible
vision of the future still remains a vision. But the system
has profoundly inhibited sexuality, down ta the very depths of
a repressed personality. To give the reader a better picture of
the situation, it could be compared with the sex life which
might exist in prison or in the army. As the prisoner or the
soldier is unable to satisfy his sexual drives freely, they
atrophy, become inhibited, and give rise ta aIl sorts of devia
tions. Basically Soviet sexuality is of a carceral type, just as
the entire country-this is now a commonplace-has been
compared ta an immense prison.
Nevertheless, 1 wish ta end tbis chapter on an optimistic
note. This family, though splintered, and this love, though
maimed, are still islets of humanity which sometimes serve
Soviet citizens as refuge from the rigours of their existence.
For example, how can one not admire the constancy and
conjugal fidelity of the wife of a prisoner in Kharkov camp ?
During the famine of 1947, when the Ukrainians were dying in
tens of thousands, this prisoner, the chairman of a collective
farm in the Khmelnik region of the Ukraine, led a gang who
looted the stores of a neighbouring area. The loat was shared
out equitably amongst the inhabitants of the collective farm.
He was found out by chance (the whole village staod by each
other) and was sentenced ta twenty-five years in a camp. At
the time he had one child. Throughout his imprisonment his
wife waited for him patiently, visiting him every six months,
as the regulations permitted. These meetings enabled them ta
have five children during the husband's imprisonment. No
doubt without the great love which his wife felt for him the
man would have perished. Despite the barbed wire and the
watch towers, love survived and the family was able ta re
establish itself.

Part Two

The family, marriage

and the couple

The modern Soviet family

Since the family nucleus remains the preferred framework for

sexual activity in the USSR, 1 feel it necessary to begin this
study of Soviet sexual life with an analysis of the family.
People continue to get married in the USSR, and the children
who are the fruit of these unions are brought up, at least in
part, in the bosom of the family framework. 1 mention this
lest someone should imagine that Soviet society has invented
new forms of sexual life: neither Communism nor the 'Slav
soul' have done so as yet. This said, the question remains :
what sort of family is the Soviet family ?
The system which has gradually been established, and which
reached its sinister perfection under Stalin, remains effective.
The perfect Communist family, based on labour and one's
duty to the fatherland, children educated 'in the spirit of Com
munism', as Lenin said, renouncing individual interests and
feelings for the 'good of the collective'-the whole creed con
tinues to be diffused by the media, to be learned in schools
and even to preside over marriage ceremonies. But what in
terests me now is the real state of this family.
At fust glance, the present-day Soviet family is not very
different from that in the West. Following the demise of the
old Russian clan led by a patriarch surrounded by hordes of
small children, the typical Soviet family consists of a husband
and wife, with one or two children, and perhaps a grand
mother, living in one room or a small two-room fiat built
under Khrushchev or later. What could be more banal or, dare
1 say, less exotic?
Like aU industrialised countries, the USSR hardly seems
favourable to procreation. The birth rate has continued to faH:
(per 1,000)
195 0 - 267
19 55 - 257
1960 - 24.9
1965 - 18.4

(per 1,000)
1968 = 17.2
1969 = 17.0
1970 = 17-4
1974 = 18.0

The small increase of the 1970S is illusory, according to the

Soviet demographers themselves, and is only the result of
the coming of age of those bom in the 1950S when the birth
rate was higher, and also of the gaHoping birth rate (whieh in
fact has now begun to faU) of the Muslim republics of the
NaturaHy this decline in the birth rate is refiected in the
size of the family. In the 1970 census (the most recent) there
was an average of 3 .7 persons per family in the US SR. In the .
Republic of Russia, the figure is even lower : 3.5 (and 3 . 4
in the towns); in the Ukraine 3 .4; in the Baltie territories from
3 -4 to 3 . 1 ; in Leningrad 3 . 1 . According to the same census the
number of children per family is declining : for the Republic
of Russia : 21 per cent of families are childless, 38 per cent
have one child, 26 per cent have two children; for Russian
towns, the trend is even more accentuated : 20 per cent have no
children, 43 per cent have one child, 28 per cent have two
children (Results of the 1970 Census, vol. VII, tables 4 and 25).
1 have cited only Russia, because in the Asian republics the
situation is very different. In the Ukraine, Byelorussia and the
Baltie territories, the statisties show the same slump.
Is the Russian family on the way to becoming a one-child
family ? At present, a three-child family in the cities attracts
the attention of passers-by. A survey conducted in Moscow at
the end of the 1960s showed that 47 per cent of the women
interviewed considered two to be the ideal number of children
(V. Belova, L. Darski, Statistical Surve y of Views in a Study
of the Birth Rate, Moscow, 1972). This is a revealing figure :
people dream of having two children and content themselves
with only one.
One could argue endlessly about the causes of this develop
ment (1 am now speaking of the recent period, and not of
the demographie catastrophes already mentioned), and the
demographers do not refrain from doing so. Not heing a
specialist, 1 shaH not venture an opinion and shaH limit myself
merely to two observations. First, the decline in the Russian
birth rate denotes a profound change of mentality. One who
consciously limits births aspires to regulate life, something
quite unthinkable in the old Russia and, as we know, in the
majority of underdeveloped countries. From this point of view
it can truly he said that the Russians have become Westernised.
My second observation is less direct. Why are births

being limited ? Beyond doubt, for 'selfish' reasons : parents

want to enjoy life more, the wife has no desire to sacrifice her
whole life to raising six or se ven children in one or two rooms,
etc. 1 should add that in the R ussia of the beginning of this
century, it was still in the peasants' interest to have children,
who would provide more hands for work and at the same time
bring more land, since land was distributed according to the
size of the family. It is nothing like that today.
The American or German woman has infinitely superior
material comforts, yet hesitates to have a large number of
children. AlI the more reason for her Russian counterpart,
aIready imbued with modern ideas and aspiring to a better
life, to want to avid being the victim of the awful slavery
represented by a large number of children in present living
conditions. In other words, it would seem that the decline in
the birth rate is the result of a combination of a change of
mentality and of a way of life verging on misery.
Who runs this smaller family ? Is there still the same dis
tribution of work as there was in the traditional family, with
the woman looking after the housekeeping, and the man
taking the important decisions ? It is difficult to say. One
suspects that, strictly speaking, it is the husband who heads
the family, and male domination reigns supreme. But the man
very often abdicates his responsibilities, leaving to the wife the
whole burden of running the family. A survey conducted in
Leningrad, for example, showed that in 56 per cent of the
families interviewed, the wife alone looked after the children's
upbringing; in 23 per cent the responsibility was shared by the
two spouses; and for the remainder it fell, not to the husband,
but to the grandmother (Sociological Studies, no. 4, 1 970,
p . 65). So even if the law recognises the husband as the head
of the family, the wife in actual fact considers herself as such :
another survey reveals that 29 per cent of the wives feel that,
contrary to their husband's opinion, they are the real head of
the family (A. Pimenova, 'The new life and the establishment
of equality', Sociological Studies, no. 7, 197 1). The periodical
Literary Gazette, a pale substitute for a non-existent public
opinion, which frequently organises 'discussions' about family
problems, opened its columns in 1977 to wives dissatisfied
with their husbands. A reader named Yeletskaya writes :
'What is going on ? The very ide a of "the man of the house" has


lost its noblest meaning. The man of the house is either a capri
cious child, never satisfied, or else a "roaring lion", who ill-treats
his wife for peccadilloes. C . . . ) My friends aIl complain of trus, with
rare exceptions. Each one says that it is easier to raise two children
than to get her husband to do anything . . . C ) Only one of my
friends can boast of having a husband who is capable of doing odd
jobs about the house. AlI the others, including myself, are obliged
to wield the hammer and the drill ourselves. One friend tells me
that if the lift is out of order, her husband becomes irritable : "What
are you waiting for? Why don't you call the electrician ? " If the
sink is broken, it's the same story : "I1's two days now, and you
haven't telephoned someone about it." He would never dream of
telephoning himself . . . What do you call trus ? Childishness, laziness,
meanness, irresponsibility ? l don't know, but it seems to me that
husbands are losing the right to call themselves head of the family . . .'

This is a severe verdict, but one that the editors of the

journal acknowledge as general :
'We thought that the author of this letter was generalising too
much for her own sad experience. But, as more letters arrived, we
were forced to acknowledge that her view was typical of that of our

In spite of the often naive tone of the letters, the phenomenon

is too serious to dismiss ;okingly. To me, it is an essential
aspect of Russian sex and family !ife. The man behaving like
a child, irresponsibly shifting the burden of fatherhood to his
wife, is a genuine social archetype. This phenomenon has a
c1early defined origin : the 'fatherless' families so widespread
under the Stalinist regime, and which are still a fa ct of life. But
it also has deeper origins. It is as if the emasculated figure
anticipated by Russian nineteenth-century literature had
materialised in Soviet reality. He has, as it were, undergone a
moral castration-a process inherent in the regime. Who in
fact is responsible for the family ? The man ? The wife ? Bath
the spouses ? No. It is the State, which is the chief educator of
both children and adults. As a recent sociological work
(Sociology in the USSR, 1966) says :
'. . . the intimate family processes cannot be left to the families
themselves. Only by intensifying educative work in each family
can these processes be controlled and steered in the desired direc
tion. Educative work specially designed for heads of familles must be

The ascendancy of the State over society is such that, in

social terms, the man does not exist; this weakens his moral
authority in the eyes of his children. Education is mono
polised by the school, where the child is indoctrinated and
marshalled by the Pioneer organisations. Far be it from me 10
defend the old patriarchal system where the husband beat his
wife to show his affection. But the contemporary Soviet family
is neither matriarchy nor patriarchy, nor a system based on
the equality of the sexes. It is a rudderless boat taking in water.
Its main spring seems to have been broken, and it is unable
to reconstitute itself on old foundations, or to reconstruct itself
in a new form on a new basis. Far from the reassuring and
banal image of the 'peaceful little family', the modern family
is an uprooted, splintered family.
Uprooted : the population of Russian towns consists of
peasants who have recently arrived from the country and not
found in the towns a strong, structured environment, genuinely
capable of enabling them to adapt. In 1 913, 82 per cent of the
Russian population were peasants ; in 1 939, 68 per cent; in
1 959, 52 per cent; in 1970, 44 per cent. The rural exodus is
quite recent; and although in the villages the structures of
peasant society have been destroyed in the wake of collectivisa
tion, the peasant family still preserves certain traditional fea
tures. At the 1970 census, nearly 22 per cent of urban families
inc1uded two adult generations : in other words, the grand
mother, often a widow, remains a pillar, if not indeed the
pillar, of the family.
The splintered family : of course 1 am not c1aiming that one
cannot live a normal family life in the US SR. As 1 have said,
the family can even be a shield, a refuge against the harshness
of society. But the confiicts between the generations and be
tween the sexes are undoubtedly more serious there than
elsewhere. 1 shall return later to inter-marital confiicts. Be
tween generations, communication appears difficult. A survey
conducted at the University of Tartu shows that 75 per cent
of the students were dissatisfied with their re1ationship with
their father, and 80 per cent with their mother, and only la
per cent dec1ared that they had any 'emotional contact' with
their parents.
1 do not know how the family will evolve, but my impres
si on is that family ties are stretched to breaking point, and that
the moral values attached to them are disintegrating. 1 knew
a Muscovite woman, aged thirty-three, who had been married

three times, had lived with a dozen men, had had over ten
abortions and at the same time claimed to be living a perfectly
normal life. A typical case, 1 should say, and 1 cite it not to
pass any moral judgement, but to show that in the USSR a
profound upheaval has taken place at the heart of the family


Marriage and divorce

How do people marry?

In the USSR people marry later than in old Russia, the
average age being about twenty-five, according to the 1 970
'census, the age difference between the man and the woman
seldom being significant. According to a survey conducted in
Leningrad, marriages most frequently take place between work
coIleagues, feIlow students, and neighbours.
The search for a partner is not always easy. In the Literary
Gazette in 1 977, Dr Shliapentoch proposed organising an
'acquaintance service', in other words, the equivalent of a
marriage bureau. This project, which was very daring for the
US SR, immediately brought the j ournal tens of thousands of
letters from single readers who wished to start a family. More
than 80 per cent came from single women. The idea of using
computers to matrimonial ends was even seriously discussed
in the press, and by sociologists like Chechiot in his book Young
People and Marriage, published in 1 976. However, nothing
came of it : a sad, pathetic story which confirms, should
confirmation be needed, that in the USSR the authorities
constantly intervene in people's priva te lives but are incapable
of condoning even the most innocent utilisation of State
powers for the benefit of the individu al.
For the presence of the S tate is felt by the Soviet citizen
even in marriage, and particularly in the rites and procedures
of the ceremony. Marriage in church has almost disappeared.
Until recently marriages took place at the registry office, in
rather sad surroundings, and lasted only a few minutes-the
time it took to queue up and comply with a few formalities.
That is why, at the end of the 1 950S, 'palaces of happiness'
were being discussed, which would offer an the pomp desirable
on such an important occasion. Sorne even proposed that the
bride and groom wear special clothes bearing Party slogans and
the emblem of the hammer and sickle. As a result Marriage
Palaces were constructed in aIl the important towns. Not aIl
S oviet men and women necessarily make use of them, sorne

preferring the quicker registry office. The marriage rites follow

fairly closely similar ceremonies in Western countries, but at
the same time there is something artificial about the m,
impregnated as they are with Communist ideology.
The Palace where the ceremony takes place may receive as
many as fifty couples a day, hence the interminable delays.
On the appointed day the happy couple arrive at the Marriage
Palace with their whole party. From then on, everything takes
place in fixed order. The betrothed are immediately regrouped
in the waiting rooms, the men on one side, the women on the
other, likewise all those accompanying them. The walls are
decorated with portraits of the beloved leaders and slogans of
the type : 'Workers of the world, unite ! ', 'Long live the
Communist Party of the S oviet Union', 'The Soviet family is
the best in the world', etc. Then the couple are called, and they
ascend into the great hall, accompanied by their witnesses and
relations. There a functionary in a red sash awaits them. He
mumbles sorne extracts from the Moral Code of the Young
Builder of Communism and tosses out a few we11-chosen
ideological exhortations; the young couple exchange rings, re
ceive their passports duly stamped and are photographed . . . Is
this all ? No, and it is here that the ceremony becomes a real
travesty. When it is over, the couple are taken by taxi to
place a wreath at the foot of the Lenin monument which is to
be found in every Soviet town worthy of the name. In Lenin
grad the place of meditation is the" Field of Mars ; in Moscow it
is the Mausoleum itself, where the newly-weds have the good
fortune to be able to enter without queuing . . .
This is a11 rather comic, and 1 can assure the reader that that
is how the majority of Soviet men and women view it too.
However, 1 have not described marriage Soviet-style to raise
a laugh, for this ceremony illustra tes the overlapping of private
and public life in the USSR better than a whole volume of
explanation. If the bride and groom have recourse to a Mar
riage Palace, it is not because they have a burning desire to
behave like exemplary builders of Communism, or to throw
themselves at the feet of the great Lenin, who is doubtless caUed
upon ta bless the fertility o f the union. It is because the y
wish to celebrate an event and avoid the greyness of the
registry office. In exchange they are made to pay for the
'celebration' by participating in the ideological comedy of
the regime to which, in sorne way, they are swearing fidelity.

By exacting this tribu te, the State manages to distort the

meaning of the ceremony. Even if the participants scoff at the
politics and the ideology, which is the case for the large
majority of the population, they are placed in unfamiliar sur
roundings, certain gestures are required of them and the y are
assailed by a ritual patter which is totally foreign to them; with
the result that the image of marriage itself is devalued in the
absence of a cultural and moral mode! in which the S oviet
citizen can recognise himself.
Of course the State does not intervene in the choice of
spouse, contrary to the utopian wishes of the early years of
the regime. In so far as marriage and the family continue ta
exist, the choice remains 'free', that is to say, up to the in
dividual. The only form direct State intervention may take
is in obstructing certain marriages if the authorities so desire.
For example, there was the case of the dissident Vladimir
Gusarov, as he relates it in a samizdat document. (Samizdat is
a system of clandestine printing and distribution of banned or
dissident literature.) But fust, the reader should know that
every Soviet citizen must, under pain of prosecution, be
registered as resident in a specifie locality, and this is noted
in his passport; he has no right to stay in another locality for
more than three days without this registration, this permission of
t he authorities.
At eleven o'clock, I heard the doorbell ring, writes Gusarov. It
was commissar Ivan Cherniavsky.
'Open the door. You have someone staying here who is not regis
tered . . . '
I finally opened the door after a fruitless exchange and let him
in, accompanied by several voluntary militiamen. Two friends and
my wife were dining with me, while my grandmother was sleeping
in the next room. They asked for everybody's papers, except my
ninety-year-old grandmother's and mine.
'You have a person here who is not registered.'
'That's my wife. Here's a paper proving that we have been sum
moned to the registry office three days from now. Just apologise,
congratula te us and leave.'
'No, you're coming to the station with us. S he isn't registered in
'So you think she should wait until the ceremony at the railway
station ? '
'She can wait in Kiev, where she's registered ...'


The author ended up in a psychiatric hospital . . . This

illustrates how the State uses bureaucratie procedures to
persecute a dissident and prevent him, for example, from
Another case we must mention, revealing of the regime
though not of the average Soviet marriage, is tha , t
with foreigners. After Stalin in 1947 quite simply vetoed mar
riages between Soviet citizens and foreigners, there were a
number of cases which became notorious in the West. Officially,
mixed marriages were permitted anew in 1953, but in actual
fact everything depends on the goodwill of the authorities,
who can, if the y wish, prevent the marriage, or at least raise
aH kinds of obstacles to prevent the newly-wed couple from
living together; on the other hand they can authorise the mar
riage, a gesture of great magnanimity in defiance of aH the
juridical and legal norms. l shaH give only one example of the
type of pressure and intimidation which may be directed at
a Soviet citizen if he decides to choose a foreign nation al as
his spouse. A civil servant in the Ministry of Commerce was
dismissed in 1970 after dining with a foreigner who was none
other th an her future husband. The police soon summoned
her and she was subjected to the following conversation :
'Why was Mr T. at your home ? '
'Where else should he be ? '
' I n a h ote!, since he's a foreigner.'
'He's my husband.'
'No, he's a foreigner.'

'AU right, he's a foreigner and he' s my husband.'

'He has no right to be at your home.'
'1 don't understand : a husband hasn't the right to sleep with his
wife ?'
'A foreigner should sleep at a hote!.'
'So perhaps l too should stay at a hote! ? '
' B e careful, citizen T. W e could easily oblige y o u t o move to
somewhere in Siberia.'

For citizen T. things ended better than this interview

augured, since she is now living in Paris, like many other Soviet
people who have taken the same path. Although these mar
riages are somewhat easier to arrange now than ten or fifteen
years ago, they remain no less isolated. Without being represen
tative of the ordinary Sovie1t marriage, they are a very good

illustration of the fragility of one's private life in this system.

The freedom of choosing a spou se without having to seek the
consent of the S tate is, for Soviet citizens, a sma11 oasis of
liberty, almost a privilege, which may, on occasion, he called
into question.
The tradition and degradation of marriage
Are Soviet couples happy together ? This is a highly subjective
question which there is little point in trying to resolve. Rather
than discussing the very relative notion of happiness, 1 prefer
to point out those factors which perpetuate the institution of
marriage and those which, on the contrary, threaten it.
Marriage remains a fte, the occasion for a great feast bring
ing together aIl one's family and friends, an occasion for
drinking too of course. What is less to be expected, and is
very revealing of the survival of tradition, is the fact that the
dowry remains a widespread institution in peasant marriages :
not an obligatory dowry, which the families will bargain over
at the time of the betrothal, but a dowry accumulated by the
girl in the form of objects ranging from tablecloths and bed
clothes to a bicycle.
For, in the countryside especially, marriage is desirable for
a girl, even if she is financially and legally independent. S o she
still employs that tried and tested ancestral method of getting
herself pregnant with the aim of obliging the culprit to take
her to the registry office. If, however, he turns out to be re
calcitrant, she can resort to a much less tradition al method :
she can threaten to appeal to the local Party committee, her
potential fianc's employer, the Komsomol or, in the la st resort,
his trade union. These guardians of ' S oviet moraIs' often suc
cee d in putting the mischief-maker back on the right path.
This husband-hunting is a11 the keener since men, as 1 have
pointed out, are still in short supply in the US SR. In the
countryside it can become pathological, as the following case
illustra tes.
It concerns an engineer, Boris Redissov, a veritable force
of nature, who suffered a great deai during his military service
as a result of long and frequent erections. Furloughs are rare
in the Red Army, in spite of the length of military service (from
two to four years, depending on the branch), and millions of
soldiers are deprived of the possibility of satisfying their
sexual urges in the normal way. Such was Redissov's position

when it occurred to him to bribe his immediate superior

officer to allow him to go into town regularly. There Boris had
an affair with a young woman. She took his sexual ardour as
proof that he loved her and made up her mind to marry him.
Boris replied honestly with a refusai : for him the liaison was
purely physical. When he was coming to the end of his
military service, the young woman invited Boris to a farewell
evening. He hastened to accept, suspecting no mis chief. That
Sunday, when he arrived, the girl's parents and brother were
out; the y began making love. At the critical moment, the young
woman's vengeance revealed itself : her brother burst into the
room, armed with an enormous club, which he immediately
brought crashing down on the unfortunate lover's back. Boris
owed his survival only to an inglorious escape via the win
dow. Beyond the tragi-comic character of this story is para
doxical proof of the importance of marriage in the minds of
sorne people : for the young woman, sexual licence could only
be a prelude to marriage, the crowning fulfillment. And it is
the woman to whom the stability and permanence of marriage
matters. In his Involuntary ]ourney ta Siberia, Andrei Amalrik
describes a lecture given by a jurist in an isolated Siberian
village. His aim was to explain to the women the danger
involved in bringing charges against their husbands for beating
them : Sovie t justice, always blind and speedy, would send the
culprit to a camp; the punishment being out of all proportion
to what she had expected, the horrified woman would go and
see the authorities and ask them to give her back her husband.
She preferred to be beaten again, but married !
The Soviet marriage is frequently rent by quarrels. A pub
lished survey (Sociological Studies, no. 4, 1 970) reveals that
in the sample studied, 74 per cent of the families experienced
quarrels and confticts as a matter of course. In 44 per cent of
the families, the husband began the dispute; in 22 per cent,
the woman. And the sociologist goes on to comment :
' . . . many women age prematurely, have hardly any time to look
after their appearance, lose their attractiv eness and their femininity,
become cross and irritable . . . '

To put things more crudely, the woman becomes a shrew,

while the husband ftees the house and takes refuge in drink.
Time will tell whether this unstable institution can survive.
What seems to me ta threaten it most profoundly is the

degradation of the very idea of marriage as a human contract.

Marriage sanctified by the Church has survived. Official moral
ity and the grotesque rites established by the regime, artificially
grafted onto the ceremony, have not really taken root in the
soil of Russian society. Quite the contrary, they have con
tributed to the fact that the institution itself is held up to
ridicule. The best proof of this decadence is the quite recent
outbreak of bogus marriages. Here is a typical case of what
has now become a sociological phenomenon in Russian towns :
a young girl from the provinces wishes to live in Moscow,
Leningrad or any other big city whose way o f life and material
opulence attract her. However, this city is closed, in the sense
that one can only register there with the greatest difficulty.
What does she do ? She finds herself a 'fianc' living in the city
who is in financial trouble and pays him a 'dowry', which may
amount to 5,000 roubles. After the marri age of convenience,
she is registered at her husband's address without even moving
in. The couple very quickly get divorced, the girl finds herself
another place to live, and the trick has worked.
The bogus marriage is likewise useful for Soviet citizens who
wish to emigrate without having a good reason which entitles
them to do so, and who are not of Jewish ancestry Cwith certain
exceptions, only Soviet citizens of Jewish origin may emigrate,
theoretically to Israel). In this case a marriage is arranged with
a Jewish girl, who agrees to play the role of spouse, out of
friendship or for money. In certain circles even marriages with
foreigners are now sought after, in spite of a11 the risks which
that entails. The Soviet man who marries a foreigner Cit is easier
for a woman) generally manages to follow her to her own country
after a while, after repeated applications and mu ch red tape. The
bogus marriage is on its way to becoming a national institution,
to the point where a regular network now exists: match-makers
undertake to find you a spouse in return for a certain sum of
money. This use of marriage to utilitarian ends seems to me to
be a sign of the very profound degradation of the institution and
its meaning.
When the concept of marriage is undermined, divorce becomes
easy. That is exactly what is happening in the US SR today.
A few statistics have made their way, as it were, inta Soviet
sociology. Here, for example, are the results of a survey carried

out between 1 966 and 1 967 among the population of Perm, a

city in the VraIs. The question posed was : Do you consider
you r family life to be happy Or unhappy?; 38.9 per cent of
blue-collar males (46.8 per cent of females), 47.6 per cent of
white-collar males (48.8 per cent of females) and 28.8 per cent
of male officiaIs (37.5 per cent of females) feh the y had an
unhappy family life. These are remarkable figures, particularly
as people do not readily admit to this kind of unhappiness and
are very often bareIy aware of it. This subj ective j udgement
reveals better than anything else to what extent the institution
of marriage is felt to be unsatisfactory.
However, people do not get divorced with quite as much
eaSe as the y change their clothes. During the first months of
the new regime, divorce took only a few minutes. As the request
of one of the spou ses sufficed, the other might very we11 not
know for sorne time that he was divorced. But from 1 936
divorce required the presence of both spou ses, and, as we have
seen, with the law of 1944 freedom of divorce was abolished :
except in exceptional cases a divorce was only granted by a
court decision, at a public hearing, after notification in the
press effected solely by mutual consent. Since 1 965 divorce
has again become easier, but it continues to depend on a
decision of the court, unless the couple are childless. More
over, it costs more than marriage: 50 to 200 roubles, as
against 1 .5 roubles. The court determines who will have cus
tody of the children, restores the wife's maiden name and
divides their property.
One obstacle to freedom of divorce is the intervention of the
authorities. An application for divorce exposes one to a11 sorts
of inquiries at work, which transform the whole procedure
into a tedious washing of dirty linen. The couple are sum
moned to meetings; an attempt is made to dissuade them; their
friends and acquaintances are mobilised: they are j udged as
to who is right and who is wrong. So it is not only the court
which seules the affair; it is 'society' as weIl. That is why the
genuine grounds for divorce are often concealed, particularly
if they are likely to harm the social standing of one of the
divorced parties. Depending on how unscrupulous he or she is,
he may even invent reasons to his credit. For example, the
'political instability' of one's spouse immediately puts 'society'
on the plaintiff's side: these are infallible grounds which,
much more effectively than the husband's impotence, will
quickly settIe the issue.

In 1968 a well-known Moscow television announcer, Anna

Shilova, was unfathful to her husband, whereupon he inaugu
rated divorce proceedings. Passions were running high.
Shilova then recalled that, during the war, Shilov had been
evacuated to the east of the country with the theatre in which
he was working. She accused her husband :'You didn't even go
to the front. You didn't defend your fatherIand!'
A bad citizen, a bad patriot-these are classic and sufficient
arguments, which spared the wife the necessity of displaying
the intricacies of her emotional life. Recently new grounds
have been discovered : to ruin your panner definitively in the
ey es of 'public opinion', you inform the court or the relevant
organisations that the partner is preparing to emigrate. No
proof is needed : it is enough that he or she has thought of it.
The man or woman is not only divorce d, but is considered
without any doubt to be a traitor to the fatherIand.
Recourse to the authorities does not alter the nature of
divorce ; it merely adds an ideological dimension to it. There
probably exists no miraculous remedy to a confiict as delicate
as divorce. However, the moral and ideological norms in
herent in the regime, the non-separation of political and judi
ciary powers and the fact that the confiicts are dragged out into
the open, are factors which combine to infiame differences,
whereas it should merely be a question of dealing before a
judge with child custody and adultery. Worse, the interven
tion of what is called 'society' (the Party, Komsomol, the trade
union) can alter the course of events, as happened in the c ase
of a 37-year-old Muscovite employee who had applied for
divorce, accusing her husband, a scientist very prominent a t
the time, o f having a n affair with a young actress. The matter
was passed on to the Party, of which the husband was a
member. The Party committee began to exercise pressure on
him and, fearing expulsion, with aIl the consequences which
that entails, he promised to 'mend his ways'. This is, in short,
the situation described by the singer Alexander Galich in a song
famous in the USSR under the title of the 'Red Triangle'. Com
rade Paramonova, a Party official, learns that her husband has
been unfaithful to her while she was abroad. She summons him
to a meeting where he is conscientiously brain-washed and
forced to confess that he has misbehaved. After the pardon
granted in conclusion, the happy couple go off to drink to
the 'exemplary Soviet family'.
For what reasons do people get divorced ? The question

may seem ridiculous : one might say that there are as many
reasons as there are divorces. Still, Soviet sociologists have
been brooding over the question, doubtless with a view to
limiting what is considered to have reached almost pla gue
proportions. As 1 have said, the reasons given do not neces
sarily correspond to the real motives, but are those which
make the divorce easier, such as the master formula, 'incompati
bility'. However, certain statistics are of particular interest.
For example, 40 per cent of divorces are the result of scenes
or disputes with the parents of the other spouse. As we know,
many couples live with their parents : the persistence of tradi
tional structures, yes, but also the break-up of the family, since
their living together hardly seems harmonious. Mother-in-Iaw
and son-in-Iaw are not always good housemates.
This brings us to the material living conditions of the
couple, and above aIl to housing. In 1965, according to
Kharchev, a Soviet sociologist, 31.7 per cent of divorcs had
no accommodation of their own, but lived with their parents,
in a hostel, etc.; 63.2 per cent lived in a communal fiat. In
other words, 95 per cent of them did not have satisfactory
housing. In 1977, 79 per cent of divorcs still did not have a
fiat at the time of their marriage. The situation requires no
comment. The housing crisis, although less acute than before,
nevertheless remains grave, and can le ad to an unexpected out
come to divorce. Often the divorced couple continue to live
in the same room, separated by a fol ding screen. By force of
circumstance, one fine day they may even conc1ude a 'non
aggression pact' and continue to have sex together. The painter
Semenov of Leningrad went through aIl these stages of break-up
and reconciliation. His passion for the models who posed for
him drove him periodicaIly to divorce, but as he never man
aged to get a place of his own, he always remarried the same
woman. Tired of the expense occasioned by their divorces and
the periodic purchase of fol ding screens, the couple now live
together in great accord. For once, the housing crisis has
successfuIly contributed to strengthening the bonds of mar
riage !
Among other reasons for divorce, 1 shaIl mention sexual
problems (the subj ect of a later chapter), 'loss of affection',
adultery of course, the imprisonment of one of the partners
(generally the husband), alcoholism and ill-treatment. The
battered wife is still a very common phenomenon; however,

less docile th an formerly, she sometimes ends by getting a

divorce : out of 500 cases in Leningrad in 1975, 375 divorced
wives cited alcoholism and their husband's brutality as the
reason for divorce. A comparison of the statistics for the years
1964 and 1977 shows that conjugal infidelity is a growing
cause of divorce Cup from 15 per cent to 24-4 per cent).
Divorce is common in the USSR, in spite of the obstacles
that may exist. Naturally the statistics only take account of
legal divorces and not of 'dead marriages', as they are known
in the U S S R-in other words, informaI divorces. Here are
the figures:

6 7,000 divorces


7 83,000
86 1,000

In 1977 and 1978 the statistics show that a third of marriages

end in divorce. In cities like Moscow and Kiev the propor
tion rises to 50 per cent. The divorces take place very soon
after marriage. A survey made in 1965 showed that only 48.4
per cent of divorces took place after the couple had lived to
gether for more than a year. More than 36 per cent of the
divorced couples had lived together for less than six months. In
Kiev in 1978, for the twenty-five to thirty age group the
number of divorces taking place during the early years of
marriage amounted to 55 per cent of the total number of
Marriage has become fragile, easily repealed, even trivial.
Most often, it is a pointless gesture, an abortive act, a failure.
It is possible to imagine that the very institution of marriage
might disappear, giving way, for example, to free unions. In
fact that is not how things are developing at present. People
in the U S S R are still getting married as much as before, but
for many of them divorce is becoming the inevitable outcome.


The liberation of Soviet women

1 am not raising the subject of women's liberation as a con

cession to Western trends, but because the problem is a very
re al one in the USSR. It has been posed by the regime, hich
daims to have liberated women and to have established
equality of the sexe s ; and it is posed, as we shaH see, by those
principally concerned : the women themse1ves.
If equality between men and women has been realised in
any area, it is surely that of employment. At present 44 per
cent of the female population is employed and provides 53.5
p er cent of the total workforce of the country, a figure which
is explained by the continued deficit in the male population.
This veritable revolution (at the beginning of the century,
women worked almost exdusively on the farm or in the home)
has been achieved in two successive leaps : first through
industrialisation, for which women furnished the bulk of the
labour force (82 per cent of newly employed persons between
1932 and 1937); then, for obvious reasons, as a result of the
war. 1 use the word 'revolution', because, unlike in the West,
female employment has not grown progressive1y, but has by
necessity served to compensate for the demographic shortfall
caused by a succession of historical calamities. Like any
revolution, it has traumatised those involved.
Female employment has now become customary, both be
cause the majority of women can no longer imagine not working,
and als o because the Soviet couple, bare1y emerged from poverty,
aspire to greater comfort and cannot live on a single income.
AIl the same, has equality of the sexes been realised ? Even if
there is equal pay it is illusory, because the female employee,
in general, does less skilled work than a man. The Literary
Gazette (15 February 1967) reported that during the construc
tion of the Saratov dam, there were 119 female labourers to
17 men, but 10 women crane-drivers as against 142 men. It
has reached the point in the US SR, and particularly in the
construction industry., where it is a frequent occurence to see a
male foreman supervising only women.


But the worst aspect of inequality is the double workload

that women carry, a univers aIl y recognised phenomenon
wherever women have jobs. In the USSR it is becoming very
serious, given the inordinate amount of time women must
spend on domestic tasks. The Soviets es timate that these take
from three and a half to five hours a day. This seems to me a
conservative estimate. The interminable queues in food shops,
the lack of domestic comfoN (few washing machines, the public
laundries functioning very poorly, hot-and even running
water still being considered luxuries), S tone Age child-rearing
methods-all this combines with a seven-hour workday and
exhausting public transport to transform the woman into a
veritable slave.
More profoundly still, the inferiority of women is still deeply
rooted in people's minds, which is perhaps the essential point.
Sholokhov, who is after all an official writer of a regime which
daims to be egalitarian, CQu1d dedare in 1965 that 'men alone
are capable of real literature ( . . . ). Moreover, women, especially
wives, must be sternly ruled.'
For Soviet men it is natural that the woman should look
aft er the children, the household and the shopping, even if she
works. 1 shaH always remember the complaints a patient con'
fided to me regarding his wife.
'When 1 come home and want to have fun with my wife, she
is always tired, because she has been preparing the meal,
doing the washing and putting the children to bed. She is not
in the least bit interested in making love. An she can do is to
sit in front of the television for a while and watch imbecilities
which even the children find boring. And that's where she
faIls asleep. Things can't go on like this ! That television
l'm going to smash it up and throw it out of the window ! '
'You are not the only one with problems like this,' 1 replied.
'But believe me, television is not the problem ! The problem
is the domestic chores which tire your wife to the point where
she no longer has either the emotional energy or the time for
love. My advice would be to share sorne of the chores with
her . . . '
'Me ? ! ' he cried. 'Never ! Isn't it enough that 1 bring home
the money, and that 1 don't drink ? -Am 1 supposed to start
doing the cooking and waste my time queuing? Don't make me
laugh ! '
1 do not know who ought to laugh over this story. Cer
tainly not the sexologist, to whom it reveals problems which

go beyond the purely sexua1; nor the wife transformed into a

beast of burden; nor the unsatisfied husband, who might aIready
be thinking of divorce . . . And that, unfortunately, is how the
majority of S oviet men think.
And what about the women ? What do the y think ? Tradition
ally the Russian wife is docile and resigned. But more and
more, chiefly in the big cities, a certain feminism is beginnin g
, to reach the female population-a very timid feminism (need
less to say, there is no women's liberation movement in the
U S S R), a feminism of ideas and even, 1 would have said, a
feminist morality, but feminism aIl the same. A survey con
ducted at the end of the 1 960s of wives living in Moscow,
Leningrad and Penza showed that 25 per cent of the wives
tasks should be more equitably distributed within the family.
This might seem ridiculous, but it indicates a profound change
of mentality : not only does the wife no longer acquiesce in
being a servant, but she can conceive of improvements coming
not from the State but from the organisation of the family
itself : a new awarenes s and sense of responsibility at the level
of the individu al couple appear to be taking shape.
ln 1968 the review Novy Mir published a short story by N.
Baranskaya, A Week Like Any Other, which describes the life
of a young Muscovite woman, hour by hour, day by day. In
spite of a happy family life (the husband does not drink and
even consents to help her), she is a1ways running about, a t
the limits o f her energy and h e r nerves, subj ect t o a thousand
everyday difficulties which constitute a heUish existence for
her. It is a rather maudlin, sentimental story, but it unleashed
an avalanche of letters and discussions (naturally within per
mitted limits) and has become a point of reference for Soviet
'feminism'. What is striking, over and above aU these pheno
mena, is the impression one has that wives feel iU at ease
in the parts they are playing. After aU, the Russian peasant
woman of days gone by worked from morning tiU evening
without a break. But her labour formed an integral part of a
way of life, a stable traditional framework, which did not
aUow her to imagine anything else; whereas the modern Soviet
wife is a 'hybrid'. On the one hand, she hears over and over
again that she is the freest woman in the world. On the other
hand, she suffers the weight of prejudice and an exhausting
daily routine. Torn between tradition and modernity, she feels
at ease neither in her family no! in her work.

Just as in the case of the family and marriage, women have

scarcely any cultural, ideological, or moral model which might
serve them as a point of reference. 1 am not speaking of the
ideal woman-wife, militant mother and model worker-in
whom no one has believed for a long time now, but whose
tutelary presence continues to pervade the press, the cinema
and literature. The ideal of feminine beauty remains, among
ordinary people, that of peasant beauty. It is the good stout
baba, well-built, with pink cheeks, the equal of a man in hard
physical labour : 'tits and half a pood of ass' (about eight
kilogrammes), as the Ukrainians bluntly used to put it. But
this beauty fades with heart-breaking rapidity. Female peasants
and workers of thirty or thirty-five already look worn out, to
the point that, during consultations, 1 have some, t imes checked
their age in their pas sports. Ugly, prematurely aged by a life
of hardship, soured because profoundly unsatisfied, this sort
of woman in the end loses her femininity.
The Literary Gazette wrote in 1 977: 'Women who look like
cowboys enjoy great success. They are the ones who start
families, and whose husbands do not leave them; whereas
frail, defenceless young gir1 swell the ranks of the unmarried.'
Women do not attempt to assert themselves vis--vis men. They
tend to see them as models which they should emulate; hence
the female alcoholics (a more and more frequent phenomenon),
and the viragos that one even sees carrying out police functions
with the greatest brutality.
Amongst the urban middle and privileged classes, the Soviet
woman strives to be fashionable in Western terms. She adopts
'new' ideas, such as feminism. But, oppressed and alienated as
she is, these ideas and fashions assume a singular narrowness
and inconsistency, and it seems as if she is clinging to them t o
indicate a wretchedness for which the remedy is forbidden t o
h e r i n her own country.
A lack of sexual satisfaction, feminist ideas gleaned from the
West, deep sexual inhibitions-such is the confusion of the
pseudo-liberation of the Soviet woman.
Women may be men's equal and at the same time not be
emancipated or liberated. This is emancipation Soviet-style.
It is not that women have attained the status of free men) but
that men are no more free than unemancipated women. An
illusion of the emancipation of women has been created,
whereas in reality it is a qu estion of the alienation, the
castration of men.

Sexual inhibitions and moral censure

If there is a sphere of a people's existence which it is difficult

to pin down, it is surely its sex life. For each sexual relation
ship is a unique case from which it is always risky to generalise.
Furthermore, as 1 have said, any inquiry like The Hite Report
is unthinkable in the U S SR.
1 must state once again that, as a doctor, 1 dealt only with the
sick, but the kinds of cases and problems recurred so often,
and the behaviour and mentality of my patients were"so similar,
that 1 consider myself justified in regarding them as representa
tive samples of the Soviet population. Besides, very often their
maladies were not of a sexual nature, and 1 discovered those
aspects of their personality only incidentally.

How do people make love?

Sexual technique is generally very poor. The woman has litde
experience and is very passive. The man is unskilful, often
brutal and quick. Often he imagines that the penis need only
penetrate the vagina for the woman to be immediately over
whelmed with happiness. If this does not happen, or at least if
this happiness is not obvious, he becomes angry or depressed.
Unaware that the woman possesses other erogenous zones
besides the vagina, there is scarcely ever any preliminary cares
sing. After ejaculating, he hurriedly dismounts, turns over
and faIls asleep. That is the general picture.
The majority of men are quite simply unaware that there is
such a thing as a c1itoral orgasm. As for the women, the y dare
not talk to their husbands about it. Everything relating to
sex, and even more to one's technique, is considered 'shame
fuI'. So that, even with the tenderest feelings in the world, the
man does not know, or rarely knows, what gives pleasure to
the woman.
One suspects that under these conqitions the sexual act is
distinguished neither by refinement nor imagination. It prac
tically never takes place in broad daylight. The favourite time


is at night, in the greatest possible darkness. Neither one sees

the other's body, and each is ashamed of his or her own. S ome
times, of late, this excessive modesty produces unexpected
reactions. Out of a desire to display their sexual imaginative
ness, sorne partners, having heard talk about Western porno
graphy, are carried by their enthusiasm into sorne very funny
situations. In Vinnitsa a young wife h ad been advised by a
friend to pull her husbands testicles . 1 s aw the husb and in
question . as he was brought into hospital by ambulance,
unconscious. In Moscow a dentist tried to sodomise his wife
on their wedding night. He was so adept that the young woman
fainted from the pain and the shock. Happily, the husband was
able to apply artificial respiration.
Erotic games and fantasies are banished fram the 'normal'
sexual act and, if it is true that they are practised on occasion,
they remained confined to extra-marital sex-relations with
prostitutes, in short, women with whom 'anything is permit
ted'. To speak of erotic pleasure between man and wife is
considered improper. The most innocuous fantasy is looked
upon as debauchery. One day an indignant wife arrived to com
plain about her husband, the engineer Nenadov. The family
of four had lived in a small basement room for a long time.
At last, in I970, they were allocated a small two-room fiat with
a rudimentary bath next to the cooker. This advancement had
gone to the engineer's head.
'We have been married for twenty-two years,' his wife told
me. 'We love each other. But now my husband has become
debauched. He wants us to do it in the bath. Can you imagine ?
It's really unthinkable ! '
1 tried to explain to her that there was nothing sens ational
or alarming in the situation, that people's sexual needs are very
different, and that she could certainly go along with her
husband's sexual fantasy without any harm being done. Where
upon she exploded:
'What ? How can you say such a thin g ? l've come to-'ask
your advice, and you tell me to do obscene things ! '
And she left, slamming the door behind her.
Sex between the legal couple is viewed by the Soviet woman
as merely an exercise without grace-notes.
If one of the spouses proposes oral sex to the other, he or she
is immediately suspected of an immoral pasto A decent woman
does not know what fellatio is, but it is sometimes practised

before marriage-among other reasons, to avoid conception.

One of my patients would occasiona11y start vomiting during
sex. l t emerged that before her marriage she had regularly
practised fellatio, reluctantly, it seemed, with the result that she
developed a profound disgust for a11 forms of sexual relations.
With so crude a sexual technique, orgasm remains an almost
exclusively masculine privilege. Simultaneous orgasm requires
much patience, thoughtfulness and delicacy on the part of the
man, who is more quickly aroused. Eroticism is that human
capacity for 'making pleasure last', for multiplying the games
and preliminary caresses. The erotic art requires a certain
control over the sexual act with a view to mu tuaI pleasure. But
in the U S S R to 'hold back' is considered an immoral practice.
So that very often the sole aim of othe sexual act becomes the
man's ej aculation, which is what orgasm fina11y amounts to.
The word 'orgasm', a foreign import, is used solely by doctors.
Almost the only term in everyday language is virtually untrans
latable, the verb kanchat : literally, 'to finish', which is a truly
sad comment on sexual relations.
However, it would be wrong to a11ege that the S oviets have
no notion of female orgasm. They imagine it as a kind of
vo1canic eruption, a high-voltage electric current which runs
through the woman's body. So that sorne frigid women, taking
this image literally, endeavour to conceal their frigidity during
the sexual act, simulating perfect happiness with a rapturous
smlle, whereas genuine orgasm in fact produces something
closer to a grimace of suffering.
This parody of delight seems to me an e ssential element of
the relations between man and woman. The excessive modesty
which hangs over sex like a leaden weight-the reflection of
typica11y Soviet social attitudes even in the most intimate act
transforms the sexual act into a veritable comedy, a masquerade
in bad taste.
One of my patients had gone through fifteen years of mar
ried life without experiencing orgasm, a lack of satisfaction of
which her husband was unaware, since she had always simulated
'mad and vo1canic love'. Secretly the woman indulged in mas
turbation, which gave her genuine orgasms (proof that she was
not rea11y frigid). One day she was so absorbed in masturbating
thaot she did not notice her husband, who had come home
from work earlier th an anticipated. The result was gross insults
and a shower of blows; a divorce took place fairly soon after-


wards. When the patient came to see me, she had become
positively frigid : the shock of being surprised in a shameful
activity, the traumatism caused by the beating, and her sense
of guilt were so emotionally disturbing that even masturba
tion became ineffective. This unfortunate person, who had
previously been perfectly normal, was now an incurable sexual
invalid. This is a classic case, which weil indicates the state
of sexual inferiority to which the S oviet woman is confined. It
also reveals the mixture of falsehood, ignorance and brutality
which poisons relations between the sexes.
If the female orgasm is hardly recognised, this is naturally
not the case with the man. Masculine sexality is the worthy
complement of feminine passivity : it is a show of strength. The
man does not try to make love or seek amorous pleasure; he
attempts to demonstrate that he is powerful. Naturally this
kind of demonstration is not peculiar to the Soviets, but what
is peculiar to them is the element of acting, of falsehood, which
characterises ail their social a ttitudes. And perhaps also, beyond
the outward appearances, there is a deeper, more insidious
sentiment: as the Soviet man is nothing in his public life, he
is compelled to seek compensation elsewhere and to try to
prove in his own eyes, and even more in his wife's, that he is
somebody. Under the macho exterior the man frequently con
ceals a lack of confidence; an inferiority complex.
1 have been able to observe this personaily in the hundreds
of patients 1 have seen who have complained of having an
insufficiently developed penis. These cases were so common,
and the patients' statements so similar, that the atrophied
penis complex became as commonplace for me as influenza
is for a general practitioner. It was always a question of the
male fearing that he was unable to prove his virility.
ln many of these cases, this show of force can easily turn
into overt aggressiveness. Even if the woman feels desire, she
must simulate resistance. 1 have known an extreme case of
this type, a prisoner in the camp where 1 was confined told
me that he was unable to have sexual intercourse unless his
partner pretended to resist. If she did not herself gues s what
she had to do, he created the sort of conditions where she
would genuinely be driven to resist. The last session of this
type had brought him into the prisoner's dock, and then to the
The woman who resists is such a common sexual model

that the following anecdote is often told in the USSR. A rich

Georgian (here the Russian shifts responsibility to another
race, from the Caucasus) takes a Moscow prostitute to the
Hotel Rossiya. As soon as they enter the room the young
woman strips and invites hirn to j oin her in bed. He sets to
work-alas, without success. He tries everything, but no erec
tion. At last he j umps out of bed and screams at the prostitute,
who is more dead than alive : 'Put on your clothes!' She
hastens to do as she is told, convined that she is going to be
thrown out. Once dressed, she hears him say: 'And now,
The anecdote derides a far from laughable phenomenon.
Aggressiveness is in no way a unique characteristic of the
inhabitants of the Caucaus. Women in Russia are still beaten,
as in the good old days. Sometimes the blows are an indispen
sable prelude to the sexual act, caresses of a sort: the row
becomes a charade and ends in bed. Here again is the old
tradition according to which the only man who does not love
his wife is the one who does not beat her. There is even a very
common expression used these days to refer to the sexual act,
the primary meaning of which is 'to beat' (trakhnut).
There are no real norms in the sexual act. In detaching
themse1ves from the purely instinctive act, men discover erotic
fantas y and each sexual act becomes individualised. That is
why 1 do not pretend to j udge from a 'normal' point of view
the practices which 1 have described. There are, however, two
points 1 would like to make. On the one hand, the woman is
turning into a passive object, experiencing no pleasure; on the
other hand, the establishment of a sado-masochistic re1ation
ship is becoming necessary to bath partners. In I 953 a retired
lieutenant-colonel who came ta my surgery complained of a
decline in his sexual potency. After making a few notes, 1
asked him ta undress. 1 saw then that his back was covered
with scars, as if he had been slashed. When 1 asked him
about them, he replied evasive1y, but 1 later discovered the
cause of these weals. After the war, my patient had returned to
Vinnitsa, where he met a woman and married her. On their
wedding night, when he discovered that she was not a virgin,
he had beaten her. !viaking love only when he was drunk, he
continued to beat his wife regularly. This sadist was, more
over, tormented by memories of the war. His wife endured
the blows and the suffering which inevitably preceded inter70

course, digging her nails into her husband's back by way of

resistance. Gradually a peculiar relationship developed be
tween them : the man could have an erection only if he feIt
his wife's nails sinking into his back. The sado-masochistic
relationship was reversed. Finally in his quest for stronger and
stronger sensations, he reached the point where his body could
no longer endure very extreme pain, while pain that was bear
able no longer sufficed to arouse him. The sexual relations
here were neither 'normal' nor 'abnormal' : they were self
Nothing better illustrates the power nexus that can develop
in sex than the following absurd case which 1 had to treat.
To express her refusaI to love her husband, one of my patients,
a 26-year-old economist from Byelorussia, stoppe herself hav
ing orgasms when they had intercourse. This was an extremely
curious case, in which one cornes across, at one and the same
time, the image of sexual relations as a question of power,
female orgasm as a gift from the husband, passivity and maso
chism. The wife's revoit expressed itself in denying herself
pIe as ure, there by showing tha t, for her, the orgasm itself did
not belong to her, but had a masculine symbolism which had
little to do with her. It is a curious vengeance which consists
of self-punishmen t . . .
Generally speaking, sexual relationships in the Soviet Union
seem to be characterised by a certain instability and sense of
alienation : alienation between the man taking his pleasure and
the woman who submits to it; alienation of the woman who
feels obliged to feign orgasm; alienation of the man for whom
the act of loving becomes a search for power; alienation of the
sexual act itself, a natural act whose satisfactions and pleasures
are no longer experienced and enjoyed, but which has become
a furious painful spasm, where the two sexes know perhaps
even less about each other than in the rest of their shared
Soviet puritanism
ln the Stalinist period there was a great deal of sexual re
pression. Here 1 shall content myself with one example : that
of the penis captivus, where the couples, victims of spasms
during intercourse, remain 'soldered' together. These cases,
which are in general very rare, are caused by vaginism (an
involuntary contraction of the levator muscle of the anus,

which is also the constrictor of the vagina). In the USSR they

occurred relative1y frequently on account of the fear and sense
of guilt surrounding aU matters of sex. 1 remember an incident
in Odessa in 1 937, at the Pedagogical Institute hostel, when
this happened to a young couple. Doctors were summoned.
The couple were covered with a sheet and both carried into
an ambulance, to the great amusement of the crowd. The
whole thing was handled without the slightest delicacy, with
the obvious intention of drawing everyone's attention to the
episode and of making the sexual act something to be ashamed
of. Moreover, this was a married couple, and not 'unlawful'
loyers . . . CA very simple technique-rectal touch-permits an
immediate relaxation of the woman's muscles. The doctors
were and are still unaware of this, which is to be explained
by the Soviet context.)
ln recent times repression has become less severe, largely
because of a general slackening of morais. Nevertheless the
whole system of repressive restraints remains very mu ch in
place, ready to function as soon as the occasion arises. Such,
for example, is the practice of 'targets'. These are hoardings
customarily placed in the centre of town and bearing the photo
graphs of 'amoral' young women or young men, with particu
lars about the offenders and their addresses. This inhuman
treatment can help only prostitutes and their eventual clients.
Ordinarv young girls, who find the public humiliation intoler
able, quit their work and leave town, decisions which the y
may in fact be further pressurised to take.
Soviet law authorises the expulsion from a town of any
person considered to be a parasite, that is to say, someone who
canno t prove that he has regular employment. As a result the
police often receive anonymous letters denouncing young
women who receive men in their homes. The big Soviet dailies,
which do not normally publish mere trivial news items, so to
speak, are not averse, however, to devoting their columns to
affairs of this sort, for the edification of youth. Izvestia des
cribed the case of a young girl of twenty who was expelled
from Kiev for 'amoral' conduct. The denunciations (for there
we re several) emanated from her neighbours, a common prac
tice among these worthy people; it is an easy way of settling
old scores, of satisfying personal grudges and at the same time
of freeing a room in the communal fiat.
Sometimes a denunciation is not ev en necessary : it is

enough to behave 'suspiciously'. A student of the University of

Moscow named Inga Markelova had a friend who learned that
she was il!. He telephoned the dean and asked him if she
needed any help : a doctor, medicine, money . . . When Inga
recovered, she was immediately s ummoned by the dean.
'What is your re1ationship
with trus man ? '
'We're friends.'
'We've heard about these friends. A man does not offer
money out of pure friendship.'
Gossip and se1f-righteous outrage spread to her department.
The Komsomol committee convened a meeting which ended
with a resolution condemning Inga for 'amorality'. She was
Soon expelled from the university.
This 'moral order' calls for two remarks. The fust is that
the chief victim is, once again, the woman, always condemned
to virtue. In this regard she is no more liberated than she
was a century ago. The second is that there are areas of social
life where the regime and the majority of the population are
in accord : lovers are not only damned by the regime, they
are hounded j ust as much by self-styled moralists.
These zealous guardians of young people's virtue are every
where. If a couple kiss in the doorway of a house, the care
taker accosts them in a state of fury. In parks and squares there
will always be a pensioner, and particularly middle-aged
women, to call them to order. To kiss in the street is immoral,
particularly if one does it in front of children, whose chaste
and pure eyes should not have to witness such shameful spec
tacles. In this century where pleasure has been chased off the
streets and where the autonomy of the individual does not
exist, it is as if society is telling you with aIl the brutality of
which it is capable : 'This is not yours; you are not at home
here; you are on our territory and everything belongs to us.'
Society leaves no room for lovers. To take a hotel room is
no solution. In the event thiH the couple were to present them
selves individually at the reception desk, the possibility of their
meeting up later is excluded-not to mention the passport
check : the supervisors on each floor make certain that order is
preserved. In this age of collectivisation love has not been
'collectivised' as the hotheads of the I 920s hoped ; it has quite
simply been disenfranchised : pseudo-collectivity has ended by
killing the individual. As a Ukrainian newspaper recently re
minded us : 'The respectable Soviet citizen has nothing to

hide and is not afraid of people looking into his priva te life.'
This is incredibly ruthless blackmail. Every collectivity -un
doubtedly exercises moral pressure on its members ; but at
least they have a priva te life, a certain unsupervised area of
their existence where the y may escape the attention of others.
The Soviet regime has strived hard to reduce this area to a
banality (since everyone is happy and respectable, there is
nothing to hide), and now the moral pressure of the crowd,
which has become second nature to the Soviet people, pursues
lovers into the smallest gateway.
Soviet humour, that eternal antidote, has portrayed this
social pressure in the following form : a militiaman catches a
couple kissing in a Moscow street. He rushes towards them,
shouting :
'Where did you learn such filth ? '
'From Maupassant.'
'Sergeant ! Find me this Maupassant immediately and bring
him ta me at the station ! '
The devaluation of love and the importance of friendship
One day a Soviet sociologist named Kolbanovsky delivered a
lecture in Moscow. At the end he was asked : 'How many times
in this life can a man be in love ? ' The professor replied :
'Everyone can love man y, man y people. An unlimited num
ber . . . ' Silence. 'Naturally 1 am not speaking of physical love !
Everyone may love whom he wishes, with the exception of
enemies of our system.' This sentence admirably epitomises
the relentless attempt to assassinate love in the US SR. Not
. only is love reserved for the faithful, but at the same time it
assumes a different meaning : true love is that which embraces
aIl good Soviet citizens (sexless persons) and definitely not
just one or several men, one or several women. In other words
it is no longer a question of love.
To be in love, it is not necessary to have read Romeo and
1uliet or Petrarch's Sonnets. But imagine a country where the
model of great lovers that one studies at school is the militant
couple Lenin and Krupskaya. Such is the US SR. There is
something worse than the absence of cultural models and that
is false models, whlch everyone recognises as fabricated and
artificial. Since the Stalinist campaign ta de-erotise love, it has
not re-emerged from its ruins inta what one may derisively
term official Soviet 'culture'. There are no love songs, except

the traditional ones. There are no sentimental stories to make

the masses weep. As for literature, the Russians are obliged ta
turn to their glorious past in this domain. In spite of the gap
in time, one can identify more easily with Pushkin's charac
ters than with the model heroes of Soviet literature. Hence the
enormous place which this literature occupies in the formation
of the Soviet individual, and of which there is probably no
equivalent in the West.
This is no doubt one of the reasons why Soviet lovers have
become mute. The lovers' bed lends itself to a discussion of
recent Party congresses. Language plays an immense role in
amorous and sexual relations, unless they are reduc ed to the
unadorned sexual act. But, as 1 have observed, the language
of love is very little utilised in the USSR, words are lacking
and communication does not take place.
This difficulty of communication within the family, the
couple and even between lover s, lies at the origin of a specifi
cally Soviet phenomenon : the inordinate importance of friend
ship between persons of the same sex.
The Soviet man or woman finds in friendship a refuge from
the hypocrisy and lies of public life. Every true friendship
assumes much greater importance than any sexual problems.
Sometimes friends replace wife, children and parents. Wh en the
Soviet citizen arrives in the West, he is bewildered and often
disappointed, for he senses coldness, formality and unrespon
siveness in his contacts. He finds there very few friends who
will come to see him every day and who can take the place
of a family. It is simply that in the West there exists a publlc
life over which men and women have sorne control. Whereas
in the prison world which is the US SR, social contacts are
extraordinarily limite d, whether it be amongst Party leaders,
dissidents, criminals or ordinary people. So that the ties which
develop-ties of friendship or of camaraderie-are stronger
and more vital there, as in aIl situations where men find them
selves deprived of Hberty. Friendship thus escapes totalitarian
control and appears as a free choice, as the privileged (and
sole) bond wherein one may express one's emotions and secret
thoughts, thoughts which perhaps one would conceal from
one's husband, one's lover, one's wife . . . It acts as a compen
sation for the gulf which has opened up between the two
1 have used the word 'gulf'. Few bridges between men and

women exist in our country. This inability to come together is

even graver in the camaI domain, which is the subject of my
book. There is real difficulty of contact in the true sense of
the word, a clumsiness, a sense of inhibition which hinders
both sides when the y look for a partner. As an migr, 1 have
been struck by the ease, the spontaneity, even the e1egance
with which the French, to cite only one example, can speak
to a young girl or court her. In Russia they would immedi
ately be suspected of offensive intentions. Frustration and dis
satisfaction engender aggressiveness. It is not for nothing
that Intourist guides are taught to be polite and smiling with
foreigners : courteous relations have in fact become the excep
tion rather than the rule. One of the most popular films to
appear in the USSR in the 1 960s was July Rain. A man meets
a young girl while the two of them are waiting for a shower
to pass. This meeting is foHowed by long telephone conversa
tions, in the course of which the young people graduaHy faH in
love, their sole link being the telephone !ine. The film owed
its popularity to its unusual character, to the fact that it shows
a man and a woman, who, ev en though apart, are able to
establish simple and sin cere contacts; their love is coloured
with tenderness, humour and a lightness of touch. The general
rule is clumsiness, loutishness and coarseness.
Sexual frustration in the USSR is such that, very often,
intercourse can take place only after the consumption of alco
hol. More than once 1 have heard from my female patients :
'Anyone who does not smell of alcohol is not a man.' It is
paradoxical that alcohol (which diminshes sexual power) should
be employed as an aphrodisiac. Even so, its effects burst the
locks and bolts which ordinarily imprison the average Soviet's
libido, although one can guess the sort of pleasure enjoyed by
a wlfe who is obliged to submit to a drunken husband who
will bea t her if necessary.
The young woman who gets drunk may become provocative.
This is what very often happens during parties, at the end
of which, after having drunk quite a lot, the company indulges
in all sorts of risqu j okes, touching up, provocative behaviour
and cuddling. The evening does not end in an orgy : people
are content with a collective abandon which does not, however,
g o beyond the limits of cuddling and verbal licence.
The inevitable question in a sexological work concerns the
frequency of sexual intercourse. To ad duce figures in this

area is of course very difficult and the following results of

surveys conducted among my own patients, are in no way
definitive, but might be of interesl :
20 to 25
25 to 30
30 to 3 5
3 5 to 40

every day
twice a week
once a week
once a month

ln other words, Soviet men and women lose their sexual

appetite very quickly. After the age of forty, men frequently
become impotent and content themselves with the petting ses
sions which 1 have described above. This is a truly pernicious
situation and the logical outcome of the de-erotisation of Soviet
society, where love is forbidden, degraded by bru ta lity and
drunkenness ; where love can be transformed into hatred, can
atrophy and lead eventually to the 10ss of desire.


Frigidity and impotence

One day a fairly young couple came to me for a consultation.

The wife (aged thirty-five) gave her husband a push from
behind, for he was advancing only reluctantly, and then de
clared with a martial air : 'Help me with this impotent ass.
We've been living together for ten years now, and he's managed
to give me three children, but l've never had any pleasure
from him.'
ln fact he was not impotent in the strict sense, but a man
who had problems during the act, in particular premature
ejaculation. His wife had never experienced orgasm before
having an affair at a bathing resort, which is how she came to
know what pleasure was, and she was now re-evaluating the
whole of her married life.
These two patients were typical of hundreds who came to
see me. Weak, inadequate, too brief or non-existent erections
on the man's part, a complete ignorance of orgasm on the
woman's-such is the fate of man y Soviet people. These sexual
feelings, which are responsible for the dissolution of so many
marriages, are only very rarely due to organic causes. 1 could
note no frigidity in the woman; the man experienced erections
and could ej aculate. But the pleasure of sex formed no part of
their existence together. Of a marriage deprived of its sensual
foundations there remained only an empty shell which im
prisoned them.
Male potency disorders
If these disorders are so widespread (in my OpInIOn, they
effect nine-tenths of the male population), the causes go beyond
the mere framework of sexology. The phenomenon of male
impotence is so profound that it is at one and the same time
a social plague, a psychological arche type and a medical prob
lem in the strictest sense.
This national catastrophe touches aIl classes of the popula
tion, so far as 1 have been able to observe. The problem has

been recognised public1y by the Soviet press. In 1 969 the

Literary Gazette wrote that 'thousands of sick people are wait
ing for help'. An official statement did not appear until 1 974,
a period when frankness was no longer in fashion. It pro
claimed that 100 per cent of Soviet men experienced orgasm.
This statistic is no more credible than most Soviet statistics
of this kind : to state the truth would he to state that a11 is not
weil. Moreover, the authors omitted to specify the frequency
or the nature of orgasm. For that is where the majority of male
potency disorders lie : in the infrequency of erection and orgasm, and in premature ejaculation.
The chaste silence observed by the authorities is also typical
of the afflicted, and of official medicine. The man who suffers
from sexual inadequacy is ashamed of turning to a doctor.
This reaction is doubtless fairly common everywhere, but one
may say that here in the USSR it cornes into full play. First,
because of the masculinity complex; next, because of general
prudishness; finally, because of the inadequacies of medicine.
In the past when one was determining the nature of an
illness, one always asked the patient about his sex life. The
doctor, without looking up, would ask : 'Your sex life ? ' The
patient would generally reply, also without looking up : 'Nor
mal', and that would be the end of it. If" however, a patient
had a sexual problem and needed a doctor's advice, he would
very often receive advice of Stone Age simplicity : 'You are
suffering from neither an infection nor a cancer. You are not
going to die. Wait a while; it rnay go away by itself.' This solid
optimism is rarely justified by the facts, and when the patient,
forgetting his shame and the doctor's advice, goes back to see
him, his illness is appreciably worse. For potency disorders
have so traumatic an effect on the patient's psyche that as his
failures multiply, rus 'impotence' develops into an establshed
pattern of behaviour, and it becomes extraordinarily difficult
for him to free himself from it. The initial drama becomes a
The situation would be very different if patients, doctors and
the authorities could agree to examine these problems without
shame or prejudice. One of my Moscow colleagues, Professor
Poviansky, was visited by a couple from whose thirty years of
married life sex had been totally absent. Only their rnutual
love had kept them from getting a divorce. Four hours of
psychotherapy-hypnosis sessions-were sufficient for the

couple to find happiness. But on the . other hand, how many

cases have there been where recourse . to a doctor brings no
results, and how many patients have not even dared to speak
t o anyone about these things ! The j oint treatment of a couple
is absolutely unthinkable in the USSR and even verges on
being a crime against 'Soviet morals'. There is no doubt that,
were it not for this taboo, thousands of couples could be
1 have observed that men suffering from potency disorders
show a marked tendency towards professions and occupations
which offer them a form of compensation : the secret police,
the militia, the judiciary, the public prosecutor's office, the
. army, and right down to the unglamorous task of the informer.
The p oliceman may be as feared in his professional life as he
is wea,k privately. One of my patients told me with obvious
pleasure that she spat in the face of her husband, a police
agent, because of his sexual inadequacies; one day she even
slapped his face.
To j ol the police in order to compensate for one's inade
quacies is thus a widespread and logical social phenomenon,
because it is a career which offers the maximum social power
for the minimum risk and effort. One case which illustrates
this phenomenon is that of a young man from a privileged
family (his mother was a singer, while his father occupied a
high position in the Ministry of Culture). His parents having
moved to Moscow, leaving him their flat, he took advantage
of the situation by organising one orgy after another there.
He would have several girls in a single day, devoting aIl his
time either to sexual intercourse or to conversations about t.
This state of continued arousal lasted several years, until one
day the young man was struck by impotence brought on by
exhaustion. Called up for military service in 1 965, he volun
teered to join the police, which brought him into the special
forces charged with maintaining order in the army. Thanks
to an outstanding exploit whereby he succeeded in having
several leaders of a rebellion in the Tashkent region shot, a
brilliant career opened up before him-which did not prevent
him from remaining impotent. It seems to me significant that the
beginning of his advancement in the military hierarchy coin
cided with the failure of his sex life.
A man oppressed by society, who finds no possibility to
assert himself, a failure-this man may suffer impotency dis80

orders whieh appear as the physiological materialisation of his

failure. The governmental apparatus appears aimost totally
responsible for the impotency of men who have passed through
the Gulag. 1 have met a great many of them. 1 remember in
Vinnitsa prison in 1 974 a prisoner condemned to death, who
was awaiting execution. After ten years in the camps this man
had become impotent. The reason for his new conviction, fol
lowed this time by the death sentence, was the mur der of his
wife's lover. Concentration-camp impotence was a mass pheno
menon under Stalin, but it is still very common in' our day.
The stresses of Soviet life generally are often responsible for
potency disorders. Vulnerable in his social life, defenceless
from the legal point of view, the individual is susceptible to
aIl kinds of traumas. A lecturer at the Institute of Bridges and
Roads at Petrozavodsk, a town situated not far from the Fin
nish frontier, received a summons from the police. The state
of anxiety in whieh he passed the night preceding the fatal
day may be imagined. Still unaware of the reason for his sum
mons, he finally made his way to the police station. In fact
they had summoned ' him to offer him 'free' work as an infor
mer. In exchange the officer promised him substantial assist
ance in obtaining a flat, promotion, etc. The instructor, who
did not want to participate in this collaboration at any priee,
played dumb, pleaded a lack of time and mentioned the thesis
that he had to write. The officer retorted that the thesis could
wait, but that, on the other hand, his knowledge of foreign
languages being a useful qualification in this career, he en
visaged missions abroad for him. The discussion continued,
the instructor still inventing new pretexts to justify his refusaI.
When the police agent realised that gentle persuasion would
not overcome his resistance, he pressed a button, with an evil
look. A secretary entered and laid a thick file on his desk.
'Can you tell me something about citizen Podlesnaya ? ' asked
the officer.
',P odlesnaya ? 1 don't know her. The name means nothing
to me.'
'Ah ! You don't know her ? Then 1'11 refresh your memory,'
said the agent, leafing through the file. 'And 1 think the name
might be of interest to your wife and your Party cd!.'
Whereupon the officer read out the entire story. It had in
fact been a fleeting affair which the instructor had practically
forgotten. He had not even known the name of the young

woman with whom he had had intercourse in his car three

years earlier. By sorne mysterious means the police had know
ledge of it and had entered it into the instructor's file.
The outcome of this recruitment session was disastrous. My
patient declared to me that he had not yielded to the black
mail. 1 found this difficult to believe, but that is not my point.
After his visit to the police, the instructor gradually became
incapable of having sexual intercourse, either with his wife
or with his mistresses, aU of whom deserted him. My attempts
at a cure proved futile.
Naturally not aU cases of impotence are the result of police
activitiesj far from it. But this story is interesting for two
reasons : fust, because the situation of which the instructor
was the victim brings out one of the constant elements of
Soviet life. As in aIl totalitarian states, the number of infor
'mers, sometimes voluntary, but more often recruited under
duress, is enormous. Truly great moral and mental resources
are necessary to resist the terror which the secret police inspire.
This case is likewise a good example because it shows us how
a socially well-integrated person whose love life appears to
have been quite normal, can be brutally broken, unable to
find any help whatsoever outside himself. Every form of
duality, of double life, is destructive to the personality. The
situation of the informer as a victim of this duality is an extreme
case of this.
This brings me now to the indirect causes of impotence,
which are linked to living conditions and not the totalitarian
regime itself. These are the factors which bring about the
majority of cases of impotence, especially in the lower strata
of the population. 1 shaH cite three which seem to me the most
common : alcoholism, the accommodation crisis and malnutri
Men who suffer from sexual inadequacy and undertake to
treat themselves without the assistance of a physician (either
because there is not one available or out of shame) utilise that
panacea, vodka. And in point of fact, alcohol often fulfills the
role expected of it : by means of it, a man succeeds in forget
ting the problems which inhibit him; he frees himself from his
shackles and rediscover s his sexual tone. However, what he
does not know is that this 'treatment' eventually creates a new
bondage which enslaves him. Without the help of vodka, he
becomes incapable of a normal sex life, and with time, as in the

case of drugs, he seeks stronger and stronger doses. Then

cornes the critical stage when alcohol ceases to exert its 'bene
ficial' influence and merely aggravates impotence. In the end
the patient, who is already sexually disturbed, also becomes
an alcoholic.
The housing crisis imposes living conditions on the popula
tion which are unconducive to a full sex life. When a couple
are living in one room with their children, and even their
parents, and when the neighbours in their communal flat have
got into the very Soviet habit of permanently meddling in
their priva te life, sexual relations may become less frequent
and even cease, which sometimes leads to impotence, the
logical outcome of loss of sexual appetite as a result of a com
pletely non-existent sex life. 1 shaH enlarge upon the conse
quences of the housing crisis in Part Four of this book.
Finally malnutrition remains an important cause of the loss
of male potency. Real famine has of course disappeared. The
last was the one that followed the war. 1 lived through that
horrible period, when the inhabitants of Moldavia, who suf
fered particularly badly,. headed for the western Ukraine in
their tens of thousands, sometimes dying even before reaching
hospital. These days the only problem is the unsatisfactory
quality of food. With the exception of the big cities, such as
Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, the Soviet population consumes
only half the protein prescribed by medical norms. In certain
towns and large villages the population consumes no meat
for months on end and lives principally on potatoes and tea.
For men this malnutrition proves catastrophic, because a nor
mal secretion of male hormones cannot occur if there is an
insufficient consumption of proteins and fats. This may create
a loss of potency, or even complete impotence, which may
therefore he purely physiological in origin.
The most obvious, and the gravest, direct consequence of
impotence is of course the splitting up of the couple. The
spouses sometimes continue to live together, which may turn
into a veritable he Il. Or else they separate, and. eventually
In the post-war period the number of divorces due to a lack
of sexual satisfaction, and above all to the husband's impotence,
has continued to grow. Sometimes in a single day 1 had to
examine several dozen patients whose potency disorders had
aIready involved them in the difficult process of separation and

sometimes divorce. In other words the doetor is often called in

when it is too late to re-establish normal relations within the
Finally the last and perhaps the gravest consequence of the
loss of male potency is female anorgasm. It is with this that
1 shall end this chapter.
Female frigidity

In the Stalinist epoch female frigidity was a mass phenomenon.

One must remember that the slightest manifestation of femi
ninity was immediately put down as decadent and bourgeois.
If a woman used lipstick, or dared to wear colourful c1othing,
she was certain to experience the verbal aggression of passers. by, and to be summoned before a meeting of the Communist
Youth or her trade union, where she wouId be reprimanded.
If one also takes into account the traditional docility and op
pression of women, it is understandable how an indifferent
attitude towards sex became a model of feminine comportment,
the ideal virtue of the 'respectable woman'. It is difficult to
estimate the incidence of frigidity in that period. According
to the data at my disposaI, that is to say, based on the patients
whom 1 have treated, 1 would suggest that 60 to 80 per cent
of women suffered total or partial anorgasm.
What is the situation today ? Certainly a girl in a mini-skirt
may still occasionally find herself attacked by self-appointed
critics; nevertheless, de-Stalinisation and the evolution of
' morals in the West have improved the position of women. The
percentage of women who are frigid or alleged to be so has
decreased, particularly during the 1 970s. At present, on the
basis of information received from my patients. 1 would esti
mate it at 45 per cent
ln nearly half of these cases the woman remains indifferent
or even experiences disgust du ring coitus, to the point that
sometimes the sexual act becomes veritable moral and physi
cal torture Sorne feel that something is missing, they experience
nervousness, a certain moral distress, but do not know if these
feelings are linked to a lack of sexual satisfaction or to other
factors. On the other hand, a roughly equal proportion have
no disagreeable or unpleasant sensations, and sorne frigid
women who have never known orgasm even experience a feel
ing of joy during intercourse-joy which they may take to be
an orgasm.

A distinction must be made between so-caUed frigid women :

those who suifer from acquired frigidity, that is to say, who
a t a given moment in their life cease to have orgasms (in Wes
tern terminology, secondary frigidity); and those who suifer
from absolute frigidity, in other words, who have ne ver ex
perienced either desire or pleasure, and who have never known
orgasm (primary frigidity).
It is the fust case which is the more frequent, and 1 estimate
that 30 per cent of women faU into this category. !1 great man y
are the wives of a1coholics ; with a brutal and drunken partner,
they become disgusted with sex, which they endure as if it
were a punishment.
As for absolute frigidity, the doctor encounters it less fre
quently, for a physiological reason which is not h ard to under
stand. The woman who has never known orgasm is often
unaware that it even exists, and is often extremely sceptical
about it. Never having experienced the pleasure, she has no
wish to know it.
She goes to see the doctor because she has heard orgasm
mentioned, which already implies a boldness of speech, fairly
rare in the USSR. 1 recall one woman aged thirty-seven, mar
ried, the mother of two children, beautiful, vigorous, but
tota1ly frigid.
'What is this thing which people tell me about, doctor ? '
she asked m e i n a detached and rather ironic tone. 'My friends
keep te1ling me "how good it is", but 1 have no idea what that
means : "good". For me, to sleep with my husband is a fairly
unpleasant obligation. 1 look at the ceiling and wait until he
has finished. 1 have already tried a dozen lovers. It's always
the same. 1 have a friend who tells me that 1 ought to close my
eyes and groan, and then l'U have this . . . what do you ca1l it?
. . . this orgasm. l've tried : l've closed my eyes and groaned
like an idiot and natura1ly nothing happened ! ' She had an
indifferent attitude towards her anorgasm, and 1 believe she
had come to see me out of curiosity rather than anxiety. Any
how, 1 felt incapable of he1ping her : not on1y because this
irony constitute d a barrier, but a1so because 1 found myse1f
he1p1ess when faced with cases of abso1ute frigidity. In the
USSR no serious method exists for combatting these disorders.
The problem is ne ver treated in scholarly medical publications.
The few empirica1 methods which 1 was obliged to try out on
the numerous women who came to consult me, rarely met with

success. On the other hand, 1 registered better results in treat

ing partial forms of frigidity, where the patient, like the doctor,
knows what she is talking about.
Unlike male impotence, which, as we have seen, is parti
cularly a phenomenon of maturity, frigidity is often the product
of childhood trauma.
What are the remedies for frigidity in the Soviet Union ?
W omen suffering from this affliction turn to the doctor less
often than men. Sorne women suffer from partial and cyclical
frigidity; the loss of sexual appetite is only periodic, and they
look for 'remedies' on their own, often extra-marital partners
capable of arousing their sensuality. Many women also seek
satisfaction in dreams. These are frequently hyper-suggestible
women of an hysterical bent, whose control over the emotions
is such that it often ends by blocking orgasm and even sexual
arousal. The erotic dream thus became a privileged place, the
refuge of the sex life.
While male impotence is rarely treated, female frigidity is
large1y ignored. People content themselves with 'advice' or
pseudo-scientific observations.
For more than ten years now, official Soviet medi
cine has obstinate1y repeated that sexual arousal occurs most
often in women after the birth of the fust child. This may in
fact be true, but only in 3 per cent of cases, according to my
own observations. The majority of non-frigid women awaken '
t o clitoral orgasm with their fust contacts with men and before
their fust pregnancy. They experience full orgasm by the age
of about thirty and continue to do so over a long period, even
to the age of sixt y or seventy. In fact the sole aim of this
ridiculous official assertion is not to remedy frigidity, but to en
courage births, which are declining. In the USSR one also
recognises that in men the sexual decline begins precise1y at
the moment when the woman reaches sexual maturity about
the age of thirty. The situation is aIl the more serious as men
ra rel y marry women oider than themselves. So official medicine
goes on to conclude : men ought to change their attitude, be
cause . . . they overestimate the sexual needs of young girls
and underestimate those of middle-aged women. A wise pre
cept tinged with 'Communist morality' !
ln 1974 Sviadoshch, a psychiatrist from Leningrad, pub
lished a work on The Sexual Problems of Women. It was
brought out in a limited edition, because it was destined only

for doctors, but it evoked a veritable revolution, and was sold

on" the black market for fortY times its original priee. Yet
Sviadoshch avoids dealing with the true problems. He asserts
that only 18 per cent of Soviet women are frigid, at the same
time hastening to compare this figure with those of France
(40 per cent) and England (41 per cent). This is a perfec!
example of Soviet statistics being used only for propaganda
purp o ses. Even in an area far remoyed, it would seem, from
political preoccupations, what is most important to the authori
ties and to aIl those who serve them is to affirm the superiority
of the USSR over the Western countries. To treat frigidity,
the author proposes sojourns in the southern part of the
country and mineraI water baths. AlI this will surprise the
reader, but it weIl underlines the caricatural aspect of official
Soviet medicine, which is subject to strict control on the part
of the regime.
The full extent of the sexual problems of women is sugges
ted by the existence of a curious invention patented by the
Committee of Inventions of the Council of Ministers of the
USSR in 1 972. This patent carries the number 329698 and
the label 'Device designed to intensify women's sexual excite
ment.' The mere fact that, in spite of Soviet puritanism, such
an invention was brought to the notice of the authorities and
rapidly patented proves that female frigidity, notwithstanding
Sviadoshch's statistics, has not gone unobserved. The device
in motion creates, 1 would imagine, a sense of perplexity in
the woman, and in the man a paralysing fear of losing his
penis. Nevertheless the directions for use specify that the
woman should keep the apparatus switched on until
the 'awakening of erotic feeling'. Then, the patent tells us,
'the sexual act follows as usual'.
The logical question which immediately springs to mind
while reading this extraordinary text is : 'Of what use is the
penis ? ' But that w ould be a sign of fundamental anti-Sovietism.
From the most shameless bluff down to this burlesque in
vention, one always finds the same lack of interest, the same
resignation in the face the gravit y of the problem. Male impo
tence and female frigidity are two extreme and complementary
aspects of the great sexual miser y of the Soviet people.

Sexual licence

In 1 975 the Soviet demographer Perevedentsev wrote an article

in the review Our Contemporary, in which he a tte,m pted to
raise the alarm. According to him, the Soviet family was
seriously threatened on account of an increasingly off-hand
a ttitude towards marriage. He maintained tha t the principal
danger was the declining birth-rate, which again brought up
the question of the progress of the economy. 'Not so long ago,
sex before marriage was condemned by society and was a fairly
rare phenomenon,' writes the demographer. 'What is the situa
tion today ? ' By way of reply he cites several statistics : in the
USSR 400,000 births a year are illegitimate, in other words,
one baby in ten. In Perm, a city in the Urals, one baby in
three is born out of wedlock.
The article makes a not inconsiderable confession. Sexual
liberation has reached the USSR; official morality is tottering.
1 entirely share his opinion. Likewise the author recognises
the sexual life of young people and extra-marital sex (divorces
in particular) as one and the same phenomenon-a widespread
and recent one-which is eroding traditional moral values,
paving the way for an unknown future.
The process is worldwide or, at least, common to industri
alise d countries. To be sure, the number of illegitimate births
is greater in the USSR th an in the majority of European
countries, but this can be ascribed to the shortage of contra
ceptive devices in the S oviet Union. A greater tolerance a s
regards s e x and a certain questioning o f t h e value o f marriage
are phenomena which are not peculiar to the U S SR. However,
certain very specifie characteristics of the country render the
phenomena both more problematic and more disruptive : these
are the existence of an omnipresent State and of a very rigid
official morality.
In a society where, as in the West, the S tate plays a limited
roIe, and does not claim to impose a way of life and a way of
thinking on the entire popula tion, the evolution of morals is a
graduaI process, which takes place in response to the develop88

ment of circumstances : it is society which transforms itself; the

State does not attempt to organise its transformation or pre
serve by force an 'ide al' model society. Playing a more modest
role---on e might say, a role of 'domestication'-the Western
State endeavours to prevent the evolution of society from tak
ing place in too anarchical or wild a fashion, an d passes
measures and laws to institutionalise this evolution. Likewise
there may exist in Western countries very restricting doctrines
or systems of thought, su ch as puritanism. But even so there
is no single, rigid, permanent model, alien to the population
and imposed by force. This picture may seem idyllic to Wes
tern readers, but seen from the East, that is certainly how it
would appear.
Let us now try to understand the situation in the USSR. As
we know, the Stalinist system, which established a stifiing,
sterilised atmosphere over the whole of the population, is
beginning to disintegrate. Traditional obedience and resigna
tion are dedining. The Iron Curtain is no longer as impene
trable as before, allowing information on Western fashions,
morality and living standards to filter through. The Soviet
people are beginning to lay daim to these transformations,
often in a naive and dumsy, but certainly sincere, manner. An
aspiration to greater sexual tolerance is emerging within the
youngest strata of the population.
The 'model' Soviet, according to Stalin, that of the asexual
man and woman with a non-existent private life and entirely
devoted to the cause of Communism, is now merely an empty
mould which evokes only irony. But if this model is no longer
acceptd by anyone, and is no longer credible, it provides a
touchstone for the average Soviet citizen aIl the same : it is
still disseminated via aIl the channels of official propaganda,
the radio, the press, television, literature, the cinema. To cite
one of a thousand examples : a recent b ook intended for
mothers (in the Library of Family Reading) offers as a model
'the serene expression, full of interior strength, of Maria Alex
androvna Ulyanova . . . who gave happiness to huma nity by
bringing Lenin into the world . . . ' (T. Riabkina, A Sacred Task
on Barth, Moscow, 1 97 1 ). The Soviet people are now turning
aIl this ideology into more or less amusing anecdotes in which
the most sacred heroes are derided and the sex life of a Lenin
or a Chapaev (a 'great man' of the civil war) is open to public
scrutiny, doubtless considered the supreme sacrilege.
So, on the one hand, we have a State which hides its face

and refuses (or is un able) to adapt to the evolution of morality :

in this area as in aIl others, liberalisation provokes the same
reactions as a death sentence on the regime. On the other han d,
we see a greater disparity than ever between the real life of
the population, its fier ce desire for change, and a morality in
which it no longer believes. Think of the effect on an adoles
cent or a young man who has a1ready had several sexual ex
periences, and who professes the greatest contempt for marriage
and adults, of sentences like the following :
'The best

school for learning emotional refinement C

your attitude towards mothers, young girls, women . . . '

'One's attit ude

towards women

is the

Conversations A bout Ethics).

is in

best indicator of one's

honour, conscience, decency and chivalrous feelings


. . . ' CV.


Yet this is not a mere manual of Communist morality for

primary schools, but the thoughts of a well-known liberal
writer, Sukhomlinsky, . published in Novy Mir, the most res
pected Soviet literary review.
The evolution of morals in the USSR is ta king place much
later than in Western countries, but it is no less violent, an
archical and irreversible. It is taking place as if, beneath the
official prudishness which remains the outside enve10pe of
Soviet life, a cynicism, a licence, an explosion of clandestine
sex are developing, which are aIl the more savage because the y
have no possibility of public expression.
Pre-marital sexuality
The increase of pre-marital sex is a fact denied by no one.
As a recent sociological publication states, 'a significant pro
portion of young people begin their sex life before marriage'
(Sociological Studies, no. 4, p. 67) There are even precise data
regarding this 'significant proportion'. A survey conducted in
Leningrad showed that 53 per cent of young men aged eight
een, and 64 per cent of girls aged twenty-one, had already
had sexual intercourse. In Odessa in 1 973, 25 per cent of
students aged between fourteen and seventeen stated that they
had already had their fust sexual experience. In 1965 there
were 1 ,774,000 unmarried mothers or mothers living on their
own , with 2,41 ,000 children. In 1 972, 42 per cent of married
women had already had sexual relations before their marriage,

and 3 8 per cent had aIready done so with several men. Finally,
of the growing number of mothers giving birth, nearly 5 0 per
cent were under twenty.
To evaluate the importance of the phenomenon, one would
have to be able to compare these figures with those from the
S talinist period, which are obviously unavoidable for reasons
of puritanism. But the most important transformation in this
a rea is perhaps the evolution of ideas, which is openly affirmed
even in a country where public speech is so strictly cO'n trolled.
Pre-marital sex is more and more considered a normal prac
tice. An unpublished survey has shown tha t in Moscow it was
difficult to find a young woman who had not already had
sexual relations. Of . the women interviewed 66 per cent ap
proved of such relations; the others were indifferent. A larger
survey conducted amongst s tudents, showed that 53 per cent
of the men and 38 per cent of the girls approved of pre-marital
sex; 16 and 27 per cent respectively disapproved; the rest were
An this tallies with my own experience. Formerly a girl of
twenty was supposed to be a virgin and most often was. Dur
ing the post-war period girls began to have sexual experiences
at an ever earlier age. At present in schools, particularly tech
nical schools, girls lose their virginity at fourteen, thirteen and
even twelve years of age. A mother and father brought me their
daughters, aged nine or ten, both of whom had already had
sexual relations. These children had a precocious sex life, but
the phenomenon was not pathological, as in the case reported
by my colleague Khodzhinov from Kharkov; of a little girl
pregnant at the age of six. The increasingly young age at which
sex Iife begins certainly has a partly biological origin. The
youth of today attain the age of maturity sooner, both physi
cany and mentaIly. But the essential point is the profound
change in thinking, noticeable today at the most everyday
level. For example, up to the 1 960s there were unwritten rules
for meetings between young people of the opposite sexes. The
day the y first met was marked, if everything went weIl, by a
visit to the cinema. A friendly kiss crowned their second
meeting. At the third meeting one might embrace the girl. It
was only later that things could go further, whereas now one
evening often suffices fo::' the young people blithely to break
the sexual barrier. Naturally the chief victim of this change
of mentality is the idea that the girl's virginity represents

precious capital, an idea confirmed by ancestral tradition and

la ter by official morality. It was one of the sacrosanct founda
tions of traditional marriage. Of course in sorne regions the
population still clings to this old-fashioned notion. Such are
the inhabitants of -the Caucasus--decidedly very attached to
their customs-where the brothers or father of the 'dis
honoured' girl may still resort to the dagger to avenge their
family and their name. It is also a tradition of these regions
that on the wedding night, the husband shoull repudiate a
wife who is not a virgin. Rej ected by her husband, she cannot
return to her family, for her father will refuse to take her
back. But on the whole, and particularly in the 'Slav' part of
the country, this mentality is in the process of evolution, as
the following example underlines.
ln Vinnitsa Dr Rakhlin, an oto-laryngologist, was converted
to tradition by necessity. His speciality earned him only a
miserable salary, so he embarked on a clandestine profession,
that of restoring lost virginity. For a long time he had as many
clients as he wanted. But in 1 973 1 saw him in a Vinnitsa street
and 1 was particularly struck by his rather sombre air. He
soon explained his gloomy attitude to me : his economic posi
tion had bec orne precarious, for his patients had disappeared.
Girls had 'become corrupted' ; they were no Ion ger what they
had been. And the young men ? 'Corrupt' as weIl; the virginity
of their intended no . longer interested them.
Sometimes virginity remains an indispensable attribute, but
morals have bec orne freer, which may produce as'tonishing
paradoxes. 1 knew a patient whose parents had succeeded in
p ersuading her that only a virgin could hope to marry. As
soon as the conversation touched on sexual themes, she began
to blush and stammer.
'How old are you ? '
'What is your profession ? '
' 1 graduated from the polytechnic in chemical technology.'
'Are you married ? '
'Do you have a sex life ? '
'Do you have recourse to solitary pleasure ? '
'Do you sometimes experience desire ? '

'Then what do you do to satisfy it ? '

Had my patient not stammered so expressively, 1 would

probably have had a great deal of trouble e stablishing that,
despite her intact hymen, this 28-year-old woman had long
resorted to oral sex, which was the only way she could ex
perience pleasure.
1 have spoken of 'wild' sexuality and am even tempted to
employ the formula that Bukharin used in 1 922 regarding the
morals of the young Communists : 'anarchy in their rules of
conduct'. 1 have seen hundreds of examples of this 'anarchy'.
In schools, for example : in the dormitory of a school at Sutiski,
near Vinnitsa, boys of fourteen and fifteen stripped the instruc
tress who was on duty. In the town of S umgait one of the
1 76 rapes recorded in 1 97 1 was that of a young teacher whom
three pupils from a school for working youth dragged into a
classroom and raped. The class sanctioned this in silence, with- .
out a single one of the twenty-nine pupils defending her. In
the schools of Vinnitsa girls of twelve were aIready in their
fust pregnancy. 'J;he director of a Ukrainian school told me
that during a Russian lesson he discovered a boy and girl of
fourteen indulging in mutual masturbation under their desk.
Soloviev had the boy expelled, and he was accepted a t another
school at his parents' request only after the greatest difficulties.
He was expelled again, this time following sexual intercourse
with schoolgirls.
The sexual precocity of girls is linked in part to the con
sumption of a1cohol, that indispensable companion of Eros.
Many of them have their first experience when they are in an
intoxicated state. Over the last twenty years the consumption
of a1coholic drinks, as weIl as that of drugs, has increased
considerably in schools and universities. If formerly girls
tended to drink only in the company of young men, now, just
like the men, they have learned to drink with women, and even
with other young girls, with an obvious desire to become be
sotted. This is a kind of 'equalisation' of the sexes at the
roughest level.
Pre-marital sex above aIl brings the doctor patients who
want abortion s . Mter a young girl of fourteen, pregnant, came
to me one day and declared : '1 did it only to see what it was
like,' 1 began to reflect on the profound changes which had

taken place in people's minds, and of which, occupied as 1

was in the daily exercise of my profession, 1 was still not fully
aware. What had only a short time before been considered in
admissable, forbidden, unthinkable, had become commonplace.
A doctor does not have to pass j udgement on the pregnancies
and abortions of litde girls barely past puberty, but he may
reflect on the way in which adolescents regard the event. The
patient felt no guilt; her 'mistake' was not the result of an
uncontrollable passion, nor was it felt to be a 'fall' : it was the
result of simple curiosity, rather as if she had tasted a food
still unknown to her.
What suikes one most is to what degree adults are unaware
of the phenomenon, or at least appear helpless before it. The
subj ect of unmarried mothers has nevertheless been raised in
the Soviet press : in recent years columns have been devoted
to it in Komsomolskaya Pravda ( 1 6 February 1 975), Literary
Gazette ( 1 5 June 1 977), etc. In one of these articles, a certain
Lapteva writes :
'My subject is so delicate that 1 myself feel embarrssed from
the very first lines. It is rarely discussed openly, but often the sub
; ect of rumour and gossip. It is true that frequently these mur
murings become a matter of public outcry, but as a general rule
this happens tao late ta be of any use whatever . . .


Then Lapteva cites numerous cases of abortions of young

girls and adolescents who were afraid to turn to a doctor : for
sorne, the surgeon's role was performed by 'a back-street
abortionist'. One little girl began to suffer nausea each morning.
Her mother took her by the hand and went off to see a num
ber of doc tors before it was realised that she was pregnant.
In another article, extracts from adolescents' letters are
quoted, aIl written by girls of thirteen to fifteen. Here is one
of them :
'AIl us girls live in the same street, although we are no longer
girls at aIl, but our marnas know nothing about this.'

The response to a11 this is, as 1 have said, either pure and
simple ignorance of the acts, coupled with general resignation,
or an attempt to intimidate the young by exaggerating the dan
gers involved and the threat of social chaos entailed. Good
sense would demand, to begin with, the e stablishment of mini94

mal sex education, the setting up of consultations for parents

and adolescents. This would be a fust step to prevent unwanted
pregnancies and abortions. But the guardians of public morality
choose another means, that of the press, for example, which
report stories taken from readers' letters considered to be
particularly noteworthy (nothing in the Soviet pres s appears
without good reason). One girl writes :
'1 was sixteen. 1 was waiting for Prince Charming, no doubt like

ail girls my age. 1 met a boy in the South. 1 didn't love him, he
didn't attract me, but the irreparable has happened.'

Then the girl asks if she should take the boy to court :
'1 don't want to make it easy for such scoundrels . . . It w a s a
real swindle, an abuse of confidence, a crime, a crying shame if
you like.'

Another letter read like a menacing warning :

'1 have committed a foolish mistake, a terrible mistake. He who
yesterday w a s still so tender, so affectionate, so considerate, be
came unrecognisable the moment he learned that 1 was expecting
a baby.'

Reading between the lines a11 the blame lies with boys who
do not know how to control themselves and do not have a
chivalrous attitude. As for the girls, they ought to he more
careful and heware of philanders. One might expect a Russian
peasant woman to think in this way. In the columns of a j our
nal which hoasts of educating youth, the ide a requires no com
Under these conditions, it is not surprising that the attitude .
of youth towards sexuality is often cynical. The survey of
Odessa students which 1 have already cited revealed that they
had, as it were, a 'practical' attitude towards sex : for them,
love is merely a physical need which should he satisfied with
out sentiment. In short, this is the glass-of-water theory
springing up again, but this time in a more plebian fashion,
directed a gainst the regjme and not following its le ad as in the
1 920S. There is an e1ement of bravado here , of revoIt against
the moral pla titudes heaped on young people from the very
fust lessons at nursery school.

As we have seen, this revoIt often assumes a violent, ele

mental, even alarming character . . The authorities are very
wrong to avoid their responsibilities in the face of so serious
a phenomenon. It is all the more grave as the revoIt of youth
in the U S S R finds no expression outside sex and the family.
But sometimes these aspirations take on a more sober, more
mature form, as the following examples prove.
In the winter of 1 973-4 sorne friends brought me their
fourteen-year-old daughter whose conduct worried them be
cause she already had a boyfriend. A friendly dinner was the
pretext for a private consultation. They had a sked me to explain
to her the danger of constantly seeing only her boyfriend. This
fourteen-year-old schoolgirl taught me a real lesson, which
made me realise that times have indeed changed and that now
it is the children who are educating the adults.
'If lovers wish to be on their own,' she interrupted me
bluntly, 'this has nothing to do with bad upbringing. A bad
upbringing is when parents or society spend their time spying
on them through the keyhole and, what is more, considering
themse1ves fully entitled to do so.'
My young patient's declaration was s o categorical, so dearly
stated, that 1 felt full of respect for her. Before so much con
viction on the part of this adolesceI1:t, sorne of the advice and
demands of aduIts seem naive, to say the least. The official
pres s reproaches young people for kissing in the street, for
wanting to 'know life', 'tasting pleasure' as soon as possible,
and accuses them of immorality. When they act openly, they
are accused of immorality; when they seek to be on their own,
people try to instill in them notions of danger : for the young
girl, the danger of becoming pregnant; for both partners, the
danger of venereal disease. It is a fact that venere al diseases
are on the increase, which is what generally occurs when there
is greater freedom of association between the sexes. The
authorities are very disturbed by this indeed, and this is not
mere demagogy. In 197 1 the Minister of HeaIth opened
numerous clinics in order to de al with the epidemic. A large
number of prostitutes underwent obligatory treatment. But a
young people's newspaper, Moscow Komsomol, published in
1 973 an article calling on young people not to risk psycho
logical problems, impotence and venereal disease by beginning
their sex life too soon. It particularly stressed the fact that
girls should take care to preserve their honour. S tatements

like that are a mixture of charlatanism, shameless falsehood

(the 'impotence'), shocking coarseness (the threat of venereal
disease), moral platitudes and ignorance : it is very obvious
remonstrances of this kind can only he totally inetfectual.
1 shall give a few examples of youth's new aspirations. In
one Leningrad schoolgirls went so far as to organise 'a demon
stration against having to wear the obligatory maroon uniform,
which prevented them from expressing their femininity. This
may seem a childish detail, but it has great importance in this
land of uniformity : for a long time clothes were ugly, aIl in the
same p attern, and sombre-coloured. Now young women and
girls have a desire to dres s with more style, in brighter colours,
and this no longer provokes a public outcry. My readers are
perhaps aware that the fashion of mini-skirts appeared in the
USSR, imported from the West, at the end of the 1 960s, creat
ing a veritable revolution. The shock was not perhaps due to
the transgression of puritan taboos, nor to an increase in the
number of rapes; it was that this new fashion provoked a pro
found change of mentality : until then the body and bare
limbs had never appeared in social life; women's style of dres s
was n o t designed to please.
About the same time there were also genuine revolts by
s tudents who wanted to abolish the system of controlling visits
in hostels and dormtories. Young men are not allowed to be
in female student's rooms after eleven o'clock in the evening,
a rule which entails frequent checks . To overcome this diffi
culty the boldest boys go so far as to hang from windowledges
until the supervisors have passed; sometimes, as in Moscow,
these acrobaties may take place on the twentieth floor. Female
students who break the Tules may be publicly denounced.
Troubles broke out fro,m 1964 to 1965 in the universities of
Novosibirsk, Leningrad and Moscow, where students declared :
'Down with hypocrisy ! A student dormitory is not a public
bath, where men and women are separated ! ' At Novosibirsk,
there was a one-day hunger strike. The result was that the
newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda finally stopped accu sing
loyers of 'bourgeois profligacy', and even went s o far as to
praise the virtues of the dance. Youthful faith and enthusiasm
cal move mountains, even , if these mountains are not the
strongholds they appear to be.
Finally one may discern in the correspondence from readers
of certain newspapers a more carefully thought-out attitude

towards sex and love. In the colUlnn on unmarried mothers

already cited, sorne adolescents complained of the failure of
the education system to deal with love.
'1 do not know why in our school we never discuss love with
our teachers. One can at least discuss the loves of Tatiana Larina
(the heroine of Eugene Onegin) and Anna Karenina, but the
moment one refers to one's personal experience, the reply is always
the same : you have not even finished school, and here you are
butting in with reflections on love. And our parents say the same

Another letter attempts to enrol culture in the service of new

ideas :

'And what about Romeo and Juliet? How oid were they? '
1 shaH conclude b y citing a discussion which tock place in
1 969 in the columns of Komsomolskaya Pravda. This news
paper had launched a campaign to check moral laxity and
published an article by the writer Lev Kassil, an author of
books for children and young people. The following is an
'Girls reach physical maturity sooner than young men C
) But
adolescent boys are subject to certain imperative urges sooner than

girls . . . Nevertheless, none of this can j ustify the cynical, 1 wouid

even say animal, attitude of sorne boys towards girls and women.'

Kassil does not use 'dirty ' words like 'sex', preferring instead
expressions of the type : 'certain urges', etc. It was perhaps
the relatively hum an tone of this article that brought Kassil
more th an 1,500 letters in reply, sent in from every region of
the US SR. S orne of the letters quoted by the newspaper took
the opposite view ta the one developed in the article.
A girl from Tbilisi w ote as foHow s :
'1 do not quite understand why for sorne time now honour and
virginity have been identified in the narrow, physical, sense of the
word. And what i s really incomprehensible to me i s how people
can determine the earliest permissible occasion for the first kiss !
Who has studied this question and who has arrived at so peremp
tory a decision ? Do you not feel that clichs of this kind are meant
for robots, whose feelings and their timing may be programmed ? '

Another letter, signed 'Tatiana', was a sort of naive manifesto

of untrammelled love.
' . . . If one i s in love C
) one must love. One must lose one's
head. And more. C. . . ) Even if it i s an ephemeral happiness, which

costs dearly, it is a happiness which neither entry to Moscow Univer

sity nor an attractive job can replace . . . '

These letters, which are so candid, seem to me to break the

vicious circle which imprisons present-day youth. The ossified
morality and ideology with which they are inundated, the
sugared and falsely sentimental tone which imbues literature,
the cinema and even 'public' language-all these mountains
of lies have ended by creating in the new generations a dislike
of aIl sentiment. Will official moralising and the underlying
cynicism be 1eft behind by sorne of today's youth, thus liberat
ing them from the past? It is too soon to say, but any hope of
a change in attitudes lies with the young.

Extra-marital sexuality
Adultery is as old as the world and far be it from me to present
it as a unique feature of the USSR. 1 shall be brief in this
regard and shall stick to those aspects which seem to me con
nected with the subject which interests me : the de gradation of
marriage and the appearance of a new mentality in sexual
As with pre-marital sex, it is impos sible without statistics to
evaluate the quantitative importance of the phenomenon. There
is one piece of data, however : in the U S S R in 1 977 there were
1 ,500,000 more married women than married men ! S uch a
disparity requires explanation. S oviet sociologists assert that
there are unmarried mothers who, at the time of the census,
declare themselves to be married. In fact a 46-year-old woman
living in the town of Sverdlovsk wrote to the Literary Gazette :
'When a11 is said and done, 1 am not a single woman. 1 do not feel
single because 1 have a son.'

In other words the mother feels that she has a family even
if she is unmarried-motherhood has priority over marriage.
But 1 believe that the principal cause of the statistical dis
crepancy lies elsewhere : sorne women say they are married in
good faith, without really being so; in particular, there exist


what are called in the USSR migra tory husbands, who have
several families and are in fact polygamous.
These data would indicate a disequilibrium between the
sexes in keeping with tradition : the adulterous woman is a
criminal, whereas the man may allow himself escapades with
no consequences. This is a feature of the past which persists,
and in Russian and Ukrainian villages one still finds resigned
peasant women, conscious and consenting victims of the in
fidelity of men.
Traditional, likewise, are the crimes of jealousy, which are
of c ourse no more original than those committed anywhere in
the world. More interesting are those phenomena which
indicate a change in the concept of adultery. Here, for example,
is a news item about an event which took place on the out
skirts of Pskov : a woman had gone to see her husband and
told him honestly that she was having an affair, but that she
did not know what to do, because she loved her husband as
weIl. The latter lost no time in reflection, seized a bottle, broke
it and drove a piece of it into his wife's throat, which earned
him a prison sentence. His reaction was 'traditional', whereas
the behaviour of his wife, for whom adultery was no longer a
shameful crime to be concealed, represented a new line of
It is this contrast, this duality, which the USSR is experienc
ing at present. After the war, in a republic like Turkmenia, in
Central Asia, an unfaithful wife might still be buried in the
sand up to her nose, to prevent her from crying out. 1 myself
witnessed such a scene in 1 944. By contrast, in the intellectual
milieux of the big cities it is sometimes considered good form
to practise 'civilise d' adultery : the husband and wife are free
and have no need to conceal their actions. Until quite recently
the woman had to be passionately involved before committing
an infidelity. Now, in the milieux which 1 have mentioned,
and even amongst the masses, the woman may deceive her
husband out of mere curiosity, or under the sway of momentary
sexual desire. Here again we find that cynicism, that purely
physiological concept of love, which is so widespread amongst
young people.
It is the change of mentality which has seemed to me
essential; it is beyond doubt that extra-marital sex is practised
more than in the past, and what was once considered a guilty
act committed in secret is now not far from being considered by

sorne men and women an indispensable complement to married

life. As one survey reveals, 50 per cent of .married wives who
say they are happily married consider extra-marital relations to
be normal. That is a veritable revolution, the consequences
of which are only just beginning to appear. In contrast a
peasant's petition written in 1923 to the People's Commisariat
(ministry) of Public Health sounds touchingly old-fashioned. 1
quote it as a curiosity and to give a better idea of how the
mental universe of the Russian people is in the process of
'1 was married in 1918 and it was then that 1 first had sexual
intercourse; 1 lived with my wife for six months, then 1 joined the
Red Army, where 1 served one year; 1 had two weeks' leave, during
which 1 had relations with my wife. Then 1 went back to the army,
served a year, and returned home in 1920 for another two weeks,
and again 1 had relations with my wife; but since April 1920 1 have
not had any more, because 1 have not had any leave, and my wife
has not come to see me, and now 1 am suffering much in my sex
lite, because 1 have no opportunities. As for prostitution, 1 give you
my word: 1 am against it, because 1 detest them and 1 am afraid of
catching a venereal disease. It is now two years and four months
since 1 had any sexual relations, but 1 wouId rather wait another
two years than resort to prostitutes, unless 1 really needed to. 1
hope that at the end of this tour of duty we shall be given leave and
that 1 can make up for lost time with my wife. Between now and
then 1 shaH wait for leave. 1 look forward to having relations with
my wife.'

1 have just indicated two opposing attitudes towards extra

marital sex: the rigorous one, in keeping with tradition, and
the lax attitude which is now becoming more common in the
USSR. But naturally this simplification has only allowed me
to define mental models. In reality positions are frequently less
weIl defined, and these oppositions do not always facilitate the
co-existence of spouses. Traditional morality may appear in
tolerable, but it at least has the virtue of offering a positive
family ideal. Promiscuity after aIl is perhaps only a fashion.
There is sorne danger in its cynicism, its devaluation of love,
although it certainly contributes to the emancipation of the
spirit, notably that of women. But nothing is more odious,
more degrading, than the atmosphere of quarrels, tittle-tattle
and jealousy which is rife in so many Soviet institutions. The
strongest marriages are unable to resist this poison, for although


morais become freer and freer, the official moral norm itself
always refers back to Stalinist dogma. The person 'guilty' of
adultery is considered 'moraIly unstable' and therefore in need
of re-education. For example, he or she becomes unworthy to
travel abroad, etc. When in the USSR one wants to harm some
one, the easiest way is to cast aspersions on him; and as
aspersions of a political nature are inappropriate for the mass
of the population, one has recourse to gossip of a sexual nature:
who has slept with whom. Nothing is more effective than a
good anouymous letter to the Party or the IZomsomol, de
scribing the moral profiigacy of one's enemy, in order to shat
ter his career or at least cause him serious difficulties.
1 shaIl cite as an example the National Institute of Research in
Marine Geology, in Riga. This institute was regularly con
tracted to prospect for oil abroad: in Bulgaria, Cuba, India,
etc. Before each trip, when the participants of the expedition
were being selected, the institute became the scene of a pitched
battle for the available places. The Party committee spent
entire days reading the abundant correspondence which it
received, aIl sorts of anaymous letters providing details of the
intimate relations, debauchery and perversions of feIlow
workers at the institute. Such and such a department head was
no longer the nice boy everybody knew so weIl, but a dangerous
and perverted homosexual. That shy little operator Galia has
copulated with more than half the institute and-the height of
indecency-she did it on the beach. Lastly, a very peaceful
husband was transformed into a sex maniac: it appeared he
painted his testicles with green paint. The unfortunate man
had to provide a medical certificate in order to participate in
the expedition: in fact he had no testicles, for they had not
dropped. This atmosphere weIl refiects the climate which
reigns in the Soviet Union. Aspersions and gossip have always
existed and will perhaps always exist; when they assume such
proportions, they become an extremely pernicious social ill.
Moreover, they reveal at the same time a debasement of former
moral norms, obvious sexual frustration and the impossibility
of a genuine liberalisation of morals. Morality is no longer the
affirmation of an ideal of life together with the rules, even
constricting rules, attached to it: it is a means of destruction,
sanctioning the perverse satisfaction of suppressed desires. For
Soviet sexual life to become healthier, it must rid itself of this


One explanation for the phenomenon of extra-marital sex

lies in the Russian national character, which, as is widely
recognised, is fundamentally anarchical, disorderly and dis
respectful of rules and conventions. The Russian's bohemian
way of life, particularly common amongst the intelligentsia,
can largely be explained by a need of human warmth, rather
like that of men snuggling against each other in heavy frost.
Moreover, a disorderly sex life may go together with alcoholism,
an almost total contempt for comfort, c1othing, external ap
pearances-a contempt which is aiso very characteristic of the
Russian mentality. The Soviets do not 'settle down' after mar
riage and their sex life may continue to be as irregular and
'untamed' as an adolescent's.
Amongst women sex outside marriage is often experienced
in a very particular manner. One might say that in many cases
it i a sort of revenge on the greyness and hardship of life, on
a lack of sexual satisfaction; it is a kind of self-affirmation. In
these cases it is neither passion nor even a simple quest for
sexual pleasure which motivates the woman, but the search for a
safety valve, an outlet allowing her to escape everyday life,
which is stifiing her. The lover is then the confidant to whom
she may complain about her husband, that nasty, odious,
drunken, impotent, coarse fellow whom she would willingly
leave, were it not for the children ... Her soul assuaged, but
her body still as unsatisfied as before, the woman can then go
back into harness.
The authorities continue to affirm that Soviet marriage and
the Soviet couple are the happiest in the world and that there
fore adultery simply does not exist. This official point of view
was expressed, for example, by Kolbanovsky, a Soviet socio
logist who in I95I (and therefore still under Stalin) published
a book entitled, Love, Marriaf!e and the Farnily. Amongst
other things, he said that in the USSR
'the strength and beauty of love depend on the ideological bond
between the man and the woman . . . In the families of Western
millionaires, for decades only "marriages of money" were permitted.
The had only one goal: to bring together two bodies of capital.

And of course such marriages inevitably led to extra-marital affairs.

Whereas in the USSR, with the abolition of private property and
capital, love has been freed from material interests and adultery is
obsolete . . '


If 1 foist this grotesque reasoning on the reader, it is not

once more to attribute to the authorities responsibility for
the sexual misery of the Soviet people. It is to show the tech
niques of 'thought' (if one may call it that) which lead the
ideologists to reject a problem wholesale with the most serene
assurance. For them human nature does not exist: if a man
seeks partners outside marriage, it is for economic reasons and
it is the society in which he lives that is to blame. And as the
regime established in the Soviet Union is the most just on
earth, and since the latter has decreed that henceforth the
family will necessarily be happy, it can no longer be other
wise. Traditional morality did not deny the possibility of
adultery, but condemned it in the name of an individual ideal
which implied the assumption of personal responsibility. Here,
there are no morals: now there are only assertions of an alleged
objective truth, much more implacable for the individual
than the sternest morality, because it prevents him from think
ing out his own destiny. It is more terrifying to hear onese1f
say in defiance of reality that in the USSR adultery does not
exist and cannot exist, than to be accused of sinning. At each
level of Soviet man's existence, one finds this dual personality,
the difficult compromise between his real behaviour and the
ideological image imposed upon him, even if he no longer
believes in it.
This duality, and 1 persist in calling it that, is also the
authorities' doing. Because although the superiority of the
Soviet family continues to he loudly proclaimed, the talk
surrounding these problems is much more cynical. There are,
in my opinion, two reasons for this. On the one hand the
regime is forced not to neglecr. the realities totally; just as with
the twist, jazz and the Beatles, it must mute its reactions when
popular feeling is too strong. On the other hand one can
not overlook the fact that 'untamed' sexuality is a factor which
may contribute to maintaining the birth rate at a less
catastrophic level than the one towards which it is steadily
moving. 1 have already shown on several occasions how this pre
occupation is present in the authorities' minds. It will suffice
here to cite the law of 1944 which freed men from the obliga
tion of paying a food allowance for illegitimate children, which
was a tacit and obvious encouragement to pre- or extra-marital
liaisons. Instead single mothers had a right to State allowances.
One Zhukovitsky wrote an article in 1977 in the Literary


Gazette in which he openly called for an increase in extra

marital births:
" If a large proportion of unmarried women do not procreate, society
will be deprived of many children. For children are the future of
the country.'

The brutality and cynicism of this kind of remark is sympto

matic of the regime's ability to accommodate itself even to
aberrant situations, always pursuing only one very precise
objective (here, that of increasing births), without the slightest
care in the world about the social implications. This is a
brutal, narrow, unilateral way of trying to settle a problem.


Sex education, contraception

and abortion

ln this chapter 1 would like to examine two areas which depend

directly on the policies of the powers that be: contraception
and abortion. In this regard the authorities' abdication of re
sponsibility is almost total.
Since the 1960s the attempts to promote sex education and
sexological information for the population have been so many
fleeting experiments which quickly die out through inertia and
routine and the resistance of entrenched practices. These at
tempts have come principally from civil servants, rather than
the masses. That is why these initiatives were carefully con
trolled, distorted by administrative censure and left no freedom
of action to the doctors and pedagogues who could have carried
them through successfully.

Sex education
The bewildering ignorance of Soviet people concerning matters
of sex affects young people as weil as adults. The explanation
lies not only in the absence of State-organised sex education;
the silence, shame and malaise which surround these questioris
make sexuality a generally neglected, misunderstood, even in
significant field.
1 could cite endless examples of this ignorance. A student,
Olya Polozova, found in her mother's wardrobe sorne soluble
contraceptive cachets, which she decided to use. She became
pregnant on three occasions, the whole time asserting that she
had used these cachets. Af ter the third abortion she came down
with a grave inflammation of the neck of the uterus and there
was even the danger of a tumour. It was only when she was
brought to me for treatment that 1 discovered the whole story.
Instead of introducing the cachets into the vagina, the girl had
quite simply swallowed them. What is revealing in this story
is not so much my patient's initial error, an error which is
always possible, but the fact that it required three abortions
and serious complications for it to be discovered: this is a

sign of young people's bewildering lack of information, as well

as of the absence of communication between parents and chil
Another example: an Hungarian student, OIdar Dierd, who
was studying at the Institute of Precision Mechanics in Lenin
grad, was dumbfounded to meet an eighteen-year-old Soviet
girl who panicked when she kissed a boy for the first time:
she was terrified by the idea of becoming pregnant as a result of
the kiss. How can a student be so ignorant of the most e1ement
ary facts of sexual life? This story hardly surprised me. Neither
schools nor parents -take the trouble to advise children in this
delicate area. On the question of childbirth, people are still
prepared to deceive them with all sorts of tales about 'shops',
'cabbages' and 'storks' to such a degree that 1 do not know of
a single instance where parents have explained to a child the
real mechanics of his coming into the world, not even on the
most abstract level.
This gulf between the generations, added to an often pre
cocious sex life, means that the discovery of sex takes place
in an uncontrolled way, with sometimes catastrophic con
sequences. The medical journal Health mentions the case of a
girl of fifteen who came home from school every day with an
exercise-book full of inscriptions of the type: 'Tanya + Boris
= Love'. The parents never dared speak to their daughter on
this subject and Tanya soon had to undergo an abortion.
Young peopl's lack of sexual information is evident in a
recent survey: 75 per cent of them declared that their source
of information was their friends, 3 per cent their parents, and

3 per cent a teacher. As for the press, books and the media in
general, their role is virtually nil.
This ignorance affects even adults, including individuais
married for decades. Here we are truly touching on the bur
lesque, and 1 mention only one particularly striking example
of which 1 have direct knowledge. The director of a village
club, who was married, was no more developed sexually than
a little boy of five. When 1 began to explain his condition to
him, he replied: 'But 1 have a child you know.' He seemed so
convinced of his paternity that 1 refrained from dissuading
him and from questioning him about relations between his
wife and his neighbours. Moreover, his case was in no way
unique: 1 can count by the hundreds men afflicted with insuffi
cient development.

It goes without saying that sex education was utterly im

possible and unthinkable during the Stalinist era. Today the
old ideological canons are still in force. When one speaks, for
example, of sex education as practised in Western countries, it
is in arder to brand it as an attempt by the bourgeoisie 'to turn
youth's attention towards sex and away from problems of the
class struggle, politics, and ideological problems'. It is the
general opinion in the USSR, bath on the part of the authori
ties and of the population, that the less young people are
informed . about sex, the more moral their conduct will be.
Whenever there seems to be a need for it, highly enlightened
opinions of the kind expressed in this letter from a school
rnistress are published in the press:
'Candour is a11 very weU, but not where sexual problems are con
cerned. Modesty is not only a natura! feeling; it is also the best form
of sex education. '

Or one from a certain Lynev, from the town of Tyumen,

who wrote in 1966 in Komsomolskaya Pravda that individuals
devoting lectures to sexual subjects 'are undertaking a mass
corruption of minors'. For him, 'sexual problems are not a
subject for meetings. Better to read about them in private,
dealt with in an intelligent book.' The allusion to 'books' is
quite simply grotesque: to suppose that the shelves of Soviet
bookshops are lined with works on sex education is sheer
fantasy. Yet it is true that in 1968 one book made its appear
ance in Soviet libraries: it was the New Book on Married Life,
a book on hygiene by the East German, Neubert. Although very
elementary, the book immediately became unobtainable and
was read only by librarians. Publication of another work, The
Problenl of Sex, by Dr Stankov, was delayed by Nauka
( Science) Publishers for several years, even though it had been
typeset and the editorial board had decided to publish it. It
had to go back on this decision, the excuse being that the
Academy of Sciences' of the USSR was not equipped with
institutions of sexological research.
As for the lectures of which the virtuous correspondent of
the Young Communists' newspaper complains, attempts were
made in this direction during the sixties. In 1966 Dr Gutkovich
gave a lecture in Kislovodsk on 'the harmony of the couple'.
He endeavoured to speak frankly and honestly about physical

relations between the sexes. Mter he had finished speaking he

was assailed by an avalanche of racier and racier questions.
Each question and each reply provoked nervous smiles and
knowing winks. Subsequently Komsomolskaya Pravda, still
vigilant in its defence of the purity of youth, published this
letter from a teacher named Khorolsky, who bad been present
at the lecture:
'Leaving the hall, l heard a young man joking with his com
panions at the top of his voice about applying the theory which he
had just heard expounded. l am sure that before the lecture he would
not have had the audacity to utter such insanities to a girl.
'One would be too hasty to accuse me of hypocrisy. l am not
against sex education for young people. But there are intimate sub
jects which ought not to be discussed collectively. l am in favour
of young people acquiring the necessary knowledge individually.
Perhaps one could give lectures to men and women separately, and
particularly to young men and girls. Perhaps it would be worth
separating young people from adults . . But the best thing would
be 10 publish pamphlets which one could read on one's own ... It
is inadmissable to lecture on sexuality when the audience inc1udes
lovers. It is inadmissable, because this type of propaganda produces
cynicism and kills any form of modesty.'

Attempts at sex education have indeed taken place during

the last fifteen years, but they have had a mixed reception.
As we know, nothing which happens publicly in the USSR
bappens by chance. If a lecture takes place; it is because it bas
been given tbe green light and sometimes at the highest levl.
If a newspaper publishes a letter from an indignant worthy
labourer, it is to show that 'public opinion' is opposed to sex
education. The fact that contradictory attitudes to sex educa
tion have been publicised therefore requires sorne explanation.
1 believe that if the authorities are tempted to tolerate a
certain amount of sex education, it is because they are uneasy
about the lapses of conduct of the population, especially among
young people. The increase in illegitimate births, divorces,
abortions and sexual crimes may be a spur to the regime to
take the population in band. In this area its scope of action is
limited. It may wish to rely on the old system of upbringing,
with its bans and stifiing morality; but the latter is proving less
and less effective, and the most intelligent officiaIs end by
realising this. Repression pure and simple is undoubtedly more
difficult in this domain than in any other. Besides it is a trait


of the regime to wish always to educate the population. AlI

this explains both the hesitancy regarding sex education, and
its always strictly controlled character, subordinate to State
Thus, in the course of the second half of the sixties, a more
liberal attitude towards sex education appeared. The very term
'sex', long banned by censorship, begins to appear more and
more frequently in the press. The very tides of the articles give
an idea of this evolution; in 1966, an article entitled 'Filth'; in
1967, 'Grammar of love'; in 1968, 'Pedagogy and intimate mat
ters'; in 1969, 'Let us speak out on intimate subjects'. If young
people continue to be protected by a veil of modesty, adults
are beginning to receive a certain amount of information. The
medical press, which is often read by a wider public, publishes
articles which allude in a more or less vague fashion to the
technique of sexual intercourse. Bridegrooms are warned, in
order to avoid disappointment, that women becorne aroused
more slowly than men. Delicacy and prudence are advised with
respect to girls who are still virgins. Husbands are recommended
not to handle their wives too roughly, not to try to make love
in a drunken state, and not to be brutal. When one moves on
to practical advice, the authors are usually less inspired. In
cases where there is a lack of sexual satisfaction they advise
the reader to turn to an urologist or gynaecologist. Lastly, for
the inhabitants of Riga, Leningrad and Moscow there are
now sex clinics for married persons. These are very limited
experiments, but their very existence can be considered a
revolution of sorts.
The importance of organising sex education for young people
and adults is also stressed more and more frequently, par
ticularly after sex crimes. In the town of Kuybyshev a gang
of fifteen boys had been systematically raping schoolgirls. This
was blamed in Moscow on the absence of any sex education. It
is the same thing with divorces: at the beginning of the sixties
a book entitled The Young Man and the Young Woman was
published in Moscow. The book did not, however, use the
word 'sex' even once, although it claimed to be a popularisa
tion dealing with (the domain of intimate relations'. What is
interesting is that this work points out a steep rise in the divorce
rate (from 0.6 per 1,000 in 1955 ta 1.3 per 1,000 in 1961)
and attributes this fact ta the gaps in the sex education of
young people. Since 1970 appeals in favour of sex education

have multiplied, principally because of the new outbreak of

venereal disease and early pregnancies. Round table discussions
have been organised in Moscow, proposing the creation of
departments in universiries, and the 'distribution of manuals
to doctors and educators. Nevertheless, aIl this remains most
often at a stage of discussion. Like economic reform, it has
become fashionable to talk about the need and urgency of sex
education without any concrete measures being taken in that
ln 1975 an entire series of issues of Health magazine was
devoted to the subject of sex education. The details were still
obscure, and the threat of venereal disease still exaggerated
out of aIl proportion, but one of the articles contains this
sentence: 'Sorne women possess more erogenous zones than
others, and these zones may be variously situated.' The sen
tence will doubtless appear quite banal, but 1 can assure my
readers that in the Soviet context it is of unparalleled audacity,
both as regards the terms used and the immorality of the
advice it implies: the sexual act need no longer be dispatched
like a pressing national duty, but ought to be preceeded by
erotic games. The articles are full of prudent and somewhat
ridiculous advice of the type: 'The idea that the man's sexual
functions depend on his physical qualities is a myth': only the
informed reader will realise that what is being discussed are
the dimensions of the man's virile attributes. Or consider this
advice from Dr Belkin: 'The bride's coldness is an unexpected
and disagreeable discovery for the husband. Nevertheless it is
completely natural.'
ln the majority of cases sex information is so muzzled by
censorship and surrounded by taboos and imperatives of all
sorts it loses all credibility. Sexual techniques, the mechanism
of the orgasm and the problems of contraception are almost
never tackled in these discussions. On the other hand one may
find precious recommendations of the following type: if a
young man sees a girl whose petticoat is showing, he ought
not to draw her attention to it personally-that would be
incorrect-but should calI on another girl to do it.
The sexual information provided is skimpy, but also brutal.
ln 1964, as the authoriries began to worry about the explosion
of sexual activity amongst minors, Izvestia accused parents and
teachers of concealing from children the principal facts of
human physiology, which is why child pregnancies occur. A


certain Baskov, an attorney from Moscow, called for increased

penalties for sexual relations with minors. He dted the case of
Vera, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, who had met the 'man of
her dreams' at the skating rink. Her teachers had tried to
followed the liaison, but they had not intervened. Soon Vera's
mother became a grandmother. The tone of all this is extremely
brutal: it calls on adults to intervene flagrantly in the private
life of adolescents. On the one hand, young people are left
completely ignorant of sexual matters; on the other, they are
threatened and intimidated by the bogey of venereal disease.
Here is a case cited by a Soviet author:
'A seventh-year pupil writes a letter to a boy in which she tells
him that she loves hirn. The note faIls into the hands of her teacher,
. then of the director of the school ... The pupil 's mother is sum
moned, and, in front of aIl the teachers and pupils, she is informed
of the "intolerable relationship" existing between her daughter and
a boy in her class. The mother slaps the girl 's face. Sorne of the
pupils laugh, ethers cry. The girl manages to escape and ftees the
school, which is situated near a railway line: she throws herself
under a train.'

The journalist Ada Baskina wrote an article entitled 'Neither

angel nor beast', published in 1968. Amongst other heresies
Baskina suggests that a woman ought not to he only a serious
minded housewife, but also a 'seductive lover'. Baskina tells
the story of a young man deserted by his wife on the grounds
that, in him, 'the animal was stronger than the man'.
'But after all 1 am your husband and 1 love you!'
The interview with the wife was very frank: the latter
complained that 'everything was so plain, so coarse'. The
journalist cited another significant case: a married couple who
went to the photographie studio.
'Don't pay any attention to me,' the photographer told them.
'Pretend l'm not here. Kiss. Make yourselves at home.'
The young woman exploded in indignation: 'How dare you !
We're not lovers, after all! Kiss? Maybe you forget that we've
got children!'
Bearing in mind the repression of the Stalinist period (with
out going into detail of course), Baskina observed that 'for the
last thirty years the latest works of sexology have been neglec
ted by us'. Man, she continued, is neither angel nor beast. He
should love neither like an animal, nor platonically, but like a
man. The USSR needs modern sexologists. Baskina declared

that 50 per cent of divorces are caused by complete ignorance,

and ended by stating the necessity of giving people the pos
sibility of having elementary notions of married life and sex.
'It is essential teaching cadres be formed immediately and courses
in sexo-pathology be organised in medical institutes . .. perhaps we
ought even to create an institute of sexology ...'

l have quoted abundantly from this article because its tone

was altogether unusual in the USSR, its audacity bordering
on the outrageous. Ada Baskina was supported by Professor
Kolbanovsky, who wrote that hundreds of thousands of adults
and young people needed sex education and advice, and con
cluded that it was necessary to 'create sexology clinics in aIl
important towns and local administrative headquarters'.
But hardly had the journal published this article than it
immediately hastened to bring it under a veritable barrage of
artillery, so that one might have imagined that this was the
real aim of the exercise. A letter was published from Neubert,
mentioned above, who wrote from Dresden:
'Communism ought not to produce asceticism, but a

joie de vivre

and ardour, which ought likewise to give birth to a full love life.
Our chief aid will not be sexology or the study of sexual pathology . . .
We need prophylaxis. We want millions of healthy families who
know nothing of pathology.'

Then the Literary Gazette published a letter from one Ser

geyeva from Tyumen, under the heading: 'More modesty'.
'We are a group of teachers from the town of Tyumen who read
the article "Neither angel nor beast" with great regret. The author
appears not to realise that sorne of our young people have already
begun to acquaint themselves with sex education much too early!
The blame lies, to a certain degree, with "educators" of this sort,
who still want these things ta be considered from a "scientific point
of view". We are resolutely in favour of modesty in books, news
papers and films. We are resolutely opposed to sexual problems
being treated as in the article cited: we are against this sort of
"education". We deplore the fact that your journal has allowed an
article of this sort to be published. More delicacy, and less coarse
intervention in the intimate spheres of human existence!'

Another reader, one Poilova from Nikolaevsk-on-the-Amur,

wrote that 'if we publish books on sexology in large editions,

1 13

the main readers will naturally be adolescents, in whom such

reading will engender unhealthy emotions'. Thus, a few sens
ible and moderate proposaIs are immediately drowned in an
ocean of hypocrisy, inhibitions and pure and simple hatred.
1 myself was a fust-hand witness of abortive endeavours of
this kind. From 1971 to 1972 1 was invited by sorne school
doc tors to give a sex-education course in the upper forms of a
school in Vinnitsa. 1 must say that it was a sensational innova. tion, since only Latvia could pride itself on having organised
courses in certain experimental schools. For my course the
director of the school made a point of carefully separating the
boys from the girls. Then, as the interest aroused by the subject
became too great, much greater than that aroused by the other
subjects, it was not long before administrative sanctions were
applied and the classes immediately came to an end.
Of course the introduction of sex education in schools can
not be considered the panacea its advocates sometimes appear
to think it. But it could at least help dispel sorne of the
atmosphere of falsehood rife in the USSR, and it could signal
a new way-more straightforward, more open and more cour
ageous-of viewing. sexual problems. But sex education in the
USSR at the moment still basically consists of extremely delicate
remarks and recommendations, and constant reference to the
danger of venereal disease. Many writers advise parents only
to 'hint' at sex: what a marvellous notion) ideal for creating
a dimate of confidence between parents and adolescents! Above
aIl, the 'parents' role is to put their children on guard against
venereal disease. This veritable national phobia is only an
acute form of a morbid fear of germs. As the humorists Ilf
and Petrov shrewdly noted in the twenties, the delicacy and
tact of this kind of 'advice' consist, for example, according to
one of their stories, of the following kind of poster: 'Kissing
transmits infection.' ln 1965 a work was published under the
title The Girl. the Young Woman, the Woman, which described
the process of sexual maturing and menopause. It is not gener
ally known that the real reason for this publication was linked
with an outbreak of syphilis, gonorrhea and especially vaginitis
caused by trichomonas. In a chapter specially devoted to
venereal disease, parents were told that they must be careful
about their hygiene and use separate bath towels so as not
to transmit the disease to their children.
What are we to make, for example, of this statement by

Sviadoshcha, a Leningrad doctor, that 'pre-marital sexuality

may cause grave psychological disorders'? Either it is a truism,
for one could say as much about almost everything on earth,
or it is a dishonest insinuation designed to confine the young
within the framework of official morality. Another statement
taken from an article in Health magazine, from the series
which 1 have aIready mentioned, maintains the following:
'Pre-marital sex does not permit one to achieve harmony in
marriage, but on the contrary makes it more difficult c ... ) The girl
who loses her virginity before marriage at the same time loses her
charm, becomes less pretty and in particular loses aU faith in deep and
noble feelings, as weil as in herself.'

If this sermonising were presented as such, in the form of

a moral exhortation, it would still be less pernicious and dis
honest than when it assumes, as it does here, a 'scientific' air,
confirmed by the medical standing of the magazine.
Sexual relations are beset by such dangers, if one is to
believe this kind of publication, that one wonders how human
ity has managed to survive until now.
To conclude, 1 shall give a few examples of the 'official'
vision of the sexual act and 'sexual techniques'. A few years
ago, after repeating that pre-marital sexuality carried the
threat of neurotic disorders, impotence and frigidity, Health
magazine added what, in its view, was the ideal duration of
the sexual act: two minutes! And this is not the whimsical
idea of a facetious doctor, but dogma with which doctors
have been -force-fed for decades. A man who delays his ejacula
tion for the enjoyment of his partner is doing something
'terribly harmful, which entails the gravest consequences
C. . . ): impotence, neuroses and psychoses'.
The sexual act ought to be as brief as possible and con
secrated, no doubt, solely to increasing the national demo
graphie patrimony. Dr Sviadoshch, cited above, recommends
a maximum frequency of once every twenty-four hours,
preferably at night or in the morning, but only on condition
that one has enough time to rest before going to work. lt is
perhaps still better to renounce the sexual life altogether, or
to limit it to procreation only. Recently Health magazine pub
lished an article which recommended sexual abstinene as
advantageous to health, since sexual liaisons could only be
. .


The future will tell us if the situation will one day improve;
at present, there is hardly more 'liberalisation' in the area of
sex education than in culture or the economy.

Contraception and abortion

In the USSR organised contraception, medically supervised,
practically does not exist. In this respect the country resembles
the so-called underdeveloped countries and the Russia of the
ancien rgime. One rnight suppose that if contraception is
hardly practised at least in its modern forms, it is quite simply
because people do not feel a need for it: why impose con
traception on a population which does not want it? But this
is not the case. Let us recall the figures for births in the
USSR: they are evidence that the country has entered the
era of birth limitation. The Soviet people do not want to have
too many children; most often these are lirnited to one or two;
people are attempting to control the act of procreation. It is
this which places the USSR in a completely original position.
We know of countries where contraception is neither desired by
the population nor encouraged by the State. There are other
countries where the State endeavours to impose it, or at least
to encourage it. There are still others where legislation and
medicine have followed the evolution of morals and where
contraception is generally practised. But the USSR is a country
where contraception has been on the agenda for decades, but
without things evolving in a sensible fashion: this is one more
paradox of a country which lays daim to rapid progress and
development, but which is in fact the country of stagnation.
Contraception began to be practised in Russia at the end of
the nineteenth century, but only in extremely limited cirdes.
During the 1920S, as a result of the theories of free love, it be
came generally known about, but doubtless still not very much
practised, particularly among the great mass of the population,
that is to say, the peasantry. With 'Stalinist virtue' it was con
signed to oblivion, to return in our day only in an extremely
discreet form. No medical or social body publidy encourages it.
Contraceptives are available, although they are very rudimentary
and not very safe, but even these receive no publicity, and
many chemists do not sell them. On the other hand one may
regularly read pseudo-scientific reftections on the contraceptive
methods enjoyed in the West, which are presented as being
extremely injurious to one's health: one is assured that they

have never been tested, and that they may lead to the birth of
mentally retarded children, grave illnesses or death. It is mainly
the Pill that is discussed, and the Soviet citizen is often inclined
to believe this kind of nonsense, because he does not realise
that it is once more a matter of lies with an ideological and
political basis.
In spite of this, what are the contraceptive methods existing
in the USSR? There are, above aIl, male condoms. It is a sign
of the lack of interest which surrounds these questions and
also of technological inadequacies, that these condoms are ex
tremely thick. Their dimensions are often preposterous: either
too long or too short. They are produced by the Bakovka
factory, not far from Moscow. Men are hardly very inclined to
wear them, even if they are very much in favour of contracep
tion, for these 'rubbers', their feel and odour, are very dis
agreeable, because of the talc with which they are covered. A
more serious matter is that in spite of their thickness, the
condoms are not very strong and tear very easily. Sorne men
adopt the habit of wearing two or three at a time, which, as
may easily be imagined, adds no additional charm to sexual
intercourse. But not even these precautions offer any guarantee.
The wife of one of my patients suffered from diabetes and was
strictly forbidden to become pregnant. Her husband used
four condoms each time. As the couple were not rich, they
decided to cut their expenses by re-using the condoms. It was
a fatal error: the mere fact of washing and drying them
sufficed to make them ineffective, so poor was the quality of
the rubber.
Sorne couples succeed in procuring condoms made in the
West, most often on the black market, thanks to foreign tour
ists or Soviet employees who bring them back home with
them. Their price is therefore five to ten times higher than
local condoms. When Soviets have become accustomed to
using them, they experience the greatest repugnance in re
turning to local condoms. One of my patients became com
plete1y frigid because her husband had gone back to using
Soviet 'rubbers'. Another was unable to be1ieve that condoms
made in the West were sold hermetically sealed and dipped
in special liquid. In the USSR they are simply wrapped in
poor-quality paper or cellophane pierced with holes. They are,
moreover, of a very unpleasant whitish colour.
As a result of news coverage and foreign contacts, the Soviets

1 17

know, or are beginning to know, about contraception as prac

tised in Western countries. Worse, they are even beginning to
taste of this forbidden fruit; so that they are both eager to
benefit from these products of progress and profoundly dis
satisfied with what their own country has to offer. The situation
is basicaIly the same for aIl consumer goods (clothing in par
ticular), and since it is dragging on endlessly, it is becoming
The other contraceptive methods which are commercially
available are even less commonly used than condoms. Dia
phragms are as safe as condoms and hardly ever employed; the
coil is still practically unknown. Moreover, men and women
alike are still highly re1uctant, out of prudishness, to ask a
chemist's advice. One of my patients had got into the habit of
sending his son with a letter in which he explained that he was
ill and requested the employees to sell condoms to his son,
but to wrap them in such a way that he would be unable to see
the contents of the package.
There are also a great many 'old wives' remedies'. One
example: sorne women use lemon juice after intercourse. There
are also methods which concern the performance of the sexual
act tse1f. Amongst the younger generation, anal and oral sex
are widespread. Then there is coitus interruptus, a primitive
method of unguaranteed effectiveness, not to mention its some
times harmful consequences, which is practised, according to
figures 1 have compiled, by more than 60 per cent of men. In
the medical sphere there is also vasectomy, which is hardly
utilised, except by the ruling minority.
One can understand then why the principal means of con
traception in the lJSSR, and the only effective one, remains
abortion. In Moscow, Leningrad and other big cities, 80 per
cent of pregnant women undergo a voluntary termination of
pregnancy. In 1963 in Leningrad 80 per cent of medical
abortions were performed on married women, proof that it is
really a question of contraception, and not mere1y a lack of
experience on the part of adolescents.
This absolute1y dreadful situation is well known and even
publicly acknowledged in the USSR. In a collection of articles
published in 1976 on the theme of the birth rate, it was stated
that 'abortion is a primitive, but sure and accessible method'.
Neverthe1ess, no appreciable improvement has been made.
Instead of promoting effective contraception, plans for a re
newed ban on abortions are regularly discussed.
1 18

Let us recall the history of abortion in the USSR. Author

ised by the law of 1920, on condition it was performed under
medical supervision, it was banned by the law of 1936, which
imposed a penalty of two years in prison for illicit abortions.
Although we have no statistics in this area, there is no doubt
that abortions continued to be practised clandestinely, and thus
in a manner frequently dangerous to women's health, as was
acknowledged even by the authorities, after de-Stalinisation.
Finally, in 1955, two years after Stalin's death, abortion was
once again permitted. It now costs five roubles for towns
people and two roubles for peasants. In 1965, 1971 and 1978,
anxious about the decline in births, the authorities were
tempted to make abortion more difficult. But at present it
would be hard to do this.
This brings me to an utterly paradoxical characteristic of
abortion in the USSR. Practically free, it has become one of
the most everyday facts of a banal existence. Yet it remains no
less under the surveillance of society, necessitating a fairly
impressive amount of red tape, which entails a quite distressing
and humiliating procedure for the woman to go through.
Therefore, many of them continue to resort to illegal abortion,
outside the clinics and hospitals, even though this is punish
able by law: a maximum of eight years' detention for the
person who performs the abortion, according to the Penal
Code. In Moscow these private abortions cost fifty roubles or
more, or at least ten times more than a legal abortion. Whetl?er the abortion is private or performed in hospital, it
is effected by ordinary, mechanical means and without anaes
thetic. Notwithstanding possible complications, most women
continue to prefer private abortion. Sorne have had dozens of
abortions, because for them, as 1 have said before, it is an
'easy' and sensible method of contraception. Sometimes these
women no longer need to resort to outside help to have an
abortion. After a certain number of abortions, they need only
(this is a very common recipe) drink a glass of vodka, take a
very hot bath and begin jumping up and down until a mis
carriage occurs. 1 have had to treat a woman who had had
twenty-two abortions. Amongst such women, repeated abor
tions so weaken the muscles of the uterus that there is a risk
of miscarriage occurring ev en if they are doing nothing but
As we see, contraception and abortion are very closely con
nected. Brutally introduced from the beginning of the regime

and reinforced by the series of calamities suffered by the Soviet

people, the idea of controlling births has finally taken root in
the USSR. But instead of leading to the development of
contraception, it has stopped halfway. It is as if only the
negative aspect of contraception (the termination of pregnancy)
bas been retained, whereas it could have become a means of
mastering life and ensuring individual happiness. Repeated
large-scale abortion cannot create a harmonious sex life and
an equilibrium within the couple, and particularly not for the
woman. As with 'women's liberation', the concept of love and
sex, we findin contraception that unhealthy and, in the long
fun, untenable situation in which modern ideas and new
aspirations collide with the dead weight of habit and the
neglect and indifference of the State, the sole result being to
increase the number of abortions. Yet one cannot ascribe re
sponsibility to te State for aIl these disturbing phenomena; it
is more a question of irresponsibility. Whatever one says, this
regime has transformed the country; it has industrialised it,
and it daims to be modernising it and placing it amongst the
so-ca11ed developed countries. In doing this, it has started a
process which has led to the emergence of new aspirations
amongst the population, and destroyed traditional ways of
living and thinking. But the moment it cornes to dealing with
particular problems, such as the increase in abortions and sex
education for young people and adults, it retreats behind its
antiquated morality and ideology, and a110ws the situation to
deteriorate. There is a still more serious contradiction: as the
State has abolished all private initiative, progress can only
come from the State, at least in the immediate future-a
progress which it appears neither desirous nor perhaps even
capable of taking upon itself. 1 am not so naive as to believe
tbat sex education in the schools and properly organised and
popularised contraception will suffice to correct a11 the problems of Soviet sexual life. But at least this act of courage would be
a first step in the decontarnination of a poisoned atmosphere
which in time could easily become explosive.


Part Three

Prohibited practices

What is normal?

The Soviet Penal Code contains seven articles concerning sexual

offences and the punishments which they entai!.
1 The propagation of venereal diseas e : maximum penalty,
three ye?Js' detention.
2 Illicit abortion : maximum, eight years.
3 Rape : maximum, the death penalty.
4 A sexual liaison imposed on a woman by force : maximum,

three years.
The corruption of minors : maximum, six years.
Sexual perversions : maximum, thr,ee years.
Pederasty : maximum, eight years.

This list gives us an outline of what is forbidden in the

USSR in the sexual sphere. In fact of course the Iist is not com
plete. It goes without saying that point 6 (sexual perversions) is
a very comprehensive term which may embrace almost any
thing. Pornography is severely suppressed, but the definition of
it does not go as far as to include the painted nude !
What is important to note ab ove a11 is that in Soviet society
problems re1ating to sex fa11 very quickly into the 'abnormal',
the 'pathologie al' and the 'perverted'. To kiss in the street is to
commit an 'obscenity'. To allow onese1f erotic fantasies in one's
sexual techniques is to become a follower of the Marquis de
Sade. To prolong the sexual act is to play with fire and risk the
gravest neurotic disorders, as we11 as to indulge in immorality.
And if one takes the moral canons of the Stalinist period as the
Soviet norm, a11 sexual activity outside the strict domain of pro
creation is by definition perverted.
This will assist me in posing the problem of the 'normal' and
the 'abnormal', as undl.:.rstood in the USSR. To try to establish
objective distinctions btween these two notions is to advance
across a minefie1d, bt.:=cause they contain at the same time a
social judgement on the acceptability of certain types of be
haviour, and a scientific ; udgement of a medical nature. As we
know, homosexuality is Iess and less considered an 'abnormal'

practice in the West, whereas in the USSR it is c1assed as

purely and sirnply pathological. Even incest is not universally
considered a crime, so it is impossible to establish moral criteria
common to a11 peoples in the sexual domain. As for the
physician's point of view, it is essentially empirical : in his work
he deals with the 'sick', that is to say, with those who, feeling
'abnormal', come to seek his help. 1 have no intention of solving
so complex a problem in a few lines, so 1 shaH content myself
with showing how it presents itself in the Soviet Union.
1 think it is c1ear that in the USSR frontiers between the
'normal' and the ' abnormal' do not exist. This seems paradoxical
when one considers that the law and society are extremely severe
towards any sort of sexual offence. In fact, depending on one's
point of view, everything is abnornial, or nothing is abnormal.
Is it normal, in fact, for a husband and wife to make love only
three to four times a year, and then in a state of drunkenness?
On the other hand is it abnormal for a middle-aged man to
continue to masturbate because his living conditions or his wife's
frigidity prevent him from experiencing pleasure in 'normal'
heterosexual relations? Here 1 want to return to the image of
prison sexuality to which 1 have already referred. In the case of
a prisoner, the notions of 'normal' and 'abnormal' have sti11 less
meaning than for a free man. In prison the human libido is so
repressed and inhibited that one might compare it to an exces
sively compressed spring, ready to burst in the most brutal and
anarcbical manner. In tbis case 'deviations' are a natural reaction
to the sexual starvation which is rife in the prison world. And
they manifest themselves in a manner so violent, in proportion
to the frustration suffered, that they appear indeed to be patho
logical crimes. If, in the USSR, rapes, adult masturbation and
exhibitionism are so widespread, it is at least in part because
relations between men and women are difficult and their sex life
so litde satisfying.
My purpose in the third part of this book is not to draw up a
complete inventory of aIl the more or less exotic 'deviations'
which are rife in the USSR, an inventory which wouId quickly
become tedious, but to stick solely to those practices which are
most severely punished (such as homosexuality), those which
are most typical of the USSR by virtue of their statistical im
portance, like exhibitionism and masturbation, and finaIly those
which take place under very specific conditions (such as prosti


Masturbation: a prohibited practice? This is already something

to surprise a Westerner. And yet it is so. In the Soviet Union
masturbation by children and adolescents is considered a patho
logical illness by aimost the whole population.
Officially infantile sexuality does not exist: the child is an
innocent, neuter creature. This pre-Freudian concept became
dogma in the thirties and has not evolved since. As 1 have al
ready indicated, psychoanalysis has been forbidden since the
end of the twenties, when the publication and study of the
works of Freud were brutally interrupted, as was all research
into the sexual development of the child and the adolescent.
Here, for example, is what Mikhailov and Tsaraegorodtsev wrote
in a recent work, Beyond Consciousness :
'Freudianism arose as a reflection of the ideas of the bourgeoisie
in full moral decadence, and it still remains a means of justifying the
sexual licence, debauchery, pornography and moral profligacy prac
tised in the capitalist countries. C ) More than any other theory,
Freudianism feeds the atmosphere of moral profligacy which con
tinues to grow in the imperialist countries. Freudian therapy plays
no small role in the moral perversion of children and adolescents
The accent placed on sexual problems leads to the moral perversion
of the psyche and contributes to the premature development of
sexual interest amongst children and youth. '

Much may be said on the rejection of psychoanalysis by the

Soviet regime. 1 shall restrict myself here to underlining the
essential point: Freud is incompatible with the official ideology,
because his writings assume that there exists a human un
conscious, independent of upbringing and the social system. In
other words, sexual impulses escape the manipulations of
'Communist education'. The chi Id is no longer a greenhouse
product, born by spontaneous generation into the best of
worlds, pure in soul and body : the theory of psychoanalysis is
intolerable to an ideology which has a1ways aspired to produce


a new human type, and which, while claiming to be materialist,

has always been an implacable enemy of nature. For, as 1 have
said, the worst ideology or moral system is not that which fights
nature, but that which denies its existence. If the normal child,
such as is supposed to exist in the ideal 'socialist society', has no
sex life, those who have the misfortune to have one will be
accused of being sick. In the USSR masturbation is a stigma of
moral dissoluteness and at the same time a survival of, or some
thing introduced from, bourgeois society. This prej udice is not
only held by psychologists and doctors, which would be a lesser
evil, but is also shared by the great bulk of Soviet people, which
produces, one suspects, absurd and tragic conflicts.
One of my patients resquested a divorce when he learned that
his wife masturbated . . . as a child. The pathological aspect
would seem to be not where he saw it, but much more in his
own reaction. When 1 asked him if he had ever masturbated, he
finally declared:
'Yes, but l cano l'm a man.'
As a general rule, when parents realise that their children .
masturba te, they punish them, which can have very serious con
sequences, as everyone is now aware in Western countries. It is a
piece of luck if, anxious about their child's 'shameful' indulgence,
they turn to a doctor: this step, which is most often perfectly
useless, is rare; most parents content themselves with beating
their child. 1 had to deal with an unforgettable case: the mother
of a little boy learned that he masturbated and threatened him :
'If you do it again, 1'11 take a razor and cut it off.'
The child did not give up masturbating, but from then on he
dreamed every night of an aeroplane, of which one of the wings
was a razor-blade. This dream plunged him into such terror that,
three years after his mother's irresponsible words, he had to
undergo treatment in a psychiatric hospital.
With aIl due respect to Soviet medical propaganda, mastur
bation is much practised in the USSR, and not just by hyper
sexed maniacs, but by perfectly normal children who are
regarded as vile beasts wallowing in sin. According to official
figures 8 per cent of girls and 20 per cent of boys masturbate. AIl
my experience contradicts these absurd figures, which want to
hide the fact-as if it meant the end of the Soviet regime-that
the majority of children masturbate. Naturally it is very difficult
to provide figures in this area. 1 can say in any case that almost
aIl my male patients had practised onanism at one point or

another in their life. As for the women, 1 always experienced

greater difficulty in getting them to 'confess' that they had
masturbated. As the extraordinary response of my divorced
patient has shown, onanism is considered even more shameful in
women than in men. Nevertheless, on the basis of what my own
patients, told me, 1 believe there has been an increase in onanism
amongst girls.
During the Second World War, women who masturbated were
very rare. 1 personally know of only one case among my female
patients; she admitted that she had masturbated at the age of
thirteen. After the war, the proportion increased. From 1953 to
1954, out of a total of 430 female patients questioned, 81 had
masturbated, or 18. 5 per cent, to which proportion one must
doubtless add a few cases of women who had not told the truth.
The situation changes radically between 1964 and 1974. Pro
fessor Mizrukhin and 1 conducted a survey on 500 female
patients each. The results were as follows : in my group, 4 3 per
cent of the patients masturbated or had masturbated between the
ages of nine and nineteen. My colleague obtained a proportion
of 55 per cent. Together we obtained an average of 49 per cent.
1 do not know whether this evolution was due to a relaxation
of discipline following the climate of general tension under
Stalin, or to other causes, but the growth is altogether spec
tacular. Not only are children and adolescents resorting to
masturbation more and more frequently, but they are beginning
to experience orgasm at an even earlier age. Without being in a
position to offer a precise figure, 1 can say that in 1961, for
example, 1 saw two little girl patients and from 1970 to 1971
twelve little girl patients between the ages of four and nine who
had aIready experienced orgasme
Sexual precocity seems to occur in direct proportion to the
repression suffered. To illustrate this paradox 1 shall adduce the
case of a little girl aged three, who appears to me typical) both
in her parents' reaction and in the manner in which children
may react to an anti-sexual upbringing.
1 had aIready come across numerous cases of precocious
masturbation in little girls, but when Lena's parents brought
her to me and told me the details 1 was dumbfounded.
When 1 saw her, the little girl was three years and six months
old. Problems had already begun when she was three. Her
parents had noticed that sometimes, when she was lying in bed,
on the beach, on the grass, or in the courtyard of her house, she

would stiffen, squeeze her legs together tightly and become

quite pale. Anxious about her behaviour, they began to keep a
close eye on her, until they discovered that she frequented the
public lavatories.
S he would pass several hours there, waiting for adult men
and caressing herself to the point of orgasm as soon as she spied
one urinating. S he was perfecdy inditferent to litde boys. Some
times, when she managed to escape her mother's surveillance,
these masturbation sessions could continue to the point of total
e xhaustion.
1 began by supposing that this was a case of precocious sexual
maturity, of a kind 1 had already come across in my practice.
However, wh en 1 examined the litde girl 1 discovered no sign
of hyperdeve1opment. Masturbation is natural and normal i n
children. But the litde girl's precocity, the fact that she already
experienced orgasm, the intensity of her sexual life and par
ticularly the habit that she had adopted of spying on men as
they urinated, made her case altogether extraordinary. So 1
invited her parents for a deeper discussion.
'Your daughter is in perfect physical health. The origins of
her troubles are psychological. If we want to he1p her, we must
find them. '
The parents were stunned. She was their first child and much
longed for; her birth foIlowed tbree miscarriages. For them the
child was seriously iIl; in her they found aIl their hopes dashed.
The mother said to me in tears:
'Doctor, how can she be in good health if she does such '
terrible things? . . . '
'As 1 said, her body is perfectly healthy.'
'But how can she have troubles if, as you say, her body isn't
sick ? '
This kind of conversation weIl illustrates the problem that
doctors have to face in the USSR. Masturbation inspires such
horror that the child is assumed to be ill. Even if the case was
indeed disturbing, it still did not justify her unhappy parents'
apocalyptic exclamations. People are totally ignorant of the
realm of the mind: 'illness' and behavioural disorders are
assumed to have only physiological causes. This sort of nave
and basic 'materialism', common to the ruling ideology and to
the population's way of thinking, very often prevents parents
from being able to assist the doctor in any way whatever during
the course of his investigations. In this particular case, the


parents neither could nor would understand what 1 said, nor

genuinely help me to find the origins of their daughter's be
haviour. To aIl my questions, they talked merely about tonsil
litis, the effects of influenza or an early case of pneumonia.
Mter long discussions with them, 1 finally succeeded in dis
covering what had happened. One day the little girl had burst
into the flat, surprising her father in the nude. Noticing his
sexual organs, she asked him what they were.
This question of simple, and very natural, curiosity earned
her a cruel thrashing, then she was locked in the kitchen. More
over, she was warned that she would be beaten again if she ever
spied on her parents again when they were naked, and asked
them dirty questions.
As a result of this Lena took it upon herself to look for an
answer to her question and it was this which led her to men's
lavatories. To 'cure' the little girl was not the most difficult
problem: the great difficulty was to persuade the parents no
longer to conteal their bodies from the child's eyes: only a
climate of trust could de -dramatise this family's neurotic con
dition, which was such that one did not really know whether to
look for the 'illness' in the parents' reaction or in the child's
It has become a commonplace today to underline the danger
of repressing masturbation, and in general of aIl violent reactions
to sexual behaviour. In the USSR the ide a is thought to be here
tical; the consequences can be catastrophic. 1 had to treat a man
of twenty-five for psycho-pathological impotence. He suffered
increasingly from a persecution mania and was convinced that
he was being followed by the police. In spite of the extensive
powers of this organisation and its acknowledged practices, the
young man had no reason to believe himself followed, and it was
only a question of a neurotic phobia. During his childhood he
had been cruelly beaten by his father every time he was caught
masturbating. The last time this occurred he was fifteen and had
a prolonged nose-bleed. Since that time he had indeed ceased to
masturbate, but it led to the loss of aIl sexual desire, and later
impotence and the persecution mania.
1 have spoken of a general tendency to sexual precocity.
There are cases, for example, of little girls who experience
spontaneous orgasm, that is to say, without any physical stimu
lation. This phenomenon too is becoming more and more fre
quent, and can probably be explained by a particularly stifling

family atmosphere, where the child is so protected from the

world around her, so deliberately kept in a state of ignorance
about sex, that she becomes hypersensitive to any outside
influence or stimulation. 1 had to treat a stewardess aged twenty
who had been forced to abandon her profession. The vibrations
during flights kept her in a permanent state of arousal and
caused her to experience repeated orgasms. In her childhood
she had had to stop seeing boys because a simple kiss induced
an aImost instantaneous orgasm. She had masturbated practi
caIly daily from the age of twe1ve until her arrivai at Aeroflot as
an air hostess.
Sexual precocity may go hand in hand with naivety and
ignorance, but sometimes the child is perfectly conscious of
what it is doing and creates for itself an infantile sex life parallel
to that of adults, and unknown to them. One of my patients was
ta ken aback when she chanced to hear her nine-year-old daugh
ter talking on the telephone to a friend : 'Nothing happened,
you know; 1 keep on playing with myself, but it doesn't come
. . . It's nice, of course, and 1 rubbed myself between the legs for
a long time, but 1 haven't had what you describe . . . We should
try it together, the two of us, when my parents go to the
cmema . . .
Here the 'cynicism' of the younger generation is innocent.
Deeper and more aggressive is that of the pupils of school
number 25 in Vinnitsa; boys of about thirteen met in groups of
ten to twenty to masturbate. They collected their sperm in a
glass and poured it into the inkwells of the class next door.
These collective masturbation sessions are sufficiently wide
spread for the children themse1ves to calI them derisively 'clubs
of manual dexterity' (from the name of the handicraft clubs
functioning in all the Pioneers' Palaces). A game aIso exists
amongst adolescents which they calI 'give and take'. It takes
place in the following way: two or three girls of twe1ve or
thirteen-in Vinnitsa they stroll along Lenin Street; in Moscow,
Gorky Street-notice a group of boys of the same age, approach
them and say 'give and take'. No additional explanation is
necessary. They find a spot where they can be on their own and
then masturbate each other collectively until they reach orgasm,
after which they separate, most often without saying anything
more or sometimes arranging another meeting. Once again 1
stress that this is a recent phenomenon dating from the end of
the 1960s, which seems to me to go together with the change of

mentality of present-day youth. What is most striking in these

practices is that it seems essential to the adolescents not to know
their partners: the fact that these are chance encounters, with
no follow-up, adds to the pleasure of the sessions, rather as
though this constituted an additional defiance of the adult
world, a way of affirming still more insolently .the freedom which
they want to grasp. An extreme example of this cynicism was
the case of a little girl from Vinnitsa. She lived with her grand
mother, was an exemplary pupil and played only with boys.
When her parents were still alive, they had sent her to Lenin
grad on holiday, and it was there, at the age of ten, that she had
learned all the subtleties of 'give and take'. She was courted by
aIl the boys. At e1even, she already knew ten or so little boys
and adolescents whom she masturbated. At thirteen, she began
to trave1 between Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev and Vinnitsa, with
out anyone knowing where the money for these trips came
from. Everyone knew her solely as a masturbator who required
no payment and looked after the needs of adolescents, and even
grown-up men, simply because she liked to. Almost no attention
was paid to her unusual questions about politics and her clients'
private life, which were strange, coming from one so young.
It was only later, when her 'friends' began to have trouble
with the police, that it was learned that she had been collaborat
ing with the KGB for several years. This is an extreme case,
which caUs to mind those prostitutes who work for the police:
the paraUe1ism here becomes total between the sexual world of
the child and that of adults.
From my own medical experience, 1 would say that child
masturbation is widespread in aU milieux, and it would be futile
to look for social categories which are more inclined to it than
others, though a special mention must be made of young sports
women, amongst whom cases of masturbation are very frequent.
For two years 1 was treating a young athlete aged sixteen or
seventeen who had discovered masturbation on a climbing rope.
'One day when 1 was coming down the rope, 1 felt something
odd . . . a kind of very agreeable shudder. Later 1 tried it again
and each time 1 slid along the rope, the sensation retu rned, until
1 realised that it was because of "that",' she said, pointing to her
lower abdomen. '1 hope it's nothing dangerous, doctor. 1 want
to be a champion, but l'm afraid . . . maybe l'm iU.' 1 reassured
her, telling her that there was nothing abnormal in it and that
she was simply in the process of becoming a woman.
13 1

The great difficulty for adolescents who indulge in mastur

bation is, just as with adults, being able to be on their own. In
Leningrad they use the porches of old hou ses, of which, in that
city, there is no shortage. In Odessa there are the beach lava
tories. In Moscow they often use the lifts.
It remains for me to say a few words about the specific kinds
of masturbation. Young girls and women rarely have recourse
to intra-vaginal masturbation. The most common form of
masturbation is stimulation of the clitoris, by preference with
the fingers of the right hand. In its very c1assic form this may
be accompanied by reading erotic literature, which, in the
U S S R, rarely goes beyond the novels of Zola, unless the indi
vidual has access to erotic samizdat. Boys may sometimes use a
gynaecological manual. Masturbation may also be accompanied
by voyeurism, as we shaH see in the foHowing chapter.
Little girls are often afraid to touch their vagina, fearing
dangers which they are not very c1ear about; sorne are afraid of
becoming pregnant ! But it also sometimes happens that, after a
few years of masturbation, they arrive at vaginal stimulation
and end by tearing their hymens, even before experiencing
sexual relations.
Such was the case of the daughter of a Vinnitsa judge, aged
fifteen : during a masturbation session she tore her hymen,
which caused slight bleeding.


spent the evening with

several friends and confided in one of them. When she returned

home, her mother discovered by chance that she had sorne
blood on her leg and, after examining her, that she was no
longer a virgin. Her mother immediately undertook to save her
daughter's honour.
'Who were you wi th ? '
Scared, the girl liste d several names inc1uding, quite arbi
trarily, one of the boys present. He was sentenced to eight
years in camp for the 'rape' of a minor, notwithstanding the
efforts of his parents (who proposed marriage), appeal proceed
ings and a lack of evidence in this entirely fabricated affair . He
returned from camp in a state of moral and physical weakness.
1 had . to treat him for impotence for three years.
Anal masturbation is also practised by girls and women, but
it is difficult to say if the choice of this erogenous zone is the
result of an innate or acquired tendency. 1 had to treat an
eighteen-yar-old girl who wanted ta become a film actress and
to do this she had an affair with a Moscow director. The latter
preferred sodomy and she acquired the habit of having orgasms

13 2

that way and, as a result, lost all interest in parmers who did not
share her penchant. She began to have systematic recourse to
anal masturbation and later became a lesbian.
If the practice of mastur bation is protracted, if it is repressed,
or at least if its perpetrator is seriously inhibited, it tends to
assume extravagant forms. A girl was brought to a Leningrad
clinic in an ambulance. Her vagina was seriously injured by
splinters of glass. The doctors began to question her as to the
origin of these splinters, which extended to the neck of the
uterus, but her only reply was to beg them to tell her whether
she was going to die. In fact she had used a cylinder-shaped
Czech light bulb as a kind of artificial phallus. During one
masturbation session she had not noticed that the bulb was
cracked, and it broke while she was using it. Fortunately the
bulb was not switched on at the time, for the girl also had the
habit of turning it on to warm it and to increase her feelings
of pleasure.
Or take the case of a Vinnitsa schoolgirl, who had read in
popular technical journals detailed reports of the experiments
of an English scientist, James Olds. The latter had worked with
rats, attaching eIectrodes to their brains. During his experiments
he had discovered the rat's 'centres of pleasure' and had in
vented a system whereby the animal could, by pressing a lever,
pass a weak current through its brain, enabling it to 'give itself
pleasure'. The result was that the rat began to press the lever
up to seven thousand rimes an hour, leading to total exhaus
tion. While her parents were away on holiday, Sveta, a girl of
twelve, fixed up an electric circuit which she connected to her
clitoris and had long sessions experiencing the joys of elec
Wh en her parents returned from their holiday, the little girl
told them very proudly of her scientific experiments : she quite
simply saw herself as Olds' disciple. The parents, flabbergasted,
noticed that their daughter had lost seven kilos and hastened to
bring her to me. The therapy was not difficult, once she had
dismantled her electrical apparatus and ceased to frequent the
Pioneers' Palace and its Handicrafts Club. It was harder to get .
her to regain the weight she had lost. A year later l was happy
to learn that the girl was continuing to show scientific talent and
had been adm.itted to the school of pp-ysics and mathematics
for gifted children at Novosibirsk, which selects chiId prodigies
from aU over the Soviet Union.
If the last case testifies to a harmless spirit of invention, 1


have known others, on the other hand, which reveal a sick ima
gination sometimes verging on sadi sm. S uch was the case of
a boy of fourteen, whose family was completely 'normal'. The
masturbation sessions in which he indulged followed a definite
rituaI. First he caught one of the stray cats that abound in
the provinces. Then he took it into a shed and, petting it all the
the while, fixed it to the wall with nails and string, thus cruci
fying the cat. Then he stabbed it in the he art and began mas
turbating immediately following the animal's rapid death. The
knife generally remained embedded in the wall, so strong was
the boy's blow. The sadistic child masturbated to the point of
ejaculation, enjoying the sight of the dead cat losing its blood .
Then he would take ' the animal down and throw it behind the
shed, wash the knife and then use it as a bookmark. The book
he was reading at the time was The Three Musketeers. There
was an entire cemetery of cats behind the shed : nearly thirty
animaIs. In the shed itself there was a pool of dried blood and,
beside it on a bench, Dumas' novel, with the knife between its
p ages.
Here, we are no longer dealing with forbidden p,ractices, but
with straightforward pathological behaviour. Most of the time
child and adolescent masturbation is j ust a sign of an awaken
ing to sex, which, though it may provoke horrified reactions in
in Soviet society, is nonetheless, quite naturaI. If it assumes
strange and sometimes disquieting forms, it is precisely be
cause of the ban on it. A phenomenon, even an aberrant one,
may be a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. A teacher
from the institute of steel and alloys at Vinnitsa told me that
during courses on the history of the Communist Party, the
students seated in the back rows secretly masturbated. It must
b e said that this obligatory instruction, which is nothing but
pure propaganda and a falsification of history, is rejected by aIl
the students, who undergo it unwillingly and are unable to
escape it. Of course masturbating in a lectureroom may seem
rather silly. But one must imagine the torture represented by
these courses, infticted several times a week over five or six
years, with neither the lecturer nor the audience believing a
single insidious word of what is said.
What is the importance of masturbation amongst adults ? Of
the patients whom 1 have been able to question, 15 to 20 per
cent of the men and 60 ta 70 per cent of the women resorted
to onanism either regularly or intermittently. For 15 per cent


of the women this was their only way of achieving orgasm.

Sometimes they continue ta practise it in old age.
Masturbation in adults is often connected with their prob
lems in their sex life. For example, the wife's frigidity drives
the man either to seek extra-marital liaisons or to masturbate.
1 had a patient who was not only too timid to seek a mistress,
but was a1so very much in love with his beautiful but frigid
wife. Every evening before going to bed he would shut himself
in the lavatory and masturbate. It was only after doing this
that the nearness of bis wife's body did not prevent him from
fa1ling as1eep.
'When 1 am with her, 1 feel worse than an animal. She makes
no attempt to react in any way at all. She lies there like a log,
waiting for it to end and sometimes she asks me to finish it
more quickly, because it doesn't interest her. Better masturba
tion than a sex life like that.'
'What would be better would be to try to awaken your wife
to normal sexuality.'
'Yes, but how? '
The reply to this question came of its own accord when,
after the birth of her first child, the wife became sexually
active. But the great problem is masturbation by wives linked
with the husband's impotence. As the figures which 1 have
presented show, women masturbate very often. This massive
social fact was part of my everyday experience as a doctor.
Wives of members of the privileged class often resort to mas
turbation as a means of compensating for the husband's impo
tence, when impotence exists. To get a divorce would bring
them little advantage; extra-marital liaisons would be risky:
not every woman wants to lose all the privileges connected with
her husband's position. There remains masturbation. Such is
notably the case of diplomats' wives, who have the possibility
of acquiring all sorts of gadgets abroad and turn sex into a kind
of sport, setting records for the number of orgasms, sharing
experiences regarding the comparative advantages of electric
vibrators, artificial phalluses, etc., which the female diplomatic
corps may easily obtain in sex shops.
Thanks to the privileges accorded to diplomats, one of these
wives returned to Leningrad with a collection of thirty rubber
phalluses. Sometime later, the woman asked a patient of mine
if he knew anybody who might be interested in buying the
13 5

Without hesitating, he replied :

'Of course l do ! '
'That will be 500 roubles apiece.'
'What? ! '
May l remind the reader that the average Soviet salary is
140 roubles. Such is the combined attraction of the West and
of sex that weIl-off people are prepared to pay the craziest sums
for a bit of rubber. l imagine these artificial phalluses appear
as symbols of Western 'sexual freedom', of pornography, of
everything which is unthinkable in the USSR and which is
deemed to lead to t'he summits of happiness.
Onanism is not mere1y a widespread practice in the Soviet
Union: it is also a mental archetype which we shaH come
across again in such practices as exhibitionism, voyeurism and
petting in public places, and which even influences heterosexual
relations. Just as with adolescents, boys and girls, who mastur
bate together, and for whom the essential thing was not to
know the partner, sorne sexual relations become connected with
the search for anonymous gadgets to be used in masturbation.

Exhibitionism and voyeurism

For the same reasons as impotence, exhibitionism not only

exists in the USSR, b ut it has also assumed the proportions of
a national illness. Amongst th thousands and thousands of
women 1 have treated, there were few who had not come across
an exhibitionist. Of course, this deviation is encountered es
pecially amongst men, although cases of exhibitionism in
women are not rare either. On account of the prevailing prudish
ness and the fact that me.n are rarely witnesses to an act of
exhibitionism, the phenomenon is sometimes ignored ; so much
so rhat a husband asked me to examine his wife b ecause, he
said, she suffered from hallucinations. He could not believe that
she was so often the subject of exhibitionists' attention, in the
park, in the underground, in the streets. 'How is it 1 never see
them ? ' he wondered. It was a veritable revelation for him when
1 replied:
'But after aH you're a man: the exhibitionist requires a
woman . . . '
One of my patients, a former student of the Leningrad Con
servatory, told me that she and a girlfriend had shared a room
in a new quarter of the city, and every evening they had a
competition between them to discover which one had seen
more male sexual organs in the course of the day. The loser
bought the other a meal at the university restaurant. It was her
friend, a student in the literature faculty, who beat aIl the
records: eight exhibitionists in a single day.
At present, exhibitionism is b ecoming the subject of jokes.
Here is one which one often hears in Moscow.
A student is the victim of an exhibitionist in a bus. She asks
a teacher:
'Why isn't exhibitionism punished by law ? '
'Because, i f w e started prosecuting exhibitionists, you would
be obliged to travel on a came!.'
'Why a camel? '
'Because Moscow would become empty and turn into a


The anecdote is inaccurate : exhibitionists are prosecuted . . .

sometimes for a1coholism. The unlucky person is taken to the
police station and eventually undergoes a detoxication in the
form of a cold shower. He is also, by S oviet standards, a 'hooli
gan' and a good-for-nothing. However, exhibitionism is not
always felt to be a guilty act with fearful consequences : it may
also be a pretext for laughter.
S orne years ago 1 was returning with my family after a
summer holiday in the Caucasus. Suddenly the car in front of
us began to zigzag. Surprised, 1 slowed down and hooted, but
the driver of the car paid no attention to me, and 1 noticed that
he and his companions seemed fascinated by something which
1 still had not seen. Then 1 noticed a militiaman directing traffic
at the intersection which we were approacbing. His pose was,
to say the least, bizarre; he had taken bis member out of bis
trousers and was squeezing it at its base with bis right hand.
Left, right, stop : the officer was directing traffic with bis penis,
wbich was as red as a pepper. The drivers and their passengers
were splitting their sides with laughter. If there were no women,
. the mili tiaman did not stop the vehicle. Men stuck their heads
out of the cars to shout pleasantries, encouragement and coarse
insults. The militiaman turned a deaf ear. Our car passed with
out having to stop because of my 'doctor's' beard by wbich the
exhibitionist had no doubt recognised me. He appeared to have
been drinking, but it is possible that he was using that as a
'cover' : it is a very Russian attitude that the drunk is an irres
ponsible creature of whom anything may be expected. That is
why one often sees exbibitionists pretending to be a1coholics
urinating in the street.
Every exhibitionist invents his own method. The more pru
dent indulge in their rituals without leaving their flats. It is
enough that the house opposite has windows. Enthusiasts may
witness exhibitionism and masturbation solos which might be
the envy of a Western pornographic film. This form of exhi
bitionism is very common in towns. For a number of sick
people it is their sole access to sexual enjoyment. Men, old
women, even children take part in this ballet of exhibitionism
and voyeurism which occurs from house to house. One of my
patients jokingly complained of a neighbour who was always
spying on his wife through a hole in the curtain .
. 'He mu st know the details and particularities of my wife's
nightdresses better than 1 do . . . '


1 had to treat a patient by proxy, a schoolgirl of twelve. 1

never saw her. It was her parents who had turned to me in a
state of near panic. The little girl used to shut herself in her
room, allegedly to do her lessons. She spent hours at her
'studies', but her marks were always fairly bad, to her parents'
great astonishment, until one day her mother had the idea of
peeping through the key-hole to see how her daughter was
working. The little girl was standing with her back against the
wall and masturbating with one hand which she had slipped
under her skirt, while furtively watching the window. The
mother had to catch her breath when she noticed, at the window
opposite, a naked exhibitionist, who seemed to be unaware of
the spectacle which he was presenting to the schoolgirl and her
It is n ot the story itself which 1 find astonishing on this
occasion, because similar cases are legion; adolescent voyeurism
is a phenomenon which, if it does not persist, is not abnormal,
unlike adult voyeurism and exhibitionism. What struck me in
the present case was the father's and mother's restraint. The
majority of parents would have immediately started beating
their daughter and subjecting her to blundering harassment.
They made no scene and even-and this was a truly exceptional
reaction-succeeded in concealing from their daughter that they
knew the nature of her 'studies'. Prudently they had turned to a
The frequency with which the ehibitionist phenomenon is
encountered in the U SSR leads me to raise the question of its
origins. Naturally it is difficult to find direct causes for some
thing which remains above aIl a psychological problem, with aIl
the consequences which that entails. It is nevertheless clear that
exhibitionism is a form of self-affirmation, of wanting to give
proof of one's virility and sexuality. The exhibitionist is too in
hibited to court a woman; he is often a vulnerable creature,
unsure of himself. In a country where sexuality is subject to the
gravest disorders, it is not surprising that men should fall prey
to a deviation which is, in a way, an unconscious appeal for
sexual freedom. There is a point where the statistical impor
tance of an individual psychological disorder transforms it into
a sociological phenomenon. 1 would suggest, with aIl due pru
dence, that if exhibitionism is a national evil, it is because the
country itself acts, in a certain way, as an 'exhibitionist'. The
permanent vainglory, the affirmation repeated a thousand times
13 9

that 'we are the best' in sport, in music, in industrial produc

tion, has become a national psychological trait, which has even
received a name in the spoken language : pokazukha, the mania
of showing oneself at one's best, the bluff-a bluff which con
ceals a feeling of inadequacy, an inferiority complex.
Exhibitionism is particularly widespread in towns, as else

where in the world. For much more obscure reasons, which 1

can not explain, it is also more common in the northern regions
of the U S SR.

1 have often encountered cases of exhibitionism in two genera

tions of the same family, which made me believe, naively, that
the illness might be hereditary. In fact there are certain parti
cularly unhealthy family situations which cause it. The exhibi
tionist, who makes a public show of his sexual organs, behaves
at home with the greatest res train t, not daring to show his
children either rus organs, or any other parts of his body, and
reveals the greatest inhibition, mixed with irritability, towards

all sexual questions.

1 have observed that exhibitionists were as often oversexed

as undersexed. Amongst the undersexed were the partially im

potent, men who fared having an inadequate erection. Under
sexed exhibitionists are often a1coholics.
Senile exhibitionism is a very distressing phenomenon. It is
often a case of women who have spent the whole of their life
single, sometimes raising illegitimate children, frustrated women
who feel the approach of the ineluctable end. It is a veritable
cry of desperation : 'Look, 1 am old, 1 am misshapen, but 1 am
a woman, a woman, a woman.'
Exhibitionism is encountered in adolescents, in which case
it is often a transitory phenomenon. But it more often happens
that children and adolescents are the objects of aggression on the
part of exhibitionists. Exhibitionism was accompanied by un
usual sadism in a case which occurred in a school in Vinnitsa :
a drawing instructor forced his pupils to keep their hands on
their desks, striking them with bis ruler across their fingers
and sometimes, in an excess of ferocity, on the nape of the
neck. The terrorised schoolboys held their breath when he
mounted the platform, sat down at his desk and began his lec
tures on the mysteries of art. Under rus desk one could see his
legs spread apart and bis fiy unbuttoned. The terror which he
inspired in the children was so great that nobody dared de
nounce him.
Voyeurism is as widespread as exhibitionism, with its whole

range of possibilities: from simple cunosny to pathological

mania. 1 had a lesbian patient who would wander through the
town in the evening, spying through windows on naked women:
in the summer she loved to stay in the beach cabins, enjoying
the spectacle of girls undressing, trying timorously to find her
self a partner and risking a few touch-ups.
When patients come to see a sexologist, they may shame
facedly avoid certain aspects of their troubles. 1t is then up to
the doctor himself to penetrate the secret world of his patient
and to grasp the particular laws that govern him. A drawing by
one of my patients aged twenty-three enabled me to diagnose
a case of fairly complex voyeurism, despite aIl the obstacles
raised by this patient to conceal the real causes of her affliction.
She was an amateur painter and she had come for private con
sultation for what was a rather ordinary case: she had never
experienced sexual pleasure, ahhough she had been married a
year. She also mentioned periodic attacks of tachycardia (ab
normally rapid beating of the heart). If my patient had not
brought along her drawing portfolio, and if i had not glanced
at it, 1 would probably have been unable to establish a correct
diagnosis. Pressed by my questions, and unaware that it was
her own drawing which had enlightened me, she told me all
the details of her voyeurist deviation. Her frigidity was not
complete and only involved intercourse with her husband. She
had never masturbated, but knew what orgasm and sexual
arousal are. Tachycardia may in principle have a number of
physiological and mental causes; here its origin was pure1y
sexuaI; the young woman watched exhibitionists masturbating.
Armed with her drawing portfolio, she would remain alone in
the town park for a long time untii she witnessed the scene for
which she had been waiting. WeH before the exhibitionist had
finished manipulating his member, the voyeuse reached orgasm.
That was her sole means of obtaining sexual pleasure. As far
as 1 could grasp, her complex had aIready deve10ped in her
childhood. In fact what had brought her to me were the attacks
of tachycardia to which she was now subject, not only during
her moments of arousal, but also without any apparent reason.
1 made her believe that 1 was treating her for her heart, where
as it was the sort of treatment in which psychotherapy played
the greater part. The latter was successful, since the young
woman was cured both of her voyeurism and her imagined
This case opened my eyes to an important fact which 1 had

understo.o.d poorly until then. What we o.ften take fo.r a case o.f
primary impo.tence o.r frigidity is o.ften no.t that in reality. The
functio.n o.f o.rgasm manifests itself in spite o.f everything,
times under an 'abno.rmal' guise, but o.ccasio.nally with an in
tensity lar superio.r to. that 'no.rmally' experienced.
This leads me to. mentio.n a case o.f perio.dic, seco.ndary im
po.tence. The patient was an exhibitio.nist who. required an ex
ternal presence while he had relatio.ns with his wife. It mattered
lite whether it was a man o.r a who. spied o.n him :

a third perso.n sufficed fo.r his 'impo.tence' to. disappear im

mediately. His friends believed that it was just a game when

he asked them to. be present, o.utside the windo.w, during the
sexual act. In fact it was the o.nly way he co.uld make
One o.ften hears talk o.f 'attacks' by exhibitio.nists in cinemas
and o.n trains. Because exhibitio.nists expect the to. fiee,
they lo.o.k fo.r enc1o.sed spaces, where they can detain her
easily. Exhibitio.nists also. rain, at least in Leningrad, be
cause do.wnpo.urs empty the streets o.f undesirable witnes ses.
One o.f their favo.urite places is situated near the Kazan cathe
dral, next to. the public lavato.ries. o.f my female patients were indignant at the behavio.ur
o.f these 'sick peo.ple', but o.f them were just slightly per
plexed. It was always the same questio.n : 'Why do. they do. i t ?
What enjo.yment c a n it bring them ? ' were upset
by their experience. It is a co.mmo.n practice in the USSR to.
sto.p a private car, as if it were a taxi, and to. b e driven to.'s
destinatio.n fo.r a reaso.nable sumo A cal' sto.pped fo.r o.f my
female patients, a pretty yo.ung student. The driver was wearing
a fur and a sable hat, which deno.ted a no.t very pro.letarian
life style. She was soon to. regret taking the lift. After a few
mo.ments the man suddenly o.pened his and revealed his
nakedness. At the sight o.f his erect penis, Galina was terro.r
stricken, imagining that the man wanted to. rape her, and began
to. scream : 'Sto.p this car ! Sto.p this car ! '
But the e}Chibitio.nist, who. was harmless, behaved very civilly,
even laughing at the threats she made. He her to. her
'destinatio.n and anno.unced that he was ready to. take such an
attractive girl to. the end o.f the earth, if necessary.
Galina's reactio.n was the co.mmo.n and is certainly very
natura!. But it reveals the fundamental igno.rance which sur
ro.unds the exhibitio.nist pheno.meno.n, as it does all matters o.f
sex. It is a parado.x o.f this co.untry that sexual deviatio.ns are


legion, but it is the rule to ignore them. Of course, it is possible

that sorne women long to spy on an exhibitionist. But they will
do it only if they are sure of not being noticed by anyone, and
especially not by the exhibitionist himself. On the other hand,
if the exhibitionist is a woman, men behave more openly.
l shaH mention another category of exhibitionists and voyeurs
whom l calI 'cerebral ' :

these are the inhibited, often partial

impotents whose pathological expression appears only verbally.

The duties of judges, policemen and men of power are particu
larl y conducive to this type of deviation. The best illustration

l can give is from the record of my trial, which has been pub

lished in the West. The same obscene refrain, the same charge
recurred unceasingly : l forced adolescents to undress in their
mother's presence ! 'Undressing the son in his mother's presence
and showing the latter the boy s sexual organs . . . ' : the prose
cutor used this formula to begin a good number of his indict
ments. Here is an excerpt from the transcript of the trial :
JUDGE You were really embarrassed when your son was un
dressed in front of you ?
WITNESS N o , it was undoubtedly necessary.
JUDGE But still, it was disagreeable for you that your son should

be undressed in front of you ?

WITN ESS The man's a doctor . . .
JUDGE (increasingly furious) The doctor really showed you your
son's sexual organs ?

This madness requires no commentary. In a trumped-up

trial one clearly has to find pretexts for charges, but only a
sick imagination can transform a very ordinary medical exami
nation into an immoral act.
Traces of this verbal voyeurism and exhibitionism are to be
found in the Russian language itself. Every language p ossesses
a substantial reserve of more or less coarse sexual swear-words,
and in this are a, the Russian language is particularly rich. It is
what is know as the mat, that is to say, aIl swear-words to do
with seXe S orne refer to homosexuality; others, still more insult
ing, allude to a sexual act performed with the mother of the
person being insulted. Now use of the mat has become enor
mously widespread. It is becoming an indispensable characteris
tic of the language both of the proletariat and of professors. One
cornes across individu aIs with whom t'he number of swear-words
in a sentence exceeds that of 'normal' words. As we know, not


even Khruschev could refrain from slipping a few bits of bad

language into his speeches, which had to be expurgated later to
avoid creating an unfavourable impression.
I am only touching lightly here on a problem which deserves

more profound study, and 1 do not know whether other lan

guages present a comparable phenomenon, but 1 wonder if such

an extension of the use of sexual swear-words does not corres

pond to a form of unconscious exhibitionism.


The exhibitionism which exists in prisons and the camps is an

exhibitionism born of necessity. Here is a scene which 1 wit-

nessed in Kharkov transit prison. First 1 heard voices crying :

'Show us ! Turn round ! Lean forward ! 1'11 wank and you show
your ass ! ' The voices came from windows which looked onto

a smaIl courtyard. There are bars and metal screens on the

windows which obscure the windows opposite. But they do not
prevent the prisoners from observing what is taking place down
below in the courtyard. In the present instance the shouts were
directed at a woman prisoner who was in the courtyard for
her regulation exercise. She had lifted up her skirt, lowered
her panties and bent her head forward, doing her best to aim her
backside in the direction from which the cries were coming.
Meanwhile men were masturbating behind their b ars, devouring

the woman's body with their eyes. 1 do not know what the

woman may have experienced : sexual excitement, to sorne ex

tent the pleasure of fiouting the authorities and their bans, a
feeling of solidarity and sympathy with the male prisoners de
prived of women . . . The fact remains that this scene struck me
by its aberrant, and at the same time tragic, character : an
exhibitionist on the one hand, voyeurs on the other, separated
by bars without which they would doubtless have had normal
sexual relations . . . How symbolic !
Later 1 learned that this practice was common in prison life.
I shaIl return to it in a later chapter on the camps and on sex
in places of detention.
ln the Gulag there is also exhibitionism amongst men. In
early September 1974 1 was suddenly transferred to a common

cell in Vinnitsa prison; until then 1 had occupied a priva te cel!.

The heat was unbearable and, during their walk, which lasted

half an hour, the prisoners removed their clothes. The common

cell contained thirty-five prisoners, who slept in three-tiered
bunks; the air was unbreathable; and for two days tbere had
been no water owing to a breakdown in the supply.


One of the prisoners felt ill; semi-conscious, he approached

the opening through which food was passed and began to pound
against it, crying with all the strength he had left : 'Water !

Water ! ' .f\. non-commissioned officer opened it. 'You want

water ? ' he asked ironically. 'You don't want my tail, maybe ? '
(the expression i s part of the mat), and j oining gestures to
words, he took his erect penis out of his trousers and flaunted
it with a loud guffaw. In the camp, non-corrunissioned officer
Ivaniak often walked around with his fly unbuttoned and seemed
to derive the greatest pleasure from urinating in front of men.
Exhibitionism sometimes has grave consequences. 1 shall
mention only two in this account : one is vaginism, which
manifests itself by painful spasms in the woman while she is
attempting to perform the sexual act, the pains localising at the
entrance and in the walls of the vagina; and the other is genita
lophobia, the pathologie al fear of the male sexual organ (oruy in
the woman).
These afflictions may have numerous causes, but are some
time s suffered by women who have b een traumatised by an
encounter with an exhibitionist. As 1 remarked earlier, the
Russian girl is often tota11y ignorant of sexual matters. One can
easily imagine the impression an exhibitionist may produce on
so naive an adolescent. 1 have had to treat a large number of
women who suffered from vaginisme Very often they themse1ves
connected their i11ness with an act of aggression of which they
had been the object during their adolescence. The most compli
cated cases were those where the spasm contracted the muscles
of the vagina, rendering sexual intercourse impossible.
Similarly, exhibitionist aggressions can le ad to frigidity and
genitalophobia. One case 1 had to treat was a married student

who suffered from a neurotic fear of the male sex organ. During
the sexual act her hands were seized by convulsions, so great
was her fear of touching her partner's penis. N aturally the girl
was completely frigide

1 45

Sexual intercourse in public places

When sex is severely repressed, as it is in the USSR, it tends to

seek refuge in those rare moments of existence and social life
which are not controlled. 1 have already mentioned the diffi
culty loyers have in finding privacy, but there is also another
way of hiding from the eyes of society : that is, to lose oneself
in the crowd. In great concentrations of humanity the indivi
dual is both isolated and anonymous; this gives rise to abnormal
forms of sexuality, such as exhibitionism, which 1 have just
described, or to the search for sexual contact in public places.
This phenomenon is common to all modern big cities. In the
USSR il is undoubtedly more important than elsewhere by
virtue of the almost clandestine nature of sex; furthermore,
it differs in being not merely a question of a few maniacs profit
ing by the crush in the underground to enjoy a few touch-ups
. with impunity, but of a whole anonymous underworld sex life,
as the following example indicates.
A young man of twenty, whom 1 had to treat in 1969, des
cribed what happened to him when he was still only fourteen.
He was in a very crowded bus. Suddenly he felt the woman
he was pressed up against open his fly and, slipping her hand
inside his pants, seize hold of his penis. His body was traversed
by an 'electric current', something 'caught fire in him', and for
the fust time in his life he ejaculated. The woman simply got
off the bus and he never saw her again. This occurred in the
town of Kazan. His family soon left Kazan and moved to
Odessa, but at twenty he still continued to 'look for her' in
buses, trams and shop queues.
1 do not claim that this kind of case is commonplace : one
may easily travel by underground or bus in the USSR without
having such experiences. N evertheless, this was not an excep
tional aberration: it is a very curious deviation which affects,
not merely a few cranks, but a much larger part of the popula
tion. What is mst misleading about this form of sexual relations
is that it remains totally invisible to public eye. In their public

behaviour the Russians hardly give the impression of being

promiscuous or importunate. On the contrary their conduct
is singularly asexual and even men's glances not at a11 sugges
tive, so that the foreigner who stro11s in the USSR is left with
an impression of general modesty. But it is precisely this
modesty which sometimes conceals perfeqly discreet lite oc
currences taking place in the same bus or underground carriage,
without his ever knowing it, because bis position as a foreigner,
always obvious to the Soviets, for ever denies him this type of
'contact' with the population.
Public transport is natura11y the favoured place for this
strange sexual life. Only one Spviet family in seventy has a
car of its own, so during rush bours the buses, trolleys, trams
and underground are enormously crowded in aIl towns of any
significance. These crushes are particularly suitable for 'adven
tures' of the type 1 have described. In 1966, 640 workers from
Leningrad wrote a letter to the president of the Council of
Ministers, Alexei Kosygin, to complain about public transport.
The letter circulated subsequeny in samizdat :
'Rush hours are for us hours of shame and indignation, a hot-bed
of churlishness and coarseness. In these metal boxes packed with
human bodies that people dare to calI "public transport", it is human
dignity itself, particularly that of women, which finds itself trampled
underfoot ...'

One may, therefore, witness unexpected scenes in Soviet

buses and trams: two students caressing each other's sexual
organs, a girl raising her skirt to make it easier for men to slip
their hands underneath, or-ev en rarer-a homosexual in search
of adventure. In Leningrad even sexual intercourse may some
times take place on public transport. The woman installs her
self on a kind of platform which exists in Soviet buses, and
the man clings to her from behind; it requires great dexterity
not to be noticed by other passengers while he is busy with her.
In the course of the operation the woman does not even turn
round: everything takes place by tacit accord; the partners
recognise each other without knowing each other, and every
thing happens without anything appearing to happen. But this
clandestine activity has a code which must be respected, limits
which must not be transgressed. One of my patients from
Vinitsa had tried to strike up an acquaintance with a girl who,

one minute before, had held bis penis. In reply he was coarsely
insuIted and, what is more, accused of immorality. In fact what
is sought is anonymity, a parmer whom one may possibly not
even see.
It is for tbis reason that public transport may constitute a
magne t, as though it were a place of pleasure and debauchery.
In 1967 a 36-year-old painter came to see me and implored me
to save her from 'madness'. She rhought she was losing her mind
because she was always seized by an irresistible sexual desire
when in trams. It was so powerful that she was incapable of
controlling it and feIt ready to throw herself at men, often
acbieving orgasm without any other stimulation. At the same
time, more often than not, she feIt no desire in bed. Her visits
to my surgery yielded only slight results. The patient had to
give up travelling by public transport. 1 eventually sent her to
a psychiatrist colleague.
If sorne women use the 'mezzanine' of buses to have sexuaI
intercourse with unknown men, others use it for exhibitionist
purposes. One of my colleagues in Odessa told me about a
schoolgirl aged fifteen who wore short skirts and no underwear,
and sat on one of the raised seats, boldly spreading her legs. One
day she was so preoccupied by her game that she failed to
notice that one of the 'spectators' was a friend of her parents,
who went and told them about her activities. As good Soviet
citizens, the parents could think of nothing better than to report
her story to her school, proving that for them their daughter's
upbringing was a matter for her school and the State. The
teachers passed the information to the police, the police to the
law court, and a few years later the girl was banished from
town and exiled for parasitisme
In trains it is essentially exhibitionists, rapists and 'inventors'
who operate. The fust have already been mentioned, the second
are the subject of a subsequent chapter, and the 'inventors', as
they are called, are people who use their feet for mutual mas
turbation. When a man is seated opposite a woman in a full
compartment, they coyer their legs with coats, or take advan
tage of reduced lighting, and slip their feet between each other's
Sexual acts often take place in the lavatories, in chance en
counters, .especially on long runs, like Moscow-Vladivostok and
Moscow-Novosibirsk, which may take a week. The female at
tendants, whose j ob it is to prepare the beds, check the tickets,

14 8

offer tea, etc., often have to worry about attacks from male
passengers. One patient who worked as an attendant told me
that she and her chums had fashioned a modern Soviet version
of the medieval chastity belt. 1t consisted of two leather triangles
solidly sewn into the woman's tights, the purpose being to pro
tect her from attacks both from the front and behind.
Another public place which is very favourable for cuddling
-and very characteristic of Soviet life-is the queue. As we
know, the Soviets spend endless time queueing : to buy bread,
c1othes, vodka. Endured with resignation with absolutely noth
ing to do, the queues have in the end become an essential
feature of Soviet life. Whether it is the consequence of boredom
due to he often interminable waiting, or of the sexual habits
of certain individuals, what is important here is, once again,
anonymity : those who indulge in caresses in the queues have
very litde ned to strike up an acquaintance, to speak, or to
charm. One queues up, one buys what one needs and, in addi
tion, one gives oneself a little pleasure. In Moscow these
activities also take place in the big GUM department store in
Red Square, which is even regularly watched by special patrols.
S ome, seized in the act, are not handed over to the police but
taken to the food department on the ground floor, where they
have the possibility of redeeming themselves with a bottle of
Other public places do not lend themselves to sexual en
counters as there is a danger of losing one's anonymity.

1 49

Eroticism and pornography

Nowhere is the outlawing of sex more evident than in Soviet

art and literature. As we know, creativity in the Soviet .Union
is entirely controlled by the State, which imposes not only
political and ideological orientation, but also very precise re
quirements as regards the themes, styles and even aesthetic
forms and canons. Official art and literature profess to obey

'socialist realisnl', but 1 believe it is difficult to find, in the

history of art, creations with such little daim to 'realism',
so strongly does the falsification of reality preside over their

production. The de-erotisation of art and literature is one of the

particular aspects of this immense enterprise of mystification :
t'his 'realistic' art has always modestly veiled its face against
everything connected with human sexaulity and nudity. One has
the impression that the entire country would collapse if, to
speculate extravagantly, the Crazy Horse were to organise a
tour of the Soviet Union. A psychologist coIleague from Mos
cow was obviously of this opinion. He was in aIl seriousness
working on a pro;ect for a 'sex bomb', a new weapon whieh he
proposed to submit to the authorities : the idea was basieally
to drop packets of pornographie photographs into the enemy
camp. The worthy psychologist was merely pro;ecting onto
other countries what he experienced in his own : it is unlikely
that Western troops wou Id be very unsettled by pornographie
magazines they can find in any kiosk in London or Paris.
Eroticism and pornography are not merely prohibited for
moral or religious reasons. They are seen as a subversion which
would threaten the established order and their prohibition has
a political character. It is not by chance that, during the writer
Sinyavsk's trial, the latter saw himself reproached simultan
eously for writing pornographie and anti-Soviet literature, and
for having published it abroad cr must state that these works
were in no way pornographie, and that it was only a question of
a few passages involving physical love). In the same way, in its
anti-Western propaganda, the Soviet Union curreny associates


the theme of 'the bourgeois ideology' with that of 'pornography',

both equally indicative of the 'decadence of the West', and just
as intolerable in the USSR.
A permanent anti-erotic censorship has been one of the essen
tial traits of the Soviet regime since the end of the twenties. 1 .
must stress that tbis censorsbip is not limited to a film com
mission entrusted with giving, or not giving, the green light to
a film presented to it. It is a censorship which commences the
moment the work is conceived, and is really a joint affair of
authors, editorial boards, aIl sorts of officiaIs, watch-dogs of the
Communist Party, as weIl as the censors themselves. The stric
tures . are so great that it is a miracle if a kiss or too intima te a
caress manages to slip through the net. The Soviet humorists
Ilf and Petrov portrayed the official attitude very accurately
in a short story which appeared in 1932, entitled 'Satanarole'
Ca free translation of the Russian tide, 'Savanarylo'-French
translator's note). It consists of a conversation between an editor
and an artist who has been commissioned to design a poster for
a cafeteria.
EDITOR Tell me, what's that?
ARTIST A waitress.
EDITOR No, that ! Right there ! Look ! (He points his finger.)
ARTIST A blouse.
EDITOR (He checks ta see that the door is definitely shut.) Don't
pretend you don't understand. What 1 want to know is, what's
under the blouse?
ARTIST A bosom.
EDITOR Exactly. It's lucky 1 noticed it. 1t's got to go.
ARTIST 1 don't understand. Why?
EDITOR (embarrassed) It's too prominent. 1 would even say
enormous, dear comrade.
ARTIST Not at aIl. It couldn't be more ordinary.
EDITOR So what? We must not lose our self-control, as you are
doing. A bosom, that's no problem. Don't forget that your
poster will be seen by women and children. And even by grown
men. (...)
ARTIST (wearily) So in your opinion, what size should a waitress's
bosom be?
EDITOR As sm aIl as possible. (...) (dreamily) If only there needn't
be one at aIl !
ARTIST What about a man, then?
EDITOR No, there's no need to go to the other extreme. Anyway,
we have got to show that women have a role in the company.


ARTIST (altogether pleased with his brainwave) An oid woman!

EDITOR It really would he better to have a young one. But with
out these ... attributes, you know. (...) So, you'll remove
ARTIST (leaving) Yes, ru rub them out. Since 1 can't do anything
eIse . .

This short humorous scene testifies to the good sense which

still prevailed in this increasingly stifiing atmosphere ten years
after the Revolution, an atmosphere which has not changed
since. It reveals its authors' penetrating view of the nature of
Soviet censorship in a period when it was only just becoming
established. What the editor in fact wants is not to conceal the
woman's bosom, but to reduce it to nothing. The chaste or
prudish restraint known, for example, in Western countries
before the liberalisation of recent decades did not prevent ero
ticism from being present in art as weIl as literature, only the
forms were more allusive than in our day. Must nudity be total
for eroticism to be present in a picture or a literary description?
In the Soviet Union it is the very existence of eroticism, physical
love and nudity which is armihilated with extraordinary vio
Censorship is, therefore, a collective action and a well
established, indespensable e1ement of creativity. Stalin, and later
Khrushchev, took a hand in giving literary and artistic guide
lines : they felt they had a perfect right to do so. During the
Khrushchev era, a Vinnitsa sculptor was forced to lengthen a
footballer's shorts by several centimetres on a plaster statue
destined for the municipal park. The same operation of ethical
improvement was performed on the statue of a young sports
woman : this time it was a question of making her bra thicker.
In sculpture as in painting, the depiction of nudity is, even in
our day, an extremely rare phenomenon. To my knowledge, the
first exception in thirty years was a statue of a female nude, the
work of the Lithuanian sculptor Kedanis, exhibited in Moscow
in 1966 and even reproduced in the journal Soviet Culture. But
i t was an exception and by no means signified that the corset of
censorship would be appreciably loosened.
Exhibitions of foreign painting and sculptors are naturally
the object of very special vigilance. In 1977 there was an exhibi
tion of painting by American artists at the Pushkin Museum in
Moscow; the authorities opposed the showing of a picture by

Philip Pearlstein which depicted two nude women in a bed.

The censors decided that they could only be lesbians. It re
quired a great deal of diplomacy on the part of the American
organiser to convince the Soviets otherwise.
Nu dity and eroticism are likewise banned from literature, as
we have seen, and this is also the case for the theatre and
cinema. Intellectual circles, susceptible to Western influences,
deeply long for a liberalisation of censorship, but any attempts
in this direction are quickly suppressed. In 1971 a Moscow
theatre undertook the production of a show entitled Valentine
and Valentina, in which the hero and heroine had to appear
for a brief instant in semi-darkness, partly unclothed and still
as statues. Kosygin, who had attended the premiere of the play,
had the 'nude' scene banned In 1 973 a Leningrad theatre staged
a play for a very limited public in which, for the fust time in the
history of the Soviet theatre, a character who was a homosexual
appeared. Naturally the story was set in the West, but even so
this was an unprecedented audacity. The play was very quickly
banned. For many years in the cinema even a friendly kiss was
carefully avoided. Then one saw the appearance of lovers who
held each other's hand. Finally the kiss was permitted, the abso
lute limit. And apart from a few rare exceptions, the experiment
went no further. Recently Western journalists who were talking
to one of the directors from Mosfilm, Kiril Shiryaev, remarked
on the absence of eroticism in Soviet films. 'As a spectator,'
Shiryaev replied, '1 cannot understand why it should be neces
sary to film a sexual act for the cinema.' The reply was utterly
typical of an official responsible for 'foreign contacts' : just as
the Soviets 'have no need' of freedom of the press or of having
other political parties, so. the individuals who speak for the silent
majority decree that the latter have no need of eroticism. To
help the journalists appreciate the wisdom of his superior's
reasoning, a young colleague from Mosfilm remarked jokingly,
'You don't need it, because you're no longer eighteen ! '
For several years young directors have tried to break through
the wall of censorship. Caught between ideological requirements
and the desire to create personal works and interest the public,
they are constantly obliged to walk a tight-rope. At the begin
ning of the seventies the Party severely criticised Mosfilm for
producing films which it considered ideologically dubious.
The Western world has been able to see Tarovsky's film
Andrei Rublev, which contains erotic scenes without precedent
1 53

in Soviet cinema. But this work has long been banned in the
USSR, and it was only by accident that a copy of this film
was shown at Cannes, where it was hailed as a chef-d'oeuvre.
In The Mirror, also by Tarkovsky, the heroine is shown under
the shower : this nude scene, which lasts only a brief instant,
would be noteworthy to a Soviet spectator, although his Western
counterparts have doubtless scarcely noticed it.
Soviet producers are not totally unconcerned about com
mercial considerations : in general people rarely go to see Rus
sian films unless they offer the attraction of forbidden fruit; they
prefer foreign productions, even mediocre ones. So sorne Soviet
films follow Western recipes, at the same time taking pains to
make them acceptable to the censors. As for foreign films, the
censors unashamedly have no mercy on them either. When the
French film Un homme et une femme, which features a very
discreet love scene, appeared on Soviet screens, it took the
female members of the audience by storm.
Western films, even the mos! commercial and conventional,
are like breaths of fresh air in the Soviet Union. They give an
impression of great freedom of expression in comparison with
our own productions, which are always formaI, artificial and
stamped with an official seai. The few kisses or marital infideli
ties, like the ve'iled and rare allusions to the Stalinist past
which have been allowed to fil - t er through
cinema, these substitutions for eroticism and the spirit of
liberty, are a wink to the audience, a way of saying : 'See how
liberated we are ! '
The majority of Soviets react to nudity in an unhealthy and
puritanical manner. One of my colleagues, the director of a
clinic in the Caucasus, owned a very valuable antique; a dock
whose face was supported by a nude child. But angels have no
sex : my colleague castrated the bronze statue by cutting off the
sexual organs and crudely filing the spot where they had been.
He did this so that his family would not be 'corrupted'. When
l met him his daughter was twenty, and each time the conversa
tion turned to the unfortunate dock, she called her father a
'barbarian', and rightly so in my opinion. But he still did not
understand. 'Y ou see,' he said, 'in the end it was pointless, be
cause my daughter is corrupted.'
The ban applied in the USSR to physical love reduces it to
pornography, just as in the spoken language the terms designat
ing the sexual organs and functions become coarse insults. Of
15 4

course, the fact of possessing and, even worse, distributing works

of a pornographie nature is severely punished by law. More
over, the very notion of 'pornography' is highly elastic. During
the preliminary examination before my trial, a patient's photo
graph was discovered amongst papers, that of a.little boy of five
who was endowed with a hypertrophied penis as the result of a
hormonal disturbance. The examining magistrate seized this
photograph which 1 used in my medical lectures and attempted
to turn it into a new charge: the illegal possession of porno
graphie documents. Only the intervention of my son Victor, ho
began to make fun of him openly, prevented this provincial
Sherlock Holmes from pressing the charge.
To illustrate the attitude of the Soviets towards pornography,

1 would like to quote a conversation which 1 had with a lieute

nant. In I968, a few weeks after the Prague Spring had been
crushed, 1 happened to be' travelling in the same train as a group
of officers just returning from Czechoslovakia. The lieutenant
began to explain how necessary 'our' intervention had been:
'They wanted freedom, you see! AlI you see there are hippies
and pornography.'
'What have you got there?' 1 asked him, pointing to his
pocket, which was stuffed with postcards.
'The pornography 1 was telling you about. They're completely
dissolute there.' Then he took the cards out of his pocket: they
were just naked women.
'You're taking these home?'
'Yes, to Rostov. 1'11 give the naked women to my chums,' he
said with a gleam in his eye that belied his criticism of the
This contradictory behaviour is common to aIl puritan coun
tries and environments. That is why an attitude of tolerance
and laissez-faire on the authorities' part seems to me the best
way to make the Soviet mentality a more healthy one. Porno
graphy is condemned in public but tasted in private as a for
bidden fruit; it wouId be wiser to allow the free circulation of
pornography, but that is a wish as unrealistic as hoping that the
present regime ould tolerate the free circulation of an un
censored press.
What then is this clandestine pornography, and in what circles
does it circulate?

1 haste'n to stress that this is a limited phenomenon, unknown

to the great mass of the population. 'Pornography fans' are


basically from the powerful and privileged classes. This is un


these are the people who have the social and

material means to acquire films or works of this kind; they are

also the most intellectually 'liberated', the most cynical and
therefore the most apt to lead an unashamed life of duplicity.
Western films, for example, are presented to a privileged
audience in private showings. They are shown in government
'dachas', and also in certain places like Cinema Rouse in Mos
cow, open only to specially authorised persons. These are
naturally not pornographie films, but films which include erotic
scenes unacceptable to the Soviet censors. For example, the
censors very much liked the subject of the Italian film Zabriskie

Poin t-the revoit of American youth-but the film contains

a final erotic scene which makes it unsuitable for mass con
sumption. Thus only a select public may benefit from it. Speci
ally privileged persons may also see any film they wish, under
the pretext of ideological supervision.
The same classes may also have access to erotic or porno
graphie literature, such as the bosses in Vinnitsa and Kiev, or
those academicians in Leningrad and Moscow who, it has been
discovered, have works of this kind in their libraries. The
source of these so-called 'pornographie' works is essentially
foreign. They are most often magazines brought back from
abroad, which are photographically reproduced. This is a com
mon practice and a way of making big money. The priee of a
magazine or a photocopy may range from 50 to Ioo'roubles and
depends in no way on its content, but on the client's resources.
If a Western traveller leaves for the USSR with a copy of

Play boy in his suitcase, and if a customs official finds t, he may

be sure that his magazine will not be lost to humanity. The
customs man will confiscate it, posing as a virtuous defender
of the moral order, and hasten to make good use of it by re
selling it to the highest bidder. The existence of these magazines
also serves as a pretext for not applying the Helsinki Agreement
concerning the free circulation of ideas and information.
'It has become fashionable in the West te speak of a free ex
change of information, which the Soviet Union allegedly opposes.
But the literature that these supporters of a "cultural exchange"
propose to diffuse is nothing other than pornography.'

Sex and politics are once more interwoven.

Apart frOIn Soviet diplomats and employees abroad, sailors

too have become champions of the free circulation of porno

graphic publications. For them, as for many Soviet travellers
abroad, the fust thing to do upon arrivaI in a Western country
is to rush to a sex shop. The Soviets generally have a very
naive attitude towards the merchandise in these shops. They
are very surprised to find only a few people in the sex shops,
which deal in forbidden fruits that represent for them aIl the

attractions of Paradise and HeIl combined. By the same token,

they are astonished that the faces of the models who pose
for these magazines are so inexpressive, not to say morose
sad faces with no sign of passion. They imagine that the photo
graphs are genuine, without the customary banal staging, and
they are as shocked as if they had seen in the flesh everything
which ordinarily they would not even dare to dream of.
If in Western pornography the mode1s' expressions are in
different, local Soviet pornography is 'face1ess'. This is so the
police will not be able to identify the actors. The photographers
are amateurs, who organise orgies or stage settings in their
private flats (which once again implies that they come from
relative1y privileged circles) for pornographic photographie ses
sions. A student at the Military Academy and son of a Moscow
level Party leader, gathered together in his flat a group of women
of easy virtue with whom he amused himself, and the majority
of whom were photographed in indecent poses. His activities
became known and Tikhomirov was expelled from the Aca
derny, but his father's privileged position spared him legal
The whole of this pornographic output is very amateurish
and fairly rare by virtue of the risks involved, and also ex
tremely rudimentary and primitive from the point of view of the
equipment used and any 'aes.thetic' value, if one may use that

term. Often the negatives, sold secretly, look more like docu
ments from a gynaecological manual than anything designed
to stimulate the imagination. There are a few 8mm pornographie
films which have been made in the USSR, but their circulation
is limited for want of technieal equipment.
Erotic literature is widespread. First, because it is easy to
circulate and reproduce it; next, because Soviet society, and
particularly its intelligentsia, has a particular regard for books,
which are the main arena for argument and free thought. There
is now the familiar phenomenon of samizdat, the large-scale
clandestine circulation of forbidden books, but besides political


samizdat, there also exists a 'sex-izdat', which fulfi1s a similar

Collections of satirical anecdotes circulate under evocative

One hundred ways of making love, Questions and ans

wers about sex, etc., as weIl as jokes of the following type:

What should a husband do if he discovers his wife with another

man, and they are both entirely nude?
A good husband should cover his wife with a blanket as quickly
as possible, so she won't catch cold.

Literary works or essays and treatises forbidden by the cen

sors are obtainable on the black market; these include the works
of Freud, microfilms of The Kinsey Report and treatises on love
in ancient India. Sorne Western books on sexual techniques may
fetch a priee equal to the average monthly salary. Amongst Rus
sian literary works, mention must be made of the The Ven
geance, an erotic story by Alexei Toistoy; unpublished works by
Polezhaev and Pushkin; and poems by Sergei Yesenin which
have not been published because of their lewd language and

As for the mass of the population, which has access neither

sex-izat nor to Western imports, it has to be content with

pornographie anecdotes or wall graffiti, which are, moreover,

punishable by law. A worker from Kharkov drew an enormous
phallus on the wall of the female dormitory of a technical in
stitute with the following inscription: 'Dear virgins, my member
is at your disposaI day and night.' He was tried and sentenced.
The shortage and unavailability of pornographie mate rial in
the USSR encourages sorne people to resort to voyeurism and
exhibitionism which are inherent anyway in aIl sexuality and
more particularly developed in group sexuality.
One of my patients toid me that the officiaIs running the
holiday allocation office in Vinnitsa obliged the women who
filed a request with them, herself included, to present them
selves before them in hurniliating poses, and then roared with
laughter at the spectacle. Of course, the women dared not refuse,
for that would have meant the loss of their holiday.
This now brings me to an aspect of Soviet pornography
which 1 consider basic. As 1 have said, the repression of sexu
ality is generally exercised elsewhere in the na me of religion or
morality, but never for political rcasons, as is the case in the

USSR and other Communist countries. Illicit pornography may

also have a political dimension.
Everyone knows that elections in the Soviet Union are
nothing but pure parody; not only do they involve no choice,
but even abstention may entail serious trouble for anyone who
adopts this manner of self-expression. It is not generally known
that the ballot boxes sometimes contain ballots of a very special
nature: pages torn from gynaecological manuals, pornographie
drawings, photos .. .
A worker from Kharkov whom l met in the camp had drawn
a phallus on a big sheet of paper with a red pencil and added
the following inscription: 'This is what the Soviet regime has
given us.' He hung the sheet at the entrance to the polling
booth. l must mention that he was drunk. He got four years

in a labour camp, not for anti-Soviet propaganda, but for hooli

Amongst the countless anecdotes which have de-mythologised
the person of Lenin over the last few years, there are sorne
which ridicule him in his sex life, in bed with Krupskaya in a
difficult posi tion . . .
Peter Sadecky, a Czech journalist who lived in Kiev in 1961,
entered into contact with a group which called itself: PPP
Progressive Political Pornography. This group held meetings
and published, in an amateur way, comics of an erotic nature.
In doing this, they were clearly conscious of acting in opposition
to the system. As they said, 'in reading these pages, you become
an internaI saboteur of the regime'. Their heroine, Octobriana,
a kind of sex-star, was a symbol both for eroticism and revolu
tion (see Appendix).
But it was especially in the camp, that magnifying glass of
Soviet society, that l had occasion to see examples where por
nography became a violent protest against the regime in power.
l shall cite only one case, for sexuality in the camps will be the
subject of a later chapter. A prisoner had tattooed the following
inscription on the soles of his feet: SLAVE OF THE USSR,
together with a design depicting crushed male sex organs. The
idea is striking in its despair and adds a new dimension to what
one can no longer refer to as straightforward pornography.



Prostitution has long existed in Russia. As long ago as 17 18

illicit brothels were set up in Saint Petersburg. From 1843 pros
titution was legalised and supervised by the authorities; the
brothels were called houses of tolerance. The prostitute entered
literature, in Dostoevsky as weIl as Tolstoy. Very soon a haze of
sentimentality enveloped her: man has a guilty conscience and
laments the fate of these unfortunate women. Another writer,
Kuprin, brings pathos to the subject:
'What a tragic and pitiful tale the absurd story of Russian
prostitution is ! Everyrhing is there : Russian religion, Russian in
souciance, generosity, Russian despair and moral degeneration,
Russian primitivism and naivety, Russian tolerance and indecency.'

This sorry and sentimental vein ran dry with the Revolution;
the regime undertook to eliminate prostitution completely, and
it has indeed erased aIl traces of it, wbich does not mean that
prostitution is not still very much alive.
The Soviet Penal Code participates in tbis more or less deli
berate masquerade: there are heavy penalties for the offence of
procuring (five years' solitary confinement followed by political
exile, but the offence of prostitution is not mentioned. Tbis is
a way of denying the existence of prostitution: it can no longer
exist from the moment the procurers are not allowed to exploit
their victims. The official version stresses that, as prostitution is
one of the evils inherent in the oid bourgeois society, under
Soviet condi,tions women could not possibly have anything to
do with it. AIl the same, tbis doesn't mean that prostitutes are
safe from prosecution. In 1971, in the republic of Azerbaijan
alone, 1,221 women who had capitalised on their attractions
were prosecuted, and seven brothels were closed down. But
the sentences passed were not for prostitution, but for the
offences of 'vagrancy' or 'parasitism'. (In tbis connection, may
1 remind the reader that citizens are obliged by Soviet law to

have a job.) The courts feel no compunction about sending pros

titutes to the camps, where they are supposed to be 're
educated', but the brutality of this repression is not publicly
acknowledged. Members of the privileged class, however, may
even avail themselves of the luxury of illicit brothels without
running inordinate risks. Their risks are minimal by comparison
with those which the prostitutes face.
In general the organisation of prostitution is radically differ
ent from that in Western countries. In the USSR the prostitute
is often her own pimp, which explains many of the peculiarities
of Soviet prostitution.
As l have said, there is no special legal procedure for com
batting prostitution. Prostitutes are 'dissidents' of a special
variety, and they experience the treatment sometimes used to
deal with real dissidents. They may, for example, be expelled
from a town because they are not registered as having a per
manent job. Their only solution is to take a job which can
serve as a legal cover: bus conductress, charwoman, nurse,
shop-girl, hairdresser, secretary, waitress, etc.
Naturally there are particular districts where they operate.
For example, there is the port quarter of Odessa, the Industrial
and Agricultural Exhibition in Moscow, the railway stations and
the town centres generally. Nevertheless, prostitutes experience
the greatest difficulties soliciting in the towns, which are heavily
patrolled by the militia and plain-clothes policemen, and where
paid or voluntary informers also hinder their activities. The
women are therefore obliged to operate in the greatest secrecy
to attract the attention of clients, but not of the militia. Russians
are often unaware of the difference between the Western pros
titute, who is distinguished by her provoeative manner of dress
ing and making up, and her Soviet counterpart. With the
Russian prostitute, it is quite the opposite. She doe.s not smoke
publicly and dresses in the least attractive fashion possible,
sometimes even in dirty torn clothes. Naturally she may not
display any part of her body. To advertise their priee, the pros
titutes use chalk, noting on the soles of their shoes: 5, 1 0, 1 5
roubles. Soviet prostitutes are less stingy with their time. As
vodka is generally involved, a prostitute may devote an entire
night to her client, for the same price. Many of them are alco
holics, a phenomenon already noted under the ancien rgime.
For the most part, the prostitutes have an extremely low level
of education and their knowledge in matters of hygiene, even
16 1

the most basic, is incredibly prurutlve. Generally indifferent

about their health, they are often victims of venereal disease
and become souces of infection. In the absence of contraceptive
pills they usually resort to abortion, with or without the help of
The principal centres of prostitution are obviously big cities,
like Moscow and Leningrad, and ports like Odessa. Despite aIl
the legislation, prostitutes are sometimes exploited by pimps of
a somewhat special kind: for example, inveterate drunks with
underworld connections, or even husbands who force their wives
to sell their bodies for their own daily ration of vodka. But these
are isolated cases. Taxi-driver pimps are more common. In
Leningrad bootblacks took up this profession for a time, their
legal occupation offering them certain opportunities. If pimps
have become scarce it is partly because of the severity of the
penalties which they incur (an exception being made for those
who provide girls for certain important men of the regime). In
the USSR everybody remembers the Ladnov case: an album
was discovered at bis home, containing 521 women's photo
graphs, with their addresses, ages and details of their physique.
It was stated that the prostitutes were victims, incapable of
making a clear distinction between 'noble feelings and animal
desires'; in short they had erred because of a lack of ideological
education. As for Ladnov, he was sentenced to ten years in
What are the reasons that lead a Soviet woman to become
a prostitute? These reasons are, 1 believe, as old as the world
itself. Apart from the tedium of life, which is particularly acute
in the USSR, material incentives certainly play ,the most
important role, although official propaganda maintains that con
ditions which might have encouraged prostitution have disap
peared. However, the official minimum living wage in the USSR
is 92 roubles 50 kopecks; the average income is 65 roubles per
capita. Even if she has only a few clients a month, a prostitute
can earn as much. Nevertheless, it is not easy to find clients in
the prevailing state of poverty. Moreover, Russian men are often
loath to resort to their services. AIl this creates limitations for
the exercise of the world's oldest profession. In Moscow sorne
prostitutes accept only dollars; in Odessa there are prostitutes
who sell themselves for a packet of chewing-gum, a product
neither made nor imported into the USSR. The migr review
Continent mentions the case of a woman who took a man to her
room and after the act presented him with a bill for

1 62



57 kopecks. When he expressed his astonishment at such pre

ciseness, the girl, who was a student, showed him a list of her
weekly expenses for food, paper, travel, etc.
In the hotels in Moscow, Leningrad and Odessa, 'reliable'
men can, on payment of a tip, obtain a confidential telephone
number or address from the headwaiter. For a while prostitutes
in Moscow operated from in front of the Karl Marx monument,
with the result that the Muscovites called them 'Marxists'! In
Odessa there are at least five illicit brothels in the Passage,
Pasteur Street and Karl Marx Street. In the brothels of Odessa
priees are very low: three, five, or seven roubles, depending on
the client's generosity. The majority of three-rouble prostitutes
practise fellatio, whieh. sorne clients prefer beeause of the danger
of catching venereal disease. These prostitutes frequently take
on several clients simultaneously, at the rate of three roubles
eaeh, with drinks extra. Sometimes fellatio is combined with
card games: prostitutes aged thirteen or fourteen, almost child
ren, work under the table while four men play
Russian belote); the loser pays for everyone.

duraki (a kind of

The illicit nature of prostitution engenders special forms

adapted to the Soviet way of life.
For example, there is 'State prostitution'. That is what 1 calI
the form of prostitution where the client pays, not out of his
own poeket, but through the intermediary of the State. For
example, a faetory manager hires a new secretary whose sole
task is to sleep with her boss, while the State pays her salary.
The manager may dismiss the prostitute when he no longer

wants her and replace her by a new one. This kind of prostitu
tion is sufficiently common in the USSR to give rise to the fol

lowing anecdote:

a secretary arrives in her boss' offiee one

morning and, seeing that the couch has been taken away, asks
him: 'What's happening? Am 1 fired?' There is a term for this
phenomenon: the sekretutka, a combination of secretary and
prostitute. Bonuses, extra leave, paid travel-sueh are the forms
of remuneration for these


In the provinces, it is very common for prostitutes to have a

regular clientele, sometimes as many as twenty clients. These
women do not ply their trade on the street; they have fixed
arrangements with their

habitus, and sometimes they even ask

to be paid at the end of the month, like salaried employees.

One of these prostitutes, who was my patient, never took pay
ment in cash; her clients paid in meals.
When a prostitute lives in a room in a communal apartment,

the procession of visitors rapidly provokes the indignation of her

neighbours, and then a visit from a uniformed official. To pre
vent the neighbours from hearing anything, one is therefore
obliged to speak very low ... Precautions of this kind are hardly
like1y to increase the enjoyment of the experience.
One of my patients, who shared a communal apartment with
a prostitute, had a terrible scare one night: she had left her
room to go to the lavatory, when she noticed a man silently
climbing the stairs, his shoes in his hand. She immediate1y took
him for a burglar; he was in fact only one of the prostitute's
Prostitution in a taxi is an original form of prostitution made
possible by the way in which taxi drivers operate. In the USSR
every activity is planned, and running a taxi service is no ex
ception to this rule: taxi drivers are obliged to meet a daily
quota of kilometres covered and fares obtained. On an ordinary
day it is not very easy for a driver to earn the required sum,
particularly since the doubling of fares in 1977. Long queues
of empty taxis may sometimes be seen waiting in vain for
clients, who are rare. With a prostitute in the backseat, the
driver is luckier. He may then even hope to earn ten, twenty,
or thirty, roubles more than his daily quota, compensation for
his co-operation and walks in the snow he is obliged to take
while the prostitute entertains her client in the taxi, whieh is
parked in a discreet place.
The taxi driver plays an important part in Soviet life; he can
always be relied on to answer two questions day or night:
'Where can 1 get a bottle of vodka?' and 'Where can 1 find a
prostitute?' Ordinarily the bote appears straight away, having
been concealed under the driver's seat, and is offered to you at
double its priee. If a reply to the second question is likewise
urgent, many taxi drivers can supply addresses and te1ephone
numbers. To be a calI girl is a very risky occupation: the taxi
driver must have no doubts about his client before he will
furnish such particulars.
Sometimes the prostitute works on the back seat of the taxi
while the vehicle moves at a comfortable speed down dark
streets. In this case the client has to pay for the fare as weIl,
whieh adds to the 5 or la roubles destined for the pimp and
the 5 or la roubles demanded by the prostitute, and makes
the price of this diversion re1atively high. Experienced pimps
know quiet streets and unlit porches where they may park their

taxi if the client is bothered by the vibrations of the engine. In

Moscow, for example, a taxi driver will take you to the muni
cipal park at Izmailovo, or that of Sokolniki. When the parks
are snow-covered and taxis too easily spotted, drivers head for
Cherkissovo or Bogorodskoye, which are farther out of town.
The taxi ride then lasts about one hour.
The inhabitants of Moscow, Kiev and Leningrad know per
fectly weIl that sorne taxi drivers are working for the omni
present police, communicating to them what they have heard

in conversations between 'suspicious persons', or sometimes

even taking such persons straight to the police station for an
identity check.
There is least risk involved in prostitution on trains. A pros
titute can buy a ticket from Moscow to Tbilisi, or Moscow to
Baku and, without risk of being discovered, seIl herself to occa
sional clients who get on or off al each stop. At the end of the
journey she may have earned enough to spend a pleasant holiday
in the Caucasus. This region is, furthermore, one where prosti
tutes gather from aIl over the Soviet Union. First, because life
in the Caucasus is rightly considered to be easier than else
where: it is (due allowance being made) the Soviet California.
Next, and especiaIly, because the peoples of the Caucasus are
more particularly attracted by blond women, whether natural
or artificial. The prices there are higher than anywhere else in
the USSR, so much so that many prostitutes travel speciaIly to
the Caucasus in search of clients. 1 can remember a scene which
unfolded before me at Sukhumi, on the Black Sea: three
Georgians noticed a blond coming towards them, grabbed her
shamelessly and dragged her into their car. The girl put up a
mild resistance for form's sake: there were passers-by present,
but they seemed used to such goings-on. The hotels and rest
houses of the Caucasus often harbour prostitutes from Tallinn,
Moscow, Leningrad and especiaIly, for reasons unknown to me,
Odessa. A satirical poem by Yevtushenko, the celebrated Soviet
poet, circulated for a time in samizdat; one of the phrases cornes
back ta me: 'The little blond chicks are going to see the
pheasant cocks.' This stream of prostitutes in search of money
and the easy life has become a source of iIlicit profit for the
Caucasus. In Baku the daughter of a famous scientist was raped
and the inquiry that foIlowed revealed the existence of a bro
thel, where many important members of the Party and even
three local government ministers were regular clients.

Sorne women sen their bodies by way of payment when they

take a taxi, buy meat in a shop, etc. In this type of prostitution
it is not a case of the client paying the prostitute in cash, but of
the prostitute avoiding having to pay cash for merchandise or
a service. One of my patients told me that she often fiew to
Moscow without having to pay a penny. The 'payment' was
made in the airplane itself. Low-grade prostitutes have the pos
sibility of lorry rides, in the same way.
The patient who told me about her air journeys did it without
any embarrassment, as if it were quite natura!. This is an in
teresting and revealing fact: if sex is a taboo subject amongst
'respectable' people, Soviets who have a sense of belonging to
the 'lower depths', who are on the periphery of society, speak
about it frankly. This is particularly true in the prison world.
The railway-station prostitutes fan within the mos! miserable
category. Their clients are simple people: workers from the
provinces, collective farmers, lorry drivers ... The railway
station prostitutes, young and old alike, are uneducated women,
often alcoholics. A good number of them are thieves, and some
times criminals. They are most often dirty. Men who remain
indifferent to their advances may be subjected to the choicest
oaths. Numerous alcoholics become prostitutes precise!y with
the aim of obtaining vodka.
In Moscow there are four-hour excursions on the Moskva
River. The cabins are not expensive in comparison with hote!
rooms and, above all, they may be hired without presenting
one's passport and marriage certificate. There is a reasonably
priced restaurant offering fish dinners, and the client has the
time to take his pleasure and eat before the boat arrives at its
destination, the reservoir at Klyazma. Business terminates at the
end of autumn when the Moskva freezes over.
The prostitutes in the underground may be found in the
stations towards midnight, just before it shuts down. Their
clients are solitary soldiers and more rarely students, and the
price is generally the traditional half-litre of vodka. Employees
coming to Moscow on business from towns like Sverdlovsk,
Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Archange! often use the services of
these women, and for them it is a kind of economy: a prostitute
costs less than a room in a good hote!.
difficulties of hiring a room for the purpose. Soviets are not
allowed to take a hote! room in the town in which they live;

furthermore, each couple has to produce a marriage certificate.

Neverthe1ess, the hote1 room may be booked by a man passing
through Moscow, and in this way prostitution succeeds in in
filtrating the best-Iocked doors. The clients in this case are

mostly army officers, workers from the North who come to the
capital to spend their wages, employees from provincial firms

and very tich Georgians involved in the illegal sale of fruits,

vegetables and flowers.
Women who visit hote1 guests are suspect a

priori, particularly

if the latter are Georgian, and can be thrown out after eleven
in the evening. The prostitute must therefore be very careful
not to attract the attention of the matrons who keep the keys
and watch over the corridors on each floor. But if the matron
catches a prostitute in the act, the latter may sometimes bribe
her with a rouble or two. The floor-matrons even act as pro
curers sometimes.
Besides the theatres, the chief place for a night out is the
restaurant, where one goes not only to eat, but to spend the
evening. Inevitably certain restaurants are known as spots where
prostitutes do their touting.

In Moscow, for example, the

National, the Metropol, the Rossiya, or the cafes of Kalinin

Avenue are particularly weIl known. In Leningrad there are the
cafes of the Nevsky Prospect. 1t is for this reason that even
quite recently a woman could not venture into a restaurant
alone in the evening: no one would serve her.
Foreigners are the clients of prostitutes' dreams. They can
pay with American cigarettes, quality clothes, foreign currency
-aIl things which, in the USSR, are not only luxury objects,
but represent a kind of happiness inaccessible to the ma;ority of
Soviets. But foreigners are also the most dangerous clients,
because on their account the police may take a closer interest
in the prostitutes' activities.
The commonly he1d belief that prostitutes who sleep with
foreigners are working for the !{GB is not without foundation,
though aIl the same it is exaggerated. Girls who regularly spend
their nights in a foreigner's room without incurring any penal
ties probably are KGB agents. 'Chance' te1ephone ca11s
where a girl apologises for her 'error' in bad English, then
attempts to enter into conversation, are likewise a ploy of the
KGB. When the girl ca11s back a minute later, the man will not
wish to miss this opportunity to meet an apparently charming
person speaking Russian. But the girl's visit may be tape167

recorded or even filmed, if the police wish to mount a James

Bond-style operation ... These are therefore the only 'legal'
prostitutes in the USSR, who run no risk and regularly convey
the information they have received to the KGB.
ln Odessa the Maritime Club for foreign sailors situated in
Bebel Street (Bebel is celebrated in the USSR for his theories
on the liberation of women) is frequented both by creai' pros
titutes and police prostitutes. Interpreters and guides also some
times fulfill this function. These prostitutes feel completely safe,
and their knowledge of the West vastly exceeds that which the
great mass of Soviet women possess.
Unfortunate1y this picture of prostitution in the USSR can
not be accompanied by any figures as .aIl the statistics, if they
even exist, are kept strictly secret. Nevertheless, the above evi
dence certainly contradicts the official view according to which
prostitution do es not really exist in the Soviet Union. 1 am not
saying that this form of 'dissidence' is a good thing, but the
survival of this phenomenon in a country which daims to have
suppressed it, and where it is prosecuted more severe1y than
e1sewhere, gives cause for reflection. It is another example of the
inaccuracy of the image of Soviet society as a 'successful' totali
tarian society, as it were; it is rather a country where an official
system of State control exists alongside an extensive under
ground system of subversion. The populace manages to turn
to its own advantage the official rules and prohibitions, just as
prostitutes succeed in infiltrating those carefully guarded hote1s,
sometimes with the complicity of the guards themselves.


Sex crimes

Criminality and sex crimes are not peculiar to the USSR, how
ever, the particular attitude of that country manifests itself in
the efforts it deploys to minimise and conceal them.
ln this area statistics are virtually non-existent; furthermore,
those which are provided, and they are always fragmentary, are
not very credible, because most of the rime their object and aim
is to show that crime is disappearing in the USSR, which is
quite simply a joke. So any statement concerning the growth or
decline in crime can only be based on everyday impressions,
which are always deceptive. AIl 1 shall do, therefore, is to cite
cautiously a few examples of sex crimes obtained from data
which have appeared in recent publications (and notably a work
by the Soviet dissident Valry Chalidz,

Le Crime en Union
Sovitique, French translation published by Oliver Orban, Paris,
1977), as weil as from criminals encountered in the camps.

Amongst sex crimes, rape is certainly the most frequent.
According to a Soviet source, 1.7 per cent of a11 sentences passed
in 1966 were for rape. If one supposes, as Chalidz does, that
there are one million sentences a year, this would mean roughly
20,000 rapes. But naturally the real figure can only be higher,
for very often rapes go unpunished, either because the culprit
or culprits remain unknown, or because the victim brings no
charge out of fear of reprisaI, and especially out of shame or
fear of what people will say. It would appear, therefore, that
rape is a fairly widespread crime notwithstanding the heavy
penalties that it can entail: three to seven years' solitary confine
ment and, in sorne cases-for example, where the victim suffers
extremely gave consequences even-the death penalty.
Rape is a logical consequence of the kind of sexual frus
tration and relations between the sexes that exist in the USSR.

1 have already had occasion to mention cases where the

husband practically raped bis wife. 1 knew a patient who did

not want to divorce her husband, because of their children, but

who no longer wanted to have sexual intercourse with him.
The man raped her regularly without fear of legal prosecution,
for no court would have ta ken this sort of affair seriously.
AIl varieties of rape are encountered in Soviet life. There is
the rape of a girl after an evening spent drinking or dancing;
there is rape followed by murder, whether from fear of the
consequences or by accident. 1 once met a prisoner who had
been inside before, who had raped and killed a girl in Petro
zavodsk when he was only twenty-two.
Group rapes are very common. Three men in Vinnitsa prison,
Igor Kuynetsov, Victor Ilki and Alexander Zavyazun, had
raped a girl of twenty named Gureyeva. Rapes are rarely com
mitted by isolated maniacs; they are more often brutal acts
carried out by ordinary, perfectly 'normal' people.
Rapes of old women are fairly rare, but not exceptional.
Again, in the cases which 1 have encountered, the rapists are not
sadistic maniacs escaped from an asylum, but ordinary citizens.
One such case was described to me by the culprit in Kharkov
camp. Nine drunken louts had attacked and raped an old woman
returning home at ni ghtfall. The man who told me the story,
was almost sober by the time he returned home. A terrifying
picture awaited bim : bis mother was lying in bed, covered in
'What's happened to you ? ' he cried, horrified.
'l've been raped. l'm dying.'
'Where ? Who raped you ? '
'My son. You were the last. 1 recognised you . . . '
The boy fainted with shock at the news.
'When 1 came to,' he continued, 'my mother was dead. She
had hanged herself in the room before my very eyes. Life is
unbearable for me. Sooner or later, 1 shall kill myself. There is
no place on earth for swine like me.'
The man always ended bis confession that way, and these
were not empty words : . he had already twice tried to kill him
Such horrible crimes come well within the tradition of mad,
brutal, gratuitous Russian crime, by no means limited to
psychopaths and the underworld, wbich may be committed in
an unforeseeable manner by the average decent muzhik.
Rape is very often committed in a state of inebriation. Accord
ing to Soviet statistics, more than 50 per cent of rapes are

committed under the influence of alcohol and without pre

meditation. Chalidz cites another Soviet statistic according to


per cent of the victims were in a drunken state at the

cime of the rape, and 30 per cent of them had drunk with the
men who subsequently abused them.
Rapes may be the acts of persons possessing a modicum of
power. I am thinking, for example, of the militia, who, as in
many other countries, are sometimes able to profit by their
position. In the town of Nikolayev a non-commissioned officer
in the militia took innocent girls to the station and forced them
to have intercourse by threatening to report them, which would
have brought them into disgrace. Several dozen victims passed
through his hands in this way before he was discovered.
The most extraordinary cases of rape are undoubtedly those
committed by women upon men. This occurs in situations
where the women are sexually starved. In the Kuril Islands this
kind of thing is common. Fishing-boat captains dare not let
their sailors go ashore, for there are thousands of women work
ing in the canneries who have no man for years on end, and the
sailors genuinely run the risk of death.
Violence, aggression and sadism appear to be profound
characteristics of Soviet sexuality, and the reasons for this
are inherent in the very tenor of Soviet life and in the whole
course of Soviet history.
Among these reasons, I shall cite two which immediately
come to mind. The first is the sadisJ):l wruch reigns in the world
of the prisons, a sadism established as a raison d'tat un der
Stalin (whose sadistic games were famous) and of which numer
ous traces remain in the methods employed during preliminary
examinations and in the manner in which prisoners are treated.
A chief of a camp in the Caucasus was very proud of the
method of torture he had invented, which he baptised the 'easy
chair'. Prisoners who had misbehaved were strapped between
two metal chairs, then the chairs were slowly separated. Prac
tices of this kind are both a symptom (they reveal by their
extent how serious the illness is) and a contaminating agent (an
overt quasi-Iegal sadism is an irresistible example for many
who, in other circumstances perhaps, would not dare to give
free rein to their instincts).
Secondly, one must mention the consequences of the war
with Nazi Germany. When the Soviet army moved onto the



population suffered

very harsh
1 71

treatment; rape became particularly common, the habituai re

action of soldiers drunk with victory. The same soldier who
before the war could recite poems to bis beloved, was now cap
able of raping any woman who came into bis hands. There were
even extraordinary cases where, for example, Russian female
prisoners in G erman camps were raped by their liberators;
according to one of my patients from Kharkov, the Russian
soldiers who had captured a small town in eastern Germany
were unable to find a single woman or girl alive (everyone had
fted), so they threw themselves upon the still-warm bodies of
the victims of the latest shellings.
Rapes of little girls and offences against minors are frequent.
Perhaps tbis too ought to be regarded as a consequence of the
last war, the soldiers' sexual violence leading them to no longer
respect the age of their victims. In the camp 1 was sent to, sorne
fifty prisoners had been convicted of offences against minors,
either their own daughters or others.
The most frequent form of incest is that between fathers and
daughters. 1 have encountered tbis type of case myself. One of
my patients from the village of Yakushentsy near Vinnitsa sur
prised ber husband with bis penis in their daughter's mouth.
The latter was only two. One prisoner who had been convicted
of raping bis daughter kept on declaring very cynically : 'WeIl,
was I supposed to wait for others to screw her ? Better it was
me.' The military journal

Red Star relates the case of an officer

from Odessa who was casbiered for having slept with bis
daughter of fifteen.
Incest between brother and sister is rarer. I knew a prisoner
in the camp who had raped bis sis ter after putting her to sleep
with a sleeping-pill and later drowned the baby born of tbis
union in a bucket of water.
Amongst sex crimes, mention must be made of crimes com
mitted by maniacs. These are certainly fairly rare, although the
absence of information on this subject does not really allow us
to ;udge. There are several examples from the large towns. In
Leningrad several years ago a young man from a good family
(as was discovered later) waylaid women in the doorways of
houses, stabbed them and raped them; the wounds were mortaI.
The maniac's victims were always women wearing a red coat.
The 'red-coat man' was declared a psychopath after medicaI
examination. He was therefore sentenced to compulsory treat
ment in a psychiatric hospital, which did not prevent the judges
from also passing a sentence reserved for criminals of sound

1 72

mind : fifteen years in camp. In fact Soviet justice has lite

regard for mental illness.
Moscow also knew two weeks of terror. A maniac got into
Muscovite flats by passing himself off as a gas inspector and
had succeeded in raping and murdering six women and girls.
He turned out to be a failed provincial tenor called Vladimir
Ionessian. In the course of the preliminary examination he
behaved with cynical indifference, presenting his crimes as re
venge for his failure. He had equipped himself with a gas
inspector's badge and a small hunter's hatchet. As soon as the
housewife or girl opened the door he went into action, and left
taking whatever money he found. Until his arrest Moscow was
in a state of panic. .AlI sorts of rumours were circulating which
exaggerated the number of victims. People had even begun to
speak of ritual murders. Of course genuine gas inspectors had
to stop work. The court established that the murderer was of
sound mind and sentenced him to death; his parents, friends
and colleagues at work received a public reprimand : the col
lective was guilty of not educating one of its members, seeing
that he had indulged in su ch fearful crimes although he was
perfecy s ane. This is an example of what Soviet justice c an be
More than any other factor, alcoholism, and more especially
vodka, plays a fundamental role in sexual criminality.
For someone who has never been to the USSR, it is difficult
to imagine the part played by alcohol there. Drinking does not
accompany other activities or pleasures ; it is an activity in itself,
an activity often more highly rated than wooing women. It con
stitutes an inexhaustible subject of conversation and gives rise
to a whole ritual. For example, this strange religion commands
one to finish a bottle once it has been opened, and always to
drink up in a single gulp, whether it be from a vodka glass, a
tumbler, or even sometimes the bottle.
Serious studies have been conducted in recent years to deter
mine the extent of alcoholism in the US SR. For example, it has
been calculated CA. Krassikov) that the consumption of vodka
equals 10.8 litres per capita per year for the whole of the Soviet
Union. Moreover, this fi gure excludes other alcoholic beverages,
notably eau-de-vie, which is made illicitly on a very great scale,
and consumption of which is naturally very difficult to quantify.
Consumption of alcohol continues to increase and accounts for
15 per cent of all Soviet expenditure in shops.
The consequences of this generalised poisoning are innumer173

able, and no one can foresee where they will lead. As for the
subject which concerns me, vodka is responsible for impotence,
sterility, violence in sexual relations and lastly crime. According
to Soviet statistics, 80 per cent of murders and 70 per cent of
rapes are due to drunkenness and a1coholism. The frontier be
tween 'normal life' and criminal pathology is singularly fragile.
1 have known numerous cases where, in the life of the couple,
a1cohol was an essential prelude to violence and even to pure
and simple rape.
The Russians use a1cohol like a narcotic-and there is no
shortage of narcotics in the USSR either. According to certain
statistics from the USSR Prokuratura (Public Prosecutor), 1 . 8
per cent of young people in the large towns now take drugs. Of
course drugs in themselves do not cause an individual to com
mit crime, but they can so transform the individu al that he is
able to act only according to his elemental drives, and in this
way he may become dangerous. Drugs are used by many
prisoners, where they are able to obtain them, for they offer
compensation for sexual frustration.
A particularly disturbing phenomenon of recent years is the
dangerous increase of crime among the young, a phenomenon
which many Soviets would acknowledge to be true, but also
confirmed by official figures, which worry the authorities. In
April 1 972 a secret survey by the Public Prosecutor's Office was
communicated to the local Party committees. It covered 24
towns and 48 villages. The picture was so alarming that the
Central ommittee soon gave an order to put an end to the
survey. In 1 971 it was established that in 1 ,200 Soviet towns 49
per cent of rapes and 12 per cent of murders were committed by
youths under twentyo ln 1974, 7 1 8,000 crimes were committed
by adolescents under seventeen. It is particularly striking that
these crimes were not the actions of the poorest classes. Quite
the contrary : in 1 970 in 81 trials which took place in Moscow,
Kiev, Novosibirsk and Baku 62.8 per cent of the youths accused
came from privileged or at least advantaged families : children
of Party functionaries, research workers, scientists, intellectuals,
1 am fully aware that this type of phenomenon is extremely
difficult ta analyse, and, besides, it tends to be true of many
countries of the world. 1 wish, however, to return to an idea
which 1 have alread y mentioned apropos of sexual licence :
more th an ever, Soviet youth bas lost faitb in the morality and
1 74

ideology with which it continues to be bombarded. Its basic

and deep aspirations take the form of an explosion of pre
marital sexuality; they may, in an extreme form, give rise to
still more extreme . manifestations, such as sexual crime. It is
symptomatic that the statistics reveal a very high percentage of
rapes committed by youths, but few murders : one gets the
impression that one is witnessing the explosion of a world in
ferment, the consequences of which the future alone can tell us.

1 75


Several years ago the former English diplomat Guy Burgess was
answering questions from a Western journalist in Moscow.
Knowing that he was homosexual, the journalist asked him if
this created any problems for him in the Soviet Union. The
diplomat replied that in that regard the USSR was no different
from the West.
In reality that is not the case. Homosexuality is treated with
greater contempt in the USSR than in any other Western
country. The penalty for homosexuality is three to eight years.
The director Sergei Paradzhanov, for example, convicted in
I974 for homosexuality, was set free only after serving several
years in a camp. An Italian deputy, Angelo Pezzana, organised
a press conference in Moscow on 29 November I977 to protest
against the treatment of homosexuals by the Soviet government.
There has been no relaxation of the law. Homosexuals con
tinue to be convicted, and there is no reason to suppose that
there will be any change whatsoever in this area. The term
'homosexual' is very rarely used and is regarded as an insult. 1
do not believe the Soviet press has ever discussed the problem
of homosexuality, generally thought to be a synonym for total
perversion. It is a phenomenon which provokes such disgust
that people prefer to pass over it in silence. The rare books
devoted to sexuality contain at best only a dry definition of what
homosexuality is. The Soviet Medical Encyclopedia gives no
definition of lesbian love : it merely gives the geographical
location of the island of Lesbos.
Male homosexuality

The masses have the most inveterate prejudices against homo

sexuals . . The homosexual phenomenon is frequently evoked in
obscene language and the conversations of drunks. As in many
other languages, there are swear-words in Russian which liken
the individual insulted to a passive homosexual. Like every
taboo, homosexuality serves to feed more or less fantastic

rumours. One example : people in Moscow often talk about a

Soviet leader named Mikoyan (he died in 1978) who managed
to survive the reign of Stalin, and later Khrushchev, and retired
peacefu11y in 1965. People likc to say that he managed to keep
his position in the ruling clique because he was a lover to a
number of leaders. It is also commonly thought that the Arme
nians have strong tendencies to homosexuality.
The repression of homosexuality goes far beyond legislation
alone. The homosexual risks not only prison and the camp; tirst
and foremost he risks harassment and ill-tr eatment. A stage
actor who had come to Vinnitsa with his company learned this
to his cost. While in his hotel restaurant, he succeeded in per
suading a young man from my practice to follow him up to his
room. There he entreated my patient to let him caress him, and
they arranged a meeting for the following day. But this time my
patient did not come alone : he brought with him three friends,
one a boxer. The four of them thrashed the actor, breaking
several ribs.
'Why did you do it? ' 1 asked my patient.
'What? Look, they're criminals. They ought to be shot.'
His reply plainly illus,trates the Soviets' feelings towards
homosexuality. And as the law can be of no help to the victims,
they are condemned to reprobation, silence and thrashings.
Homosexuals are perpetually terrorised, suppressed and pur
sued. Their perpetuaI fear affects their behaviour, and their
abrupt laughter, fieeting glances, etc. are sometimes the only
signs which enable one to identify homosexuals.
Homosexuals themselves often think of their proclivity as a
pathological phenomenon, a fatal illness which will strike them
down, a feeling undoubtedly fostered by the repression which
they suffer. Few homosexuals came to my surgery as they are
usually afraid to betray themselves. In 1972, during a lecture
which 1 was giving at the Vinnitsa Pedagogical Institute, 1 re
ceived three letters from homosexual students in the lecture
room asking me to he1p them. One of them wrote, that he
despised himself because of his illness, but that he feh powerless
to cure it : he had lost a11 desire for women and men alone
attracted him. 'What should 1 do ? ' asked the student at the end
of his letter. In other words, he thought of himself as a sick
The absolute secrecy with which the y must pursue their
desires is undoubtedly the cause of the purely physical character
1 77

of a homosexual love-life. Condemned, when he dares to act, to

a furtive search for a few physical contacts on the sly, the homo
sexual puts no amatory feeling into his relations.
Finally, more vulnerable to blackmail, the terrorised homo
sexual constitutes a choice target for the secret police, who will
often try to make him one of their agents.
Notwithstanding this social repression, homosexuals establish
clandestine relationships, underground existences in the heart of
the big cities; in Moscow, at present, it is the litde square near
the Bolshoi Theatre, opposite the Marx monument. In the
provinces assignations are made near the public lavatories.
How widespread is homosexuality in the USSR? To answer
this question, 1 wou Id need data not available to me. The only
indices which 1 know of are the percentages of convictions for
sodomy in 1966 (0. 1 per cent of the total number of convictions
for the year-perhaps a thousand). This percentage does not
tell us the real frequency of sodomy.
My experience as a prisoner allows me to state unhesitatingly
that the principal factor in the increase of homosexuality in the
Soviet Union is the prison system. It is particularly in the camps
that people learn to be homosexual and when they leave, they
often remain so. Approximately 80 per cent of those whom 1
have had to treat had passed through the camps. 1 am also able
to say that in Kharkov camp approximately 15 per cent of the
male prisoners left as homosexuals.
Mention must also he made of the army and navy, more par
ticularly submariners.
Homosexuality is common among Soviet diplomats, as 1 have
learned from patients from the diplomatic corps. This may seem
strange, but understandable if one thinks of the rigid surveil
lance exercised by the KGB. Diplomats are strictly forbidden to
have affairs with the local population, so the secret police toler
ate homosexual relations between 'good Soviets' as the lesser of
two evils.
1 also know of cases of homosexual teachers. For example, on
12 June 1972 a group of students from the Pedagogical Institute
of Baku drafted a complaint to the Scientific Section of the
Central Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan : 'Professor
Bairamov obliges his students to have sexual liaisons; otherwise
he fails them in their examinations. What should we do ? '
Sometimes homosexuality may have its origin in impotence.
1 knew a patient who suffered problems as a result of chronic

alcoholism (he was always drunk, even when he came for con
sultation). This man sought out young boys and persuaded
them to have sexual intercourse with him, claiming that his sex
organ had been mutilated by a grenade during the war.
Female homosexuality

Unlike sodomy, homosexuality between women is not puni shed

by law. But in popular practice it is just as despised, and
lesbians also may be dealt with very harshly in law.
As far as 1 have been able to judge, lesbianism is not very
common compared with homosexuality. But it is possible that
female relations are kept still more secret than male relations.
Just as for men, the only places where it is really easy for a
lesbian to find a partner are the prisons and camps. In the town
of lZishinev there was the extraordinary case of the young
woman who regularly committed petty offences, mainly thefts,
with the sole aim of being given a fairly light prison sentence
and being sent to camp. There at least she could find partners.
N evertheless, 1 know one place where lesbian relations are
widespread : the region of Ivanovo, a centre of the textile in
dustry which has experienced continuous development under
the Soviet regime, and where there is, therefore, an important,
predominantly female, concentration of population. We know
that in the USSR social life has no spontaneous existence but is
submitted to all sorts of constraints by the State. The regime
does not really care about assuring these women a normal social
life, nor will it allow them to organise one themselves. The
imperatives of labour alone impose the rules. These women can
only rarely obtain a fiat, a job, or a residence permit in another
region and are chained by invisible links to the places assigned
to them. There is such an imbalance in the population that only
by resorting to certain perversions can sexuality survive : rapes
of men by women, incest and lesbian relationships.
ln the camp 1 met a prisoner who had killed rus wife. He had
done his military service in the Ivanovo region. At the end of
his service, he met a young textile worker, fell in love, proposed
to her and took her back to his village. He was astonished to
note that his wife was completely indifferent to sex. Then he
was told that she sought the company of single women. So he
asked her- outright and demanded that she explain her be
haviour. His wife admitted that, having lived many years in
female society, she now enjoyed lesbian relations. The man was
1 79

so shocked by what she told him that he picked up an iron and

19 l1ed her.

1 have known only a few lesbians in my professional practice.

Most of them were middle-aged women, a phenomenon which
is perhaps due to the particularly severe demographic im
balance in that generation. Nevertheless, 1 shall quote a letter
which was sent to me in March 1 97 1 by a nineteen-year-old
girl living in Leningrad, a letter which 1 was able to bring out
of the USSR and which 1 am reproducing in full because of its
interest :
Dear Doctor,
Professor K.E. has advised me ta turn ta yOU. She told me that
you might be able ta help me. In Leningrad 1 do not know whom ta
turn ta, and anyway it is dangerous, as the university or my family
might hear about it. 1 could even come ta see you in July if you
thought it useful, and of course 1 wouId ask you ta be very discreet.
K.E. has said that 1 can confide in you and speak ta you very
1 want ta tell you everything in arder. 1 believe that it aIl began
when 1 was in class 7. 1 had a boyfriend who was always trying to
get me to do it. 1 was very embarrassed and was afraid ta touch it,
but one day he forced me ta do it. Even now 1 have very unpleasant
memories of it. 1 believe that that gave me a trauma. Even before
entering the psychology department, when 1 was still in school, 1
had already begun ta masturbate. It was terrible. 1 was obliged ta
resort ta solitary pleasure practically every two or three days.
Mter the experience with my boyfriend, boys no longer inter
ested me. No matter how much they tried ta court me, none of them
aroused serious feelings on my part. Besides, they did not give me
what 1 needed. If 1 stopped masturbating, after three or four days 1
became totally apathetic towards everything; 1 became irritable to
the point of hysteria. 1 have suffered a great deal and consider myself
very sick. 1 have tried ta distract myself with jazz (which 1 like a
lot), books, my studies, but nothing has helped.
But the worst thing happen'ed when 1 entered university. One
night 1 stayed at a girlfriend's place, and since then my whole life
has been upside down. 1 am more and more frightened, although 1
continue ta smile and ta behave as before, sa that none of my friends
can tell. Men disgust me; 1 ha te them. But 1 feel in turn a very
strong attraction ta my friend. 1 have stopped masturbating, but at
what cast? ...
The most trying thing is that 1 have begun ta love her the way
one loves a man and ta be j ealous : there are other lesbians in our
year and if she leaves me, 1 do not know what will happen ta me.

1 80

This is a love which 1

should do.

cannot live

without. He1p me ;

tell me

what 1

This student considered herself sick and perverted because

she masturbated. This is a view one might expect in a con vent
of a bygone age, but in the USSR it is by no means exceptional
and can easily be explained if one recalls the kind of upbringing
which young people receive. Very characteristic too is the young
girl's fear of being found out (if it were known, she would be
expelled from university), and also the brutality aild ugliness of
her fust contacts with a man, a brutality which is perhaps the
origin of her development as a lesbian.


Part Four

Nationality, class and sexuality

Sex in the Soviet republics

Up to now, l have looked at Soviet sex life only in terrns of the

general characteristics of the average homo sovieticus. However,
not aIl Soviets live in the sarne way, or in the sarne areas. Sorne
live in warrn clirnates; others are subjected to the rigours of the
Siberian cold. Sorne are connected with civilisations which have
nothing to do with Russia, like the Muslirn peoples. Sorne live
in luxury; others lead a wretched existence. Each category has
a different way of life; each rnay also have its own sexual be
The Soviet Union is a multinational state. In 1926, according
to the census, the country comprised 194 different nationalities ;
in 1959, 108 nationalities; in 1970, nearly 100. At this last census,
sorne 24 1 million Soviets (the population of the USSR has now
reached the figure of 261 million) fell into the following groups
based on a linguistic classification :

(in millions)
40. 7
5 3
3 5
3 .2
2 7
1 .7
1 .5
1 .4
1 85


1 .4
1 .3
1 .2

These are only the principal groups. As we know, 'nationality'

in the Soviet Union has a very precise meaning, very different
from that in the West : it refers to an endorsement in each citi
zen's passport. He is not registered as a Russian or Soviet
citizen; instead, in accordance with the law, the nationality of
origin is indicated : Ukrainian, Uzbek, German, Estonian, etc.
This differentiation of national units is represented as a means
of enabling each minority to develop, but it is in fact a method
of control and discrimination. Whatever the religion or feelings
of the individu al, he belongs to the nationality which has been
transmitted to him by heredity. When an individu al marries a
partner of another nationality, the children of this union have
the right, when they receive their passport, to choose one of the
two nationalities to the exclusion of the other. Naturally this
very rigid system gives rise to aIl sorts of fiddles, and in par
ticular, if one has the money and connections, it leads to the
purchase of nationality, which is of course most often Russian
nationality, with the advantages it guarantees, since neither the
Ukrainians, nor the Uzbeks, nor the Armenians, nor the other
peoples under Russian control enjoy in practice the rights
en;oyed by the Russians. It must not be forgotten that a popu
lation composed of 1 10 million non-Rus sian Soviets is con
trolled by Moscow.
The numerical total represented by the nationalities is in the
process of diminishing. Two factors are contributing to this
process : a policy of Russification and mixed marriages. Accord
ing to the 1970 census, approximately 1 3 per cent of Soviet
families are mixed and in towns the proportion reaches 20 per
cent. The sm aIl tribes of the north are continually shrinking.
Amongst J ews, Ukrainians and Byelorussians, mixed marriages
continue to increase. Amongst the peoples of Central Asia, it is
particularly a case of the men marrying Russian women; doubt
less because girls remain sub;ect to parental authority and there
is a traditional attitude towards marriage. On the other hand,
the fact that a man marries a Russian woman is considered a
kind of gain, or promotion, which in no way diminishes national
1 86

pride, whereas the daughter is 'los t' to the community if she

marries out of it.
But the survival of the nationalities is in danger because of
the choice which the children of mixed marriages must make. If
they want to rise in the social scale, and if they have any aware
ness of the implicit hierarchy which exists amongst the nation ali
ties, they will choose to be Russian.
Certain factors contribute to the vitality, if not of aIl the
national minorities, then at least of sorne of them. 1 am thinking
above aIl of the high birth rate enjoyed by the peoples of Central
Asia and the Caucasus. The contrast with the birth rate of the
Slavic peoples and with those of the Baltic lands is astounding,
as the figures from the 1970 census show :
Russian Republic

(per thousand)
17 4
1 4 .6
1 4 5
1 6.2
19 4
3 05
33 5
3 4 7
3 5.2

One can gauge the threat which minorities in full expansion

pose to the hegemony of the Russians, whose birth-rate con
tinues to decline; during the preparation of the 1977 constitu
tion, bills were even introduced to enable Soviet individu ais
belonging to other nationalities to 'make themsel ves Russian';
if they speak Russian, in short, if thy can integrate.
But with the re-awakening of nationalism in recent years,
Russification is no longer so much sought after by the popu
lation : the children of a mixed marriage now often choose to
continue to belong to the minority nationality, contrary to aIl
considerations of self-interest. This challenge arouses the
astonishment of Soviet officiaIs, who are literally incapable of
understanding why a young man or young woman with a

Jewish father and a Russian mother shouid choose Jewish

One of my patients toid me of the amazement and sincere
compassion with which the militia officiaIs learned of her
'. " You're mad : you have a Ukrainian father, but you're taking
Jewish nationality, that of your mother. Don't you understand what
you're doing ? You're putting a spoke i n your own wheel ! Don't do
anything so silly . . .'

N evertheless, these acts of 'foolishness' are becoming more

and more frequent. To be J ewish is not only to choose one's
nationality; it is also to protest against the regime.
In its attempt to make the Soviet population uniform and to
erase national differences, the regime is quite prepared to stir
up national and even racial discord and antagonism. This is
especially the case with anti-Semitism.
Yet, if one takes the example of mixed marriages, one notes
that the number of divorces, which is very high, is no higher
than the average for non-mixed marriages. This suggests that,
independently of the policy of the regime, Soviet society im
poses a standardised mode of life which erases national differ
ences. In pre-Soviet Russia the shortcomings of decentralisation
were transformed into cultural diversity. Now, the city and the
village, the capital and the provinces, are fed with the same
Behaviour, modes of thought, even personalities have a tendency
to become uniform. Communism has created a type of obedient
conformist devoted to the regime, a sort of punctilious robot
deprived of a11 initiative. AlI the attributes and peculiarities
which characterise sexuality in the Soviet Union-anti
eroticism, ignorance, sadism, the cult of brute force, impotence
-apply equally to all nationalities. In other words, it is not a
question of what is inherent in a particular people, but the
consequences of a particular political regime.
Of course the State apparatus cannot entirely regulate the
sexual behaviour of its subjects, but it endeavours to do so as
far as possible. When the USSR was officia11y a friend of China,
Soviet girls who married Chinese men received a kind of dowry
from the State. These days such a marriage would be considered
a betrayal of the fatherland. Here it is simply a question of a
change of political direction. But there are inconsistencies. For

1 88

example, about fifteen years ago it began to be considered good

form to marry black African students, since that refiected Soviet
African policy. But racism, shared by the population and leaders
alike, prevailed in the end. A relationship with a Russian woman
can lead to aggression, beatings and sometimes even murder, for
Russian anti-black racism is immeasurably more violent than
in Europe.
But what are the national peculiarities in the sexual domain
which escape State control and the uniform norms of Soviet
life ?
Amongst the Chukchis and the Ossetians, it is a form of
hospitality to offer one's wife or daughter to one's guest. In its
modern version, this tradition has given rise to a sort of prosti
tution : sometimes the rent for a fiat pays for a woman as well,
which means that the rent can be higher.
Nowhere is the mixture of old traditions and modern life
more striking than in the republics of Central Asia : Turkmenia,
Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, Kazakhstan and Tadzhikistan, where
the position of women is much the same s in Muslim countries.
Although Turkmen women now weave their carpets in State
factories, they are only performing the work which has always
been their lot; even today, the birth of a daughter is considered
a misfortune for their family.
ln Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, the majority of Uzbeks
now speak Russian, ey'en amongst themselves. But at the same
time one still encounters cases of polygamy, as in all the Muslim
republics. 1 myself have been introduced to the family of an old
Kirghiz in the village of Aigurek, near the town of Frunze, who
had three wives. 1 observed the same thing in a Kazakh family
in the Taldy-Kurgansk region of I<azakhstan.
An issue of The Young Communist (no. 2, 1 966) reported
that the custom of kalym, the purchase of fiances, was still
common, even in towns. The abduction of women is not un
known, nor is the sale of female minors.
Under the ancien rgime the le gal age for marriage in Russia
was eighteen for men and sixteen for women, an exception
being made for the peoples of the Caucasus (sixteen for men,
thirteen for women). Soviet legislation has set the legal age at
eighteen for both sexes. However, an exception is still made for
the two Caucasian republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well
as for the Ukraine and Moldavia) where the legal age is eighteen
for men and sixte en for women.
The penal codes of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenia
1 89

and Uzbekistan make provision for penalties for the purchase

or abduction of women, and also where women are forced to
marry against their wishes. The very existence of this legislation
proves that these traditions have not been totally forgotten.
According to 1. Kurganov, before the war, among the Gilyaks,
who live in the north of the USSR, children were entire1y
dependent on their father's will, whatever their sex. The father
would buy wives for his sons, without consulting either party.
If a wife who had been bought tried to run away, the husband
would tie her feet to the back of his sledge and let his dogs run
like the devil until the woman was dead.
1 had a patient who had left her native Caucasus and moved
to the Ukraine. In 1965 her daughter had refused an offer of
marri age from a young Abkhazian (one of the peoples of the
Caucasus). Faithful to tradition, he kidnapped her, bound her
hands and raped her, in the hope that this time she would
accept. But she refused again and had him prosecuted.
AlI these survivaIs are in the process of disappearing. What is
mos! enduring, and will perhaps remain for many years to
come, is the weight of public opinion, which is always harder
to change than actions. 1 have already had occasion to point out
how ambiguous is the position of Russian women. Those women
who live in areas where Muslim traditions prevail are still
further away from the 'liberation' it is claimed they enjoy. 1 am
not of course seeking to pass judgements or to present myself as
an advocate of the past; but the social changes brought about by
the present regime may destroy the identity of civilisations but
do not profoundly 'change man', because man can evolve only
if he is free to effect his own transform.
What can one say regarding the national peculiarities invented
by Russian chauvinism? There is no lack of these prejudices
and clichs. The Ukrainian, nicknamed the Khokhol) or 'Top
knot' (an allusion to a traditional hair style), is he1d to be a rather
romantic simpleton. The Armenians are reputed to be peder
asts, although 1 be1ieve homosexuality is no more widespread
amongst them than amongst the Russians. The inhabitants of
the Baltic countries are cold, even though their coldness is
basically directed only at those who have occupied their terri
tories; Jews are supposed to be hypersexed; Georgians have the
reputation of being coarse (though the ussians are not par
ticularly distinguished by their gallantry and de1icacy, as 1
believe 1 have sufficiently demonstrated ! ). It is said that the

Uzbeks are always dirty; Tatar women allegedly shave their

private parts. The Ukrainians are romantic, and the Molda
vians, it seems, are aIl syphilitics, although 1 also know whole
villages in Russia infected with syphilis.
These totally baseless inani ties are solidly anchored in the
consciousness of the people. Soviet society is so set in its ways,
and the official ideology is so little credible, that prejudices die
b ard.
Over and above aIl these inferior races rise the Russian man
and woman, pure and beautiful, whom official art and literature
never cease to glorify, in a sad mlange of shame1ess nationalism
and Communist ideology.


The masses

The poverty of the Soviets is unfortunately a secret to no one,

and it cannot but have consequences for their sexual behaviour.

1 have already indicated how malnutrition and especially the

lack of protein can lead to sexual inadequacies. 1 shall now take
up the problem of housing.
ln Moscow at present 40 per cent of the families have no
private bathroom and in provincial towns they are considered a
luxury. In the communal fiats, which are numerous in the big
cities, several families use the same bath. In Odessa on e still
finds communal fiats where families live five to a room: grand
parents, children and grandchildren.
A stark fact becomes immediately obvious. In such dwellings,
because of the lack of space, there is lite or no room for family
or domestic life. But there is another fact to consider: the great
majority of the urban population consists of recently arrived
peasants. And even among families which moved to the cities
during the thirties, a sense of rootlessness still persists in the
absence of an environment more favourable to their adapting.
Certainly the Russians are not used to living in more than one
room: the izba was shared by the entire family. The existence
of the family was by no means centred on the couple, which
did not even possess a bed; the huge Russian stove, the ground
and wooden benches provided sleeping surfaces in a limited
and familiar universe. But the communal fiat, divided into
sometimes as many as ten mini-fiats, has neither the capacity of
the izba to accommodate an entire family, nor the functional
arrangement of the bourgeois fiat. Of course housing problems
are common to all countries which have experienced rapid
urbanisation. In the USSR, however, the shock has been par
ticularly deeply felt, because of the extreme brutality of social
change, and also because the city has not integrated its immi
grants-very much to the contrary : it is the new arrivaIs who
have changed the character of Russian cities.
One of the consequences of this new mode of life is-in the


sexual domain-the difticulty of preserving Intlmacy. In the

case of the communal flats., husbands and wives experience the
greatest difficulties in trying to be on their own, let alone having
extra-marital sexual relations. Even when flats are separate, as
those of recent construction generally are, intimacy is hardly
possible. Indeed, it is rare for each person to have a room of his
own; children very often become unwilling witnesses of their
parents' sexual relations. Even if the young couple have a right
to a separate flat, and even if they have neither children nor
parents living with them, the partition walls are so thin they
have very little privacy and they are constantly worried that the
neighbours will complain about the noise. AlI this may appear
very b anal and materialistic, but one must sleep on a Soviet bed
to know the pleasures of a mattress which creaks with the
slightest movement.
What do the Soviets do to find the 'right place'?
For love-making at home, the Soviets are sometimes obliged
to use subterfuges. For example, to avoid making noise, waking
up the children and disturbing the neighbours, couples wait
until it is late and bed down on the floor. A couple who were
patients of mine had devised the following system : they sacri
ficed their midday me al and, du ring the break, rushed home to
make love during the day. One day this couple decided to take
a holiday at Adler on the Black Sea. They were lodged in a
communal tent (this mode of life is also carried to camp-sites).
On the other side of a canvas partition there was another couple
with children. They were obligd to spend their evenings of love
on the beach. During one of their outings they were attacked by
twenty or so hooligans aged fourteen to sixteen, whom even the
militia of Adler feared. The husband was beaten up and the
wife raped.
Student dormitories are by no means designed to ensure the
intimacy of couples, married or not. Sometimes young married
couples contrive, by means of a simple folding screen or book
case, to shut themse1ves off from the other occupants of the
Love under the open sky is of course one of the easiest
solutions. Nevertheless, it runs up against the major obstacle of
the weather; the Russian winter is long. Moreover, if villagers
are apt to frequent isolated spots in the fields and forests, young
Muscovites hesitate to do so : it is a question of status. Besides,
it is not easy : the parks are packed to bursting, and the

benches are full of pensioners ready to bark at the slightest kiss.

Even so, in Soviet cities, lovers often have recourse to the
parks at nightfall. Or they use the cemeteries.
young Soviets compete in ingenuity in their search for an
intimate setting. Taxis are used not only as a bawdy hou se but
as a hotel room, at the cost of a bottle of vodka given to the
driver over and above the priee of the journey. Moscow students
have devised an original solution : two couples club together to
hire the four couchettes in a train compartment to Leningrad
and back. They thus assure themse1ves two nights of love and a
day's outing in Leningrad. Still in Moscow, in Gorky Park,
lovers resort to a giant roundabout whieh lifts you several
dozen metres off the ground, safe from the eyes of others. The
same thing happens in the Park of Culture at Vinnitsa, where
one of the attractions lifts visitors fifty metres ab ove the ground.
A student from the music school undertook the ascent, accom
panied by her lover. Unfortunately for them, the wind carried
away the dress that the girl had taken off; wh en they descended,

they were quickly arrested by the police.

Hotels are in practice an impossible solution. Fl ats, except
those which house the weIl-off, lend themselves badly to love
making. Sometimes young lovers find refuge in the flats of
friends, W}10 lend them for an hour or two. The need to hurry
and the lack of comfort are naturally the priee to be paid.
Difficulties of this type may also lead to group sex. During
evening parties where the vodka flows, if they are offered the
possibility, young people may spend the night, two, three or
four couples in a single room; he1ped by drunkenness and the
general excitement, the evening can turn into a sexual orgy.
Orgies are a relative1y widespread phenomenon : i numer
ous towns one hears of affairs of this kind, the participants of
which are publicly condemned. In Vinnitsa an 'association' of
twenty boys and girls regularly organised parties until the police
burst in on them one evening.
Group sex, like alcohol, with whieh it is always linked, is
becoming widespread in the polar regions.
Life at Norilsk, situated beyond the Arctie Circle, is famous
for its monotony and rigours. The only distractions are drink
ing and games like the one known as 'Norilsk roulette'. W omen
form a circle, on their hands and knees. The men move round
clockwise, fornicating. The winner is the one who succeeds
in copulating with the most women.

In the lumber camps of Siberia the men see no women for

months on end. One of the lumbermen's distractions is nick
named the 'choir'. For a large priee, they bring a woman in, and
fifty or so men have the benefit of her favours, in turn, in front
of everyone, while the others sing in chorus and drink. This
type of behaviour is generally to be obse'rved in very dosed
male collectives; for example, at Gelendzhik, a town in the
Krasnodar region, where an oceanological institute, isolated by
inordinate security measures, is located.
Are there noticeable differences between town and country
in the sphere of sexual relations ? When 1 speak of rural life,
one must include the approximately 3,700 small towns, where
the way of life is more or less the same as in the countryside.
Naturally, there are differences. The rural habitat is most
often traditional the izba. Nature is dose by, so that lovers'
problems are more easily solved. One can of course, find sexual
deviations peculiar to the rural way of life, just as anywhere
else in the world. This is something scarcely ever spoken of
in the US SR, but 1 can testify to having met a young villager
in prison who had been convicted of copulating with a goat. In
fact Soviet law prescribes penalties of as much as two years'
imprisonment for outrages against animaIs. In a village of the
Vinnitsa region, a young man was charged with copulating
with heifers. His exemplary good work-record sufficed to get
him pardoned and he escaped without a sentence.
Basically sex is freer in the countryside than in town. This
is a notion which is, if not openly expressed, al" least fairly wide
spread at present : the Russian peasaht is freer, healthier and
doser to nature th an the city-dweller.
Sorne observations seem partly to confirm this image. For ex
ample, the number of divorces in (admittedly) 1957 : in that
year, there were twenty times fewer divorces in the villages than
in towns. Can one say that the peasant family is less 'spoilt' by
civilization ? More generally, sexuality does not yet appear to
be the taboo subject it has bec orne in the towns. As proof, there
are the chatushki, four-Eri e verses sung in solo and then taken
up in a chorus, which are part of peasant folklore. Although the
Soviets apply themselves religiously to collecting the fruits of
popular creativity, the majority of chastushki remain un
published for the excellent reason that these songs are indecent.
Here are two by way of example :

When 1 pass my mother-in-Iaw's place,

1 bow deeply to her :
1 show her my cock through the window,
Or 1 let her see my ass.
Ai-a-a-a ! Ai-a-a-a !
What a shit my husband is !
He hasn't fucked me for years.
l'm going into the fields, and then l'm going to shout :
1 want to be fucked !
Ai-a-a-a ! Ai-a-a-a !

The fact that sex can be an object of laughter and literary

creativity, even at this level, is an indubitable sign of good
health. What is undoubtedly less so are the conditions under
which these verses are sung. Even more than the towns, the
Russian countryside is the scene of drunkenness and consider
able alcoholism. The young and the less young come together
and drink a great deal of vodka or often, particularly in the
Ukraine, poor-quality eau-de-vie which they make themselves,
called samogon. To my knowledge, these gatherings more often
end in brawls than in orgies.
This does invalidate, at least in part, the idyllic pastoral
image 1 have sketched above. The bucolic tableaux of more or
less nationalistic, Slavophil inspiration become suspect the
moment they idealise the past of the Russian countryside. One
may genuinely speak of a peasant civilisation, with its customs,
way of life and oral literature, but at present the Russian
countryside offers the desolate spectacle of a land ravaged by the
war. It is not only, and in fact not so much, a question of the
las! World War, but of that declared by the Soviet State on the
peasantry : the civil war, and particularly collectivisation, which
transformed the peasants into slaves of the new State, have liter
ally destroyed the vital energy of the peasantry. The collective
farm peasant is as aimost uprooted in his village as the recently
arrived peasant is in the city. There is thus the paradox of a
society which is still largely rural (44 per cent of the population
at the 1970 census), but where there is rootlessness and degrada
tion in town and in the countryside. The regime has effectively
achieved one of its objectives, which was to eradicate the differ
ences between town and country !
Thus, the importance of the chastushki must not be exag
gerated. If the peasants' life brings them closer to nature, social

condions exist which make them sll more oppressed than

For example, there is the lonely condition of the peasant
woman. At the 1970 census, in the Russian Republic, there were
only 82 4 men for 1,000 women in the countryside, whereas the
proporon was 8 43 per 1,000 women in the towns. In the
countryside loneliness is not only the impossibility of finding a
husband, which for most women still signifies a wasted life; it
is also work on the collective farm, which is in addition to
housework. It is often said in the US SR, and with reason, that
the enre burden of the collective farm falls to the women.
Living conditions are harder on these farms than elsewhere.
Until fairly recently the peasants were practically unpaid. The
peasant's position is not very different now from what it was
in the eighteenth century, since he cannot leave his village, tied
down as he is by the passport system (internaI passports began
to be issued to peasants only in 1975).
The word 'slave' will, 1 know, seem a bit excessive to many of
my readers, but it would not be an exaggeration of the truth. In
the autumn of 1945, a few months after the war, a quasi-famine
still reigned in the towns, whereas the villages were relatively
favoured. Re-opening the Donbas mines in the Ukraine nec es
sitated a considerable work force, but nobody wanted to work
underground for a pittance. The authorities therefore organised
a forced transfer of rural youth for temporary work in the
Donbas. The regime had long been accustomed to drawing
upon the peasantry for necessary manpower and most of the
time under barely disguised forms of compulsion. The peasants,
particularly the girls, naturally did aIl they could to avoid this
transfer. People were saying fearful things about how hard the
work was and how bad living conditions were and everyone
was frightened of being sent to the Donbas. One of my patients,
an unmarried woman who lived alone with her illegitimate son,
told me that in her village the collective farm was run by a
drunken skirt-hunter. The only way of escaping the Donbas
was to satisfy his insatiable lust. My patient told me that the
director summoned her to his office, presented her with the
order sending her to the Donbas, and said : 'So you have a
choice : either you sleep wi th me, or 1'11 calI a mili tiaman and
send you to the Donbas.' The woman chose the fust soluon
and had an illegitimate child. When the child grew up, he
learned of the circumstances of his concepon and twice tried
1 97

to kill his 'father', so that the collective farm director was

obliged to move to another region.
Even if this were only an exceptional case, and we shaH see
in the following chapter that it is by no means an exception,
actions of this type could not have taken place if the peasants
were not in a state of quasi-slavery, subject to the omnipotence
of their immediate superior, not to speak of ose at higher

The privileged

The Western press, on occasion, sheds a glaring light on the

escapades of various leaders. The secrecy which shrouds the
sex life of past Soviet leaders is such that one wonders if
they are not military secrets. Lenin's amorous episode with
Inessa Armand is one of the greatest mysteries. The fact that
Lenin suffered from syphilis, inherited from his father, is care
fully concealed, so that no blemish might sully the glittering
portrait of the Master. Rumour even has it that historians have
been dismissed for unearthing certain of the aforesaid blemishes
in the archives.
In fact, Lenin's sex life offers a field of historical inquiry
by no means as rich as that of the Borgias, for example.
Stalin, however, has been described as a man .of dissolute maraIs,
and his sex life compared with the excesses of Ivan' the Terrible.
It seems certain that his real indulgences amounted to no more
than an immoderate consumption of vodka. As for his sadism, it
remained purely mental. 1 am inclined to believe that, just as
with Lenin's fanaticism, Stalin's consuming megalomania and
paranoia were totally absorbing, and that neither of the two
leaders had mu ch rime to devote to pleasures of the fiesh.
As regards Beria, lovers of anecdotes undoubtedly have a
much more interesting subject in him. Appointed Minister of
the Interior in December 1938, he aspired to power afrer
Stalin's death. He was shot in December 1 95 3 , at which time
the political bureau had a secret document signed by Khrush
chev circulated amongst Communist Party organisations. It
took three hours to read it, and it was as a Party member that 1
had knowledge of it. More than half the document was devoted
to a description of Beria's love life. He was acused of forcing
women he liked, particlarly very young girls, actresses and
ballerinas, to go to bed with him. He was aided in this by Sar
kisov, a KGB colonel. In the last years of his life his tastes
turned to young sportswomen and above a11 to young red
haired Svans, a people of the Cauca sus distinguished by great
1 99

moral strictness. Those who attended Party meetings learned

that one of the principal leaders of the Party had been nothing
but a scoundrel and a pervert, and that he had been shot with
good reason ' "
Beria's sexual idiosyncrasies show no great originality : they
could be encountered in anyone. What is interesting, on the
other hand, are the facilities at the disposaI of a person with
almost unlimited power. The abduction of young girls (to begin
with, Beria's own wife, Nina, had been kidnapped at the age
of seventeen), the use of the police as if they were a pack of
gangsters or Caucasian bandits-this is aIl very much in keeping
with the reign of terror and arbitrariness which prevailed under
The very way in which Beria was 'unmasked', as people say
in the USSR, is very revealing. First, because sex still con
tinues to be one of the most serious and effective charges,
whereas Beria's crimes as chief of police are mu ch graver than
his sexual crimes. Next, because when ail is said and done a
leader can permit himself any affairs and perversions he chooses,
providing they are kept secret and appearances maintained. But
if the personage falls into disgrace, his private life will soon be
subject to scrutiny and his actions attacked. From the venerable
and dedicated popular leader that he was, he becomes in a
single stroke an evil and perverted monster. Moreover, this
denunciation can only come from ab ove, or at least with the
consent of the top people of the regime. This is of course very
different from a Western-type scandaI. In the West, a scandaI
may lead to someone's downfall, but will not serve as a justifi
cation after the event. It could overtake any man in politics,
assuming his private life provided enough ammunition and he
had sufficient enemies. It would not ultimately come from the
clique in power, but from another power, like the press.
The Soviet elite, the men of privilege, are very few, half
a million perhaps, who enjoy a luxurious life-style, as well as
aIl the exorbitant privileges offered by the system, and of which
most ordinary mortals are not even aware. These include un
limited credit in the banks, luxurious villas on the Black Sea
coast and aIl other prized locations, private food stores and
consumer goods specially reserved for the elite, access to Wes
tern culture-aIl of which are not available to the average
Soviet, and which are not acquired by money but according to
one's position in the hierarchy. The privileged include marshals,

admiraIs, managers of large firms, government ministers, presi

dents of the Academies of Science, Lenin Prize winners, emi
nent artists and performers, certain writers and the Party first
secretaries of the regions and republics. l stress this last cate
gory, because in the provinces the authority of these potentates
is particularly evident. The first secretary's power in rus own'
domain is almost unlimited.
It is in the interest of the privileged Soviets not to make an
exhibition of their personal life. If one wants to do weIl, it is
important that one should be 'morally stable'; divorce could
very weIl mark the end of an apparatchik's career. It will be in
a leader's' interest to keep rus wife, even if they can no longer
bear each other, and to seek sexual and amatory happiness
outside rus official life. Naturally rus amorous escapades cannot
remain hidden: the secret police and the governing circles will
be informed. But that is the peculiarity of this double life: it
does not ultimately matter that one's private behaviour is 'dis
solute', since one's official life and public actions are beyond
reproach. And of course an inftuential person has an immense
advantage: he does not have to fear the press or public
opinion . . .
Almost unlimited power and dual standards of behaviour are
the two traits which distinguish the behaviour of the foremost
'builders of Communism'. Moreover, cynidsm is more and more
widespread in these circles. One of my patients, the manager
of a large factory, one day treated me te the following plea
santry: 'Our weaknesses are not grave,' because we recognise
them. As far as l am concerned, l can say that l have lived a
good Communist life for a long time now. That is how scholarly
books define it: Communism is from each according to his
abilities, to each according to his needs!'
The possibility of drawing on State resources with impunity
to make use of secretaries, second-rate actresses and waitresses
as if they were brothel girls distinguishes the affairs enjoyed by
the higher echelons of Soviet society from those which the
Western elite may have with their subordinates. Their judicial
impunity is not absolute, but it is beyond anything known in
the West. To give one of a thousand examples: a judge in
Vinnitsa named Chaikovsky attempted to strangle his pregnant
fiance, who had become an obstacle to his marriage with the
daughter of a government minister in Byelorussia. He was not
brought before justice, but promoted to the post of deputy to

the president of the Supreme Court of the Ukraine. He con- .

tinues to this day to pronounce verdicts in the good city of
Private brothels continue to exist. They are generally set
up in the bosses' luxurious villas. During Khrushchev's reign,
it became known that Alexandrov, head of the propaganda
department of the Central Committee of t,he Communist Party,
and his assistant Tsvetkov, frequented a brothe1 set up in his
dacha by a certain Shein, for second-rank bosses. Young
actresses and sportswomen, as well as prostitutes, were invited
to this villa just outside Moscow. Women who wanted to aid
their husbands' advancement also joined in. The guests included
writers, painters and generals. Naturally these diversions
earned Shein considerable profits. Because of his involvement,
Alexandrov was re1ieved of his post and sent to a university
to educate young people: he became holder of the chalr of
Marxism-Leninism in the University of Frunze!
Sometimes the power they possess intoxicates the members
of the privileged class, and then they exceed the bounds of
decency. In the 1950S Professor van het Reve, who worked as a
Dutch newspaper correspondent in Moscow, was invited with
his wife to a banquet in the town of Orel. The first secretary .
of the region, who was alredy fairly drunk, found the corres
pondent's wife to his liking and undertook to prove it to her,
forgetting that he was dealing with a foreign woman, and a
journalist's wife to boot. The incident almost developed into a
brawl. There was the affair of the celebrated footballer Streltsov,
who was prosecuted for raping the daughter of a Soviet ambas
sador named Yudin: if she had been a girl of more modest ori
gins, the crime wouId perhaps have gone unpunished, or at least
the consequences would have been less grave. But in this case
the footballer had attacked the very caste to which he himself
belonged. Likewise, there was the case of the sons of the famous
writer Fadeyev and of Molotov, who raped and killed a famous
artist's daughter. Fadeyev subsequently committed suicide.
Academicians, too, may be tempted to profit by the power
they possess thanks to their position. The academician Grash
chenkov obliged young female research workers to have sexual
intercourse with him if they wanted to further their career.
One of his assistants slapped his face publicly in the middle of
a scholarly meeting and declared that she would rather give
up her career as a research workei- than serve as a 'sexual door

Naturally, 1 do not daim that thes practices are the sole

form of sex life of Soviets be10nging to the privileged dass. Just
as e1sewhere, their ranks also indude quiet family men. What
1 am describing is typical behaviour peculiar to the form of
power which they possess, and to the type of relations they
may have with their subordinaes. In a society which knows no
law and where, aIl the high-sounding phrases notwithstanding,
one treats one's inferior as a slave, the temptation is always
great to exercise one's modicum of power. Collective-farm
managers, who are after aIl fairly unimportant persons, may
yet be sufficiently powerful sometimes to behave like despots.
There are frequent cases of their obliging the women on the.
farms to sleep with them. When 1 was in Kharkov camp
dozens of prisoners had killed men who had forced themselves
on their wives or fiances. One of the prisoners had killed the
director of his collective farm. His wife worked as a milkmaid
and one day her husband heard her cry. When he reached her,
he found the rurector already tearing off his wife's dothes. He
punched and kicked him to death. It is a revealing detail that
the other milkmaids, who were working nearby, had pretended
not to hear: for them, it was an everyday occurrence.
Stories of this type have even entered into literature. The
Cathedral, a book by the Ukrainian writer Gonchar, describes
a rape committed by a collective-farm brigade chief on a girl
under his orders; she is forced to fiee the village to avoid
ln a village in the Kharkov region, the women were so hard
pressed by the sexual demands of the collective-farm manager
that they took justice into their own hands and castrated the
culprit. They were sent to the camps, which are the subject of
my final chapter.


Sex in the camps

'Classless' Soviet society is divided into three 'classes':

those who have already been in camp; those who are there now;
those who will soon be there. (Taken from Soviet folklore)

The carceral nature of Soviet sexuality is nowhere more ap

parent than in the prison camp. This aspect of camp life is not
usually dealt with in concentration-camp literature. It may be
argued that samizdat authors are concerned with more impor
tant issues, but 1 believe there is a psychological explanation
for their silence on this subject: the virtual interdict on sex has
ultimately affected the entire population, and even the dissidents
may sometimes keep silent out of a sense of sexual modesty.
There are four types of camp in the USSR, of increasing
order of severity. From May 1974 to March 1977 1 was de
tained in Vinnitsa prison, in transit prisons and in camp ITK12 at Kharkov, and 1 have every reason to believe that the
scenes which 1 witnessed are typical of what happens in all
places of detention in the Soviet Union, since the accounts of
prisoners from other camps confirm my own experience.
When 1 arrived at Kharkov camp, 1 was immediately assigned
to the infirmary. The basic role of sick-bay doctors was to 'un
mask' the 'malingerers' and send them to work, even if these
'malingerers' were in fact ill. These doctors were often alarm
ingly incompetent; as KGB functionaries, their obligation was
to the regime and the authorities, not to the sick. They were
delighted at my arrivaI, since my support could be counted on
should they feel obliged to intervene on behalf of a prisoner.
But soon the camp bosses received the order to transfer me to
more arduous work and 1 left the infirmary.
Even so, 1 continued to pursue a certain amount of medical
activity. At first prisoners came to me for advice and 1 wouId
tell them what to do. For example, 1 would advise, a prisoner
suffering from an attack of appendicitis to scream and demand
to be operated on, until he obtained satisfaction, since the

patient ran the risk of being taken for a malingerer and not
being treated seriously. Besides, stomach-aches were generally
treated with the utmost contempt: in 1975 a prisoner named
Sorokin died of an ulcer simply because the doctor refused to
treat him. In addition to these consultations, the head of the
infirmary used to have me come over when she was having
difficulty in establishing a diagnosis or in performing an urgent

Homosexuality in the camps

Concentration-camp sexuality is above all homosexuality.
Through force of circumstance it has become extremely com
mon among prisoners. Of course the authorities refuse to re
cognise its existence, further evidence of the hypocrisy of the
system. 1 discussed the phenomenon on more than one oc.casion
with the camp commandant, his assistants, officers and detach
ment chiefs. AlI the wardens and guards were unanimous that
in our camp, as in aIl other Soviet camps, homosexuality did
not exist. 'Homosexuality is punished here with a11 due severity;
tne penalty may be as much as five years' imprisonment. More
over notices to this effect are displayed in the camp.' 1 got the
same response from the colonels of the inspection commissions
sent from Moscow, Kiev and Kharkov when 1 drew their
attention to the scandaI of rapes in the camp, and to the extent
of homosexuality: 'Rapes? Homosexuality? You're making it
a11 up! In our country homosexuality is severely repressed and
it has no place here.'
Nevertheless, homosexuality in Soviet camps is at least as
widespread as in American prisons, and probably more so. But
the deVations which it engenders are much more terrible. If it
were a question of voluntary sexual relations there would be
cause for refiection, but not for indignation. But one rarely
meets 'real' homosexuals in the camps, men who were homo
sexuals before their imprisonment. 1 knew only one at camp
ITK-12. On the other hand, homosexuality 'acquired' under
constraint, the result of pure and simple rape, of a sordid system
of slavery amongst prisoners-this sort of homosexuality was
the fate of hundreds of prisoners: out of 1,500 prisoners at
least 3 00 were homosexual, though not all would admit it.
How do people become homosexual in Soviet camps?
On 9 April 1976 Anatoli Shalapukhin, aged thirty-six, threw
himself under the wheels of a lorry. He had been attacked by a
gang of six common criminals who had gagged him, dragged

him into the camp baths and raped him. Afterwards Shalapuk
hin committed suicide.
In February 1977 Sivtsov, a twenty-year-old worker from
Kharkov, was savagely raped by twelve prisoners. But the rape
of Sivtsov had another, more basic, reason: the camp authori
ties found him refractory.
This brings me to an important aspect of homosexuality in
the camps: the officers and their NCOs use rape as a threat. 'If
you try to be clever, or if you complain too much, we'll throw
you in a ceU, and you'U come out a pederast.' In my camp
Captain Zakharchenko would use a slang term to designate this
new form of punishment: 'We are going to "pederastise" you
(opederastim tebia).' In a samizdat document the dissident
Aleksandr Bolonkin describes how he suffered this kind of
treatment in prison at Ulan-Ude. The examining magistrates
threatened him with torture, rape. and even death to obtain a
confession. He was put in a ceU with a man named Oleychik,
who admitted to him that he had been put there for a 'special
mission' and threatened him with rape and murder.
To caU someone a pederast is the worst of insults. One day
an NCO hurled this epithet at a prisoner. So keenly was the
insult felt that the latter rushed at the man with an iron bar,
which earned him a further ten years in camp for recidivism.
Once sodomised, the victim is termed a pederast and becomes
the object of hatred and general disgust. At the same time, there
is no question of his being able to refuse to 'offer his ass', to
use prisoners' jargon. As a doctor, I was caUed to the infirmary
more than once to treat these wretches. The criminals never
missed an opportunity to vent their hatred and to 'assert them
selves' at the expense of the pederast scapegoats; they would
spit in their faces, beat them and literaUy trample them under

Untouchables and degraded persons

In the camp, pederasts form a caste of 'untouchables'. This
segregation is the work of the prisoners themselves, with the
tacit agreement of the authorities. I should mention in this
connection that the internaI organisation of the barracks-the
assignment of beds and even the construction of a partition
are decided by the prisoners, who have their own barrack-room
chiefs and brigade chiefs, and to sorne extent have a form of
self-governmen t.

While the guards are perfectly aware of the caste system,

they feign complete ignorance and offer no interference. In each
barrack there is a part carefuUy separated from the rest and
reserved for pederasts. In the refectory they eatO at separate
tables. The pederasts have their own places in the lavatories
and in the washrooms special taps are reserved for their use.
They are forced to perform the hardes t, dirtiest work, most
injurious to the health: at ITK-I2 they made caterpillar run
ners for tanks. This is assembly-line work, with only a roof for
shelter, and in winter it becomes a veritable Calvary.
The caste system is very strict and very rarely questioned.
The rape victim himself drags his bed into the isolated section
of the barrack, joins his companions in misfortune at their
table and begins working with them. He has changed caste
Is it not extraordinary that the rapist who sodomises his vic
tims may do it with total impunity: he is not a real homosexual,
but belongs to the caste of 'normal' people and is even admired.
On the other hand, the wretch who has been raped immediately
descends into the camp heU and loses his status as a human
Apart from the pederasts and 'decent' prisoners there are
the 'degraded' prisoners (opusrivshiesya). These are prisoners
who have had contact with pederasts. 'Contact' here does not
mean sexual relations: once again, the role of the active homo
sexual retains aIl its prerogatives. On the other hand, it is
enough to sit next to a pederast, even if one is unaware that
he is one; to accept a cigarette from him; or to touch him
hence the name 'untouchable'. These contacts suffice to place
an imprudent person in the 'degraded' category; henceforth,
confined within this category, he can eat only with them.
Here, too, the police are marvellous at exploiting camp law.
Blashchuk, a somewhat too refractory prisoner, needed to be
brought into line. Soon three degraded prisoners attacked him
in exchange for the promise of being al1oed to receive their
food parcels. And after this 'contact' the unfortunate Blashchuk
himself became one of the degraded.
1 know of only one case where the law of untouchability
acted in the pederasts' favour. That day 1 was witness to a verit
able revoIt. A barrel of soused Norwegian anchovies had been
delivered to the camp. The system of distribution was very
simple: the prisoners queued up and each was served in turn.

This time the pederasts had been given the word and they
;oined together to force their way to the front. Hitting and kick
ing, they drove aIl the other prisoners back and succeeded in
getting ahead of everyone else. The trick worked: after the
pederasts had touched the fish, no one else dared eat it.
The canlp authorities' complicity is apparent in their total
indifference to the incredible violence and bullying to which
the pederasts and untouchables are sub;ected. In fact they
themselves systematically make use of the rapists to eliminate
troublemakers. In January 1977 the pederast Kosolapov was
knifed to death at camp ITK-12 for refusing to 'offer his ass'.
The savagery of this act upset me less than' the authorities'
complete indifference to the murder of an innocent person.
Homosexuality in the camps is not merely codified by the
caste system. It finds additional 'legitimacy' in the existence of
harems run by real entrepreneurs. In my camp it was a certain
Volga, an enormous fellow of thirty, who owed his privileged
position to his strength and guile. The sexual act cost one rouble,
a tin of food or a packet of cigarettes. The price could reach
five roubles for particularly prized pederasts. Sex with sorne of
them cost ten roubles-when sodomy would be followed by fel
The pederasts were known only by women's names: Zhene
chka, Svetochka, or even affectionate nicknames usually given
to country girls: Yagodka C'my little berry'). Men would say:
'Come on, let's go and see Volga.' Volga would receive the
client, be paid and say: 'Wait, she's coming' Cbecause pederasts
were always spoken of in the feminine). Then Volga would go
and find the person, who was basically a prostitute. Sometimes
the latter would refuse-perhaps he had had a dozen clients the
day before. In such cases, Volga never beat around the bush: a
solid punch in the face and 'Go on, get on with it! ' would do
the trick
Volga's brothel was not the only one in camp, but it was the
principal one. The acts took place in washrooms which the
prisoners called 'fuck-rooms' Cebalnik), and also in the barracks,
even in broad daylight: a few blankets hung up as a screen
sufficed. The washrooms were located in a separate building
consisting of two rooms, each with ten taps. But prisoners never
went to wash in the room occupied by the harem, except as
Sorne of the prettiest pederasts never entered the harem: they

were chosen by camp leaders and became their minions. Natur

aIly their lot was better than that of the ordinary pederasts:
they were better fed and better treated. The money and goods
acquired by these dealings were shared out as foIlows: part
went to the pederast; part was spent on purchases for the 'good
of the community'; and of course part went to Volga. If, for
simple mortals, relations with the pederasts cost money, Volga
himself could sodomise them aIl at will and free of charge. No
one had the right to refuse him. He was in a way the guards'
equal; they could also sexually abuse prisoners with impunity
and free of charge, as often happened.
Homosexuality in the camps has led to the spread of venereal
diseases, principally gonorrhoea, which can be transmitted via
the anus. 'Watch out,' the prisoners used to say, speaking of an
infected pederast, 'she has the hot-piss! '
What becomes of passive homosexuals after aIl this rough
handling? The majority gradua11y lose a11 diginty. Most of them
wear the stiff mask of suffering. Sorne become used to their
condition and derive a certain pleasure from it. Others ultima
tely see a material advantage in it: part of the profits from the
brothel go to them.
Usua11y prisoners who have entered the pederasts' caste never
regain a normal sex life. What is truly extraordinary is that
they have special days reserved for them to meet their families.
Prisoners have the right to receive vists from their family in
special places provided for this purpose. They are summoned
on the appointed day to meet their kin (in principle, a maximum
of twice a year). But there was no question of the pederasts
being able to see their families on the same days as other
1 believe that if the equilibrium of the untouchables' sex life is
destroyed, it is not so much that these unfortunates enjoy passive
homosexuality; it is rather that they internalise the degradation
to which they have been subjected and become incapable of
having heterosexual relations and a normal family life.
What is striking is the contrast between them and their tor
turers, the active homosexuals, who often continue to have
homosexual relations after their release. But fundamenta11y, for
Volga and his like, homosexuality is merely an amusement and
a source of income and power. They boast of their exploits
publicly and feel no shame. If the opportunity presents itself,
they have heterosexual relations. For them pederasty is a way

of passing the time; they feel within their rights because they
are deprived of women.
To be sure, every c10sed society has rigid hierarchies, but the
laws which govern the sexual castes in the camps are of an
absolute1y incredible scrupulousness, harshness and savagery.
In analysing the phenomenon, one can find therein a microcosm
of Soviet society. Mutatis mutandis, the kingpins of the under
world behave towards the pederasts and degraded as do the
privileged towards their subordinates, who for them are nothing
but human livestock. Closed, rigid and impenetrable castes are
likewise typical of the USSR, where the privileged group them
selves in a very closed milieu. Finally, the process of instan
eous downfall and loss of status likewise recalls the manner in
which an ordinary Soviet citizen may suddenly be overtaken
by the greatest misfortunes when the State swoops down on
him, automatically entailing the surrender of his entourage, his
colleagues and. his professional circ1e, so that he is henceforth
avoided like a pariah.
Political prisoners
There is one 'caste in camp which 1 have not yet mentioned:
these are the 'political' prisoners (an unofficial name, since in
the USSR the concept is not recognised). The latter join no
group and control their sexual needs more than ordinary crimi
naIs. The authorities endeavour to mix the two, but the mixing
remains formaI. In fact in the camps great value is gttached to
knowledge and learning. The prestige of being a doctor brought
me dozens of questions ranging from: 'Who is Aphrodite?' to:
'How much longer is the Soviet regime going to last?' The
respect the politicals attract renders more difficult the authori
ties' old tactic of setting against them the ordinary prisoners,
who are less and less sympathetic to their propaganda.
Finally, as 1 have already indicated, homosexuality and the
caste system are to be found in aIl Soviet concentration camps.
They are old traditions. According to Valry Chalidz, at the
beginning of the 1920S one still seduced young men, even if one
subsequently despised them. But during the 1930S and '40s,
homosexuality became much more common and assumed to
day's violent forms. It was under the threat of a knife that
prisoners would henceforth be 'seduced'. Moreover, the fact
that very young lads are condemned to forced labour along with
old criminals has greatly encouraged these practices.

The right ta visits

Can prisoners satisfy their sexual needs with women? Have
they the right to meetings with their wives if the latter are not
themselves in prison? In principle, yeso Married prisoners have
the right to receive visits from their spouses, according to what
kind of camp they are in and also the good will of the wardens.
At camp ITK-12 we legally had the right to four visits a year:
two of short duration, 'across the glass', and two others when
the couple are entitled to spend a day in one of eight rooms in
a building specially provided for that purpose for the 1,500
prisoners. The legal term was from one to three days, but in
practice only informers were authorised to stay more than one
day. In the two most severe types of camp these visits of long
duration are limited to once a year or done away with com
The administration creates aIl sorts of obstacles to these visits
and cancels authorisations on the slightest pretexta A prisoner's
wife had obtained a divorce, as she had the right to do (divorce
is granted by the court if the spouse's sentence exceeds three
years' imprisonment), but the woman wanted to continue to
visit her ex-husband to help him. She was prevented from doing
so: only the legal spouse has this right, not a fiance or a
There are cases of rape on visiting days. On 26 June 1976
a 23-year-old prisoner, who had already been in camp five
years, attacked and raped a woman who had come to visit her
The guards make the prisoners' wives undergo aIl sorts of
humiliations, whieh is one more way of creating obstacles to
the visits. The Ukrainian writer Svetlichy, a political prisoner,
writes in a text circulating in samizdat:
'My wife came to visit me in September 1973; she was not simply
searched, but completely stripped, forced to squat, and so on; in
short, she was submitted to extremely humiliating procedures. The
political prisoner Antoniuk's wife experienced the same treatment.'

My wife too had to undergo these humiliations, like the wives

of a11 the political prisoners. Prisoners' wives are sometimes
the victims of rape by the guards. One day a prisoner mortally
wounded his wife with a knife after a guard had told him
the height of sadism-what had been the priee of the visita

ln 1976 my camp learned that two officers, Major Glievoy,

the second-in-command at camp ITK-12, and Major Pyato
chenko, had raped a prisoner's wife. They abused her odiously:
not only did they not keep their promise to grant her a visit and
to transmit a parcel to her husband, but they drove her outside
town, raped her and then abandoned her in an isolated spot.
Major Glievoy was not imprisoned, but promoted: before the
rape, he had been a captain.
The authorities' arbitrariness and sadism when it cornes to
authorising visits is downright revolting. At camp ITK-12 one
of the prisoners lost bis wife. He requested permission to be
present at her burial, or at least to be allowed to look at her in
her coffin one last time. The bosses proved 'generous': the
procession passed by the prison windows.
There were many cases of sadism at camp ITK-12, and such
practices can never be sufficiently denounced. The camp com
mandant, Major Proshchin, had two prisoners put in strait
jackets and then gave them a thrashing in his office. One
of them was unable to bear this bullying and slashed his wrists.
Just before 1 arrived the camp had been the scene of a revoit.
The prisoners had burned a particularly sadistic NCO. Severa!
of them were condemned and shot.
It was not uncommon for prisoners to mutilate their own
bodies as a sign of despair or protest, and sometimes to make
themselves 'interesting', but it is always difficult to determine
. the psychological motivations of such fearful acts. Admira!
Nikolai Shcherbakov, who was in the Mordovian camps, eut
off both his ears and hurled them in the faces of the com
mandants. Several months later when he was asked the reason
for bis action, Shchedbakov replied: 'When 1 leave camp, 1
want everyone to see what they have done to us.' These volun
tary mutilations often focus on the sexual organs. One of the
prisoners had obtained a padlock and succeeded in suspend
ing it beneath his penis by piercing the skin of one of bis
testicles; then he locked it. By tbis dreadful act, he revealed the
deepest meaning of the mutilations: the prisoner deprived of
liberty and of women no longer considers bimself a complete
human being-he is a castrated being.
Sorne prisoners perform special mutilations on their body.
Many of them are afraid that prolonged imprisonment will
atrophy their sexual functions, and that their penis will shrink.
For fear lest they show themselves not thoroughly 'efficient'

during meetings with their wives, they insert balls of plastic

matter which they caU dumb-bells under the skin of the penis.
Aiter the operation, the penis become formidable.
1 have already mentioned the masculinity comph!x. It is a
symptom of certain mental disorders to believe that one's penis
is atrophying. In camp the prisoners' attention easily turns to
their sexual organs, condemned as they are to inactivity. But
if their sexual functions really do atrophy, in the sense that they
lose their sexual appetite and rarely experience orgasm,
prisoners may suffer from a schizophrenie type of phobia, that
of literally seeing their member grow sm aller.
ln the same connection, a whole study could be made of
prisoners' tattoos. They are done with a pen and .India ink. Most
often pornographie, these designs are full of disgust towards
oneself and the world as a whole. They are executed on the
chest, but also on the soles of the feet, the buttocks and even
the penis. One of the prisoners, a passive homosexual nick
named Valechka (from Valentina, a feminine first-name) man
aged to have female sex organs drawn round his anus. Sorne
have themselves tattooed with inscriptions hostile to the regime,
such as 'Death to Communism! ' They react in this way against
the inhuman conditions created for them. It is also a way of
being sent to hospital and thus escaping forced labour: when
these inscriptions are far too visible, the prisoners have to
undergo operations which may even include skin grafts.

Women's camps
1 am much .less weIl equipped to analyse liie in women's camps,
so 1 shall deal with them more briefly.
The information at my disposaI cornes from samizdat docu
ments and prisoners' accounts. The wife of one in particular
had spent four years in camps and she related the conditions of
her imprisonment when she came to visit him.
The women's camps are much less numerous than the men's.
Originally there were mixed camps where women were simply
placed in special barracks. During the Stalinist period this situ
ation led to brawls, violence, rapes and debauchery. At present
the sexes are kept separate. In spite of everything, mixed camps
gave the men and women an illusion of normal life; now the
loss of liberty is feIt even more keenly and may lead to revoIt.
1 had a chance to observe the women in the transit prisons.
Tbere is nothing more heart-rending than the sight of these


unfortunates suddenly abandoned to the guards' curses and

coarseness in the sordid world of these prisons. In the morning
the wardens take them to the lavatories where they are humili
ated by this male surveillance, and where the dirt and filth are
indescribable, the stench unbreathable.
In the past the camps contained multitudes of women: hun
dreds of thousands in sorne years, according to 1. Kurganov.
These included so-called 'enemies of the people', inexperienced
girls whose imprudence got them denounced for anti-Sovietism,
peasants sentenced for having stolen a few ears of wheat from
the fields, nuns, members of sects . . .
We now know the terrible fate which these prisoners suffered.
The wardens profited from their absolute power to help them
selves cheaply to concubines. Great courage was needed to
refuse: the women who refused rendered themselves liable to
the most arduous work, the worst humiliations, and death pure
and simple. Women who were pregnant, either as a result of
sexual intercourse inside the camp, or because they were al
ready pregnant at the time of their arrest, could bring up their
child for a year; then the child was taken from its mother and
placed in the prison kindergarten.
A samizdat document gives us an example of the bullying to
which the women might be subjected. In Novosibirsk transit
prison a group of twenty women were taken ta the showers
before their departure. Once the prisoners were undressed and
under the showers, they were sprayed with boiling water. The
women pressed against the walls, howling; a moment later,
they were sent ice-cold water, then boiling water again.
'At first,' writes the prisoner, '1 thought there had been a break
down. l began ta poun9 on the door with a11 my might. AIl the'
wardens did was ta burst out laughing. l became enraged: "Open
up immediately!" Water of normal temperature came out straight
away. We calmed down and began ta soap ourselves. Suddenly
everything stopped; the water was eut off. "Get out!" And there we
were with our heads covered in soap. There was genuine hysteria.
We demanded more water. It came. Boiling hot. Then ice-cold. We
began to press against the waIls again, crying and rubbing our eyes.
Then the . door opened: "Get out!" The water was eut off, This
time for good, and we walked out. The girls (for it was mostly
young girls) huddled near the door and howled. We had no ide a
what was going on. The wardens hustled us: "Go on, go on, no
one's going to do anything to you!" The girls began to run along


the corridor. There were wardens and men of the prison service
personnel along the whole length of it. They were there ta ridicule the
poor girls. As for me, 1 had long realised that these shower sessions
were a fine opportunity for these men to satisfy their voyeurism, and
1 had adopted the bad habit of washing myself in my chemise. 1
had already read similar stories in Solzhenitsyn, and 1 had seen
similar scenes in Romm's film Ordinary Fas cis m, but 1 had never
thought that 1 would have the chance to participa te personally in
these amusements.'

As far as 1 know, there is no caste system in the women's

camps. Lesbianism is common and gives rise to the formation
of groups wruch do not have the closed character of. their male
counterparts. There are the zavoily, the 'ring-leaders', the
equivalent of the kingpins and active homosexuals in the men's
camps, and the skoblikhi, the 'scrapers', who masturbate their
companions. Most often, they make a career of it and earn con
siderable sums in that way. But, far from being an object of
contempt, like the pederasts, they are highly valued by the
prisoners as a whole. Even if they may be considered prostitutes,
they do not have to submit to the homosexual slavery of the
men's camps.
In sorne camps lesbians sometimes live in couples. In this
case the roles are strictly separate, and the 'wife' is given all
the domestic tasks: wasrung, housework, etc. The same pheno
menon is to be observed amongst men in the same type of camp.
The pederast is chosen (often by force) from the beginning by
the active homosexual, and becomes as it were rus slave, both
sexually and in the performance of everyday tasks.
My account is but a pale reflection of the sexual misery which
reigns in Soviet camps. One could devote entire volumes to
this subject; perhaps they will be written one day when the
whole truth is known. Three-quarters of the prisoners are men
and women in full sexual maturity. For them, aIl normal life
has been destroyed; the stress of permanent fear and humilia
tion have the gravest effect on their equilibrium, and we can
only begin to imagine the consequences for the country.
The camp is a scale model of Soviet sex life. It has engulfed
millions and millions of people. It is a cancer gnawing at the
body of society, and even in our day, when repression is on a
much less massive scale than in Stalin's time, its disquieting
presence continues to be felt. The camp plays the role of creator
and diffuser of sexual problems-impotence, frigidity, homo215

sexuality, necrophilia, sadism, masturbation . . . Finally, it is in

the camps that the state of slavery to which the Soviets are sub
jected appears in its harshest light, a slavery which contami
nates the whole of life and shackles the freedom of this country
even in the realm of seXe
Moreover, the camp plays the raIe of revealer: it is there that
the hidden aspects of sex come ta light. l have been struck,
for example, by pi-isoners' frankness and cynicism when they
spoke of sexual matters. They related their exploits, bragged of
having raped a prisoner, laughed about a pederast's misfortunes,
went over their tricks. It was just as if, under the inhuman
conditions of the camp, the wall of sexual modesty, restraints
and inhibitions which each persan carries within himself, sud
denly crumbled. For in the sexual realm in the USSR there is
no middle course: in everyday life people do not discuss sexual
questions, but as saon as a man or woman sees himself as a
degraded being, ostracised by society, there is nothing more to
hide, just as there is nothing more to lose. If l conclude this
book with harsh images from the camps, it is not ta create an
atmosphere of horror, but because the camp; far from being
abandoned refuse on the periphery of society, a disagreeable
sore rejected by a healthy body, is in fact nothing less than the
centre of the Soviet system: the horrible funnel into which
one must be sucked ta experience the depths of the slave's
condition. Chemyshevsky, the nineteenth century revolution
ary, said in a moment of pessimism that the Russians were 'a
pitiful nation: from top to bottom, they are nothing but slaves'.
His description is' even more appropriate ta contemporary
Soviet society.


Revolution or catastrophe

When Westerners think of the Soviet Union, they imagine

rockets and tanks, camps, police surveillance and the exoticism
of the churches and peasant cottages; in short, everything but
the Soviets' sex life.
'For their part, when the Soviets think of the West, they
imagine not only the comfort, freedom of expression and the
political life, but above all sex: sexual freedom and the sexual
revolution, pornography and eroticism. Call it what one will,
this is one of the principal fascinations which Western life has

for the Soviets.

The Soviet Union is, if one may so call it, a pre-Freudian

society. The West, on the other hand, seems not only in its way

of thinking but in its morals, to have assimilated the Freudian

revolution. The psychoanalyst's vocabulary has been popular

ised and there is a general interest in the unconscious, whether

individual or collective. This is far from being the case in the
USSR. As l have said, the official ideology daims to give a dear
and definitive explanation of the past, present and future; there
is no room for the existence of an unconscious and Freudian
thought is ignored. But at the same time, this extreme repres
sion of elementary urges, which has lasted for fifty years or so,
may have unexpected results. Paradoxically it makes the USSR
a prime country for Freudian analysis and a1so a volcano which

might one day erupt, perhaps in a liberating way, perhaps

Sixty years of the Soviet regime have in the end tru1y changed
the nature of the people who have to live under it. Just as a

healthy person has to become ill if he wishes to survive in a

lunatic asy1um, so the Soviets are 6bliged to adapt, to mutilate
themselves, to submit to the system which deprives them of
the most fundamental freedoms.
The Soviet man or woman loses aIl facility for initiative and
becomes incapable of perceiving change and that which is new,

for these two qualities are foreign to his way of life. He loses


aIl long-term aims, becornes incapable of lucidity and is no

longer able to envisage his future existence in a responsible
manner. In the same way, he tends to lose his memory in a
society which cultivates the effacement and negation of the
pasto In the USSR differences, opposition and individuality

are sincerely considered to be madness, and that is why psychi

atric internment of dissidents is logical in this system. The
Soviet population lives in a state of permanent hypnosis sub
jected as it is to a monolithic system of propaganda. Disoriented,
frightened, aIl his energies consumed by the absurd and impos
sible struggle to improve his material existence in a world where
everything is in short supply, the de-personalised Soviet citizen
tends, in order to survive, to lose himse1f in the masses, or e1se
he tries to joins the influential c1ass, in which he hopes to find
security. But the privileged who wish to survive must mutilate
themse1ves, do violence to their feelings:

for the distorting

mirror which is the false life of the elite has very strict rules,
aIl the harder to observe as they have no basis in reality, just
as madness has an inner logic which is often diflicult to grasp.
Soviet society endeavours to tear the human being away from
his family and pursues him throughout his life, since in prin
ciple 'one never completes one's education'. Political education,
radio, te1evision and literature are only the cogs of a gigantic
pedagogical machine, 'the most obvious manifestation of which
is Soviet official language, that "wooden language", as it is called,
where words lose their meaning and dissolve into a kind of
impenetrable drone.
\Vhen a Soviet takes his first steps abroad, as has happened
during the last several years with the third wave of emigration,
his loss of will, sense of responsibility and individuality become
apparent. For six to twe1ve months he will generaIly be lost in
a sort of post-hypnotic uance. Trained as he is to obey signaIs
independent of his will and even of his comprehension, and to
know no ind"ependence or any real freedom of action, he will

serve the hard apprenticeship of freedom. He will be obliged to

choose, to seek, to grapple with contradictory opinions and if
necessary to fight to live, instead of having a pre-arranged and
guaranteed prison life.
Under a system of social hypnosis the repression of sexuality

is a necessity, as Orwell realised. Just as the castrati were trained

by an unnatural process to sing with the timbre required of
them, so the totalitarian system needs to crush eroticism, stiffe


love and control the basic sexual urges in order to make men

and women speak the 'wooden language'.

Surveys by American researchers Masters and Hite indicate

a recent tendency to be uninterested in sexua1ity. But this ten

dency can doubtless be explained as an inverse reaction to the
sexual revo1ution of the 1ast decade. In the USSR asexuality is
a product of sexual repression, a genera1 10ss of appetite which 1
believe poses a very serious threat to the very survival of the

Russian people.

However, the younger generation is beginning to question the

value of the family as imposed by Commurust morality. Pre
marital sexuality and the steady increase in the rate of divorce
and abortion (in Moscow at present, there are nvo abortions to
every birth) are a cause of uneasiness to the authorities, who
see in them a threat to the equilibrium of society. This uneasi
ness stems not only from the desire to control the private life
of the population, nor even amdety in the face of a declining
birthrate which will lead to a decrease in the work force and
endanger the Soviet economy; the authorities are above all
anxious because here is the impetus for freedom, albeit \vild or
anarcrucal. Lerun said that if freedom of trade were allowed,
even for small businesses, and if the peasants were allowed to
produce and sell without a strict control over production, these
economic forms of life would inevitably lead to the restoration
of capitalism. By the same token, every impetus for freedom in
the sexual domain is unacceptable because its example may be
contagious. In the West the young focus their attacks on com
fort, tradition and conventions. In the USSR sexual licence is a
way for youth to affirm its will to live and to struggle against
apathy and loss of identity. The revolt may also take the form
of a refusaI to consume alcohol before sexual intercourse, making
love in broad daylight and not in the dark as is customary ...
That is why certain Soviet sociologists' assertions that the

phenomena described are a consequence of the decline of

traditional peasant morality must at least be treated with caution.









destroyed during collectivisation, at the beginning of the 1930s.

The sexual revolution in progress is not a result of the urbani
sation of the peasants, but of

desire to find natural and normal

forms of sexual life. Wishing to reject the imposed norms, part

of the Soviet population is looking for a new image and moral

ity of love and sex. For the moment trus image most often


assumes the cynical aspect of licence and nihilism. The future

will reveal what new forms it holds in store for us.
One thing is certain: Soviet society is now living on a powder
keg, and among the elemental forces contained in it, the sexual
urge is not the least explosive. A catastrophic explosion or a
liberating revolution in ways of thinking and behaviour: that is
the alternative which stands out more and more c1early in. the
gloomy landscape of the Soviet Union today.

Paris, January 1979


Octobriana: . an example of erotic samizdat

During the 1960s a Group for Progressive Political Pornography

was formed in Kiev. They published in an amateur way a car
toon strip (largely infiuenced by the celebrated BARBARELLA)
with a satirical slant emphasising the rebellious character of the
undertaking. Here are several examples chosen from the volume
which Peter Sadecky has devoted to this group (Octobriana and
the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky and Tom Stacey,
Ltd, 1971, Collection Del Duca).


Lett: An experienced girl knows that a wel/-placed and

wel/-bound edition of Karl Marx can bring more than just
intellectual pleasure

Here we find Lenin's famous reply to the Mensheviks,

who had declared that a single party could not govern Russia.
party (3).'
'There is (1)
such a (2)

Octobriana. dances under che influence of drugs