Pronatalism and the Soviet Union

Pro natalism

After the First World War, empires, both big and small, were trying to rebuild themselves to become stronger. Their economies were extremely weak and their population had greatly decreased due to all of the deaths during the war. Nations wanted their economies to be stronger by increasing industrialization and in order to do this, governments focused on family planning and parenthood.

All of Europe and the Soviet Union were focused on re-boosting their populations looking closely at birth rates. In Wendy Goldman’s text, Revolution and the Family, she goes into great detail about the issues surrounding family planning and parenthood just before the Second World War, specifically in the Soviet Union. The government outlawed abortion, created incentives for child bearing, and made it extremely difficult to divorce your partner. In Russia however, women entered the work force, which increased industrialization, but decreased birth rates. Due to both women and men being outside the house working all day, children were abandoned and neglected at home and would turn to petty crimes. The government then really focused on the family life and required parents to focus more attentively on their children and their education.

The picture attached to this blog is propaganda in Russia trying to get families to have more children. Families that had a certain amount of children were given incentives by the government and the more children you had the more they would pay you. The Soviet Union ran into the issue of there not being enough space for all of the children, especially in detention centers where they were sent when they got into trouble.

Due to strong government opposition and propaganda, birth rates did increase and the Soviet Union did find a complete balance between the work force and families.


Image source:

Children of Russia


This photo depicts a Soviet child sleeping under a communist flag. The rough translation of the caption of this photo is “Grow, heroes! You will save the Soviet Army.” This pro-Natalist propoganda was distributed in Russia after World War II. The population of Russia had significantly declined after the war, and Russia wanted to increase their population. Although this piece of propaganda did not come about until after the Interwar Period, it connects to the thoughts of the Soviet Union during the Interwar Period.

In the reading Revolution and the Family by Wendy Goldman, there is a focus on the children, women, and the Pro-Natalist movement in the Soviet Union during the Interwar Period. The government was very concerned with the decreasing birthrates and lack of potential productive members of society. In order to attempt to increase the Soviet population, the Soviet Central Executive Committee and Sovnarkom outlawed abortion. To deter illegal abortions, there were heavy fines and prison sentences implemented.

In addition to deterring abortion, they also offered incentives to those willing to increase the population. The government would give stipends to new mothers, monetary bonuses for women with many children, and longer maternity leaves for those in the work force. In order to grow the Soviet Union, the government needed to grow their population, just as the propaganda picture above suggests.

Although the time period may change, the need for large, productive populations remains static.


Germany and Pronatalism



(Image courtesy of “Politicizing Pronatalism: exploring the Nazi Propaganda of Women through the Lens of Visual Propaganda”, by Katherine Rossy)


This image, taken from the Nazi party’s magazine for women, Frauen Warte, depicts a mother taking care of her baby daughter while her husband goes off to war. This particular image is from a 1937 issue, two years before World War II began. At this point in history, Germany is Nazi-occupated and Hitler’s power is rising. The picture illustrates clear gender roles that show the woman as a loving creature whose duty it is to make children just as it’s the men’s duty to fight. The Nazi Regime preached pronatalism to those “worthy” enough to reproduce, which was the Aryan race in their eyes. It was these women’s duty to make good German children. While women were getting more and more involved in the workforce, it goes to show that their first and foremost priority, at least as taught by the state, was to heighten the birthrate of the German population. Because of the alarmingly high divorce rates, and this new “modern woman, the state became highly concerned about the now declining birthrate. While this sparked Pronatalism regimes across Nazi Germany, it wasn’t an isolated situation. Several other countries across Europe began to outlaw abortion and contraception to rebuild the importance of the family unit.