All is Fair in Love and War

Two Soldiers PosterTwo Soldiers”

During World War II, many things were changing, especially gender roles and the importance of romance in the lives of those on and off the battlefield. Because of the war, people were feeling the stress of not knowing if or when they would next see their loved ones. This desperation to find time to show affection “threw people into each other’s arms with a sweetness and sadness rare in less dangerous times” (Geldern).

Individuals were expressing these feelings by writing beautiful poetry and songs. One such instance of this is in the film “Two Soldiers” as depicted in the poster above. In one particular scene of this film, the protagonist, Mark Bernes, sings a lovers’ anthem titled “Dark is the Night.” The song is as much sad as it is sweet, showing a young man’s desire to just be reunited with the one he loves one more time.


However, “the traditional roles that evoked such deep sentiment in songs, films and poems was strikingly at odds with the real life roles that women assumed during the war” (Geldern). Because most men were shipped off to the battlefront, many women took roles in their factories, families, and communities. The Soviet Union also placed women in dangerous roles, something unique to this country at the time. Women took jobs in transporting, combat, and as pilots during the war. Following the war, women did not forget these leadership positions that they played, leading them to help families who were without a spouse.

Because of the romance inspired during and after the war, births skyrocketed, many were illegitimate. The government had previously, in the 1930s, tried to reinforce family life and structure. However, the need for future soldiers and industry workers was evident in the loss of millions of lives in World War II. Because of this great need, the government even enacted a tax that would target families without children.

The effects of World War II are seen in many different manifestations. The increase in romance and love songs might have helped to ease the pain that both men and women were feeling during the war. The increase in these tendencies ultimately lead to an increase in births following the war. Women had seen themselves in more leadership roles that would eventually evolve to be much more. We can see through films and songs that the war created a sense of longing for what one cannot have. During the song “Dark is the Night,” we see the perfect example of man in a dugout with his fellow soldiers, longing to be with his lover.


This post was chosen for a “Comrade’s Corner” award by the editorial team.

workers unite - hammer and keyboard  by worker


12 thoughts on “All is Fair in Love and War

  1. Bree, I loved this post and how you emphasized the tensions that were felt during the war in terms of gender roles. I think it’s really interesting how many songs and poems were written with a focus on traditional gender roles, while women were pushed out of this sphere and into factories during the war. How do you think gender roles will change after the war, and how do you think women will respond to any changes that do occur? Great work!


  2. Hey Bree! I really enjoyed the song you included it was really beautiful. I feel as though after the war the emphasis will be placed on women to become mothers and homemakers.


  3. I think you did a good job showing the stress that war caused on woman on the homefront. Do you think that this rise in romance made the soldiers more dedicated to the war effort or did it have the opposite effect?


  4. I really like your post! It also brings up an interesting issue since like you mentions the Soviet Union was working to enforce that family structure but also were encouraging families to have lots of kids. It must have left illegitimate children in an awkward limbo of being needed for the population but also not falling into the family unit image that the government was trying to hold together.


  5. I really enjoyed your post and the link and image you included. Do you think the emphasis on love led to an increase in morale among the soldiers as they had something to fight for besides the nation? Do you know of any affects this idea of love had on Soviet women and their relationships with love and the idea of family life?


  6. Thanks for writing about this topic! I agree that the focus on men’s longing for women left behind detracts attention from the many combat roles women assumed. This really was an all out war that mobilized everyone. Still, Temnaia noch’ is one of my favorite songs — I think even if you don’t understand the words, the longing and the loneliness come through in simple but haunting ways. And then there’s Simonov’s “Wait for me” — click on the subtitles (cc button) for the English translation. It’s a heartbreaker!


  7. This post was really great. It’s interesting reading about the different generations; it seems like with every revolution someone is that target for something they can’t control such as the size of their family.


  8. Bree,

    This was a really interesting and unique post. You’ve found a way to look at WWII Russia in a very different light than most. I find it very interesting how in the grand scheme of this war, which was brutal, violent, and unforgiving, romance and love still seemed to find its way into the culture of the period. I also agree with your discussion of how the poetry and other media of the time draws attention away from the fact that there were women out there fighting to return home to loved ones too- not necessarily husbands, but children, parents, siblings, etc. Great Job!


  9. I really like this post because I think it gives us not only a different insight into the war itself but to the Soviet front which we typically regard as brutal and emotionless!


  10. This is a really interesting post! The change of gender roles in real life while the media perpetuated a norm of stereotypes is particularly reflective of the disparity between the difference in thought versus that of reality. I wonder why they attempted to hide this change rather than embrace it and re-envision the “ideal family.” Do you think that perhaps this stems from the Russian attachment to tradition?


  11. Bree, I also read this article on the 17 moments site and found it very interesting. I thought your post was a great discussion of the topic, I think it is easy to get caught up in the logistics of war, but that it is also important to learn about what was going on in society at the time. I think it is interesting that in some ways men and women were in these very traditional roles of courtship and romance, but in other ways the gender norms were disappearing as women did work they had never done before.


  12. I thought that the title for your blog was really applicable to the message that it delivered. The way that social roles changed was a huge difference maker in World War Two. The way that society and social roles changed impacted the success of World War Two in a variety of different ways


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