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Women were even punished with imprisonment: why the USSR banned marriages with foreigners

Yulia PoteriankoLife
Even for a civil marriage with a foreigner, a Soviet woman could end up in prison

Nowadays, marriages with foreigners seem to us to be quite commonplace - the main thing is that the couple has love and mutual understanding, not the correct citizenship of the newlyweds. But in the Soviet Union, this was a punishable offense, and women could go to prison.

OBOZ.UA analyzed the reason for such a strict precautionary measure. The roots of the problem lay in the situation after World War II.

How people ended up abroad during the war

For various reasons, many Soviet citizens met the end of the war outside the country. Some men (and women, too, but to a lesser extent) were part of the Red Army, which was liberating Europe from Hitler's troops. Dating and even marrying foreign women were not uncommon for them.

Women often found themselves abroad during the war because the Nazis took them from the occupied territories to do forced labor in Germany or other countries under their control. These people were called Ostarbeiters. Of course, they also established relationships with locals, which could lead to marriages.

Stalin's law on marriages with foreigners

Meanwhile, the USSR faced a huge demographic crisis after the war. A large part of the population had died, and the country needed labor to rebuild. Therefore, the government decided to bring women home at all costs. Thus, in 1947, a law was passed that equated marriage to a foreigner with anti-Soviet activity and even espionage. Formally, in this way, the authorities tried to protect Soviet women from alleged discrimination abroad, but in reality, they made it impossible for them to stay outside their homeland and even cut off the potential for future travel.

Among other things, the law also provided for the automatic invalidation of marriages that had already been concluded. Women had to leave their husbands and return to the USSR. Failure to comply with these requirements was punishable by imprisonment for a term of 3 to 10 years. Not only women who had entered into an official marriage, but also those who simply cohabited with foreigners were recognized as guilty. This meant that one could be prosecuted simply for having an affair.

At the same time, repressive demographic policies were introduced at the state level. Divorces were made more difficult for Soviet citizens and abortions were banned.

There is a well-known story of the artist Zoya Fedorova. She was in a relationship with an American diplomat to whom she gave birth to a daughter. For this, she was accused of espionage and sentenced to 25 years in prison. She served 10 of them, after which she was pardoned. Actress Tatiana Fedorova was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "anti-Soviet activities" for marrying a foreigner.

The new family code

The situation changed somewhat in 1969, when a new family code was adopted in the USSR. It no 

The situation changed somewhat in 1969, when the USSR adopted a new family code. It no longer contained repressive articles for creating a family with a representative of another country. But this did not make life much easier for women.

First of all, it was almost impossible for a Soviet woman to travel abroad, and thus to meet a foreigner. If she did manage to do so, she had to collect an incredible amount of documents and explain to each authority why she was marrying a foreigner and why, which was very humiliating. And finally, it was possible to register such a relationship only in a few registry offices throughout the vast territory of the USSR, which also served as a significant obstacle.

The legislation left one more possibility for marrying a foreigner. One could renounce Soviet citizenship. But, first, the procedure was also associated with a huge amount of paperwork and bureaucratic procedures. Secondly, renouncing Soviet citizenship automatically meant an almost complete cessation of communication with the family that remained in the USSR. Therefore, women were faced with an almost impossible choice: either to go abroad with their beloved husbands or to keep in touch with their families.

These obstacles were removed only after 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. Only since then, women who married foreigners have ceased to be viewed as traitors to their homeland, and international marriages have become the norm.

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