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Family Code of 1926


In 1926 the Soviet government affirmed a new Code on Marriage, the Family, and Guardianship to replace the 1918 version. Adopted after extensive and often heated nationwide debate, the new Code addressed several social issues: the lack of protection for women after divorce; the large number of homeless orphans (besprizorniki ); the incompatibility of divorce and common property within the peasant household; and the mutual obligations of cohabiting, unmarried partners.

The new Code promoted both individual freedom and greater protection for the vulnerable. It simplified the divorce procedure in the 1918 version even further by transferring contested divorces from the courts to local statistical bureaus. Either spouse could register a divorce without the partner's consent or even knowledge. This provision removed the law's last vestige of authority over the dissolution of marriage, circumscribing both the power of law and the marital tie. The Code recognized de facto marriage (cohabitation) as the juridical equal of civil (registered) marriage, thus undercutting the need to marry "legally." It provided a definition of de facto "marriage" based on cohabitation, a joint household, mutual upbringing of children, and third party recognition. It established joint property between spouses, thus providing housewives material protection after divorce. It abolished the controversial practice of "collective" paternity featured in the 1918 Family Code. If a woman had sexual relations with several men and could not identify the father of her child, a judge would assign paternity (and future child support payments) to one man only. The Code incorporated an April 1926 decree that reversed the prohibition on adoption and encouraged peasant families to adopt homeless orphans, who were to be fully integrated into the peasant household and entitled to land. It set a time limit on alimony to one year for the disabled and provided six months of alimony for the needy or unemployed. It also created a wider circle of family obligations by expanding the base of alimony recipients to include children, parents, siblings, and grandparents.

See also: family code on marriage, the family, and guardianship; family edict of 1944; family laws of 1936; marriage and family life


Farnsworth, Beatrice. (1978). "Bolshevik Alternatives and the Soviet Family: The 1926 Marriage Law Debate." In Women in Russia, eds. Dorothy Atkinson, Alexander Dallin, Gail Warshovsky Lapidus. Sussex, UK: Harvester Press.

Goldman, Wendy. (1984). "Freedom and Its Consequences: The Debate on the Soviet Family Code of 1926." Russian History 11(4):362388.

Goldman, Wendy. (1991). "Working-Class Women and the 'Withering-Away' of the Family: Popular Responses to Family Policy." In Russia in the Era of NEP: Explorations in Soviet Society and Culture, eds. Sheila Fitzpatrick, Alexander Rabinowitch, Richard Stites. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Lapidus, Gail Warshovsky. (1978). Women in Soviet Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Quigley, John. (1979). "The 1926 Soviet Family Code: Retreat from Free Love." Soviet Union 6(2):16674.

Wendy Goldman

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