Family Edict of 1944
FAMILY EDICT OF 1944
This decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet claimed to "protect motherhood and childhood." Amid deep concern for wartime manpower losses and social dislocation, the decree sought to increase natality and reinforce marriage.
The law's best–known provisions rewarded prolific mothers and made divorce more difficult to obtain; its pro–natalism and support for marriage reinforced prewar trends apparent in the Family Laws of 1936. Pro–natalist measures included family allowances paid to mothers regardless of marital status, extended maternity leave, protective labor legislation for pregnant and nursing women, and an ambitious plan to expand the network of childcare services and consumer products for children. Bearers of ten or more living children were honored as "Mother–heroines."
Other provisions tightened marital bonds by making divorce more onerous. Proceedings now took place in open court, with both parties present and the court obligated to attempt reconciliation. The intent to divorce was published in the newspaper, and fines increased substantially. Reversing the 1926 Family Code, only registered (not common–law) marriages were now officially recognized. The state also reestablished the notion of illegitimacy: only children of registered marriages could take their father's name and receive paternal child support.
The legislation had no significant lasting effect on birth or divorce rates. Despite its ambitious goals, promises of augmented childcare services and consumer goods went unfulfilled, given postwar economic devastation and prioritization of defense and heavy industries. The law's greatest significance was perhaps as a manifestation of the ongoing Soviet effort to imbue private life with public priorities.
See also: family code of 1926; family code on marriage, the family, and guardianship; family laws of 1936
Bucher, Greta. (2000). "Struggling to Survive: Soviet Women in the Postwar Years." Journal of Women's History 12(1):137–159.
Field, Deborah. (1998). "Irreconcilable Differences: Divorce and Conceptions of Private Life in the Khrushchev Era." Russian Review 57(4):599–613.
Rebecca Balmas Neary