This research is on the morale of the Forest Brothers – or the Baltic anti-Soviet partisan fighters – between 1940 and 1953. While there has been significant research on why young men and women fled to the forests, there has been little research into why they continued to fight and what helped to uplift their spirits. Morale is a vital aspect of military expeditions and this was no different for the Forest Brothers. Though the dominant theory in the field is that partisan morale came from external forces, I argue that nationalism was a key component in maintaining the partisans’ morale. Through stories of suffering, songs, and general camp-life in the woods, the anti-Soviets were able to remain optimistic and overconfident about their ability to continue fighting off their Soviet foes.
This literature review explores the poor scholarship on the home front of the USSR. By examining scores of secondary sources from both Russian historians and historians focused on the Western Allied Powers, I discovered a dearth of information on the Soviet home front. Not only is there little scholarship on the home front itself, there is almost no mention of the term in Soviet historiography. In order to highlight this glaring omission, I compared the use of the term “home front” in the West versus its use in the Soviet Union and found that the West emphasizes the importance of the home front far more than Soviet historians do. Throughout this essay, I point out the many aspects of the home front that have been neglected by historians, showing the topics that still need to be researched within the field.
In this research, the obstruction of the identities of Lithuanian women from 1940 to 1953 is carefully analyzed through the use of memoirs, interviews, music, propaganda pieces, photographs, academic journals, and other scholarly sources. This project attempts to find common ground among the women who suffered under Stalin and Hitler’s regimes. By comparing the many similarities found among victims of Stalin’s deportations, the Holocaust, and the partisan movements, a set of typical reactions to trauma begin to arise centered around a woman’s identity in Eastern Europe. Lithuanian women, having been forced from their traditional communities and lifestyles, took on roles ordinarily reserved for men while holding on to what little of their former identity as women they had left. In order to survive these harsh attacks on their physical and mental states, Lithuanian women attached themselves to thoughts of home, food, religion, and a strong will to survive. Forming new communities in the Gulags of Siberia, the ghettos of Kovno, and the vast, sprawling forests across Lithuania becomes typical for these women who survived against all odds. The fight for a sense of self did not end with the deaths of Stalin or Hitler. Instead, many of these women silently held the burden of past traumas until their deaths. Humiliation and violence ripped away the former identity of these women, and history has largely left their collective struggles unheard.
Featured above are two samples from the website, showing Anne Martin Wilson Rowe’s gallery of scrapbook scans and an excerpt of writing on Anne Gilmer Martin Stoffregen. This digital project centers on four prominent women from a Fredericksburg family whose stories are told through the scrapbooks they have left behind. Through research, interviews, and digitization of the scrapbooks themselves, this collaborative project encompasses what it meant to be an American woman from the late 1800s to the 1950s. This website was built as a group project for Hist 428: Adventures in Digital History.