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World War Two, also known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union, was a war, even though defined by some of the most evil acts of mankind, was also a war fought out of love: love for one’s country and love for one’s family and significant other. When the war started, an editorial titled “The Enemy Will Be Destroyed” was published in the Leningrad Pravda. It stated, “the war has begun… It has been imposed on us by the bloodthirsty Fascist gang that dreams of world domination, that has enslaved and torments many nations whom they have stripped of their independence.” Many people rallied behind their country to stop the bloodthirsty fascists from stripping them of their freedom. Out of patriotism and the love of their motherland, the Soviet Union was able to gather many willing able-bodied men to fight in this war. Many men went off to war with the idea of their loved one wearing a kerchief waiting for them as they get back, but sadly, for many, that wasn’t the case.
As many men went off to war, the picture of a girl waiting back at home with a kerchief was a common theme of Soviet war propaganda. As seen in the poster above, this idea gave men a face to fight for and made the war more personal. This imagery was used in songs like “My Beloved” and “The Blue Kerchief”. This imagery can also be seen in a later Soviet film “The Cranes are Flying” when Boris is leaving for war and there are many women saying goodbye to their husbands and boyfriends.
The image of a woman wearing a kerchief represented love and separation to the Soviet soldiers. In “My Beloved,” the author depicts his beloved girl waving her kerchief goodbye from the gate as he and his platoon march off. He writes about how he remembers the smile of his beloved girl to help his days pass by quickly and how he carries a picture of her in his pocket. Even though it is a short piece, it clearly depicts the image of a woman with her kerchief while also depicting the author’s feelings for his beloved.
An example of the kerchief representing the separation from loved ones is the song, “The Blue Kerchief.” Written in 1940, it quickly became a hit and it was sung at the Front and in besieged cities. It reminded the soldiers at the front of their loved ones at home and it reminded the citizens in the cities under Nazi control of the soldiers who were fighting for them.
In this piece, the author depicts his loved one wearing a blue kerchief and it falling off as she is waving goodbye to him. He is constantly remembering that image and her blue kerchief and reminding himself that she promised to wait for him. He is also reminded that he and every other machine-gunner is fighting for their loved one wearing the blue kerchief.
Both of these pieces show how the kerchief represented not only love and separation, but also the hope of a loved one waiting for them. After a certain point in war, the desire to defend the motherland began to disappear among the soldiers and they began to cling to the only idea that they had left: to fight for their loved ones. They fought out of patriotism and love for their motherland, but they won by remembering their loved ones at home.
The sad reality is that not every soldier still had a loved one waiting at home when they returned. Many soldiers believed that once they got home, all would be the same again and everything would go back to normal, but for some that wasn’t the case. Due to the stressful conditions of wartime, some women didn’t wait for the men who loved them, like Veronika in “The Cranes Are Flying.”
Ultimately, for many Soviets during WWII, the kerchief symbolized love, separation, and hope for a better future. Many soldiers clung to the idea of their beloved waiting for them at home as they pushed through the war. Even though some went home to find themselves single, this idea got them through the war and ultimately, played a big part in their victory over Germany and the Nazis.
Dolmatovsky, E. and M. Blanter. “My Beloved.” Mass Culture in Soviet Russia. pg. 333. Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1995.
“June 1941: The Enemy Will Be Destroyed.” The Russia Reader. pg. 493-96. Duke University Press: Durham and London, 2010.
Peterburgsky, Jerzy and Yakov Galitsky. “The Blue Kerchief.” Mass Culture in Soviet Russia. pg. 334-335. Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1995.