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socially acceptable before the war.14 The crucial goal of preserving the fertility
rates, they argued, justi¬ed unsavory references to individual sexual choices.
In Russia, unlike in some countries of Western Europe, fertility remained
high throughout the nineteenth century. But Russian casualties in the First
World War proved as severe as those in Western Europe and, when added to
deaths during the Civil War and ensuing famine, totaled 16 million.15 This
demographic cataclysm provoked concern among Soviet leaders and scholars
and prompted intensi¬ed attention to population statistics. The Central Statisti-
cal Administration compiled detailed monthly statistics on Civil War casualties
for every province and district of the country.16 It also established a commis-
sion to study the effect of First World War casualties and noted that these losses
severely diminished the labor as well as the military capacity of the population.


Quine, 17“18; PRO MH 58/311. The number of births per thousand people in England and
11

Wales fell from 25.5 in 1920 to 14.4 in 1933. See Thane, “Visions,” 99“100.
Alfred Grotjahn, “Differential Birth Rate in Germany,” in Proceedings of the World Popula-
12

tion Conference held at the Salle Centrale, Geneva, August 29th to September 3rd, 1927, ed.
Margaret Sanger (London: E. Arnold: 1927), 154; Soloway, 277. On Canada, see Cynthia R.
Comacchio, “˜The Infant Soldier™: Early Child Welfare Efforts in Ontario,” in Women and
Children First: International Maternal and Infant Welfare, 1870“1945, eds. Valerie Fildes et al.
(New York: Routledge, 1993), 106.
Historians dispute the actual numbers. Richard Bessel argues, for instance, that venereal diseases
13

did not substantially increase as a consequence of the war. See Germany after the First World
War (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1993), 238.
Doctors, educators, health activists, and government of¬cials generally began their speeches
14

and pamphlets on the subject with an apology for the unpleasant and embarrassing subject they
would be addressing. See Annette F. Timm, “The Politics of Fertility: Population Politics and
Health Care in Berlin, 1919“1972” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1999), 83“4.
Ansley Coale, Barbara Anderson, and Erna Harm, Human Fertility in Russia since the Nine-
15

teenth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 16; Frank Lorimer, The
Population of the Soviet Union (Geneva, 1946), 40“1.
RGAE f. 1562, op. 21, d. 3552, ll. 1“20; see also Vl. Avaramov, “Zhertvy imperialisticheskoi
16

voiny v Rossii,” Izvestiia narodnogo komissariata zdravookhraneniia 3, no. 1“2 (1920): 39“
42; Serge Bagotzky, “Les pertes de la Russie pendant la guerre mondiale (1914“1917),” Revue
internationale de la Croix Rouge 61 (1924): 16“21.
Utopian Biopolitics 93

It called “the depreciation of the labor productivity of millions of the most
able-bodied elements of the population,” a matter in urgent need of statisti-
cal study.17 One Soviet professor declared that the Russian empire™s prewar
population of 172 million had fallen to 90 million as a result of wars, famine,
and territorial losses. He equated a large population with national security
and warned that some Western European countries, notably Germany, were
threatening to overtake the population of the Soviet Union.18
Despite horrendous wartime losses, the Soviet Union faced less of a decline
in the postwar birthrate than did the countries of Western Europe. Because
Soviet society was still largely a peasant population in the 1920s, its birthrate
remained high despite the loss of young men during World War I and the Civil
War. Nonetheless, Soviet of¬cials and demographers continued to monitor
population trends closely and were alarmed by the precipitous drop in fertility
that accompanied industrialization, collectivization, and the 1932“3 famine.
The Central Statistical Administration tabulated annual fertility and mortality
rates for every administrative district in the country, so Soviet of¬cials knew,
for example, that there were nearly ten times as many deaths as births reported
in Khar™kov district in 1933, as a result of the famine in Ukraine.19 An extensive
demographic study in 1934 revealed that the Soviet birthrate overall had fallen
from 42.2 births per thousand people in 1928 to 31.0 in 1932. Moreover, S. G.
Strumilin, the author of the study and one of the country™s leading statisticians,
demonstrated that the drop in fertility correlated with urbanization and the
entrance of women into the industrial workforce “ trends that had to continue
if industrialization were to move ahead.20
Strumilin™s other major ¬nding was that among groups in the population,
those with higher wages had lower fertility. Not only did workers have lower
fertility than peasants, but urbanized workers had lower fertility than peasant
in-migrants to the city, and white-collar employees had the lowest fertility of
all. This discovery contradicted previous research that had identi¬ed economic
hardship as the primary cause of low fertility.21 Soviet of¬cials now had to
revise their assumption that the birthrate would rise as material conditions
improved. Increasingly they saw low fertility as the result of women™s choices
to have abortions “ choices made by women who, in their view, could afford

RGAE f. 1562, op. 21, d. 25, l. 17; also Trudy komissii po obsledivaniiu sanitarnykh posledstvii
17

voiny 1914“1920 (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1923).
Prof. K. K. Skrobanskii, “Abort i protivozachatochnye sredstva,” Zhurnal akusherstva i zhen-
18

skikh boleznei 35 no. 1 (1924), as cited in Janet Hyer, “Managing the Female Organism:
Doctors and the Medicalization of Women™s Paid Work in Soviet Russia during the 1920s,” in
Women in Russia and Ukraine, ed. Rosalind Marsh (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1996), 117.
RGAE f. 1562 s. ch., op. 329, d. 21, ll. 125“7. According to of¬cial statistics, the totals for all
19

Ukraine in 1933 were 449,877 births and 1,908,907 deaths; l. 109.
S. G. Strumilin, “K probleme rozhdaemosti v rabochei srede,” Problemy ekonomiki truda
20

(Moscow: Gos. Izd-vo polit. Lit-ry, 1957), 194“8.
Strumilin, 201“4; V. Z. Drobizhev, U istokov sovetskoi demogra¬i (Moscow: “Mysl™”, 1987),
21

22.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm
94

to have children but chose not to out of personal preference. One other factor
that exacerbated the decline in fertility and Soviet of¬cials™ concern was the
abnormally small population cohort that entered its childbearing years in the
mid-1930s. The First World War had not only decimated a generation of
young men, but had greatly reduced the number of children born between
1915 and 1920. It was this reduced cohort that reached childbearing age in
the mid-1930s, even further depressing the birthrate.22 Consequently Soviet
of¬cials became as obsessed with declining birthrates as did their counterparts
in Western Europe.
In addition to its demographic repercussions, World War I also reinforced
social Darwinist ideas about the competition of nations, and the struggle of
races to survive and propagate. Mussolini articulated these ideas most explic-
itly when he declared, “Fertile people have a right to an Empire, those with
the will to propagate their race on the face of the earth.”23 Leaders throughout
Europe linked falling birthrates in the 1930s to a decline in national power.
One Spanish demographer warned that without more children, “Spain will be
reduced, she will shrink, the national economy will be without producers and
consumers; the State, without soldiers; the Nation, without blood.”24 Franco
had the goal of increasing the Spanish population to 40 million within a few
decades and saw this as a means to recapture Spain™s faded glory and world
prominence.25 The Swedish government appointed a population commission
in 1935 following the publication of a best-selling book by Alva and Gunnar
Myrdal which described the falling birthrate as a slow, national suicide.26 And
a range of political leaders and scholars in interwar Romania also believed
that the country™s strength and survival rested on its birthrate and “biological
capital.”27 Population policy and even the motivation to improve reproductive
health care were thus never purely domestic concerns. They always depended
upon international comparisons, and, particularly in totalitarian regimes, con-
cerns about strengthening the birthrate were linked to processes of national
self-de¬nition.
Even before the rise of the Nazis, social Darwinian concerns about the need
to strengthen the health of the population in preparation for international
competition were arguably stronger in Germany than in any other European

E. A. Sadvokasova, Sotsial™no-gigienicheskie aspekty regulirovaniia razmerov sem™i (Moscow:
22

Meditsina, 1969), 28“9.
David G. Horn, Social Bodies: Science, Reproduction, and Italian Modernity (Princeton, NJ:
23

Princeton University Press, 1994), 59. See also Quine, 34; Carl Ipsen, Dictating Demography:
The Problem of Population in Fascist Italy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996),
65“8.
Mary Nash, “Pronatalism and Motherhood in Franco™s Spain,” in Bock and Thane, eds., 163.
24

Quine, 88.
25

Karin Johannisson, “The People™s Health: Public Health Policies in Sweden,” The History of
26

Public Health and the Modern State, ed. Dorothy Porter (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B. V.,
1994), 178.
Maria Bucur, Eugenics and Modernization in Interwar Romania (Pittsburgh: University of
27

Pittsburgh Press, 2002).
Utopian Biopolitics 95

country. But several different types of social Darwinian and eugenic thinking
were prevalent in the Weimar period. There can be no convincing argument
made about a direct line of continuity between the radically elitist and eugeni-
cally interventionist Darwinian thinking of, say, Alfred Ploetz at the turn of
the century and the racial ideology of the Third Reich. Between these two
temporal signposts one ¬nds a diversity of eugenic thought, including a numer-
ically strong and politically in¬‚uential contingent of socialist eugenicists, who
espoused socially progressive and class-sensitive social policies while national-
istically insisting on the need to direct vast government resources to the threat
of population decline.28 Soon after World War I, progressive doctors who were
often af¬liated with the Social Democratic Party were instrumental in creat-
ing the new hybrid ¬eld of social hygiene, with its emphasis on prevention of
national decline and its insistence that medicine and welfare programs had to
attack both problems, declining quantity and quality in the population. By the
time the Nazis came to power, they could build on widespread fears of the
national consequences of a declining birthrate, fears that had been fanned by
an extremely wide diversity of social and scienti¬c “experts” of all political
persuasions. Even socialist reformers like Alfred Grotjahn (the ¬rst director
of the department of social hygiene in the medical faculty at the University of
Berlin) whose explicit concern was the improvement of the lot of working-class
citizens insisted on the higher national purpose of their efforts and the need to
avert impending national decline.29
Nevertheless, social hygienists and eugenicists of leftist persuasions were
pushed to the side or actively repressed under the Nazis (not least because
many of them were of Jewish heritage),30 and eugenics and population policy
in Germany took on a ¬ercely racist tone. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler stressed
the racial ideology that would underlie all National Socialist efforts in the
sphere of reproductive health:

¨
That which today all sides have neglected in this area, the volkische state must
make up for. It must place race at the center of everyday life. It must guarantee
[racial] purity. It must declare the child to be the most valuable product of any
Volk. It must see to it that only those who are healthy produce children; that only
one sin really exists: to bring a child into the world despite one™s own illnesses or


See Michael Schwartz, Sozialististische Eugenik: Eugenische Sozialtechnologien in Debatten
28

und Politik der deutschen Sozialdemokratie, 1890“1933 (Bonn: J. H. W. Dietz Nachfolger,
1995).
On Grotjahn see Karl-Heinz Roth, “Scheinalternativen im Gesundheitswesen: Alfred Grotjahn
29

(1869“1931) “ Integrations¬gur etablierter Sozialmedizin und nationalsozialistischer Rassen-
hygiene” in Erfassung zur Vernichtung: Von der Sozialhygiene zum “Gesetz zur Sterbehilfe,”
ed. Karl-Heinz Roth (Berlin: Verlagsgesellschaft Gesundheit, 1984), 31“56.
In Berlin in 1933, 3,423 of the total of 6,558 doctors were “non-Aryan,” amounting to 52.2
30

percent. The percentage of Jewish doctors in insurance practice was even higher: 59.7 percent.
See Stephan Leibfried and Florian Tennstedt, “Health-Insurance Policy and Berufsverbote in
the Nazi Takeover,” in Political Values and Health Care: The German Experience, ed. Donald
W. Light and Alexander Schuller (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986), 163“84.
David L. Hoffmann and Annette F. Timm
96

one™s own inferiorities, while there is one highest honor: to forgo it. On the other
hand it must also stand as reprehensible to withhold healthy children from the
nation.31

All individual reproductive decisions, Hitler argued, must be directed toward
the goal of strengthening the nation and subordinating individual concerns
to the good of the Volk. Here, as in other statements from Nazi leaders, the
implication was that without this kind of attention to the connection between
individual reproductive decisions and the survival of the race, the very survival
of the nation was threatened.
Soviet leaders also envisioned reproductive competition between countries,
but they conceived of this competition in ideological rather than biological or
racial terms. The Central Statistical Administration compiled annual charts on
fertility, which showed in 1935, for example, that Soviet fertility was higher
than that of all “the capitalist countries” (listing all the other countries of
Europe).32 I. A. Kraval™, the head of the statistics division of Gosplan, argued
that the Soviet Union™s higher fertility proved the superiority of socialism over
capitalism.33 And in 1935 Stalin boasted that because of workers™ improved
material conditions, “the population has begun to multiply much more quickly
than in previous times. . . . Now each year our population increases by around
three million people. This means that each year we receive an increase equiv-
alent to the whole of Finland.”34 Such thinking interpreted high fertility as a
sign of superiority, though in the Soviet case the competition was conceived as
between political systems rather than between races.
Soviet leaders™ sense of reproductive competition differed from that of other
European leaders, because they had a different conception of their popula-
tion. The Soviet Union was a multinational federation, in which all national
and ethnic groups were supposed to be equal partners. According to Marx-
ist ideology, national differences both within the Soviet Union and between
other countries were to disappear over time, as all national and ethnic groups
became merged under socialism.35 Given this ideological orientation, competi-
tion between nations to propagate and dominate other peoples or races made
no sense. Instead a high birthrate among all nationalities in the Soviet Union
would demonstrate the superiority of socialism and help it spread to other
countries.

My translation of a quote from Mein Kampf, cited in “Grundthemen der weltanschaulichen
31

Schulung: Bevolkerungspolitik des Dritten Reiches und ihre Trager” n.d. (an internal educa-
¨ ¨

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