Kateryna Ruban: The Abortion Question in Soviet Modernity

The Abortion Question in Soviet Modernity: A Study of Doctors and Female Patients in a Provincial Soviet Ukrainian Hospital, 1946-1991

Kateryna Ruban’s dissertation explores Soviet public healthcare and the role of doctors in the Sovietization and modernization by focusing on the microhistory of the provincial hospital in Irshava in Transcarpathia (Western Ukraine, incorporated into the USSR in 1946) from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. The project investigates women’s reproductive health care and, particularly, the access to abortions as part of the Soviet-proclaimed women’s emancipation. Looking on the basic level of biopolitics, reproduction of life and its destruction allows to explore the key features of the Soviet project. Kateryna’s interest in the topic was inspired by finding a manuscript of a memoir written by doctor Nina Golopatiuk who worked in the Irshava hospital from 1951 to 1980. Through her and other stories, the project explores what it meant to be a “Soviet” female doctor who came to a region that was in her own words strikingly different, “backward,” and was to become “Soviet” by her efforts. A dichotomy of a Soviet doctor as a professional and political figure demonstrates contested visions of the persistent “women’s question,” the role of women in Soviet modernity. While most of the existing studies of the Stalinist and, more generally, Soviet pronatalism and abortion policies conclude that the state promoted an essentialized view of women as mothers and restricted women’s choices concerning their lives and their bodies, Kateryna shows the changing faces of pronatalism and how both doctors and female patients were active participants, not simply assigned to their roles. The situation with abortions in Irshava is a clear example of such a struggle for redefining of their roles.

Kateryna Ruban

Kateryna Ruban is currently a PhD Candidate in history at New York University. Her dissertation explores Soviet public healthcare, particularly its maternity care and abortions, and the role of Soviet doctors in Sovietization and modernization through a microhistory of a provincial hospital in Transcarpathia, Western Ukraine, from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. Previously she earned master’s degrees in history from Central European University (Budapest) and the cultural studies program at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Her major field of studies envelops all major topics in Soviet history, while parallel interests include critical theory, Marxism, and post-Soviet topics, first of all, memory politics and urban transformations under capitalism. Beyond scholarly projects, Kateryna has published numerous short articles on current political events in Ukrainian and English. Recently, Kateryna has become keenly concerned with the processes of so-called decommunization occuring in Ukraine; she participated in two round tables dedicated to these debates in New York last December.

 


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