Women in War

In this article we will try to talk about girls warriors and women soldiers, information about which with an enviable frequency pops up in historical sources from different countries, often causing a sense of bewilderment, but sometimes - and genuine admiration. We will not talk about the enforced execution of military duty: it is clear that during the sieges of cities, sooner or later, women stood on the walls with weapons in the hands, replacing the dead men. And let's not talk about women whose military exploits were only an episode in stories States in which they appeared. Among these women were heroines of a truly epic scale, like Joan of Arc. There were adventurers who came down from the pages of adventure novels: for example, Cheng Ai Xiao, who, after her husband’s death in 1807, led a pirate fleet of several hundred ships, or who lived in the 16th century, Grace O'Malley, who had 20 pirate commanders ships. And there were - vaudevil characters, like the notorious cavalry-girl N. Durova, who (by her own admission) had killed a living creature for all the years of her military service only once, and the innocent goose became this unfortunate victim. What else was useful for this person when she was away from killing a goose while serving in the army, and how this masquerade brought benefits to the country, we can only guess. No, we will talk about women who chose military craft voluntarily and deliberately, and participated in the battles as part of purely female military units. And we, of course, will have to begin this article with a story about the Amazons. If only because the mark left by them in art and in world culture is too large and significant to be allowed to ignore.

Johann Georg Platzer, Battle of the Amazons

The legends of the Amazons are many thousands of years old. Most scholars are skeptical of the stories about them, only a few researchers believe that they reflect the memory of the matriarchal period. And there are quite a few enthusiasts who are convinced that unstable tribal formations consisting of women alone for a short time nevertheless arose in different parts of the world, giving rise to the legends about beautiful female women that have come down to our time. It is necessary to recognize the opinion that the Greeks, in their history, indeed, faced tribes in which women fought on a par with men.

Women in War

Franz von Stuck, Amazon and the Centaur, 1901

According to the most common version, the name of the Amazons is derived from the Greek phrase a mazos (without a breast). This assumption is based on the legend, according to which each warrior burned or cut out her right breast, which, allegedly, prevented the bow string from being pulled. However, the origin of this legend later and to ancient Hellas, whose citizens considered the Amazons to be very real inhabitants of the Black Sea coast (Ponta Evksinsky), this version probably has nothing to do: the Greek artists never portrayed the breastless Amazons. Therefore, supporters of the Greek origin of this word were asked to treat the particle “A” in this phrase not as negative, but as amplifying. It turns out "buxom." Supporters of the third version drew attention to the fact that the warlike virgins are often mentioned in close connection with the cult of the virgin goddess Artemis and suggested that another Greek phrase be considered to be the primary principle: a mas so - “unaffected” (to men). To many historians, the fourth version of the nickname of virgin warriors seems convincing, according to which it comes from the Iranian word Hamazan - “warriors”. This version is supported by the fact that, according to all sources, the Amazons lived on the territory of nomadic tribes, and they themselves fought exclusively on horses using Scythian weapons: small spears, bows and double-blade axes (Sagaris). In the early images of the Amazons appear in the clothes of Greek style.

Amazon, image on kilik

However, in later drawings, they are dressed in Persian style and wear tight-fitting trousers and a high pointed headdress - "Kidaris".

The most famous Amazonian Greek mythology is Hippolyta, in which Hercules stole the magic belt (9 feat).

Hercules fights with the Amazon, black-figureed hydria

In addition to Hercules, the winner of the Chimera and the tamer Pegasus Bellerophon and the famous Theseus also fought with the Amazons. In the latter case, it came to the siege of Athens, which gave rise to a separate and very popular genre of ancient Greek art - “amazonochia”, that is, the image of the battle between the Athenians and the Amazons.

Amazonomachy, Ancient Roman Sarcophagus

Information about the Amazons can be found in more serious sources. So, in his "History" Herodotus calls the city of Themischirians by the Fermodon River (modern Turkey) the capital of the state of the Amazons.

Herodotus called the city of Themiskira in the territory of modern Turkey as the capital of the Amazons

In his writings, female warriors are called “androctones” (“murderers of men”), this historian considers the Sarmatians to be descendants of Scythians and Amazons. According to other sources, the Amazons originally lived on the shores of Lake Meoti (Sea of ​​Azov), from where they came to Asia Minor, founding the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna (modern Izmir), Sinop, Paphos. Diodorus Sicilian reports that the Amazons lived near the Tanais (Don) River, which got its name from the son of Amazon, Lysippa, who died in it.

Diodorus of Sicily believed that the Amazons lived near the Tanais River

However, this testimony contradicts Strabo's story that the Amazons, who talked with men only once a year, kept only girls for upbringing. The boys, according to one version, they were sent to their fathers, on the other they were killed.
Homer’s story of the participation of the Amazons (“anti-airies” - “those who fight like men”) in the Trojan War on the side of the Greeks’s opponents may seem less significant. However, it should be remembered that in ancient Hellas never doubted the historicity of both Homer and the events described by him. Readers believed every word of his works, any fact that fell on the pages of the Iliad or Odyssey was considered historical. The famous historian Herodotus argued that Homer lived for 400 years before his own time (which can be considered the middle of the 5th century BC.), And the Trojan War occurred for 400 years before Homer. And another great historian, a contemporary of Herodotus Thucydides, devoted three chapters of his fundamental work to comparing the Trojan War with the Peloponessian. It is interesting that at the end of the XX - the beginning of the XXI century. in the north of Turkey in the province of Samsun were found large female graves. Bows, quivers, daggers were found near the remains of the bodies, and an arrowhead stuck in the skull of one of the dead. Around the same time, similar burials were found in Taman.

At a later time, Amazons appear in the camp of Alexander the Great: the queen Talestris arrived at the head of the 300 of her tribesmen on a peaceful visit to the great conqueror. Many researchers consider this visit to be a carefully staged performance, the purpose of which was to make an impression on the Persian satraps and leaders who had been subjugated by the tribes who had passed into the service of Alexander. Roman commander Gnei Pompey was less fortunate, because during one of the campaigns, the Amazons allegedly fought on the side of his enemies. Most historians, again, do not trust the words of Pompey, arguing that, mentioning the Amazons, he sought to improve his status and give the usual march a truly epic scope.

Gnei Pompey, bust

Once again the Romans met with the Amazons not in Asia, but in Europe. Those were the very real women of the Celtic tribes who took part in the battles on a par with men (in Ireland, this custom was maintained until 697). Tacitus claimed that in the army of the queen of the tribe of the Icenes, who led the anti-Roman uprising in Britain in 60 BC, there were more women than men. And in the Scandinavian countries there was a custom according to which a woman who was not burdened with a family could become a “maiden with a shield”. The Danish historian Saxo Grammac said that in the battle of Bravelier (around 750), the troops of the Swedish king Sigurd Ring and the Danish king Harald Gildendand fought X-Men with a shield on the side of the Danes. And "their shields were small, and their swords were long."

Saxon Grammar, who reported on the "Maidens with Shields" in the army of the Danes

Later, Christopher Columbus had a chance to meet the Amazons, who called the islands discovered by him Virgin because of a crowd of belligerent women who attacked his ships. The colorful description of the clash with armed women of one of the Indian tribes cost the Spanish conquistador Francisco Orellana dearly: the great river, which he called by his name, was renamed his contemporaries to be the Amazon.

Francisco de Orellana, recklessly announcing his meeting with the "Amazons"

The legend of the Amazons of South America for a long time agitated the imagination of Europeans. And in the XIX century, the Frenchman Krevo seemed lucky: in the jungle he found a village where only women lived. The discovery did not justify his expectations: it turned out that, according to the customs of this tribe, rejected husbands lived in this village.

A funny story happened in Russia during the reign of Catherine II. Talking about the settlement of the Crimea by the Greeks, Potemkin got too carried away and, telling about the courage of the new colonists, agreed to the fact that their wives, allegedly, on a par with men, took part in the war with the Turks. The intrigued empress wished to see these heroic women. As a result, the commander of the Balaklava regiment Chaponi was ordered to make "an Amazon company of noble wives and daughters of the Balaclava Greeks, including one hundred persons." The wife of one of the officers of this regiment, Elena Shilyandskaya, who was given the rank of captain, was appointed to command her.

Let's stop for a minute to realize this striking fact: “Potemkin Amazon” Elena Shilyandskaya became the first female officer in the Russian army!

For several months, the Amazons learned horse riding and the basics of military affairs. Finally, in May 1787, they were bred for a meeting traveling to the Crimea to Catherine II and the Austrian Emperor Joseph II accompanying her. Their military uniforms were exquisite and incredibly stylish: a velvet burgundy skirt with gold fringe, a green jacket also trimmed with gold and a white turban with an ostrich feather. The success of this masquerade surpassed all expectations, but most impressed was Joseph II, who unexpectedly kissed Shilyand’s lips, and this act deeply angered the respectable officers' daughters and wives depicting Amazons, which, however, fit into the framework of the legend. “Attention! What were you afraid of? After all, you see that the emperor did not take away my lips and did not leave me his, ”- with these words, according to eyewitness accounts, Shilyandskaya brought order to his subordinates.

Emperor Joseph II, outraged by his immoral act of the chaste "Amazons" of Prince Potemkin

After the departure of the Empress, the Amazon Company was disbanded. Shilyandskaya lived to 95 years and, since she was listed as a retired officer, was buried in Simferopol with military honors.

The last Amazons lived probably in Africa on the territory of modern Benin. The “Kings” of Dahomey were considered living deities, the “Abomeian Lions,” “Brothers of the Leopard.” In order to prevent Europeans from entering Dahomey, roads were not deliberately built in the country and river channels were not built. Have you already remembered the movie "Black Panther"? Alas, there were no advanced technologies in Dahomey, but there was a cult of various spirits, it was he who became the basis of the Voodoo cult in Haiti. In the 17th century, the third ruler of Dahomey, Aho Hoegbaj, created a powerful army, thanks to which he was able to seize the neighboring kingdoms and create a state that existed until the end of the 19th century. The core of this army were female military units. Themselves, these women called N'Nonmiton - "our mother."


British researcher Richard Barton, who saw the “black Amazons” in 1863, reported: “These women have so well developed skeleton and muscles that sex can be determined only by the presence of breasts.” It is believed that one of the leaders as a bodyguard took to his group "gbeto" - elephant hunters. Being impressed by their high fighting qualities, he later created women's squads in the field army. The girls in N'Nonmiton were recruited (and immediately gave them weapons) from eight years old; they were first armed with spears, knives for close combat and long blades on a pole, and then also muskets. Moreover, at the end of the 19th century, King Behanzin bought cannons in Germany and formed a detachment of female gunners. It was believed that N'Nonmiton are married to the king, but, as a rule, remained virgins.

Dahomean amazon

The status of N'Nonmiton was very high — each of them had personal slaves, including captive eunuchs. At the beginning of the XIX century, the number of women in the army reached 6 000 people. In 1890, after long and bloody battles, the French Foreign Legion conquered Dahomey, most of the Black Amazons died in battles, the rest were dispersed to their homes. The last of N'Nonmiton died in 1979. In modern Benin, N'Nonmiton is still remembered: during holidays, women dress up as soldiers and perform a ritual dance imitating a battle.

Attempts to create separate female military units were undertaken during World War I, and in Russia. A total of 6 women's combat formations were created: the 1th Petrograd Women's Death Battalion, the 2th Moscow Women's Death Battalion, the 3th Kuban Women's Shock Battalion; Marine women's team; Cavalry 1-th Petrograd battalion of the Women's Military Union, Minsk separate guard squad. The front managed to send the Petrograd, Moscow and Kuban battalions. The first of these was best known under the guidance of M.L. Bochkareva. The bulk of the soldiers at the front took the appearance of these units, to put it mildly, negatively. The front-line soldiers called the "shock women" prostitutes, and the Soviets of Soldiers' Deputies demanded that the battalions be disbanded as "completely unsuitable for military service."

“There is no place for a woman in the fields of death, where horror reigns, where blood, dirt and hardship reign, where hearts harden and morals become terribly coarse. There are many ways of public and state service, much more appropriate to the woman’s vocation, ”this is the opinion of A.I.

Men's military uniforms sat very poorly on these women, and in the preserved photos they look very ridiculous and even caricatured.

"Udarnitsa" Petrograd Women's "Death Battalion"

However, 9 July 1917, the battalion of Bochkareva joined the battle near Smorgon. After the first attack, he lost a third of the personnel, and Bochkarev herself was seriously contused. This insane attack and, especially, a huge number of at once killed and wounded young women made the impression that the new supreme commander-in-chief, L.G. Kornilov banned the creation of new women's military units. Already created parts were prescribed to be used only in auxiliary areas: security functions, communications, sanitary organizations. After that, the vast majority of disappointed women left the army service. The rest were united in the Petrograd Women's Battalion, one of whose mouths was used to guard the Winter Palace.

The most unpleasant thing was that the women were deceived by summoning a battalion to Palace Square to participate in the parade, and then, when the deception was revealed, they asked one of their mouths to stay, allegedly, for delivering gas from the Nobel plant. According to eyewitnesses, the “women-makers” who realized the true state of affairs did not want to participate in this adventure, and wanted only one thing - to get out of the trap of the Winter Palace as soon as possible. Only 13 of them, who in a company with contempt called aristocrats, expressed a desire to protect the Provisional Government, but were not supported by the other girls. On 10 o'clock in the evening of October 24, the entire company (137 man) laid down their arms. Rumors spread around Petrograd that “they were treated badly” with captive volunteers, some were even raped, as a result of which one of them committed suicide. However, a certain Mrs. Tyrkova, a member of the cadet faction of the Petrograd Duma, appointed to the commission to investigate possible incidents, officially declared: “All these girls are not only alive, not only not injured, but also not subjected to the terrible insults that we have heard and read. Rumors about the suicide of one of the women were confirmed, but it was found out that it was caused by personal reasons.

In late November, this battalion was disbanded by order of N.V. Krylenko. However, it turned out that the former "women comrades" did not have women's clothing, and they were already embarrassed about their military uniform, fearing ridicule, and therefore refused to return home. Then dresses from the students of the Institute of Noble Maidens were delivered from Smolny, and money was allocated for the journey (from the cashier of the abolished “Committee of the Women's Military Union”).

However, during World War II, women still came to the front, and this experience was much more successful. Probably because no one sent the women's “death battalions” to bayonet attacks. In the UK, all unmarried women between the ages of 19 and 30 years were subject to compulsory military service in female support corps. In the women's auxiliary territorial corps, they served as mechanics and anti-aircraft gunners (198 000 people).

British anti-aircraft gunners

British hospital after a raid by the Luftwaffe

It was in this corps that Elizabeth Alexander Mary of Windsor served as the future Queen of Great Britain Elizabeth II.

Year 1945: 18-year-old Lieutenant Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, a driver of the ambulance Auxiliary Territorial Service

In the Women's Auxiliary Service 182 Air Force 000 women served as operators of radio stations, mechanics, photographers, and as part of aerostatic barrier teams.

Photographer of a British reconnaissance aircraft

Pilots of the female service of the Air Force drove the aircraft over a safe area.

British Air Force Assistants

The Women's Navy Auxiliary Service was also organized, and the women who served in it, for some reason, received the nickname "little girl-chicken".

While in Britain women still participated directly in hostilities (anti-aircraft gunners, aerostat barrage groups), then military servicemen formed in the US in the 1942 of the women's auxiliary corps served in the army in non-military posts.

But in other countries it was much more serious. So, Filipina Nieves Fernandez, a schoolteacher, personally destroyed about 200 the Japanese on the island of Leito - she killed them with a special thin knife.

Nieves Fernandez shows Andrew Lupibe, a US Army soldier, how she killed Japanese soldiers

In our country, the 46 th Guards Taman Red Banner of the Order of Suvorov, Third Class, a female regiment made combat missions on Po-2 aircraft and women's anti-aircraft batteries that protected the airspace of Moscow and other major cities.

Raisa Aronova

In less than a year, fighter pilot Lydia Litvyak made 170 combat missions, destroying the enemy's 12 aircraft in person and three in the group, the 1 balloon. 1 August 1943. She died before reaching her 22 year of birth 17 days.

Lydia Litvyak

Thousands of women participated in the fighting as part of guerrilla groups, sabotage and reconnaissance groups. Lyudmila Pavlichenko became the most productive female sniper - destroyed 309 enemy soldiers.

Sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko

Snipers of the 528 Infantry Regiment Polivanov MS (destroyed 140 Germans) and N. Kovshova. (destroyed 167 of the Germans) 14 August 1942 of the year near the village of Sutoki, Parfinsky district, Novgorod region, having shot the entire supply of ammunition, blew themselves up with grenades along with the enemy soldiers who surrounded them.

Snipers of the 528 Infantry Regiment Polivanov MS and N. Kovshova

But all these examples are rather the exception to the rule: modest front-line nurses and field hospital doctors brought much more benefit to the war. Acknowledging their merits, Marshal Rokossovsky said: “We won the war with the wounded.”

Svetlana Nesterova, "Nurse"

And it seems absolutely fair. Because “war has no female face”.
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