Survival strategies in the extraordinary situation: Impact of the Great War upon Family in Slovakia

Stratégie prežitia v mimoriadnej situácii. Vplyv Veľkej vojny na rodinu na území Slovenska

An impact of the war events and war regimes upon the family opens space for comparative studies of social consequences of the WWI and WWII. Survival and behavioural strategies may be another starting point for a study of models of behaviour and mental reactions to extraordinary conditions created by a war conflict. The study focuses on these two schemes and highlights their potential to become universal concepts acceptable for studying an impact exerted by war on a society in general. In her study, the author briefly reviews the current state of research and interpretations of WWI and WWII in domestic and foreign historiography and emphasises the changed paradigm of research (especially that of WWI) – a gradual shift from a political history to socio-political and socio-anthropological kinds of research.
The study develops the issue of family in the Great War at two levels: (a) it draws attention to an immediate influence of the extraordinary war conditions on the family and (b) assesses the significance of the Great War for the process of long-term changes characteristic of the family since the last third of 19th century till the end of 20th century. When compared to the long-term trends of the family development in the 20th century, the writer´s findings concerning the immediate influence of the Great War on the family challenge many traditional opinions. She claims, in agreement with latest research studies currently carried out in Europe, that some of the most striking social and demographic changes, traditionally regarded as consequences of WWI ("crisis of the family" and the weakening of family and gender bonds in a traditional patriarchal society, or the numerical superiority of women over men) can be traced back to the mid-19th century at least. However, the latest research studies have not justified assertions about women entering en masse paid jobs in industry during the war. The latest data obtained in advanced industrial countries provide substantial support for findings from Central Europe showing that women regarded their paid jobs only as a temporary matter. Of much greater and lasting influence on the position of women in society and family was a wider access to education before and during the war. The importance of the Great War for the emancipation of women was in breaking the stereotypes regarding the role of women in society. The decisive factor for changing the position of women in society and family was the democratisation and secularisation of social life in the new post-war regime.
The second part of the study suggests the concept of survival strategies as a universal framework for studying psychological dimensions of war. The study attempts to produce a typology of survival strategies as pursued by individuals and groups (including the family) in response to the imminent threat of death or to the ruining of their social status. Identification of various behavioural models adopted by people in extraordinary war situations enables to partially analyse methods and tactics of survival both on the frontline and in the rear. Moreover, it makes possible to explain specific social phenomena, such as social revolt, conformity, denunciation, xenophobia etc. as well as specific reactions to conditions of isolation, in the case of prisoners of war and inmates, and to the threat of death. This approach may lead to the discovery of universal patterns of human behaviour and to create further platforms for analogies and comparative studies of WWI and WWII.