THE RELATIVELY HIGH PERCENTAGE OF women in politics was an often-cited accomplishment in the countries of the former Soviet bloc. Communist governments took pride in noting that their Soviets had more female deputies than did European parliaments. Yet Western observers of communist societies agreed that women's political participation in those countries was largely symbolic - few women held important decision-making positions, especially in the Communist Party, and most women in politics were chosen primarily to meet quotas and to fulfill the role of model communist women. The joke "How many milkmaids sit on the Central Committee?" was not uncommon.

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