Analysis / The Baroness
"The Rosa Klebb" has become etched in the popular culture as the prototypical woman of a totalitarian system, and as the totalitarian systems are gradually vanishing (even the Soviet Union since the Brezhnev years lost the "totalitarian" character) such characters tend to become more or less a Discredited Trope, too ridiculous(ly sexist) to have existed in reality. In practice, while the sexpot version was hardly real (the attitudes over what was sexy and what was not also were different over time - although The Gulag Archipelago in a section on NKVD interrogation techniques did mention a woman who stripped while doing her questioning, it didn't say anything about her appearance), "the Rosa Klebb" was a real character, multiplied by hundreds of thousands, with the slight twist that in Real Life her attitude would be less on the Psycho Lesbian side and more like asexual. And her existence was easily explainable due to the differences between the recent past and present. Generally speaking, even before the pressure of the totalitarian state was felt, the Soviet Union was a pretty depressing place: poverty during and after the Russian Civil War was widespread, the rampages of Stalin's years and later of World War II were somewhere between just horrible and unspeakably horrible, even the victory in the war did little to compensate for them. In such an environment people (and even worse if they are the ones to do the State's dirty jobs) are not the nicest bunch one could meet and if the said environment is conservative and sexist, the pressures placed on a woman to succeed are tremendous. Anyone who is told to do what her male counterparts do and even more to be regarded would become ruthless since you're either ruthless or you're out altogether. And sometimes being out could have easily meant to be six feet under. Also the usual fashions of totalitarian and conservative systems (out of which Communism was just one) went against physical beauty and grooming (not just because the usual poverty, those in power know how to gain the needed goods) and they were harshly enforced by social pressure, so the appearance of the women was not quite top notch even among civilians - the above-quoted women determined to succeed in a typical masculine field had all the reasons to fall in the Brawn Hilda category, even more as they aged.