The Bolsheviks made many changes to the face of the Soviet Union, especially the change to children’s education. Stalin and the Bolsheviks wanted to create a strong communist society and what better way than to start from the ground up? As with much of Russian culture and traditions that existed before the Bolshevik regime, the parents of the children were considered too old and too well connected with the old Russia of the autocracy and the Provisional Government. However, children were deemed “malleable.” Therefore, the children of the 1930’s were truly the “Soviet generation.” These children were raised under the eyes of the Bolsheviks and were taught to work for the fatherland.
One year before the Bolsheviks enacted an education program, a document was issued “On Criminal Penalties for Minor Children.” This document was created by the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissaries of the USSR. It states that children who are 12 years or older who are found guilty of “committing thefts, assaults, injuries, mutilations, murder or attempt at murder” can serve the highest criminal penalties, including the death penalty, this is far from a “happy childhood.” This document from 1935 seems to suggest that the Bolsheviks feared a rebellious and resentful youth that could damage the future of their party. In 1936, an document listing the educational goals was passed. The Bolsheviks may have viewed the reformed education as an answer to squashing the possible rebellion of the youth by teaching and raising the children to obey and love the fatherland.
In 1936, The Bolsheviks issued the Program of the Komsomol. The Komsomol was the All-Union Leninist Communist League of Youth who allied themselves with the All-Union Communist Party, or Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks outlined goals for the Komsomol to achieve when educating the Russian youth. Some goals were rather advantageous and agreeable. For example, the Bolsheviks ordered that the Komsomol “render every kind of assistance to the development of university education in the USSR (training of engineers, doctors, agronomists, pedagogues, etc.).” The Bolsheviks also advocated in the document the construction of “sporting establishments,” obtaining equipment, establishing ways to “[inform] school children about the most important daily events [through] various circles, lectures, and talks.” The list in the document follows this pattern well, however, when one reaches the final two parts of the document: “Participation in Socialist Reconstruction” and “Defense of the Socialist Fatherland,” which goes into heavy detail about how education will build a strong communist society that works for the fatherland. The final parts of the program call for the students to develop a “Communist attitude towards labor, a conscientious attitude towards their duties to the Soviet Government.” The Bolsheviks also instructed the Komsomol to encourage bravery and courage and love for the fatherland, and to “[educate] young people in the spirit of hatred for desertion, treachery and treason, which it considers to be the greatest and most abominable crime against the interests of the socialist fatherland.” The Bolsheviks wanted a loyal communist society.
The new education program instituted by the Bolsheviks, with the aid of the Komsomol, did advocate for education for all children as noted by the “Song of Soviet Schoolchildren” through the lyrics “We’re the children of plow fields and factories.” The lyrics refer to the fact that even rural children and those of the working class were able to obtain an education. The Bolsheviks took long lengths to bloster the education of the children and to create a society that would be loyal to the party and the Soviet Union. In the video “Classroom Like a Playground (1933),” one can see that an educational system with the aim of creating communist society was an important goal of the Bolsheviks (though the kids do not look too pleased!) In the video, there is evidence of a strict education system as the kids “run excitedly to class” in a single file line… By imposing goals and aims on the Komsomol, the Bolsheviks were controlling the future of Soviet society.
“Childhood Under Stalin.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed October 9, 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1936children&Year=1936&navi=byYear.
“Thank You, Comrade Stalin, for Our Happy Childhood” Image Retrieved from: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1936children&Year=1936&navi=byYear.
“Thanks to the Party, Thanks to Dear Stalin for a Happy, Joyful Childhood” Image Retrieved from: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1936children&Year=1936&navi=byYear.
I agree that running single file up the stairs might not necessarily be the embodiment of “enthusiasm”! I’m interested in the kinds of learning the video highlights, though — a girl looking through a microscope, another child exploring a touch tank….admittedly these are idealized representations of what was actually going on in the classroom, but I’m struck by the regime’s commitment to universal education with a focus on learning about how the world works. “Inventing the future” Soviet style, meant committing significant resources to the educational project.
Nice images in this post! I love how the merits of a childhood under the leadership of good old Comrade Stalin are coming across clear in both Russian and Ukrainian!
nice information articles