Prisoners Released

Through the process of destalinization, prisoners from the war were to be released from their camps. To start this process, the first people to get to leave were those there for up to five years, those convicted of economic and military crimes, women with children younger than ten, women that were pregnant or older than fifty, kids to age eighteen, men older than fifty-five, and those with incurable diseases. While this was a good start, it still left a multitude of people left in the camps at first.  Some prisoners were pressured for confessions and in return were released from their camp. But the catch was that most were not allowed to go back home, and instead sent to live in exile. Another problem for released prisoners was that they weren’t welcomed back into society for the most part. Not that they always lived hard lives, but they were seen as outsiders in society.

An interesting aspect of the prisoner life is the meaning of their tattoos. Russian prisons are interesting in that every tattoo is a symbol for something, with most of them being backlash against the authorities and the Soviet regime. The prisoners take their tattoos so seriously that if anyone gets one that is wrong or unearned, they would be punished.

The meanings of the tattoos were often nothing like you could possibly guess and very different from the image itself. One example is if someone had the virgin Mary holding Jesus indicates to others that this person has been a thief since a young age. Some tattoos were even used as a means of protection. If a prisoner had a tattoo of Stalin or Lenin, guards wouldn’t hurt “such sacred images,” so prisoner’s used it to their advantage by getting these images tattooed over their heart or other places they didn’t want to be injured. Some other examples are:

  • a spider means the wearer is a drug addict
  • a bull means the wearer is a pimp
  • a snake around the neck means the wearer feels Communism is strangling them

Citations

Geldern, James von. “1954: Prisoners Return.” Seventeen Moments of Soviet History, assessed October 25, 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1954gulag&Year=1954&navi=byYear

“Russian Prison Tattoos” Hubpages. assessed October 25, 2014. http://jonaitis.hubpages.com/hub/Russian-Prison-Tattoos

Image 1: Russkoe Polye. 1999.

Image 2: “Russian Prison Tattoos” Hubpages. assessed October 25, 2014. http://jonaitis.hubpages.com/hub/Russian-Prison-Tattoos

Student Curriculum

In 1946, new rules were added to the Russian school system for both the students and the teachers, including strict punishments for little things such as taking a longer lunch break than given. Being perfectly behaved children was now a high expectation of the state. All of the children throughout the state follow the same curriculum from 1st-10th grade, minus military preparation which split up the sexes. The only thing that students could choose for themselves was in foreign languages, but not every school had more than one option. Russian language was a requirement for everyone. The school days are also different there, there are 213 days in a school year and the school week is six days a week. This shows how important and intense education had become to the Soviet state. This document made it a point to add that Soviet children had more advanced studies in math and science, gaining more experience in higher fields than American children. The amount of hours every week spent studying each subject varies in their curriculum, with the Russian language taking up the most amount of hours in a given week. The second highest amount of hours in a subject is math, and then third is tied with history, foreign language, and physical culture.

There are several new rules put in place for the students that include:

1. Sit erect during the lesson period, no leaning on elbows or slouching.

2. Rise as the teacher or direct enter or leaves the classroom.

3. Greet teachers and directors on the street with a polite bow.

4. To be courteous and considerate towards children, the aged, the weak, and the sick, to give them the seat on the trolley or the right of way on the street, to help them in every way.

5. To obey his parents and help care for his/her little brothers and sisters.

If any of these rules were violated, students were subject to punishment and possible expulsion. I find it very interesting that students also had school rules to follow outside of school when they were in town or at home. I wonder how they would be discovered disobeying the rules when they were outside of school, were people always watching or did their parents actually tell on them when they could possibly be expelled for it?

Citations

Geldern, James von. “1947: The New Curriculum” Seventeen Moments of Soviet History, assessed October 19, 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1947school&Year=1947

George S. Counts, The Challenge of Soviet Education (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957), pp. 74-75.

George S. Counts, The Challenge of Soviet Education (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957), pp. 76-77

Tattle Tale Turned Hero

A young boy Named Pavlik Morozov is known as a hero throughout Russia for turning his father in for his wrong doings. He had told the Soviet secret police that his father had been aiding kulaks, who at the time were seen as a people against socialism for not wanting to follow the Collectivization Plan. The result was that his father was sent to a concentration camp to never be seen again, and then months later Pavlik was found murdered in the woods, where he truly became a ‘hero’ in Russia.

Now that you are aware of Pavlik the hero, I can tell you that the story above is just a myth. That is the Pavlik that Stalin and the rest of the higher government wanted the people of Russia to know. The press built him up as the “New Soviet Man,” encouraging other children to follow his brave lead of telling on his father for the good of the state. Posters were spread throughout the country showing how great of a hero Pavlik had been, but what is interesting is that the image of the boy continued to change over time and ended up not even looking like the real boy. Stalin even had a monument of the young boy put up in his village.

A painting of Pavlik Morozov

Monument of Pavlik Morozov

There are multiple questionable actions that were discovered following the research of Yuri Druzhnikov. First off, Pavlik most likely was not telling on his father because he was a socialist and supporter of the Collectivization Plan, he was seen as unaware of politics or collectivization. There was also basically no investigation of the murder of the boys, or any real photographs or personal records on the museums about him. Another interesting act was when randomly in the middle of the night, officials came to Pavlik’s home village and moved the bodies of the boys to a new location and covered the grave with six feet of concrete and put a monument on top. This made exhumation impossible. Why would Soviet officials feel the need to do this unless they were hiding something? Clearly the government had made up almost the entire story behind Pavlik Morozov for their own political advantages in order to attempt to better control their large amount of people. Especially because of how expansive their state is, having one village know the truth won’t affect the rest of the country from believing the government’s story.

Citations

Druzhnikov, Yuri. “Informer 001: The Myth of Pavlik Morozov” ICARUS. accessed October 11, 2014. http://www.soniamelnikova.com/id9.html

Image 1: “A.A. Gorpenko: Study of Pavel Morozov” Abart: Gallery ABART. 2001.

Image 2: “Statue in Pavlik Morozov Park” Hugo S. Cunningham: Cyber-USSR. 2001.