Soviet Empire, Childhood, and Education

Iveta Silova, Garine Palandjian


Children constituted a key element of the Soviet empire-building project, reconfiguring childhoods and refashioning the colonial space itself.  Children of different ethnicities across the territories of the Soviet republics were to be united by the Russian language and a sense of Soviet patriotism, manifest in such political slogans as “friendship of all people,” “interethnic equalisation,” and “internationalism.” Education curriculum and activities were utilised to facilitate social and cultural “merging” of all ethnic groups on the basis of the Soviet Russian language and culture.  At the same time, the Soviet empire advanced the idea of “unity in diversity,” allowing national minorities the right to self-determination and some political autonomy within a socialist context. Drawing on post-colonial theory and critical geography studies, this article looks at how early literacy textbooks were used to shape Soviet childhood by regulating children’s minds, bodies, habits, as well as “locating” them in the empire’s space and time. The article provides a brief historical context of the Soviet empire-building project, followed by a cross-national analysis of early literacy textbooks published in Russia, Armenia, Latvia, and Ukraine. Our goal is to highlight the continuities, contradictions, and ruptures in the vision of the Soviet childhood - and the Soviet future more broadly - as it travelled from the Empire’s centre (Moscow) to its geographically diverse peripheries (Armenia, Latvia, and Ukraine). 


Soviet education; Soviet empire; childhood; comparative education

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