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Revolution Elsewhere: Soviet Conformist and Non-Conformist Children’s Books of the 1960s and 1970s

Birgitte Beck Pristed

Résumé

Soviet child education in the late 1960s toned down former early Soviet pedagogy goals to mobilize children in the present and encourage their participation in or contribution to revolution, five-year plans or war. Rather than rebel or engage in active conflict, Soviet children of ’68 were encouraged to study representations of revolutionary activism from other times in historical fiction and accounts about the 1917 Revolution and World War II, or elsewhere, be it from the third world or outer space as imagined in adventure novels. Following a short introduction to the period and a brief explanation of significant Soviet symbolic notions of the child, the article analyses the question of rebellion versus adherence in two contrasting examples of Soviet illustrated children’s books: Marta Fomina’s conformist story Independent People (Samostoiatel’nye liudi) from 1969, and Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov’s non-conformist In the Land of Literary Heroes (V strane literaturnykh geroev) from 1979, based on a series of radio programmes for children launched in 1970. Despite the apparent uniformity of the centrally controlled Soviet school syllabus and educational programme of the late 1960s, these two works exemplify the different and contradictory attitudes to children’s behaviour, phantasy and revolutionary potential that young readers and listeners could encounter in children’s books.

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1In a Soviet context, 1968 marked a year of “cultural disillusion” rather than “cultural revolution,” after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August abruptly ended the Prague Spring and other Eastern Bloc experiments with political liberalization and relaxation of censorship. Unsurprisingly, these events next door did not take up much space in Moscow’s children’s journals, newspapers and literature. Instead, the Soviet children’s press led its young readers’ attention to other burning political issues elsewhere around the globe, such as Afro-American boys’ fight against racism and the Vietnam children’s struggle against American imperialism. In parallel, frequent accounts celebrated the progress of space technology that should enable future generations’ revolutionary explorations somewhere else in the solar system. Hence, Soviet child education of the late 1960s toned down former early Soviet pedagogy goals to mobilize children in the present and encourage their participation in or contribution to revolution, five-year plans or war. Rather than rebel or engage in active conflict, Soviet children of ’68 were encouraged to study representations of revolutionary activism from other times in historical fiction and accounts about the 1917 Revolution and World War II, or elsewhere, be it from the third world or outer space as imagined in adventure novels.

2The following article seeks to identify and discuss this inherent dilemma of 1960s and 1970s Soviet children’s books between children’s double task of independent, direct, revolutionary engagement versus adherent, repetitive study of revolutionary activities elsewhere and of other times. Following a short introduction to the period and a brief explanation of significant Soviet symbolic notions of the child, the main analysis will focus on the question of independence-adherence in two contrasting examples of illustrated Soviet children’s books. Without claiming the two books are representative for the entire range of Soviet children’s literature of the late 1960s and 1970s, I have chosen them to present very different examples of adult artistic and pedagogical attitudes and expectations to children’s potential for rebellion.

Ill. 1: Cover illustration by A. G. Leonov for Marta Fomina, Independent People, Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii, 1969.

3The first is Marta Fomina’s conformist story Independent People (Samostoiatel’nye liudi) from 1969 about two pre-school children who volunteer for the war in Vietnam. The second is Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov’s non-conformist In the Land of Literary Heroes (V strane literaturnykh geroev), based on the two liberal literary critics’ series of children’s radio programmes about literature, launched in 1970 and broadcasted on Soviet state radio for two decades. The programme was immensely popular, and, retrospectively, in 1979, two book artists, Arkadii Trojanker and Mikhail Anikst, working for the Soviet state niche publisher for art publications, Iskusstvo, made a visualization of the literary travels and soundscapes of the programme and turned it into a radio book that encapsulates the unorthodox spirit of the broadcasts of the preceding decade.

Ill. 2: Cover page by Arkadii Troianker and Mikhail Anikst for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov, In the Land of Literary Heroes, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1979.

Ill. 3: Title page by Arkadii Troianker and Mikhail Anikst for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov, In the Land of Literary Heroes, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1979.

4Age-wise, the two books address different target audiences. However, the generation of primary school children to whom Fomina addressed her 1969 story eventually grew up with Rassadin and Sarnov’s radio programme during the 1970s, and, potentially, this same generation were to become the adolescent audience for the radio book in 1979. Both narratives centre on “runaway” child-protagonists: on the one hand, Fomina’s 5-7 year old premature Octobrists who eagerly seek heroic deeds that can turn them into true Pioneers; on the other hand, Rassadin and Sarnov’s somewhat disillusioned 14 year old who barely refers to his Pioneer status but longs for an escape from school reality. Hence, together the stories offer a portrait of the Soviet children of ’68 in their search for alternative spaces and a new, independent aim in life after the adult leadership has declared revolution close to being accomplished. Independent People represents what the child reader could expect from ideologically conformist late Soviet children’s literature, while In the Land of Literary Heroes demonstrates other imaginary landscapes of non-conformist phantasies that co-existed with this politically tendentious children’s literature.

The 1960s as a Paradigm in the West and in the Soviet Union: For youth… and for children?

  • 1 For a discussion of periodization, see Arthur Marwick, The sixties. Cultural Revolution in Britain, (...)
  • 2 Petr Vail’ and Aleksandr Genis, 60-e. Mir sovetskogo cheloveka, Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozreni (...)

5Established periodization of both the Western and Soviet 1950s and 1960s often appears biased; however, since the generalized qualities and phenomena associated with these decades to some extent run contrary to each other in East and West, their mere comparison may contribute to a more nuanced picture of the era. Hence, Western historical narratives typically juxtapose the 1950s as a decade of morality, authority and conformism against the 1960s’ revolt and social and cultural transformations.1 In contrast, the Khrushchev era (1953-1964) is generally associated with economic modernization, political reform, de-Stalinization and a relative liberalization of cultural life, known as “The Thaw”, while the following years under Brezhnev (1964-1982) are characterized as a period of political conservatism, economic “stagnation” and cultural repression. However, these rough schematizations have been challenged by a growing number of studies in late Socialism everyday life that describe a population enjoying a growing level of consumption, education and leisure time, together with adaptations of Western popular culture. The studies point to the complexity of the late Soviet social and cultural life, which encompassed not only official state culture versus unofficial dissident culture but also diverse forms of tolerated alternative thinking within the system and Western-inspired (sub)cultures that were simultaneously supported and criticized by state authorities.2

  • 3 A non-exhaustive list of useful surveys includes: Marina Balina and Larissa Rudova, (eds.) Russian (...)
  • 4 See among others, Alexei Yurchak, Everything was forever, until it was no more. The last Soviet gen (...)
  • 5 A recent exception in Russian is found in Ivan Kukulin, et al. (eds.) Ostrova utopii. Pedagogichesk (...)

6Generational research on the 1960s in the West obviously focuses on 1968 as a student and youth movement initiated by the post-1945 baby boomers, whereas the culture and literature for and by the “flower children’s children”, born in the 1960s and 1970s, may have suffered a certain scholarly neglect from the self-fulfilling parent generation. Though studies in Soviet children’s culture and literature are on the rise,3 scholarship on late Socialism has also primarily been concerned with Soviet youth,4 rather than children’s culture.5 Nevertheless, the child played a significant, symbolic role in the Soviet socialist project since the future fulfilment of Communism belonged to children. In 1961, at the 22nd Party Congress, Khrushchev famously announced that the utopian stage of Communist society was largely to be reached in twenty years, which meant that the present generation would live under Communism. Thus, he intensified expectations to Soviet children to balance the gap between phantasy worlds and reality.

Soviet Revolutionary Child and the Studying Grand Children

  • 6 This brief sketch cannot do justice to the rich heritage of early Soviet children’s books that have (...)

7The cult of childhood and youth in Soviet society arose from the 1920s and early 1930s revolutionary pedagogues’, agitators’ and avant-garde artists’ radical rejection of the old, pre-revolutionary society and celebration of the transformative and renewing, creative power of the child, uncorrupted by past beliefs. The ideological ambition of not only combatting illiteracy but also installing class-consciousness, collectivism, and self-governing activism in the little Soviet citizens of the future required a new children’s literature, which resulted in experimentation with the medium of children’s books that had worldwide impact on the entire notion of radical children’s literature for generations to come.6

  • 7 Maria Starkova-Vindman, “Fighting for a Utopian Childhood: Militarism in Children’s Periodicals of (...)
  • 8 Evgenii Dobrenko, “Vse luchshee - detiam (totalitarnaia kul'tura i mir detstva)”, Wiener slawistisc (...)

8In the years following the Russian Revolution and Civil War, the Party institutionalized the ideological upbringing of the Soviet revolutionary child in youth organizations for Little Octobrists, Young Pioneers, and Komsomols. In her study of early Soviet children’s journals, Maria Starkova-Vindman has shown how the 1920s militarization of childhood and ideological mobilization of the pioneer child as vigorous revolutionary warrior, armed with drum and bugle, was gradually replaced by a notion of the dutiful and adherent child of Stalinism.7 The later propagandized picture of a “happy childhood” under father Stalin’s tutelage, in which limitless loyalty to the Party replaced family belonging, has led Evgeny Dobrenko and others to describe totalitarian society as an “infantile” world in which also the adult Soviet population was expected to be obedient, rather than acting like rebelling children.8

  • 9 Mervyn Matthews, Education in the Soviet Union: Policies and Institutions since Stalin, London, Geo (...)
  • 10 Matthews, Education in the Soviet Union, op. cit., pp. 20-21.
  • 11 Dar'ia Dimke, “Sovetskie detskie igry: mezhdu utopiei i real'nost'iu”, Antropologicheskii forum (16 (...)

9The 1960s educational debates reflected the fundamental Soviet dilemma of the revolting versus obedient child. In 1958, Khrushchev launched a major educational reform that among other things attempted to reinstate the 1920s positive, “productivist” attitude to manual and practical school disciplines, and expand the general mass educational system which under Stalin had returned to a more traditional, hierarchical system of disciplined learning and examination of centrally approved textbooks.9 Khrushchev’s school reforms encouraged more self-governance both in the local school councils and among the children themselves.10 Minor enclaves of alternative Soviet educators embraced these new winds. With approval from above, they went quite far in the early 1960s with local experiments, as, among others, Dari’a Dimke has convincingly demonstrated in her interviews with former members of a volunteer pioneer commune in Leningrad. The ideal of the autonomous group, established as an independent substructure of the pioneer organization, was that children and adults worked together as comrades-in-arms with circulating leadership, and work activities were supplemented with playful, “secret operations” for the common good but also self-control in the form of spying and denunciation of other group members and classmates.11

  • 12 Matthews, Education in the Soviet Union, op. cit., pp. 31-32.

10In addition to trade training in school, pioneer “leisure time” activities, often organized as local or union-wide competitions, involved physical child labour, such as scrap and waste paper collection, gardening and summer camp work on collective farms, aimed at facilitating children in becoming good, productive workers. However, in general, the implementation of Khrushchev’s reforms met with considerable resistance and was unpopular among parents and teachers because preparing children for higher education was still perceived as socially more desirable than trade training to become a factory worker. Eventually, the reorganization of school programmes under Brezhnev in 1966 abolished administration-heavy trade training and reinstated a classical school syllabus favouring abstract disciplines such as maths and language.12 The revolutionary activist child should become a studying child.

  • 13 Urie Bronfenbrenner and John C. Condry, Two worlds of childhood. U.S. and U.S.S.R, London, Allen an (...)

11Between 1960 and 1967, Russian-American social psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner went on several invited research visits to public Soviet – presumably showcase – institutions of child care and education to conduct comparative studies of American and Russian children’s socialization processes. While the primary purpose of Bronfenbrenner’s project was a reform of the American educational system, he made some interesting observations of the system of self-governance and social control within Soviet child education in both theory and practice. He referred to Soviet educator Irina Pechernikova’s 1961 popular parental guidebook which stated that installing obedience and self-discipline should be prior to any development of child independence; otherwise, such independence would lead to anarchistic behaviour incompatible with the rules of Soviet society. In Soviet schools, Bronfenbrenner observed how children’s self-governance was based on a combined system of peer/group and authority/teacher control, in which deviant behaviour was met not by physical punishment but by critique, self-critique or, ultimately, exclusion from the collective.13

Elsewhere I: Independent Children as Viet Cong Veterans

12A response to this question of children’s self-governance and direct political activism from a Brezhnev educational perspective is found in the 1969 children’s story Independent People, by Marta Fomina, editor of Asian literature at the main State Publishing House for Fiction, Khudozhestvennaia literatura, and author of historical biographies about Stalin’s youth in Georgia, and Ivan the Terrible’s childhood. The schematic plot centres on the seven-year-old pioneer Egor and his five-year old sister Iulia, true grandchildren of the Russian revolution, who leave directly from kindergarten to volunteer for the Vietnam War.

13Despite the protagonists’ young age and the fact that the book is addressed to children in primary school, both book layout and content are not particularly orientated towards very young readers. The text is long and demanding, requiring an adult instructor to read aloud for the child audience. In total, three stories by Fomina are compiled into one little pocket book volume of 300 densely written pages in a small format of approximately 12.5 x 16.5 cm. The title story Independent People contains only four black and white illustrations by the little-known artist A. G. Leonov.

Ill. 4: Illustration by A. G. Leonov for Marta Fomina, Independent People, Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii, 1969.

Ill. 5: Illustrations by A. G. Leonov for Marta Fomina, Independent People, Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii, 1969.

14The story begins as Egor and Iulia’s father, a steel founder, takes them to a factory meeting where old factory veteran Maksim agitates against the bourgeois aggressors in Vietnam and hails internationalism. The following day, encouraged by their working mother’s positive affirmative of their independence, the children stay home alone because of Egor’s school holidays and Iulia’s kindergarten “quarantine”, a collective measure to prevent the spread of infections by temporarily closing down childcare institutions. Mobilized by photographs of Vietnam in the “most important, most true newspaper on Earth”, Pravda, the children decide to volunteer: conforming to stereotypical gender roles, the boy as a soldier, the girl as a nurse. Out on the streets of Moscow, they first meet a column of Red Army soldiers, but the commander sends the overeager children back home with the message that they need to finish school to become good fighters. However, the children refuse to give up and ask a fat “auntie” on the pavement how to get to Vietnam. Praising the advanced interests of these young representatives of the 20th century, she directs them to the museum of art to look at pictorial representations of war heroes.

15In the museum, the two children are acquainted with a group of pioneers on excursion and follow them by train back to their summer camp, situated at a collective farm outside of Moscow. Arriving in the dark of evening, the children mistake the countryside sounds for a jungle and a house cat for an Asian tiger. Soon, however, the elder pioneer children and the adult camp leader intervene in the children’s phantasies and organize a telephone call to the children’s worried mother. The grand finale of the book celebrates the returning “veteran” children, who do not go back home to their strikingly absent and irrelevant parents, but to the centre of Moscow and the next day’s inauguration rite of new pioneers at Lenin’s Mausoleum. Adopted by their new collective, the two children finally learn to appreciate Grandpa Il’ich’s advice to the young generation about how to obtain both personal and worldwide independence, in Vietnam and elsewhere: “Study, study and study!”

  • 14 Though the Soviet state considered child-combatants undesirable, child-heroism frequently featured (...)

16Hence, in Fomina’s story, the Vietnam War, presented as the Communist just cause of the repressed against American imperialism, features as a central part of the setting. As the plot develops, Vietnam transforms from a “real” geopolitical location in the realm of adults, mediated to the children through meetings and documentary press photos, to an “imaginary” space of its little Soviet hero-protagonists, stimulated by museum paintings and adventure fiction. Vietnam turns into the Soviet children’s proxy war; they assert their own independence in their fight for the Vietnamese children’s independence. However, while the children are rewarded for their adherence to the revolutionary ideals of their grandparents (as represented by Lenin and the factory veteran), they are ridiculed by their elder pioneer peers for their runaway attempt to gain independence (they get hungry and tired). On the one hand, revolution is something that belongs to the past; the children should not do as their grandparents did, but do as they say. On the other hand, for post-war Soviet children, the fight for Socialism and independence is something that takes place elsewhere and which they are encouraged to study only indirectly through mediated representations. This is a marked shift from the World War II propagandized icon of the self-sacrificing Soviet child-hero who paid with his life in the fight against fascism.14

Ill. 6: Photo reportage from the monthly journal The Campfire (Koster), addressed to children in primary school. “The President and children” (10), 1968, p. 27.

Ill. 7: Photo reportage from the monthly journal The Campfire (Koster), addressed to children in primary school. “Children of Vietnam, We stand by your side!” (12), 1968, p. 2. Russian State Children’s Library.

Ill. 8: Photo reportage from the monthly journal The Campfire (Koster), addressed to children in primary school. “Children of Vietnam, We stand by your side!” (12), 1968, p. 3. Russian State Children’s Library.

  • 15 Lev Loseff, “Aesopian language as a factor in the shaping of a literary genre: From the experience (...)

17The grandparent-grandchild relationship is overtly dramatized in a representation of the Vietnam War for children in a 1968 volume of the monthly journal The Campfire (Koster). Juxtaposing a propaganda photo of American President Lyndon Johnson posing with his newborn grandchild against a war press photo of a Vietnamese orphan in an empty aid box, the journal develops a narrative about the boy’s grandpa who has allegedly been captured by American soldiers for his partisan sympathies. However, The Campfire does not just represent a conformist propaganda tool directed at children. Between 1962-1975, The Campfire was edited by, among others, Lev Losev, who as well as writing children’s verses and puppet theatre plays also published verses by dissident writer Joseph Brodsky in the 1962 (11) issue of the children’s journal. In his post-emigration book on censorship and Aesopian language in Russian literature, Losev describes children’s literature as a refuge for famous poets of early Soviet children’s literature such as Kornei Chukovsky, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Daniil Kharms. These authors masterly played with the dual orientation of the genre to an adult and child audience and used it as an allegorical disguise for anti-totalitarian and parodic purposes that nurtured future generations of Aesopian readers.15 Hence, the December 1968 issue of The Campfire, featuring a photo reportage from the International peace youth camp in Czechoslovakia, might catch the eye of an Aesopian adult. The last photograph in the series has a striking composition, displaying a Czechoslovakian girl bending her head to sign a solidarity letter to Vietnam’s children. The independent act of signing represents the authority of the child, coming of age and allegedly even having a say in international peace negotiations. However, intentionally or not, the girl appears under strong peer pressure from her surrounding Soviet comrades who closely watch her signing. Rather than expressing her independence, the girl conforms to the collective.

Elsewhere II: Child Independence in the Psychedelic Land of Literary Heroes

  • 16 See Ainsley Morse’s unpublished doctoral dissertation Detki v kletke: The Childlike Aesthetic in So (...)

18The subversive tradition of Soviet children’s literature that editors like Losev advocated experienced a second bloom in the late Soviet period. In the 1970s, for example, the Moscow underground scene of conceptualist artists, among others the internationally renowned Ilya Kabakov, who could not officially exhibit their artworks to an adult audience, simultaneously worked as state employed, well-funded book illustrators in the state publishing house for children’s literature. Benefitting from a publishing niche that not only tolerated but also subsidized the world of phantasy, these artists evolved a childlike aesthetic that became a conscious part of their adult artistic programme.16

  • 17 The term shestidesiatniki was coined by Stanislav Rassadin in an article in a 1960 issue of the mag (...)
  • 18 See Birgit Menzel, Bürgerkrieg um Worte: Die Literaturkritik der Perestrojka, Köln, Böhlau, 2001, e (...)

19Hence, a necessary correction to the picture of a conforming Soviet obedient child in Fomina’s story is represented by the contrasting non-conformist book In the Land of Literary Heroes, published in 1979 by another niche state publisher for art books, Iskusstvo. The cross media experimental book was based on a series of radio programmes launched in 1970, which presented classics of Russian and world literature for middle and high school children. The programme was scripted by two “men of the sixties” (shestidesiatniki)17: the left-liberal literary critics of The Thaw generation, Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov, who took an anti-heroic, humorous approach to the legacy of classics. Hence, the authors broke with the established Soviet school syllabus presentation of any canonized writer as a humanist, realist, and patriot who objected to social and political injustices of his time. The popularity of the radio series, which ran for almost twenty seasons from 1970 to 1989, testifies to the continuous impact of the shestidesiatniki on the following generations of school children, and the sixties generation’s strong political reoccurrence under Gorbachev’s Perestroika reforms in 1986, a year that in contrast to 1968 marks a crucial turning point in a Soviet context.18

20Both radio programme and book are structured around a dialogue between the 14-year-old Gena and Professor Arkhip Arkhipovich, who meet after Gena has failed his literature class. Gena dreams of becoming a cosmonaut; he loves reading science fiction and adventure literature, but he is less enthusiastic about the classics. This changes as Arkhip Arkhipovich’s rocket-like time machine takes the pair on several trips to the land of literary heroes. Here, the child of the future returns to a fictive elsewhere of past centuries that enables his independent discoveries and self-discovery, while escaping school realities. Already on the first trip, during which Arkhip Arkhipovich intends to introduce the unwilling Gena to the characters of the Russian enlightenment playwright Fonvizin, a time machine programme error redirects the couple to the land of The Three Musketeers. In contrast to his senior co-traveller, Gena immediately recognizes Duma’s heroes and clears up the misunderstanding. Hence, the guiding roles between child and pedagogue are interchanged. Furthermore, literary characters from different genres of both highbrow serious literature and entertaining crime stories meet and mix up without respect to the strictly hierarchical canon of the Soviet school syllabus. This anarchy increases on another trip where several versions and different literary interpretations of the same arch figure Don Juan start a mutual discussion, whose multiple voices seem inspired by the Soviet literary intelligentsia’s 1960s rediscovery of Mikhail Bakhtin and his notion of polyphone literature.

21Rassadin and Sarnov’s fresh approach was well reflected by the book illustrators Mikhail Anikst and Arkadii Troianker, as for example in the loving and disrespectful, feminine depiction of the sacrosanct – but not very tall – national poet Pushkin.

Ill. 9: Small national poet Pushkin, though wearing a top hat, does not reach chest level with his colleagues Nekrasov, Shakespeare, Mayakovsky, Goethe, and Corneille. Illustration by Mikhail Anikst and Arkadii Troianker for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov’s In the Land of the Literary Heroes Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1979.

  • 19 Interview with Arkadii Troianker, June 1, 2010. For a full portrait of the book artist Arkadii Troi (...)

The controversial depiction resulted in a post-printum resolution from the State Committee for the Printing Press that dismissed the book as “anti-Soviet” and told the editor, board and book artists: “It is exactly this kind of relaxation of control with printed publications that led to Prague 1968!”19 However, the book had already been printed in 50,000 copies (a relatively modest print-run in a late Soviet context), and the authorities’ condemnation in fact contributed to its fame.

Ill.10: Sherlock Holmes guided trip to a seemingly Bakhtin-inspired carnivalesque masquerade of Shakespearean characters, hosted by Lord of Misrule in England. Illustrations by Mikhail Anikst and Arkadii Troianker for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov’s In the Land of the Literary Heroes Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1979.

22The opening page of the book stresses the dialogic nature of the radio programme by its demonstrative display of an open microphone. Along the incredibly long and tangled microphone cable, a curved list unfolds with the names of famous Soviet actors who lent their voices to the many literary heroes and anti-heroes of the collective programme. Anikst and Troianker’s 30 rich, full colour-plate illustrations inserted the literary heroes into surreal landscapes, consisting of collages of a myriad of handwritten texts, objects, different typographies, fonts, and upside-down comic-style drawings that were very far from the approved Soviet style of ideologically glorifying, realistic book illustrations of Socialist Realism. The visual sceneries rather seem inspired from the psychedelic art of Western counterculture, though the colours remain comparatively less fluorescent and the book pages less “glossy”, probably a result of the available paper and printing equipment. However, artistically, the book is much more than a pale shadow of Western psychedelic children’s books; it is an artwork in its own right and, like many of the art books of the Iskusstvo publisher, has an impressive high material quality.

Conclusion: Childhood as Revolutionary Elsewhere

23Despite the apparent uniformity of the centrally controlled Soviet school syllabus and educational programme of the late 1960s, these two works exemplify the different and contradictory attitudes to children’s behaviour, phantasy and revolutionary potential young readers and listeners could meet in children’s books. The first, Independent People, expects children to admire real-life Communist fighting, but elsewhere and of other times, and encourages children to work and study, but to stop fantasizing about initiating or participating in rebellions themselves. The second deliberately tests the borders of a restrictive educational system without crossing them; instead, it escapes the territory of real politics and moves into the world of fiction. It encourages children to study literature to increase their capability of independent, potentially rebellious, thought.

24Hence, in contrast to Fomina’s real, geopolitical space of Vietnam that transforms into an imaginary space of her children-protagonists, Rassadin and Sarnov’s project aims at turning the fictive world of books into real soundscapes into which children-listeners/readers may enter and engage directly with literary figures and develop their own interpretations. While Fomina’s story has a clear end and the children return from their phantasy jungle and delusional behaviour, Rassadin and Sarnov’s story has a more positive attitude to phantasy; it has no end, but offers a potentially infinite number of literary discovery travels. On the one hand, the radio programme contributes to a mass media popularization of literary reading for a broader audience; on the other hand, in fact, it requires a high degree of study by a child audience to enter this land of literary heroes with all its complex intertextual allusions and high degree of implicitness. In this way, Rassadin and Sarnov do not reduce the Leninist imperative to study, study and study, but open the possibility for a more playful and independent, rather than repetitive, study process that allows for spontaneous thought, at least among children of the intelligentsia with the required cultural skills in both reading and reading between the lines.

25While protests against the Vietnam War, American imperialism, capitalism and bourgeois materialism were topics inseparable from Western 1968 counterculture, such political statements conformed to official Soviet discourse and Communist Party propaganda and did not offer an alternative stance to the authorities. Instead, in the difficult political situation after August 1968, in which direct protest or rebellion against the authorities seemed impossible, Rassadin and Sarnov projected self-discovery and independent debates out of the realm of daily society and into an alternative sphere of literature… and childhood. Hence, childhood itself becomes a utopian elsewhere in which the child guides the adult to free imagination.

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Notes

1 For a discussion of periodization, see Arthur Marwick, The sixties. Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 5ff.

2 Petr Vail’ and Aleksandr Genis, 60-e. Mir sovetskogo cheloveka, Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1998; Anne E. Gorsuch and Diane P. Koenker, (eds.) The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2013; Neringa Klumbytė and Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, (eds.) Soviet society in the era of late socialism, 1964 – 1985, Lanham, Lexington Books, 2013.

3 A non-exhaustive list of useful surveys includes: Marina Balina and Larissa Rudova, (eds.) Russian children's literature and culture, New York, Routledge, 2008; Ben Hellman, Fairy tales and true stories. The history of Russian literature for children and young people (1574-2010), Boston, Leiden, Brill, 2013; Catriona Kelly, Children's world: Growing up in Russia, 1890-1991, New Haven [Conn.], London, Yale University Press, 2007.

4 See among others, Alexei Yurchak, Everything was forever, until it was no more. The last Soviet generation, Princeton, N.J., Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2006; Juliane Fürst, Stalin's last generation. Soviet post-war youth and the emergence of mature socialism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010 and her “Love, Peace and Rock ’n’ Roll on Gorky Street: The ‘Emotional Style’ of the Soviet Hippie Community,” Contemporary European History 23 (4), 2014, pp. 565–587; Donald J. Raleigh, Soviet baby boomers. An oral history of Russia's Cold War generation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012; Catriona Kelly, “Die Entdeckung des Tinejdžer. Sowjetische und postsowjetische Adoleszenz”, Osteuropa (63, 11-12), 2013, pp. 5–22.

5 A recent exception in Russian is found in Ivan Kukulin, et al. (eds.) Ostrova utopii. Pedagogicheskoe i sotsialʹnoe proektirovanie poslevoennoi shkoly (1940-1980-e), Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie (Biblioteka zhurnala Neprikosnovennyi zapas), 2015.

6 This brief sketch cannot do justice to the rich heritage of early Soviet children’s books that have been subject to scholarly interest and exhibitions in both Russia and the West. An introduction to the field is found in Evgeny Steiner, Stories for little comrades: Revolutionary artists and the making of early Soviet children's books, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999 and Lisa F. Kirschenbaum, Small comrades: Revolutionizing childhood in Soviet Russia, New York, London, Garland, 2001.

7 Maria Starkova-Vindman, “Fighting for a Utopian Childhood: Militarism in Children’s Periodicals of the Early Soviet Union,” in Utopian Reality: Reconstructing Culture in Revolutionary Russia and Beyond, edited by Christina Lodder, et al., Brill, 2014, pp. 79-97. See also Serguei A. Oushakine about taking revolt out of revolution in “Translating Communism for Children: Fables and Posters of the Revolution,” Boundary 2: international journal of literature and culture (43, 3) 2016, pp. 159-219, p. 159ff.

8 Evgenii Dobrenko, “Vse luchshee - detiam (totalitarnaia kul'tura i mir detstva)”, Wiener slawistischer Almanach (29), 1992, pp. 159-174: 167.

9 Mervyn Matthews, Education in the Soviet Union: Policies and Institutions since Stalin, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1982, pp. 5-6.

10 Matthews, Education in the Soviet Union, op. cit., pp. 20-21.

11 Dar'ia Dimke, “Sovetskie detskie igry: mezhdu utopiei i real'nost'iu”, Antropologicheskii forum (16), 2012, pp. 309–332.

12 Matthews, Education in the Soviet Union, op. cit., pp. 31-32.

13 Urie Bronfenbrenner and John C. Condry, Two worlds of childhood. U.S. and U.S.S.R, London, Allen and Unwin, 1971, pp. 9-11.

14 Though the Soviet state considered child-combatants undesirable, child-heroism frequently featured in the press, see Olga Kucherenko, Little soldiers. How Soviet children went to war, 1941-1945, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 8ff.

15 Lev Loseff, “Aesopian language as a factor in the shaping of a literary genre: From the experience of children’s literature”, chap. 7, in: On the beneficence of censorship: Aesopian language in modern Russian literature, (Arbeiten und Texte zur Slawistik, 31), Munich, Otto Sagner, 1984, pp. 193-213.

16 See Ainsley Morse’s unpublished doctoral dissertation Detki v kletke: The Childlike Aesthetic in Soviet Children's Literature and Unofficial Poetry, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, 2016, p. 14, online available at: https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/33493521.

17 The term shestidesiatniki was coined by Stanislav Rassadin in an article in a 1960 issue of the magazine “Youth”: “Shestidesiatniki: knigi o molodom sovremennike,” Iunost’ (12) 1960, pp. 58-62.

18 See Birgit Menzel, Bürgerkrieg um Worte: Die Literaturkritik der Perestrojka, Köln, Böhlau, 2001, esp. pp. 156-167.

19 Interview with Arkadii Troianker, June 1, 2010. For a full portrait of the book artist Arkadii Troianker, see Birgitte Beck Pristed, The New Russian Book: A Graphic Cultural History, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 229-258.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Ill. 1: Cover illustration by A. G. Leonov for Marta Fomina, Independent People, Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii, 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Légende Ill. 2: Cover page by Arkadii Troianker and Mikhail Anikst for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov, In the Land of Literary Heroes, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1979.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Légende Ill. 3: Title page by Arkadii Troianker and Mikhail Anikst for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov, In the Land of Literary Heroes, Moscow, Iskusstvo, 1979.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Légende Ill. 4: Illustration by A. G. Leonov for Marta Fomina, Independent People, Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii, 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Légende Ill. 5: Illustrations by A. G. Leonov for Marta Fomina, Independent People, Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii, 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Légende Ill. 6: Photo reportage from the monthly journal The Campfire (Koster), addressed to children in primary school. “The President and children” (10), 1968, p. 27.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 276k
Légende Ill. 7: Photo reportage from the monthly journal The Campfire (Koster), addressed to children in primary school. “Children of Vietnam, We stand by your side!” (12), 1968, p. 2. Russian State Children’s Library.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 312k
Légende Ill. 8: Photo reportage from the monthly journal The Campfire (Koster), addressed to children in primary school. “Children of Vietnam, We stand by your side!” (12), 1968, p. 3. Russian State Children’s Library.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Légende Ill. 9: Small national poet Pushkin, though wearing a top hat, does not reach chest level with his colleagues Nekrasov, Shakespeare, Mayakovsky, Goethe, and Corneille. Illustration by Mikhail Anikst and Arkadii Troianker for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov’s In the Land of the Literary Heroes Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1979.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 532k
Légende Ill.10: Sherlock Holmes guided trip to a seemingly Bakhtin-inspired carnivalesque masquerade of Shakespearean characters, hosted by Lord of Misrule in England. Illustrations by Mikhail Anikst and Arkadii Troianker for Stanislav Rassadin and Benedikt Sarnov’s In the Land of the Literary Heroes Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1979.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1878/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
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Référence électronique

Birgitte Beck Pristed, « Revolution Elsewhere: Soviet Conformist and Non-Conformist Children’s Books of the 1960s and 1970s », Strenæ [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 15 mai 2018, consulté le 21 novembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/1878 ; DOI : 10.4000/strenae.1878

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Auteur

Birgitte Beck Pristed

Aarhus University
School of Culture and Society, Global Studies
building 1461, office 620
8000 Aarhus C – DK
Email: birgitte.pristed@cas.au.dk

Birgitte Beck Pristed is Assistant Professor in Russian Culture at Aarhus University and author of The New Russian Book: A Graphic Cultural History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Her current research focuses on Soviet children’s books and print culture, and the Soviet media history of paper. She is also part of the research network “The Pedagogy of Images: Depicting Communism for Children.”

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