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Articles

Marina Balina and Larissa Rudova, eds., Russian Children’s Literature and Culture.
390 pp. New York: Routledge, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0415978644. $95.00.

Paula S. Fass et al., eds., Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and
Society, 3 vols. 1,055 pp., numbered sequentially through all 3 vols. New York: Mac-
millan Reference USA/Thomson-Gale, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0028657141, ISBN
0028657144 (set); 0028657152 (vol. 1); 0028657160 (vol. 2); 0028657179 (vol.
3). $454.00.

Catriona Kelly, Children’s World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890–1991. 714 pp. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0300112269. $45.00.

Izabella I. Shangina et al., eds., Russkie deti: Osnovy narodnoi pedagogiki. Illiustrirovan-
naia entsiklopediia [Russian Children: The Foundations of Popular Pedagogy. An
Illustrated Encyclopedia]. 566 pp. St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo-SPB, 2006. ISBN-13:
978-5210015013, ISBN 5210015017.
Steven A. Grant

“All happy childhoods are alike,” one might be tempted to paraphrase Tolstoi, “every
unhappy childhood is unhappy in its own way.” The idea that childhood is not so im-
mutable, however—that it is a social construct that changes with time—has energized
the historical (and even the sociological) study of the family for nearly two genera-
tions.1 All the books under review here take it as a given that childhood is a nearly au-
tonomous time of life, deserving of attention and understanding. Taken together, they
can be seen to present a thorough, comparative, and diachronic view of childhood in
Russia over the past century or two. As a whole, they convey the impression that the
number of happy childhoods in Russia may have increased in this span, though far
from in a straight, linear fashion. Such improvement occurred both because and in
spite of substantial regime change. What is of most interest in perusing these various
works, moreover, is the way in which the content of a “happy childhood” changed
over time. A childhood that extended beyond infancy was naturally the first barrier
 1
  I date the most recent, fruitful period of family historiography to the appearance of Philippe Ariès’s
highly original and controversial study, known in English as Centuries of Childhood: A Social History
of Family Life, trans. Robert Baldick (New York: Vintage/Random House, 1962); the French edition
came out two years earlier.

Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 10, 3 (Summer 2009): 730–42.
REVIEW ON THE HISTORY OF CHILDHOOD 731

to overcome, and infant mortality tended to improve with time. Then, overcoming
hunger, deprivation, violence, and fear became increasingly central.
Catriona Kelly’s massive study of childhood in Russia over the course of a full
century has the purpose, as stated early in this dense compendium, to provide “a
history of daily life as experienced by Russian children.”2 She is concerned with “the
effects of institutions on children,” school curriculums, “what children wore, where
they slept, and what they ate.” Divided into three parts, the book explores succes-
sively “the development of attitudes to children” and some of the “general forces
shaping childhood” (part 1) and then the lives of children from birth to adolescence
(parts 2 and 3) (13 for all quotations).3
The aim is simply stated; the research done to accomplish that aim is prodigious.
Kelly in fact employed a small army of assistants to help her. This is scholarship as
enterprise, along the lines of other British academics like Orlando Figes. Not only
have written sources—official, public, archival, and private—been utilized to the hilt,
but a large number of personal oral histories (interviews) have been incorporated
to excellent effect. One can only marvel at the wonderful collection of photographs
and other graphic material that illuminate a large number of pages. It seems unlikely
 2
  Although not under review here, some additional closely related titles deserve mention as comple-
ments to the Kelly book, extending her time frame backward and forward. Two books explore the pre-
ceding centuries rather than the era of her Children’s World: Ol´ga E. Kosheleva, “Svoe detstvo” v Drevnei
Rusi i v Rossii epokhi Prosveshcheniia (XVI–XVIII vv.): Uchebnoe posobie po pedagogicheskoi antropologii
i istorii detstva (Moscow: URAO, 2000); and Ol´ga S. Murav´eva, Kak vospityvali russkogo dvorianina
(St. Petersburg: Neva/Letnii sad, 1998). The Kosheleva book is a useful compilation of excerpts from
primary sources, mostly of the 18th century. It provides a table of contents and a one-page summary
in English. At the other end of Kelly’s time frame, Jean Ispa has provided a preliminary examination of
the post-Soviet period in Child Care in Russia in Transition (Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 1994).
Kelly in fact discuses non-Russian children and childhoods within the Russian empire and the Soviet
Union, but her major focus is on ethnic Russians and their experiences. For lack of space and inclina-
tion, I do not explore the non-Russian byways in this review. Finally, Katharina Kucher (Universität
Tübingen) is writing a book-length prequel to Kelly on childhood in 19th-century Russia.
 3
  For those seeking a historical (and comparative) introduction to the Kelly and other volumes under
review here, I would recommend two works. The first is Colin Heywood, A History of Childhood:
Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Cambridge: Polity, 2001), who
covers Russia in passing and argues—pace Ariès—against a specific “discovery” of childhood in the early
modern period in Europe. (“It would surely now be more illuminating to think in terms of an ebbing
and flowing of interest in the young over the long term, and of competing conceptions of childhood
in any given society. So, we should ask, when were the important turning points, and how did they
relate to changing material and cultural conditions?” [19–20]). The second is David L. Ransel’s “Russia
and the USSR,” in Children in Historical and Comparative Perspective: An International Handbook and
Research Guide, ed. Joseph M. Hawes and N. Ray Hiner (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1991), 471–89,
who began his essay of a decade and a half ago with a bold and sweeping statement: “Russia has no
history of childhood.” Ransel is, of course, the editor of the seminal work on Russian family history
The Family in Imperial Russia: New Lines of Historical Research (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1978), as well as of two other related, pioneering social histories: Mothers of Misery: Child Abandonment
in Russia (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988); and Village Mothers: Three Generations of
Change in Russia and Tataria (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000).
732 STEVEN A. GRANT

that any source escaped examination by one or another of the persons engaged in
this formidable enterprise. The result is not, however, a typical production by com-
mittee. The sure hand of the author is everywhere visible, kneading and shaping the
raw material into a seamless whole. The style is lively and personal, familiar to any
who have read Kelly’s previous excellent works on etiquette and manners, women’s
writing, and other cultural topics.4
How well has Kelly succeeded in her task? Very well indeed. It is magisterial,
but not in the stuffy sense; painstakingly thorough, comprehensive; it is, in a word,
encyclopedic. This is not a volume—its heft comes to about 600 pages of text plus
another hundred and some of endnotes and index—to be picked up and read cover
to cover. It is much more like a reference work than a monograph, to be consulted
and read in parts, in many sittings. Since this is clearly what Kelly had in mind when
organizing the book as she did, my observation is not meant as criticism. It is merely
to say that the book yields its rich treasures only with patience and care. The reader
should know ahead of time that this history is not linear overall (although Kelly
wants it to be so within the individual three parts of the book). It tells its stories
(the plural is deliberate and necessary) in great detail and in sure-handed fashion but
not in a very chronologically coherent way. This leads to a few minor problems, the
most significant of which is probably a tendency to repetition. By going back to the
same starting point three different times, and tracing a different aspect of childhood
through to a culmination a century later, this could hardly be avoided.
What are the main conclusions of Kelly’s book? It should be stated at the start
that she develops no overarching theses or major new interpretations for her subject.
Instead, she tends to carefully lay out very specific and rather narrow findings. If I
were to attempt a kind of grand synthesis of what seems more implicit than explicit
in this book, I would say that “childhood” in late tsarist times and for much of the
Soviet period was by and large a story of Russian success, particularly for families of
the working class and peasantry. Despite truly hideous childhoods experienced by
some—most particularly the offspring of “enemies of the people” in the 1930s—the
Soviet regime and its immediate predecessor made substantial good-faith efforts to
secure the material, mental, and emotional well-being of the young.
Drawing on the “theoretical” first section and the “everyday life and practice”
third section, I would summarize Kelly’s tale as follows. This is the story not of an
Ariès-like “discovery of childhood” but of its modernization. As Russia came to the
end of the 19th century and entered “the long 20th century,” Kelly claims, a new un-
derstanding of childhood had emerged, an understanding pinned to socio-economic
development (industrialization, urbanization) as well as to psychological advances. A
society that wished to see itself as future-oriented and progressive—ideas not wholly
 4
  Cf., for example, Catriona Kelly, Refining Russia: Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from
1760 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Kelly, A History of Russian Women’s Writing, 1820–1992
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1994); and the commentary to her edited An Anthology of Russian Women’s Writ-
ing, 1777–1992, trans. Kelly et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
REVIEW ON THE HISTORY OF CHILDHOOD 733

alien even to the ruling family—saw that the proper, humane treatment of children
was both a sign and an earnest of that desire. Before World War I, Russian laws,
schools, and families all were evolving in line with this wish, each at its own pace.
The best thinking in Russia was of a piece with the highest standards in Europe and
America. An emerging view of childhood as a period of creativity and autonomy
reflected the innovative “paidology” (or “paedology”) movement of the 1890s.
Though a “child-centered” upbringing was increasingly the norm, Kelly ac-
knowledges ambiguity in adults’ views of children in turn-of-the-century Russia, a
carryover of what she calls the “rationalist” and “sentimentalist” views prevalent since
the 18th century. While some adults viewed children as future adults in need of direc-
tion from above, others saw them as beings distinct from adults and thus deserving
greater freedom from such direction. Significantly, she argues, the class distinctions
which permeated adult society were not nearly as widely observed with respect to
childhood. Childhood was a near obsession—in literature, art, psychology—in fin-de-
siècle Russia as it had been for much of the 19th century throughout Europe.
After 1917, some of the best aspects of prerevolutionary pedagogy and child-
rearing continued under the new regime; until roughly 1931, elements of utopia-
nism remained in Soviet thinking about children. In this first decade and a half, the
official image of what a Soviet childhood should be was “rationalistic, anti-bourgeois,
and often pro-child and anti-adult” (76). But this left little room for a child’s inde-
pendent “interior life.” Politically conscious miniature adults, fully engaged in the
great class struggle and preferably male or male-like, were what children should be.
In her section on the “street waifs” (besprizorniki ) of the postrevolutionary period and
orphanages, Kelly shows how both punitive and rehabilitative methods were applied
to problems that had begun before 1917 and continued long after. In short, some
of the ambiguity of attitudes toward children seen before Great October remained
well into the Soviet era.
But by the middle 1930s—if not before—a new kind of conservatism was as-
serting itself in Soviet private-life policies, which led to a more “homogenized” ap-
proach to children and their problems. The family unit, under attack by the most
radical Bolsheviks in the 1920s and tolerated only with suspicion for most of the
early Soviet period, was given official blessing as the primary child-rearer in decrees
of the mid-1930s. Increased discipline over children became paramount, just as
adults were being “disciplined” in the harshest possible ways. Somewhat grotesquely,
this was the height of both the Soviet campaign to provide every new Soviet baby a
“happy childhood”—however circumscribed by lack of resources at the state, school,
and familial levels—and of the heinous demand that children be prepared to destroy
even their own family to defend the Soviet state (think Pavlik Morozov, the subject
of an earlier Kelly book). In a way mirroring the situation in pre-revolutionary
Russia, Soviet treatment of children increasingly became both the measure of how
well the system was providing for its future and one of the most important means
of legitimizing that system. The surest sign that the regime meant business in this
734 STEVEN A. GRANT

regard was that Stalin himself was placed in the forefront of the campaign to ensure
a happy childhood for all.
One of the brightest spots for children throughout the decades of communist
rule was culture, the subject of the Balina–Rudova volume. Many fine children’s
books were published, any number of good films came out, children’s theater and
the circus blossomed and/or flourished for much of this time—with inevitable set-
backs for some of the culture producers in the form of arrest, exile, or, in rare cases,
worse punishment. Kelly describes and analyzes both the content and the impact of
most of children’s culture. One is never in doubt as to the political and ideological
sensibilities at work in this sphere. Perhaps not surprisingly, many creative people
found their best chance for artistic freedom and expression in the fields of children’s
literature and art or related endeavors. A second bright spot, highlighted through-
out by Kelly, was the difference that dedicated personnel could make in otherwise
dreary circumstances, at nearly every Soviet institution, from schools to orphanages
to kindergartens to criminal juvenile facilities. Abuses, however, persisted in nearly
every sphere, from the start to the end of Soviet rule.
The war changed things some for children, as it did for adults; materially life
was much harder, but personally and emotionally conditions may have improved
slightly. The postwar Stalin years were mostly of a piece with the 1930s. Only in
the last two or three decades of the Soviet regime did the “child-centered” ideas
of the late tsarist period and the 1920s—along with contemporary European and
American examples—lead to more substantial changes in Russian pedagogy, child
legislation, and child care. While never quite living up to its promises, the dying
Soviet system apparently made ever more effort to guarantee a better life for its
young. The generations of the 1970s and 1980s probably came away with very
mixed feelings about their childhoods. Few seemed permanently scarred by their
experiences.
In the final analysis, the Soviet era had produced both pluses and minuses for
children, both mostly material. Political indoctrination had very ambiguous results.
Kelly and the other volumes reviewed show that some (not all!) moral judgments of
the Manichean world of Soviet historiography of the past remain moot. Childhood
as lived revealed the failure of the radical self-transformation that might have legiti-
mated the entire Soviet experiment. The internal contradictions of the system with
respect to the younger generation were among the most devastating to its survival.
There was also a kind of self-defeating mechanism at work in holding apart Soviet
children from most other children of the world. As childhood became increasingly
homogenized in advanced Western countries, the self-imposed isolation and separ-
ateness of Soviet culture became ever more destructive. In the end, as Kelly notes, the
most privileged sons and daughters of the elite—as well as those children deliberately
deprived of a happy childhood—became some of the fiercest critics of the regime,
its inegalitarianism and injustices. As has been observed by more than one political
analyst, when a ruling elite ceases to believe in its right to rule, its end is near.
REVIEW ON THE HISTORY OF CHILDHOOD 735

Where is there room for improvement in this dauntingly thorough compen-


dium? We can begin with the fact that, although the book is laced with figures on
virtually every page, the numbers quickly tend to blur. There is, unfortunately, not
a single real table in the entire 600 pages. One suspects the numbers sometimes
represent apples and oranges. A sense of the real dynamics of change is also foregone
by omitting statistical graphics.5 There is also no bibliography, a major disappoint-
ment. The ideal solution would have been to put a bibliography up on the project
website: www.mod-langs.ox.ac.uk/russian/childhood. Alas, such was not done. A
golden opportunity lost, at least for now, but capable of easy remedy in the future. In
all fairness, however, it must be noted that Kelly has made her oral history materials
available to scholars—not directly online but with access through written request,
as explained at the website.
Perhaps most disappointing, though understandable, is some attempt by Kelly
to go beyond her material and venture some larger interpretations within this time
frame. Seemingly this topic and the long chronological period lend themselves well
to just such analysis. For example, one would guess that in the long-standing and
ongoing debate in the historiography about Soviet Russia—as to whether there were
greater elements of continuity or discontinuity over the years from 1917 on—Kelly
offers no explicit judgment. Based on this one book, I would guess that she probably
stands more with the continuity camp, but that is not the position she took in a Fall
2002 Kritika review (641). Her book shows that prerevolutionary traditions and
ideas continually cropped up or re-asserted themselves in Soviet pedagogy and the
upbringing of children, as well as in dealings with juvenile offenders, orphans, and
street waifs. The family, though rocked in the 1920s, withstood every assault over
these decades and emerged pre-eminent in the late and post-Soviet periods. Kelly
does, however, make clear that the mid- to late 1930s were a crucial juncture and
perhaps a turning point—enough to argue for discontinuity? Not an explicit tackling
of the issue, not even a whiff of this argument, can be found in these pages—another
opportunity lost. Other irritants are few and minor; the number of typos is kept to
a commendable minimum. The occasional sense of déjà vu has already been noted.
Now and again a seeming non sequitur creeps in, as with the subsection title on 430,
where the reader is left to wonder who “Uncle Yakov” is and what his relationship
to the Lenin Mausoleum might be.
Lest the title mislead: the Balina–Rudova anthology covers Soviet and post-Soviet
Russia, not the prerevolutionary period. The authors, well-known specialists in the
field, have done an excellent job analyzing many aspects of this broad topic. The edi-
tors contribute a pair of offerings each, two of them forming a first-rate introduction
to the subject. Although the bulk of contributions focus on the written word, other
 5
  Even if such tables had to be incomplete, as surely would be the case, they could have provided
much more useful information than what the text does provide. Even had they relied on notoriously
skewed Soviet statistics, I am guessing that with a concerted effort Kelly and her team could have set
them right in many cases.
736 STEVEN A. GRANT

fields of culture are also represented, including the cinema, theater, cartoons, and
comic books. Genres, themes, and individual authors all receive attention. Before
turning to specific essays, let me draw out what I believe is an important overall point
of the volume. Various contributors demonstrate the different ways in which Soviet
children’s writers made an accommodation to the regime. Some authors bent more
than others to the pressure of political control; some believed in the regime more than
others. The degree of accommodation was, in general, no index of the quality of the
writing. By singling out just a few of the contributions to discuss here, I do a disservice
to those not included, nearly all of which I found worth reading.
In Inessa Medzhibovskaya’s rendering, Lev Kassil´ (1905­–70) appears to have
mostly followed the dictates of conscience in producing what the rulers asked
from him. Style and imagination, however, prevented his work from becoming
pedestrian party-think. By treating ideological aspects “matter-of-factly,” Medzhi­
bovskaya says, Kassil´ actually kept the results from being completely predictable.
He was able to preserve real “psychological suspense” in his novels. (252–53) In
perhaps his most successful book, Konduit i Shvambraniia, written in the early
1930s, Kassil´ adumbrated and embodied some tenets of Socialist Realism. He
juxtaposed the old world, symbolized by the class conduct record (konduit), full
of adult tyranny over children and other injustice, with an alternate reality, the
youth-oriented world of Shvambraniia, a “model of the glorious future” (245).
In most of his works, young people acted like heroes not on a grand scale but in
smaller ways, a reminder to readers of what was expected daily in their own lives.
An “eternal child,” to paraphrase Sergei Mikhalkov, and an enthusiast, Kassil´ did
not always escape party censure, but his was a true faith that sustained him through
any self-doubts he may have had (243, 256–58).
Quite different from Kassil´’s situation as coryphaeus for the regime was that
of the quasi-fairy-tale writer Pavel Bazhov (1879–1950). Expelled from the party in
1938, fired from his job, he was called in to the People’s Commissariat of Internal
Affairs (NKVD) office, fully expecting arrest and imprisonment. Instead, he waited
unsummoned, then quietly returned home and hid away for the next couple of years,
writing up his own notes based on local Urals folklore. Malakhitovaia shkatulka
(The Malachite Casket, 1939) contains not quite fairy tales (skazki ), not quite real-
life stories, to which Bazhov applied the term skazy. Mark Lipovetsky uses Freud’s
concept of the uncanny to analyze the content and import of these stories. They
contain elements simultaneously frightening and comforting to readers. There is a
constant threat of danger and death in them as well as a challenge to man-made
power. Unlike typically rosy and optimistic Soviet (children’s) literature, Bazhov’s
skazy are often gloomy, “sinister and morbid,” as Lipovetsky notes (267­–70, 274).
What makes them truly unique, however, is that they can be seen as a negative reac-
tion to large-state modernization (similar to Kafka’s allegories), presenting a dream
of escape from harsh reality. The nightmare of a terror-ridden, rapidly industrial-
izing Soviet Union in the late 1930s was full of people for whom escape was also a
REVIEW ON THE HISTORY OF CHILDHOOD 737

dream (276–77). No wonder Bazhov’s little gems (mildly oppositional?) struck such
a resonant chord at the time and remained popular for decades.
Samuil Marshak (1887–1964) seems to be another who believed or at least
made himself believe in what the regime was trying to achieve. Continually trim-
ming his sails from the 1920s until his death, Marshak managed (barely) to keep in
good political odor while producing an enviable corpus of works. Ben Hellman does
justice to both Marshak’s political opportunism (“voluntary surrender” in Hellman’s
apt phrase) and the creativity of a man trying to keep up with the ever-changing
vicissitudes of the Soviet “today” (217–39).6 Others, like Kornei Chukovskii (1882–
1969), may have had more reservations. He receives no separate chapter here for
his children’s writing. Both Marshak and Chukovskii, however, are the subjects of
a penetrating analysis by co-editor Balina of their autobiographies. Following the
lead of Andrew Wachtel and his treatment of Gor´kii’s “pseudo-autobiography,”
Balina shows how each writer adjusted the facts of his life to fit the Soviet model
of childhood myths (91–111).7 One misses comparative treatments of authors like
Boris Zakhoder, who seems clearly to have resisted the regime more than most. (His
widow includes a sly, touching, and funny encomium by Grigorii Oster—the subject
of an excellent essay by Rudova in this volume—to the poet on his birthday in 1991,
congratulating him for never having received a state award.)8
Other essays I found stimulating were Alexander Prokhorov’s all-too-brief sur-
vey of Soviet and post-Soviet cinema and particularly Birgit Beumers’s similar tour
d’horizon of animated films of the same eras. Beumers demonstrates convincingly
that animation suffered less from ideological constraints than other cinema (or litera-
ture), able to incorporate social and moral values that were less narrowly collectivist
and socialist. By definition not confined to showing reality (current or envisioned
future), the mul´tfilm was perhaps uniquely able to resist some high Stalinist Socialist
Realist norms, while still helping socialize and integrate children into Soviet society
(esp. 153–64). Most interesting, Beumers hints that film and TV cartoons of the
1950s–70s may have foreshadowed the collapse of Soviet society by highlighting
themes of alienation and isolation (164–68).
By contrast, according to Boris Wolfson, children’s theater “was perhaps the
most blatantly and bluntly ideological of all the institutions of children’s socialization
in early Soviet society outside the state-run school system itself” (175). Yet every
theatrical performance could “[undermine] the didactic message” its creators in-
tended. In tracing the kind of double-edged sword that was children’s theater, Wolf-
son singles out Maurice Maeterlinck’s prerevolutionary play The Bluebird (1908) as
 6
  Hellman has produced his own monograph on the subject at hand: Barn- och ungdomsboken i Sov-
jetryssland: Från oktoberrevolutionen 1917 till perestrojkan 1986 (Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren, 1991),
with a summary—as well as all chapter titles—in English.
 7
  This chapter recapitulates much of Balina’s earlier article “Troubled Lives: The Legacy of Childhood
in Soviet Literature,” Slavic and East European Journal 49, 2 (2005): 249–65.
 8
  Zakhoder, Zakhoder i vse-vse-vse…: Vospominaniia (Moscow: Zakharov, 2003), 249.
738 STEVEN A. GRANT

the early standard to emulate. But this play was “problematic,” didactic yet full of
potential ideological pitfalls (177–81). Through the 1920s and 1930s came efforts
to realize a more Soviet model for children’s theater; Wolfson finds the key to this
search in a principle articulated by Lunacharskii: “transformative coercion,” violence
directed against the self. Children’s theater was to be “a cultural mechanism for
rendering self-coercion effortless” (182–85). Wolfson’s culminating argument may
not gain acquiescence from all, but it is certainly intriguing. He believes that the
strict professionalism of Soviet children’s theater, involving older “travesty actresses”
playing both boys and girls on stage, led to: (a) gender becoming “a metaphor of
identification and transformation”; (b) audiences making “an absolute identification
with the other as the self”; and (c) the development of “effortless coercion,” an af-
firmation of the “fundamental beneficence of violence upon the self” and thus an
acceptance of self-coercion to become better Soviet citizens (185–89).
Equally rewarding is Evgeny Dobrenko’s examination of “the school tale” in
Socialist Realist writing. A look at socialization processes and Soviet pedagogy, this
essay notes the critical turning point of the year 1936 and the crucial role of Arkadii
Gaidar in formulating—in institutionalizing—what would become the norms of So-
cialist Realism (43–50). As with so much else involved in the concept, a huge effort
was made not to describe reality but to create a (new) reality. As with so much else in
Soviet history, the effort was ultimately unsuccessful: “The denial of the entire real
world of children in this literature was a small price to pay for the maintenance of
control over the individual being socialized” (58). All kinds of conflicts, “frustrations
and trauma” remain outside the Soviet Bildungsroman. Almost the only goal sought
is for young people to attain to “conscious discipline” (59). Yet Dobrenko acutely
observes that the picture painted in the school tale was “false” not so much because
of its omission of certain aspects of real life. It was false mostly because it “passed off
the repressive process of socialization in school as the realization of the desires of the
child,” not those of the regime (65).
This anthology is part of a much larger series on children’s literature and culture
edited by Jack Zipes. If the quality of the work in the other titles is on a par with this
volume, readers can expect to find in them a rich comparative literature to enjoy for
years to come. For all the pleasure the book under review gave, however, it is sad to
have to report the publisher notably derelict in putting it out as is. The lack of a native
English speaker’s editing hand in many of the essays from Russian-born contributors
is a minor but irritating flaw. Of greater concern are an annoyingly large number of
typographical, transliteration, and similar errors, often based on simple inconsistency.
Co-editor Balina twice manages to miscite her own work, and she allows Nikolai
Dobroliubov’s essay “On Children’s Literature” to look like a collection of works by
the author of Waiting for Lefty. All this mars an otherwise fascinating book on Rus-
sian culture.9

  A book very similar to the Balina–Rudova edited volume is Viacheslav P. Okeanskii and Aleksandr V.
 9

Tarasov, eds., Arkhetip detstva: Deti i skazka v kul´ture, literature, kinematografii i pedagogike (pamiati A.
REVIEW ON THE HISTORY OF CHILDHOOD 739

The Shangina-edited work is a first-rate complement to the Balina–Rudova and


Kelly works. (In some ways, the book under review is just a continuation or exten-
sion of Shangina’s monograph Russkie deti i ikh igry [Russian Children and Their
Games] [St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo-SPB, 2000], with more than a little self-quoting.)
This is an excellent reference work, compiled by leading experts, largely ethnogra-
phers and anthropologists. Most useful is the fact that nearly every article (all of
which are signed) contains a short bibliography for that subject. There are several
appendices, covering children’s folklore, games, holiday celebrations, doctoring, and
songs. The intention of the work is to tell all about “the vospitanie [upbringing] of
children which was traditional for the Russian people.” By “Russian people” is meant
almost exclusively the peasantry, not the middle and upper classes.10
It is worth noting that the authors and editors did not set out to convince their
contemporaries of the need to return to long-past times. They feel it useful, however,
that their countrymen remember some things from the past. They want their readers
both to understand the life of their Russian ancestors and to take from that life what
is of interest and useful. With these purposes in mind, the editor first describes the
conditions of life for children of the Russian village in the 19th to first quarter of
the 20th centuries. While “traditional,” rural areas were not yet feeling the full force
of new winds blowing, the educated, more European cities were living a life more
like that of the industrialized countries of the West. Villages were just beginning to
change fundamentally at this time. Of course, village views of vospitanie were scarcely
like contemporary ones (5).
This volume could not have been published a quarter-century ago. Despite
the unusual strength of the best Soviet scholarship in the treatment of social and
cultural history, including that of the family and children, the basic viewpoint of
Shangina and her colleagues would have been anathema.11 They portray a far from
uniformly bleak and unhappy childhood for pre­revolutionary peasants. Yes, despite
incredible poverty, frequent famines, and all the other ills that beset the village, one

A. Rou): Nauchno-khudozhestvennyi al´manakh (Ivanovo: Ivkinoservis, 2003), an assortment of articles


about childhood, children’s literature, and films by literature experts, psychologists, students, teachers
and pedagogues, and cultural scholars.
10
  At the extreme opposite end of this social scale, one has the masterful study of the royal family from
Richard Wortman: Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, 2 vols. (Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995–2000).
11
  It is perhaps one of the few things for which one can be grateful to philosophical materialism: as
for the Annales school in France, the quotidian and the concrete in life could generally be written
about in the USSR, even under the smothering blanket of Soviet censorship and Marxian biases.
What was true for the 1960s–80s, moreover, is even more so today, particularly when collaborative
efforts between Russian and Western scholars are much in fashion. Some of the best writing in this
field of Russian studies is a product of the last 20 years in the former USSR. One need think only
of the elegant two-volume study by Boris Mironov, available in a top-notch English version as well:
Sotsial´naia istoriia Rossii perioda imperii, XVIII–nachalo XX v.: Genezis lichnosti, demokrati­cheskoi
sem´i, grazhdanskogo obshchestva i pravovogo gosudarstva (St. Petersburg: D. Bulanin, 1999); and—with
Ben Eklof—A Social History of Imperial Russia, 1700–1917 (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999–2000).
740 STEVEN A. GRANT

cannot come away from a reading of this book without the feeling that a real sense
of community, purpose, and grounded identity pervaded much of rural life. These
in turn provided a strong moral underpinning for the childhoods of many peasant
children. Although their material circumstances were often something horrible to
overcome, it would not be stretching the concept beyond recognition to say that
by 1917 the upbringing of some—perhaps a plurality or even a majority of—village
children could be seen as a variant in a minor key of a happy childhood.
For peasants in those times, childhood began at birth and lasted to about 14–
16.12 Every year or two, however, “childhood” changed, in stages, as the capabili-
ties of the youngster emerged. The earliest period(s) ended, thus, when the child
learned to sit, walk, speak, use a spoon, and drink from a cup—when it entered the
first stage of “reason.” Up to the age of seven, life was about play and toys. Then
the next stage began; the relative “freedom” of infancy ended. A “flowering” and
“maturing” proceeded between the ages of 7 and 12 (7–8). At the latter age, both
girls and boys acquired responsibilities and a life of labor began, however lightly. The
primary duty of the young girl was to nanny her younger brothers and sisters. She
also had many other small household chores: sweeping the floor daily, feeding the
stove with firewood, tending the chickens and geese, looking after sheep and calves
near the home. She would drive the cows into the corral when they came home
from pasture. From age 10–11, she would even engage in some field work. The
young boy would help his father with whatever task he could. From age 12–13, if
not before, the young of both sexes helped with the harvesting, haying, threshing,
and milking, while girls assisted in the cooking, laundry, weaving, and sewing as
well. By the age of 15, girls and boys were assumed to be fully knowledgeable and
ready to run their own homes (8–9). Though traditional Russian peasant families
have long been presumed, rightly, to be organized on strictly patriarchal lines, with
an often despotic paterfamilias running the household with an iron—sometimes
harshly punitive—hand, this aspect of traditional childhood is not emphasized by
the authorial collective here.

12
  Most diverting for this reviewer is the terminology applied historically to children in the first year
and a half to two years: mladenchestvo, mladenstvo (derived from the early Slavonic root mol, meaning
“young,” which in turn derives from Indo-European words for “weak” and “tender”). A word of caution
of my own: despite a folk etymology which might associate the root mol with the word molchat´—and
thus the Russian term for childhood directly with the Latin “infant,” meaning “incapable of speech,”
“young”—no such link is sustainable.
In the earliest periods, the child is called mladenets, mladen´, or kuviaka (giving out a sound, cry-
ing), povitysh (wrapped in swaddling clothes), papolza (crawling), sliudianik, sligoza (slobberer), dybok
(starting to stand), and podsosok (breast-feeder) (6). Another term, zhevzhik, is more problematic. The
editors say it is akin to iurkii—meaning “jerky” or “quick” or “darting”—but this explanation seems
off the mark; a better derivation to me is the verb zhevat´, meaning to chew or masticate. Indeed, in
her 2000 monograph, Shangina says that zhevzhik means iurkii podsosok, sosushchii grud—so this is a
“little one briskly sucking the breast” (25).
REVIEW ON THE HISTORY OF CHILDHOOD 741

At about seven years of age, religious life began for the children: they made their
first confession and communion and learned two prayers—the “Our Father” and
the “Hail Mary.” At the same time, usually from their grandparents, they absorbed
traditions of mythology, “world history,” legends, fairy tales, folk tales, byliny, and so
on (9). Some even had a smattering of home or school “book learning,” but school
subjects were not generally seen as essential knowledge for their lives. In general, only
the practical and the necessary was learned (10). Additional highlights for readers,
I believe, will be the articles on games, illnesses, and customs, as well as those on
family relationships (e.g., “father,” “mother,” “brother,” “sister”).
It is easy to discern, despite the disclaimers of the editors, a didactic purpose in
this volume. Here contemporary Russian readers can learn all about a tradition of
family life both of a piece with yet substantially different from the norms of Soviet
times. One good example: introducing children to the idea of doing work for wages
at an early age was almost utterly alien to Soviet families of the 1980s. When my own
son (age 14–15) was in an excellent Soviet elementary school (not one for foreigners)
in 1984–85, his principals and teachers seemed to marvel at and envy the idea that
he had assigned chores for which he received an allowance, or that back home in the
United States he might already have found a part-time job for pay.
Too many modern families and states may concentrate overmuch on a “happy
childhood” for the rising generation. What they might focus on more is a “good
childhood.” The keys to a good childhood appear twofold. First, there must be
control: parents and states must exercise sufficient control both to protect and to
nourish children—and to give the children themselves that all-important sense of
being protected and nourished (“loved”). Second, and perhaps more important,
parents and the state must relinquish control at the right time and in the right way
so that the child can eventually become a mature adult. What the Kelly and Shangina
volumes state or imply is that prerevolutionary bourgeois, gentry, and to a degree
even peasant families had pretty much come to these two realizations. What Kelly
and the Balina­–Rudova works tend to show is that the Soviet state did not adequately
address the second key issue.
For those wanting a further comparative look at topics covered by the preceding
works, I can recommend the Fass-edited Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood,
though it is a good bet it will fully satisfy few. That is just as it should be. Savants will
find their own subject of expertise woefully under- or perhaps even misrepresented.
The uninitiated will come away wanting more, much more on whatever subject
they consult these pages for. Yet the stated purpose of this work was achieved—that
purpose being to provide “the interested reader [N.B. not the specialist] with a nec-
essary introduction to the wide range of issues that define the field” (italics added).
No user or reviewer should take the editors much to task for its not being the book
they would have written.
The pluses of this encyclopedic compendium are many: it is wide-ranging;
provides much basic information, is very accessible in style and content, is not
742 STEVEN A. GRANT

laden with jargon and abstruse theories, is often historically based, contains a large
number of comparative articles, is fairly well-organized, and has a useful—if not
spectacular—scholarly apparatus. There is a good deal of case law and legal top-
ics included; many articles are on important individuals—authors, psychologists,
sociologists, anthropologists, and so forth.13 The minuses will vary among readers/
consulters. For me, it is never quite comprehensive enough (“exhaustive” would be
asking far too much); contributors too often give just a basic idea of sometimes com-
plex and much more involved topics; the focus appears to be more on the United
States than I would prefer (virtually all contributors hail from North America and
Western Europe, with only a few from other countries where English is the primary
or second language—e.g., Australia, India, Israel). Why should there be an entire
article (in fact, two) on “Brazil” but not a single one devoted exclusively to “Russia” as
a whole? (Wachtel summarizes the major argument of his book in an article entitled
“Tolstoy’s Childhood in Russia” in volume 3 and Susan B. Whitney contributes a
brief article on “Communist Youth” (224–26), which naturally has little or nothing
to do with “children” per se. Her subjects are older, teenaged and above. An article
on “swaddling” by Kirsten Linde seems blissfully unaware of the practice in Russia/
USSR, the Gorer–Mead theory of personality built on this, and the controversy over
the theory (3: 802–3). Given the veritable explosion of Russian scholarship about
children and childhood in the past two decades, the “Russia gap” seems especially
disappointing.14 The editors missed a real opportunity for greater cross-fertilization
by not tapping into this resource. At the least, the special Soviet case would have
revealed much about how children’s culture adapts to political exigency and how
state coercion and/or indoctrination can alter modern childhood in significant ways.

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13
  Among the more interesting historical and/or cross-cultural articles are those of Peter N. Stearns
(“Comparative History of Childhood,” 1: 226–32); Jan Susina (“Children’s Literature,” 1: 178–85);
Nicole Eustace (“Emotional Life,” 1: 313–21); and Kathleen Uno (“Mothering and Motherhood,”
2: 603–8). Other articles I found stimulating as I leafed through the three volumes are Catherine
Burke, “Theories of Childhood” (3: 818–26); Kevin J. Brehony, “Theories of Play” (3: 826–32); and
Jacqueline H. Wolf, “Wet-Nursing” (3: 884–87). The entire set has a useful list of articles and a list of
contributors, plus an “outline of contents” (vol. 1), an index, and a selection of primary-source excerpts
(both vol. 3). Each longer article has a list of cross-references and its own bibliography of sources and/
or suggestions for further reading.
14
  Other such books in this field include Maina P. Cherednikova, “Golos detstva iz dal´nei dali…” (Igra,
magiia, mif v detskoi kul´ture) (Moscow: Labirint, 2002); Vera Iu. Zhibul´, Detskaia poeziia serebrianogo
veka: Modernizm (Minsk: Logvinov, 2004); Igor´ A. Morozov and Irina S. Sleptsova, Zabavy vokrug
pechki: Russkie narodnye traditsii v igrakh (Moscow: Roman-Gazeta, 1994); and Valeriia I. Eremina, ed.,
Poeziia detstva: Russkoe narodnoe tvorchestvo dlia detei (St. Petersburg: Aleteiia, 2004).