Between Salvation and Liquidation

Children were the future of Communism. Childhoods were to be happy and foster the next generation of “good” comrades. How would the regime spin the existence of thousands of parentless, homeless, and post traumatically stressed thieves? During the war the humane slogan quickly rose to save these children, adopt them and do your part for the war against the evil fascist. For those living behind the line of the war torn frontlines the people naturally embrace this idea. The rates of adoptions rose significantly. Everyone wanted to help in the war effort. As on teacher said, “Let’s banish the word “orphan” from our usage. There cannot be orphans in our country, where all are mothers.[….] We are raised by the Great Stalin, educated by the Party of Lenin and Stalin, we live in the Soviet Union. Here we cannot speak of orphans. We will speak of wonderful mothers, loyal to the Party of Lenin and Stalin, and of our own children, not of orphans.”1 Emotions ran high because much was at stake, namely, the achievement of the entire nation.

The war eventually ended and in its wake, the number of street children quickly began to plaque the Soviet regime. The dilemma was difficult to resolve, continued for many years, and surprisingly grew because the street appealed to some children who had parents and homes. Many of these children ran away when caught. Many adopted children exhibited significant indicators of posttraumatic stress. The psychologist could not help with this condition because they had all been victims of the purges. Unfortunately, this problem of street riff raff seemed to be growing like a plaque. Of course, this could not continue and immediate action needed to take place. The creation of children work camps became the solution to do away with these children from public view. As in most correctional institutions, reforms of inappropriate behavior did not take place. Sadly, these victimized children of the war continued to flaunt authority and many became hardened criminals. Silence on the problem of the nonexistent orphans became the new slogan of propaganda.

  1. Julian Furst, Between Salvation and Liquidation: Homeless and Vagrant Children and the Reconstruction of Soviet Society. The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 86, No. 2, The Relaunch of the Soviet Project, 1945-64 (2008) p.243 []

2 thoughts on “Between Salvation and Liquidation

  1. As you mentioned it was interesting to see the contradictory viewpoints on Soviet children, on the one hand being the future of the country while on the other leading to the detriment of the system. It is also easy to see how the Soviet Union would have struggled to deal with the massive amount of displaced and orphaned children after World War II. A startling point which the author mentioned regarding the juvenile labor camps was the instances of the guards being more afraid of the juvenile prisoners than of the adults, because of the belief the younger inmates had lost all humanity. It would be interesting to see if anyone had done a follow up on the lives of those in the juvenile labor camps and the orphanages to learn if they ever became reintegrated into Soviet society.

  2. I think the author made a really good point when they mentioned “This theme, which emphasized less the needs of individual children and more the need to eradicate the problem, drew on legal and ideological developments of the later 1930s, which judged children and youngsters under the same Manichean belief system as their parents and adult relatives. Children, who ‘refused to be rescued’ and turned into valuable members of Soviet society had no place in the Soviet Union.” ((Julian Furst, “Between Salvataion and Liquidation: Homeless and Vagrant Children and the Reconstruction of Soviety Society, 233)) I thought it was interesting that the author noted that the state had drew back on ideals that were used during purges of the 1930s on regular Soviet Citizens and placed them on these orphaned children. For me, this suggests that the state may have decided that the children would have to be subjected to the same rules, if not more rules, than regular citizens because of their foreign background. Like Kathryn, It would be interesting to study the juvenile labor camps. It would also be interesting to see whether or not children who were sent there got sent to regular Gulags at all.

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