Salvation and Liquidation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Perception in the Soviet Union was one of the most critical concerns of the government, from identifying “kulaks,” real or imagined, to outing prisoners-of-war turned German spies, and the legions of orphaned vagrants in the streets were no exception.  The prospect of orphaned children in the public eye created a challenge to the effort to portray the Soviet Union as an idyllic society free of the capitalist-based sins of the West.  Eventually, however, children were subjected to the same “work or starve” ethic that their elders found themselves placed under, and the focus of rescuing wayward children became an initiative to build socialism rather than add any particular meaningful happiness to their lives.  Children were considered a symbol of the state, an innovative presence to foster for the future, and thus could not be allowed to become tainted or lose their value to the state.

More than merely failing to contribute to the image of a healthy Soviet family life, many vagrant children became beggars or thieves living on railways.  This blatant lawlessness struck at the regime as an inability to police their own house, as it were.  The government response to child-crime was a far cry from the salvation campaigns aimed at rescuing orphans.  Waifs were to be ousted from their train station hideouts in raids reminiscent of hunting game.  Just as children were measured in productivity by the same measure as older Soviets, so too were they subject to the same level of prosecution.

One thought on “Salvation and Liquidation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

  1. I agree that the perception of the Soviet Union by others was an important factor in Soviet decision making. In order to compare themselves to the west, the Soviets would have had to understand what the west thought of them first. After understanding the flaws pointed out by capitalist nations as well as the flaws exposed by its own citizens, the Soviet union shifted its propaganda campaign time and time again. This shift, primarily trying to rehabilitate children designated delinquents and Waifs as problematic and threatening individuals and treated them as such. I think that the children were subjected to an unjust level of persecution compared to adults, mainly due to the fact that their “crimes” were not political and occasionally criminal, but rather inherent in their attitudes and mentality. The unjust persecution of besprizorniki and beznadzornye due to predisposed anxiety and mental issues from war was worse than persecuted adults. The children had no way of fixing themselves after living the only life they knew how to to survive.

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