Unity of All Laborers: Soviet Ideals in the Wake of Post-February Revolution Independence Movements

The Red Army occupying Moscow, during the Russian Civil War

The Red Army occupying Moscow, during the Russian Civil War


((Bolsheviks in Moscow. Digital image. The Russian Civil War: 1917-1920. Accessed February 7, 2016. http://www.emersonkent.com/wars_and_battles_in_history/russian_civil_war.htm))

In the U.S., there seems to be a commonly held misconception about the emergence of Soviet Russia and its relationship with its surrounding neighbors. From my history classes, I remember learning about Russia leaving World War I and the basics of the Russian Revolution. However, after that period, it seems that Russian history just disappears until World War II. Suddenly, Russia became our uneasy ally. I recall hearing the negative effects of the Great Depression on the Russian economy, like it had for all major global economies; however, aside from that, it was mostly Roaring Twenties and the New Deal. Since Soviet Russia grew in size from WWI to WWII and, as a class, we never really touched upon Russia; we were left to assume that the leaders of Russia thought it best to expand immediately. Reading these documents proved my assumptions wrong.


Russia’s transition from a new government to the might USSR was not as smooth. In fact, the documents provide evidence of the Bolsheviks pushing to help like-minded individuals in neighboring areas. For example, in the “Council of People’s Commissars, Decree on Recognizing the Independence of the Estonian Soviet Republic,” the response detailed in the document pushed for Estonian independence. This concept is contrary to what many students in the US are likely led to believe. The Council of People’s Commissars not only recognized the independence of the newly founded Estonian Soviet Republic, but pushed for both military and economic aid. These ideas are supported in two of the other documents, which essentially both call for the unity of Russian laborers in a global fight for freedom against the bourgeoisie and imperialists. It appears, however, that once Stalin took over control of the government, he sought to enforce these ideals strictly and militarily, as opposed to in a friendlier manner.

Catherine The Great’s Enlightened Policies

From the minute Catherine the Great seized the thrown in 1762, enlightened policies were enacted. That very year, She published The Manifesto Freeing the Nobility From Compulsory Service. In this script she grants the release of all nobility from the Table of Ranks, and preserves this right for future generations to come. Within this document Catherine stresses the new right to travel, showing her desire for a more cultured and global perspective for the nobility. Although the Manifesto repeals Peter the Great’s Table of Ranks, it also praises his work for progressing the military as well as civil and educational affairs. These are certainly traits of Peter’s reformist campaign that Catherine wished to continue in later documents such as The State on Provincial Administration along with other enlightened values. In this document Catherine develops multiple administration positions within the Gubernii, after the Pugachev Revolution in the South revealed the lack of control the state had in these regions. She also creates programs that resemble a form of public welfare and programs that had never been offered to the lower class before. These structural adjustments include requiring a health care clinic to be in every region with at least one doctor and apprentice so the trait could be passed down. Education was now public and encouraged for all classes, and also in the control of the state by using administrative boards in each region. Article Sixty-Four includes the process of elections and terms in order to have new ideas always being in a position of authority. In 1785 the Charter to the Nobility provided many privileges to this group of people but also held them accountable for crimes committed as everyone in Russia was now under the law. Catherine’s vision of Russia was a perpetual state of progress where the Monarch continued to act as a patriarch for all of it’s citizens.

1.) Which one of Catherine’s reforms were most well perceived in Russia? How should the Nobility view Catherine after these laws were enacted?

2.) Is Catherine the Great the most effective Tsar in Russia’s History of reformist rulers?

Stearns on Education

Education is a major theme dispersed throughout Stearns full length book, Childhood in World History. Though mentioned sporadically through different sections of his book, I think what Stearns is trying to get at with education boils down to three main chronological themes. Firstly, how religion sparked the rise of importance of education. Secondly, the idea that children are the future led to the shift of children moving from the workplace into the classroom. Thirdly, stemming from the previous two revelations, a newfound obligation was born for parents to promote academic achievement and thus provide a solid, well-rounded education for their children.

Religion and Education

In Stearns chapter regarding childhood in the classical civilizations, he brings up how religion, Confucianism in specific, began to place an emphasis on education. At the time education was accessible largely by the upper class rather than the lower class, though in some special cases certain talented boys or girls may have received training from “an upper-class sponsor.” Regardless of class, Confucianism made it “clear that moral as well as academic instruction was essential.”

World religions began to push for a more formal religious education. This religious “surge,” as Stearns calls it, was unprecedented. The result was “a redefinition of what education was about” and “an impulse to spread elements of education more widely that had been the case in the classical centuries.” World religions attempted to bridge the gap between children and their spirituality while simultaneously promoting literacy and the importance of education.

From the Workplace to the Classroom

Stearns identifies three fundamental changes that have contributed to what we now know as modern childhood. His first and most essential change “involves the conversion of childhood from work to schooling.” In earlier western societies that were more agriculturally centered, the child was looked at to work and help provide for his or her family. Children receiving an education began to gain increasing value. A proper and well-rounded education was deemed necessary in order to be a positive contributor to society. Children were no longer children; they were future adults. They were viewed as the future. “The child is the object of state upbringing.” The amount of children attending school all across the globe skyrocketed. Not only were children going to school, but they were going to school longer, through high school and even college. “This was a real conversion: childhood now meant schooling, above all.”

A Parent’s Obligation

As the role of education changed and gained increasing prominence, the natural responsibilities of being a parent changed as well. Education evolved from being a luxury enjoyed by the upper-class to a universally acknowledged necessity. Slowly but surely, “growing numbers of middle- and even lower-middle-class parents began to send children to at least a year or two of secondary school.” In the West, the education of females became more common due to the notion that, “in a modern society, mothers must be educated in order to raise their children properly.” As children began to be looked at as the keys to the future rather than simple emotionless objects, education became a fundamental and essential part of life.



Growing Up In A “Normal Time”

Rowley’s interview with Natalie P. was not only relatively uplifting, but also opened my eyes to the the ignorance of learning in our culture. Despite going to a selective liberal arts college in what people have labeled the “information era”, I have never met someone my age whose thirst for learning was so insatiable. It was not only Natalia, however, it was also all of her classmates. Although it is sad, it is tough to imagine myself in a classroom where every student was so eager to learn. It has been said that college is the only commodity we pay for to not attend, with students taking out loans of tens of thousands of dollars yet make decisions to skip class or voluntary distract themselves in it.

It makes me think about living standards in comparison to educational or academic desire and performance. I would assume someone growing in lesser living conditions would see education as an opportune privilege and try to be as active as possible. In contrast, students I have grown up with have often loathed school, class, homework, or opportunities to learn because it has been seen as a chore rather than a way to better yourself in ways impossible otherwise.

How does culture and lifestyle effect education in a society? If you had been raised in much better or worse conditions than you have, do you think it would have changed the way you participated in your education?

Spanish Children Refugees…Future of the Soviet Union?

In the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, Prats-de-Mollo_Children's_HomeStalin and the Soviet Union played an important role in supporting the Spanish Republic. Most directly, Stalin supported the relocation of 3,000 Spaniard children to the Soviet Union. Although this was a move to support the Spanish Republic, Stalin also did this for the benefit of the Soviet Union. By placing these children in the care of members of the Soviet Union, Soviet values were instilled in them, while still maintaining a veneer of their Spanish culture.

When Spain was in turmoil, children were not able to study in Spain so their parents sent them to the Soviet Union. There are not many sources on this subject; if there are, they are oral which can be unreliable sources. Some sources say people in Leningrad greeted them nicely, while others had negative experiences. Many children recall their experience being one of stripping them of their belongings, the only things that they had from home. One woman recalls being stripped of her dress from home and dressed as everyone else in the Soviet Union. Another woman recalls her bible being thrown out, symbolizing how her past religion would not be a part of her new life in the Soviet Union.

Children’s values and ideas are not concrete, they are easily transformed; their minds are like sponges, absorbing all they hear. This is why these children were such great additions to the Soviet Union. They were “specimens of socialist internationalism in practice.” The children had high discipline in their schooling, but that discipline never led to violence. The State believed that positive role models were the only way children would learn Soviet values. Although teachers taught students of their Spanish heritage, Soviet values were the main focus. The Spanish teachers were often seen as less serious, shedding better light on the Soviet teachers, thus shedding better light on the State. This “hybridity” of Soviet-Spanish cultures further reinforces the concept of “nation in form, socialist in content” that we have discussed as a theme in class.

Sovietization of Spanish Niños

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, Stalin decided to test the influence of the Soviet state by providing some “assistance” to the warring nation. He did this in several military and political ways, but the focus of our class reading this week was on the nearly 3,000 Spanish children that the Soviet Union took in as refugees from the war.

There was an ulterior motive, however, that wasn’t too surprising given the Stalin’s history. While promoting Communist ideals in Spain itself via propaganda, Stalin saw these child refugees as tools. The state would educate them in Soviet ways and make them into the perfect hybrid of Spanish-Soviet culture. The children’s acceptance of communist ideology would prove its universal appeal while symbolizing the selfless and altruistic nature of Soviet society. It was a win-win.

The niños were taught camaraderie, respect for authority, independence and discipline in addition to their academic undertakings. This was done by adult role models that perfectly embodied Soviet ideals. If the designated teachers were later deemed “politically illiterate,” meaning they did not embody and teach Soviet values with enough conviction, they were removed from their posts (usually under the guise of some other complaint against them.) Although these subpar instructors were not labeled “political enemies” of the Soviet state, the process did help identify them as weaker members of Soviet society and the government preferred to keep tabs on such citizens.

The refugee program for the Spanish children is yet another example of the creative and guileful policies of the Soviet Union. You would be hard-pressed to find a political leader as detail-oriented, goal-driven and determined as Stalin. His desire to transform the Soviet Union into the perfect communist state knew no bounds.

Define: sustainable


Sustainability encompasses so many things: from science, technology and nature down to small things such as recycling, reusable water bottles and turning off lights in empty rooms. The push for sustainability is a call to re-learn how to live within our means on this planet–something we have forgotten. But I see the most important aspect of sustainability in the photo above: teaching the future leaders of the world to be accountable for our environment so that our progress in sustainability efforts can be sustained in the decades to come.

A quick “define: sustainable” search in Google turns up this response: able to be upheld or defended. Our efforts to live green cannot be upheld if we do not teach the future generations how to do so. Earth cannot be defended if our society, particularly youth, is not educated. And so I believe the most important definition of sustainability is this: to educate the public on living green and living within the limits of Mother Nature.