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.