A blog about teaching history at Dickinson College

Where are the Children?

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:International_Chidren%27s_Day_USSR_stamp.pngWelcome back to the Teaching History blog. After a research trip to Moscow and workshop in Paris, I finally got back to work organizing new guest bloggers. In the coming months we will be discussing children, communism, World War I, the Cold War and more.

First up: children.

As I began to work on my book project about Spanish refugee children raised in the Soviet Union, I not only began to read a great deal about children’s history, but also reflected on why I speak so little about childhood in my courses. Children are of course a large percentage of any society. While they may not be decision-makers, children are often central concerns of state and society. The modern state allocates vast resources to educate children and maintain their health and welfare. Even more sums are claimed by many states that hold that the child is the most precious part of society, the future of the nation, etc. In more affluent countries advertising and marketing geared toward children dominate many media. Yet, most historians have little to say about children in their scholarship or teaching. It seems to me that the conditions in which children grow up can tell us a great deal about state priorities, family dynamics, consumerism, cultural and social values, and so much more.

I, like many Russian historians, address childhood far less than adulthood. In the first half of my survey I give scant attention to children except for our readings of Domostroi and Village Life in Tsarist Russia. My Soviet history course fares little better with glances at children in films like Circus or discussions of Pavlik Morozov, education, or changing family policy.

At the First Russian Children’s History workshop (May 2012), organized by the University of Alabama’s Margaret Peacock, six of us circulated manuscripts in various stages of development. From this fabulously productive environment I learned a great deal about a field to which I, trained as an urban historian, am quite new. I came away with many good ideas about how to revise my survey courses and to create a new seminar on children. Two of the scholars at the workshop have been gracious enough to discuss with us their reasons for and approaches to teaching children’s history and the history of childhood.

Jacqueline Olich  is Associate Director of the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies and an Adjunct Professor of History and Curriculum in Global Studies Faculty Affiliate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to teaching Russian history surveys, Dr. Olich has taught courses such as “Classics of Children’s Literature” and “Kids, Communists, and Capitalists.” She has published Competing Ideologies and Children’s Literature in Russia, 1918-1935 (Verlag, 2009), which was based on her dissertation at UNC-Chapel Hill, and “The Russianists Love Their Children, Too”. Her posts will focus on why children should be more prominent in our courses, provide a glimpse into her comparative history of Soviet and American children, and suggests ample resources from which we can draw.

Julie deGraffenried is Assistant Professor of History and Associate Director of Slavic and East European Studies at Baylor University. She is currently completing a book about Soviet childhood during World War II, which is based on her dissertation (University of Texas-Austin) about Soviet children and the Pioneers during World War II. Her latest publication is: “Рисуем детство в Великую отечественную войну: оформление обложки и детские журналы, 1941-1945,” in Конструируя детское: филология, история, антропология. Edited by M Balina, B. Bezgorov, S. Sheridan, et al. St. Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriia, 2011. Because she has taught at the high school and university level, Prof. deGraffenried is particularly well qualified for her upcoming posts on children in Russian history survey courses and in high school history courses.

As always, we invite questions and comments and hope for discussion and conversation. Suggestions for future topics are most welcome.


  1. R. Ebaz

    However the children is the successor to the nation, in dealing with various problems that exist they do not have sufficient ability to adapt and survive.
    I hope the children will remain a top priority of a country

  2. Sean Guillory

    I’m looking forward to the posts. Anything on children and youth in Russia is always appreciated.

    I would be interested in discussions of teaching a history of childhood and youth in Russia, what primary sources are available in English, and what approaches Julie, Jacqueline and others would recommend. I’ll monitor the blog and add my own suggestions.

  3. Matt Pauly

    Hello to all from the ISCHE-SHCY-DHA conference in Geneva where I just presented on “Between the Nation and Internationalism: The Communist Youth League, Young Pioneers, and the Schoolhouse in Soviet Ukraine, 1923-1934.” There are a few other presenters on children and youth in Russia/USSR. I will try to pass on news of your blog. I look forward to your posts. Cheers.

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