Growing Up Soviet? The Orphans of Stalin's Revolution and Understanding the Soviet Self
Stone, Andrew Bradford
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This dissertation explores the history of the "orphans of Stalin's revolution": the hundreds of thousands of children who grew up under the care (or neglect) of the Soviet state after losing their parents to Stalin's harsh policies of forced collectivization, breakneck industrialization, and political repression. Beginning with the huge wave of orphaned children that followed Stalin's "revolution from above," it traces Soviet efforts to house, manage, and, in particular, "remake" these children to be loyal, collectivist, Soviet subjects. Drawing on both archival documents and children's writings, it unveils how Soviet institutions sought to transform how these children thought and spoke about their lives by encouraging them to script new, Soviet identities for themselves, and the outcomes of this process. In particular, it reveals the large contrast between efforts to form Soviet subjects or "New Soviet People" in model institutions versus the wider system of children's homes. It then turns its attention to another cohort of orphaned children whose parents were arrested during Stalin's political repressions, investigating how these children experienced and later remembered the devastating loss of their parents and the difficult transition to life in a collective environment. In doing so, it broadens our understanding of the place of childhood in the Soviet project, and explores the still mostly unanswered question of how young people subjectively experienced the Soviet system. It also reveals and analyzes previously unexamined emotional dimensions of Soviet subjectivity, investigating how the Soviet state sought to manage and shape the emotions of its citizens, and how emotional memories and narratives (on the part of children of "enemies of the people," for example) challenged this process.
- History