And the children

The book Lenin and the children belonged to the first readings of a Socialist childhood. Although it would be more exact to say “genre” instead of “book”, as it had more than one version which all arranged differently the hagiographic material. In Hungary, for example, besides the first primers also the anthologies Igaz történetek Leninről (True stories on Lenin) translated by Endre Sík and Történetek Leninről (Stories on Lenin) illustrated by Károly Reich included a wide variety of the stories illustrating the mutual affection of Lenin and the children.

The canonical work of the genre was the collection Ленин и дети – Lenin and the children compiled by Lenin’s secretary Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich, which is still considered by some Russian sites among the ten most influential Russian children’s books ever published. Its richly illustrated full text is to be found on the net, and you can also find its scanned version. This book contains only three from the several stories – Lenin and Tomcat Vaska, Lenin founds the Society of Clean Plates, Lenin on the Christmas tree feast in the school –, but it relates them so vividly and in detail that it was very useful for being reenacted by the children during the courses “Getting acquainted with Lenin” in the kindergarten from the age of three.

“– Vladimir Dmitrievich, don’t you want to take part on the school feast? – asked Vladimir Ilich.
– Yes, I do. – I answered.
– Well, then go and acquire, wherever you find, some cakes, confetti, bread, sparkler and toys, and tomorrow evening we will go to Nadia’s school. Let us organize a feast for the children. Here you are some money for the costs.”

“Vladimir Ilich loved children very much, and the children also felt this. He quickly learned their names, and it was admirable how he did not confuse them. The children could have not been drawn away, they were so attached to Vladimir Ilich. After tea they took him to another room to show him their treasures: a jackdaw with fastened wings, a sparrow that had lost the half of its tail in a fight with the cat, a snake, a baby hedgehog and a frog. Then they brought him their drawings and schoolbooks to show.”

Or there was also the collection Lenin and the children compiled from the short remembrances of the contemporaries with the approval of Nadezhda Krupskaya.

“Lenin wished children to became determined Communists. It often happened that while joking with a little boy he suddenly asked him: “You’ll be a Communist, won’t you?” And you could see on him how much he wanted the child to grow up as a Communist.”

This genre, as everything else in the Soviet Union, also produced its distorted mirror which, of course, only spread in samizdat, such as the apocryphal stories collected in Andrei Shipilov’s My little Leniniana:

“Vladimir Ilich Lenin loved children very much, and he especially loved to caress their little heads. It sometimes occurred that as soon as he woke up he desired so much to caress a little child that he immediately told to the guards: “Come on, he says, bring me some child, let me caress his head.” And the guards go on, out of the gate, catching the first child that passed within reach of their hands, and took him to Lenin. On the street of course there was shouting, uproar, hysterical parents, people flock together, they call Lenin names… but Vladimir Ilich just caressed the head of the child, gave him some candy and then let him go.

Although he could have even allowed to himself not let him go.”

About the latter story and its versions (e.g. Lenin threw back the football to the children playing on the street although he could have even allowed himself to have them shot dead) I thought they had been invented as jokes until I met their parallel of 1925 in the collection Lenin in Russian fables and Eastern legends published by the Young Guard in 1930:

“Lenin had a friend, a commissar responsible for food. Once Lenin was told that this friend handled the peasants roughly, he did injustice to them, and he did not have the good of the people in sight.
Lenin had him called and asked him:
– My friend, is this true?
But he just kept silence and bowed his hand. Lenin then told him:
– You have no right to oppress the peasant. For the peasant is the great strength of the country, he provides us with bread. I see that me as your friend must set you an example.
And Lenin kissed him, said goodbye to him and commanded him to be shot dead.
This is how Lenin was… He loved justice.”

“A quarter of a century ago as my daughter Dasha came home on the first day of September from the first class, she declared:
– Lenin must be loved by all means!
– And Krupskaya? – I asked.
My daughter was meditating. It seemed that she tried to remember whether the schoolmistress gave any instruction as to the wife  of Lenin.

– No, Krupskaya… is not necessary…
But to highlight the essential, she repeated once more:
– But Lenin must be loved by all means and his example must be followed!
And I realized how pointless it would be to fight against the Soviet school system.”

Vladimir Kornilov: Покуда над стихами плачут (As long as they cry on poems)

V. Snopov: Lenin and Krupskaya with children, 1964

I do not know whether other contemporary dictators also followed the example of Lenin, and whether there existed for example any literature on Mussolini and the children. That there was nothing like this on Franco and the children is attested by Wang Wei. Hitler and his minister of propaganda Goebbels, however, realized how promising the genre’s diffusion in Russia was for them. When the German troops in June 1941 entered the Soviet Union, the propaganda brochures distributed on the occupied lands already included the richly illustrated forty-pages publication entitled Гитлер и дети – Hitler and the children which seated the father of the German people on the place of Lenin in the role well known all over the Soviet Union.

“Closed from the rest of the world by the Bolshevik hangmen for so many years, you had no occasion to get know the truth. They kept lying to you and teaching to you that the German people hates Hitler, that blood is flowing in rivers in Germany and that the world knows no more cruel tyrant than him. Especially the Jewish propaganda made every effort to blackmail the Führer, and it is no wonder that the Jews hate him just as much as he loves the German people.

In this book we want to present you only one side of Adolf Hitler. We want to display you how much the people of Germany and especially the German children love their Führer and how much he loves the children and his people.

The Führer especially loves the children. As if he had no need of rest and solitude, he always finds time for the children.

Here you are the truth! Here you are how the man lives who has destroyed Jewish Communism in Germany.”

Для малышей, бегающих по комнатам, по двору и саду его дома, Фюрер всегда находит ласковое слово и какой-нибудь подарокFor the little ones running about in the rooms, courtyard and garden of his home, the Führer always has a gentle word and some gift.

У Гитлера дети чувствуют себя, как дома. От его ласкового взгляда у них проходит всякое смущение. Они доверчиво показывают ему свои игрушки и куклыAt Hitler the children feel like at home. His gentle look lifts all their embarrassment, and they confidently show him their toys and dolls.

Часто случается, что какой-нибудь карапуз зовет Фюрера поиграть с ним. Не было еще случая, чтобы Вождь германского народа в чем-либо отказал детям. Крестьянские дети из соседних деревень — его постоянные гостиIt often happens that a little kid invites the Führer to play. There was no case when the Leader denied anything to the children. The peasant children of the nearby villages are constant guests of his home.

К нему приезжают дети даже из самых отдаленных мест Германии. На снимке группа юных музыкантов из БременаChildren come to visit him even from the farthest provinces of Germany. This photo  represents a group of young musicians from Bremen

Находятся много желающих сфотографироваться, и Фюрер, к великой радости детей, улыбаясь, исполняет их просьбуMany children want to have common photos with him, and to their great delight the Führer satisfies their demand with a large smile

На станциях народ восторженно приветствует Адольфа ГитлераHis people enthusiastically greets Adolf Hitler on the stations

Hitler with the Goebbels couple and three of their seven children, 1938

We do not know what effect the publication had on the Russian readers, as it became obsolete in a couple of years. Hitler sent the last German children to the front, and his minister of propaganda on 1 May 1945 committed suicide together with his wife who beforehand had killed their seven children. And nowadays who remembers any more the touching stories of Lenin and the children which had founded this genre?

Lenin and the children. Soviet statue, in 2007

2 comentarios:

Effe dijo...

Mussolini, as a young man, was a socialist (!) and a school teacher – and, well, he didn’t love so much his pupils…
Please read here (in italian)

During the 20 years of fascism, however, the propaganda said Benito Mussolini loves very much children, and italian children love very much the duce: picture

Julia dijo...

En Argentina quien más aparecía ligada a los niños era Eva Perón. Es cierto que hizo obras verdaderas y válidas en favor de los niños pobres, pero el mecanismo simbólico de adoctrinamiento era igual de poderoso a los aquí retratados.
Luego de su muerte, su autobiografía "La razón de mi vida" fue de lectura obligatoria en las escuelas. Y en los mismos libros con que se enseñaba a leer, Perón y Evita aparecían muchas veces (ver en este libro por ejemplo, las páginas 6, 52, 66, 91)