Organizing Ideological Texts in Soviet Literature for Children

DOI:  10.55804/jtsu-1987-8583-15-7



Homo Sovieticus is a qualitatively new Soviet person, whose formation was of special importance for Soviet identity politics. To achieve this goal, among other means, fiction was actively employed. In terms of identity formation, children's fiction reveals particularly important texts because the children were the target group for the formation of a new identity. The present article deals with the organization of these ideological ‘insets’ as one of the means of exerting influence. The discussed works belong to the period of 1939 - 1956. This period reflects the ideological influence both during the Second World War and after the war when the formation of a specific image of memory of the war had already begun. The post-war period was determined by 11 and not 10 years, as in 1956, the “The Bronze Bird”  by A. Ribakov was published. This work is a sequel of the work by the same author - “The Dirk" and contains important information for  research. Also, the article discusses only Russian Soviet children's literature, because it  primarily reflected the demands of the Soviet influence over children's literature - Soviet values, principles, etc. The extent to which Georgian children's fiction was subject to ideological bias and the way this bias was manifested is a theme of a separate study and is not discussed in this article.

Soviet children's literature is thoroughly studied in Georgian scientific literature from the point of view of philology and literary studies. In the monograph "Theoretical History of Socialist Realism (using the Example of Georgian Literature) (author N. Gaprindashvili, M. Miresashvili, N. Tsereteli), a separate chapter is devoted to this issue ( “Socialist Discourse and Peculiarities of Georgian Children's Literature” Book I; p. 242 ; Book II; p. 227 by  N. Gaprindashvili). However, in the context of this article, Soviet children's fiction is discussed in terms of cultural studies. The urgency of the research is determined by the fact that the formation of the identity of the next generation is an important issue for every society. The method of narrative analysis is used while conducting the research, while the method of Structuralism is employed as a theoretical framework.


Types of Organizing ideological texts 

Children's literature differs  concerning the number of ideological inserts and the intensity of the impact made by them. If some works reveal only minor inserts whereas in the works of other authors these types of text inserts develop as a parallel line independent of the main content.

There are three main types of organizing ideological texts. These sections of the work differ in terms of the degree of their involvement in the content of the work: (1) The ideological text can be found in the form of insets: "Chuk and Gek" (1939), “The Sword of D’Artagnan" (1955).  (2) Ideological texts that influence the reader are integrated in the content, express the character or the intellectual continuation of the action: "Timur and His Squad" (1941), "Vasek Trubachov and his Comrades" (1947-1951), the second book of the trilogy (3) The text intended to influence the reader is not directly connected to the story, there is a kind of parallel line which reveals little or no direct development of the content: "Sword" (1948), “The Bronze Bird" (1956).

The first case is the simplest and clearest. A. Gaidar's "Chuk and Gek" tells the story of brothers who travel with their mother to Taiga to see their father. The ideological type of inset emerges several times in this work and mainly serves to glorify and romanticize military life. The first example is a military person helping Gek, who had got lost on the train. The next sections conveying a  special meaning are the description of the armored train, the Red Army and the weapons. There is an emphasis on the commander - the brothers believe that he is waiting for the order from Voroshilov to declare war against someone (!). The importance of this inset is indicated by the fact that the commander appears two more times in the work: first, in Gek's dream, and second, at the end of the story when, while celebrating  the New Year, they are listening to the sound of the Kremlin clock. It is emphasized that this sound is also heard by the commander who is still waiting for the order to declare war against someone. It is noteworthy that the enemy is not specified, the main importance is given to being in a constant state of combat, to the existence of an "enemy image". Based on the above, there are only four insets of a sharply ideological nature in this work.

The same type of organization of ideological texts is seen in “The Sword of D’Artagnan" (author A. Perfil’eva). Here, an ideological inset is found once and depicts  the frozen fascist and the wounded but invincible Red Army soldiers. In this way, a contrast is created between the impasse (in his own opinion) situation of the main character and the spirit of the soldiers, which pushes the main character of the story to the right direction of action.

The second type of organizing texts ( the content expresses the ideology), is less clear and visible in terms of additional methods of influence. At this point, the textual passages that might otherwise be considered methodical become a logical continuation of the content or character. An example of this type of text is A. Gaidar’s "Timur and his Squad". The action takes place during World War II. The pioneers form a squad led by Timur Garayev. The main activity of the squad  is to secretly help the families of the Red Army soldiers, and their houses are marked with a red star. The squad  is arranged according to military rules - with special signals and battle reconnaissance. They even  have an "enemy" - a group of Kwakin, who is being punished by Timur’s squad. The whole story revolves around a state of war. Consequently, the passages that would be considered as a method of influence in other works are, in this case, an organic part of the content.

The second book of the trilogy "Vasyok Trubachev and his Comrades" by V. Oseeva belongs to the same type of organizing ideological texts. The first book, which belongs to the first type of text organization and contains both small (several sentences or paragraphs) and larger insets, ends with the phrase: “Ukraine! Ukraine! It was June 1941!” [Oseeva, 1961: 214]. The second book of the work describes the beginning of the war in Ukraine and its development. Trubachev’s squad  is at the epicenter of the battle and the pioneers have  to get engaged directly in guerrilla warfare as the village is being attacked by the fascists. The resistance of the Ukrainians, the actions of the fascists, the description of the guerrilla life - obviously, in this part of the trilogy, there is no need for parallel lines or separate sections regarding ideology, because this function is already performed by the content. Accordingly, the second book belongs to the second type of organizing ideological texts.

Clear examples of the third type of organization of ideological texts are A. Ribakov's “The Dirk” and “The Bronze Bird". These works are distinguished by the abundance of ideological types of insets. In this particular case, the texts that influence the reader mostly form parallel lines independent of the main story. The main story in “The Dirk” is to solve the mystery of the eighteenth- century sword and  to find its lost sheath. The sheath, however, is with  the White Guard Nikitsky. But in addition to the mystery of the sword, the story describes the life of the pioneers in detail, their daily lives, including their ideological “viewpoints”. It is these passages that form the parallel line of the story which depict a rather interesting life for a child. For example, to help the Volga region, the pioneers stage a play, work with homeless children. A detachment of young pioneers is also described in the work: a grenade-laden corner (cadets were attacked during the October Revolution), cartridge cases collected by children, flags, a poster with the inscription “Children's organization - the best way to raise a communard. Lenin.”

 Also, it is important to follow the debate over the choice of profession which encompasses and contrasts two professions - a  musician as an artist in general and a worker. First the children Genka and Slavka are arguing.

“-The task of the Communist Party is to build communism, he said. Was that so?

- Yes, but what does music have to do with it?

- What does it matter? If everyone is involved in the construction, will you start thumping on the piano at this time?” [Ribakov, 1962: 224].  Slava's father joins the argument and believes that the child should have a real profession and should be a labourer - because art is “craft, but a little bit ... airy” [Ribakov, 1962: 227]. The argument ends with the words of Misha Polyakov who puts the interests of the state and society above the interests of a particular person: “Therefore, he will enter higher education, become an engineer, then leave the job and start playing music. So why did he learn? Why did the state spend the money on him? Someone else would have learned  instead” [Ribakov, 1962: 227]. As we can see, the given passages are of a sharply ideological nature and do not concern the mystery of the sword.

The parallel line is even more striking in “The Bronze Bird". The main content of this work is to solve the mystery of the bronze eagle and find the treasure. However, three chapters of the work are devoted to self-characterization: “Self-characterization is self-judgment. Each Communist is discussed at the General Assembly. Whoever pleases, can come out and say whatever he wants about this or that  Communist Party member ”[Ribakov, 1962: 388]. These three chapters have nothing to do with the development of the storyline, however, they clearly describe what a Communist should be like. Also, the personal qualities that should not be characteristic of the Communist Party member are highlighted. First of all, individualism: "It smells like Eserovshchina," said Misha, "a kind of petty-bourgeois individualism" [Ribakov, 1962: 394]. "Therefore, whims are more precious than relatives. Therefore, personal interests are placed above the public’s. This is called selfishness. Selfishness, for its part, is the most despicable feature of bourgeois ideology ”[Ribakov, 1962: 394]. Second - separation from the collective: "I expected him to say 'Of course, it is necessary, how do I differ from others?' But instead, Misha said: 'Let the children decide.' With such an answer, Misha put himself in a special position. He separated his persona from the collective. This is arrogance” [Ribakov, 1962: 398]. After this, proletarian and intelligentsia qualities, their interrelationships and connection with the bourgeois psychology are discussed. What exactly is meant by the intelligentsia and the proletariat is the subject of a serious debate: “The consciousness of the proletariat is one thing, that of the bourgeoisie is another. The intelligentsia is the middle class and it fluctuates” [Ribakov, 1962: 396]. The main character then discusses the issue in detail.

As we can see, the topics discussed are not relevant to the main storyline which is the search for treasure and solving the mystery of the bronze bird. There is a parallel line independent of this content that serves a specific purpose. In this case, we are dealing with the process of forming a role model for the reader (child), whose features and characteristics are valuable and exemplary for a particular culture and society. This process reminds us of one of Hofstede's notions of cultural differences - heroes (Hofstede, 2011: 16).  From the quotations cited, it is obvious that there is an attempt to create a role model pioneer, a protagonist, a hero.



The study identified three main types of organizing ideological texts. The purpose of the author and the content of the story determine the type of organization. The first type, when the ideological text is found in the form of insets, can be considered to be the most flexible for the author. With the help of these insets, it is possible to create sections with serious ideological influence, as well as to just provide a small, mandatory inset. The second type is the most obvious and direct because its own content involves ideological influence. As for the third type, there is a parallel line independent of the main content of the storyline, the intensity of this line depends on the author's goal.

To summarize, we think that the article reflected the importance of organizing ideological texts as a method in children's literature.


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სოციალისტური რეალიზმის თეორიული ისტორია (ქართული ლიტერატურის მაგალითზე). ნეკერი, თბილისი.
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