What has the Communist Revolution done for you lately?

shto-dala.jpg On the 7th of November Russia recognized(I don’t say celebrate because I don’t know that people were, in fact) the 90th Anniversary of the Mighty October Revolution(which would be considered the Mighty November Revolution according to our calendars). With all of the changes that are taking place in Russia today, and the threat of more political instability on the horizon, many Russians spent the day contemplating their “mighty” history. Lenin’s plans were mighty, but the system was not. Ask any aged Russian on the street Moscow about whether they prefer communist life or “democratic” life, and they will most likely shake their head in disgust and refer to the good ole days nostalgically. The west, at any given moment, has a plethora of bones to pick with communism, but do we give it enough credit for the good that it did do. The old people on the street seem to think that communist living was much better, they didn’t have to worry about tomorrow. And now, even though the 7th of November is supposed to be a day of celebration, many of tlenin-and-girl.jpghese pensioners consider it a day of mourning for the promises of security that were never realized, a day when they question all that they knew to be mig[ussr0108.jpg]hty and sure. So I choose to humor these nostalgic communists on their holiday. Today we will try and think not of 90 years of oppression and corruption, but of development, work, and purpose.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of good things that communism did for the country is the educational system. I studied in Moscow for a year under teachers who were educated in pedagogy in the Brezhnev era. They took such pride in their work, they cared for their students, they spent extra time to make sure that the students were reaching their full potential. Students are celebrated and take their work very seriously. I can only imagine how much more invigorated with zeal and excitement students(pioneers, as they are called in Soviet times) must have been when they felt like their education was a mighty contribution to the mightiest of institutions, that they, themselves, could make old Uncle Lenin proud.

Учиться, учиться, а еще раз…учиться! –Ленин (русскому языку, чтобы это понять)

 Lenin had hoped that communism would go on for much longer than just 90 years. In this declaration Lenin introduces the NEP, New Economic Policy, НЭП, Новый Экономический План, in it he identifies the three enemies of Communism, one of which, the new Communist educational system did a great job at eliminating:

“The Three Chief Enemies In my opinion, three chief enemies now confront one, irrespective of one’s departmental functions; these tasks confront the political educationalist, if he is a Communist—and most of the political educationalists are. The three chief enemies that confront him are the following: the first is communist conceit; the second—illiteracy, and the third—bribery.  

-The First Enemy—Communist Conceit

A member of the Communist Party, who has not yet been combed out, and who imagines he can solve all his problems by issuing communist decrees, is guilty of communist conceit. That is only communist conceit. The point is to learn to impart political knowledge; but that we have not yet learnt; we have not yet learnt how to approach the subject properly.  

 

-The Second Enemy—Illiteracy As regards the second enemy, illiteracy, I can say that so long as there is such a thing as illiteracy in our country it is too much to talk about political education. This is not a political problem; it is a condition without which it is useless talking about politics. An illiterate person stands outside politics, he must first learn his ABC. Without that there can be no politics; without that there are rumours, gossip, fairy-tales and prejudices, but not politics.

 

-The Third Enemy—Bribery Lastly, if such a thing as bribery is possible it is no use talking about politics. Here we have not even an approach to politics; here it is impossible to pursue politics, because all measures are left hanging in the air and produce absolutely no results. A law applied in conditions which permit of widespread bribery can only make things worse.Delivered: 17 October, 1921; First Published: Published in the Vtoroi Vserossiishy syezd politprosvetov. Bulleten syezda (Bulletin of the Second All-Russia Congress of Political Education Departments) No. 2, October 19, 1921; Published according to the Bulletin proofs corrected by Lenin

Before the revolution approximately 25% of the population was illiterate. Lenin, being the son of a school inspector was particularly aware of this enemy in Russian society. He made it among his top priorities to educate the people. Communist doctrine and propaganda is useless to the people whose minds have not been elevated above an animal-like existence. In 1919 the Narkompros, issued a decree that all citizens between the ages of 7 and 50 were required to go to school, if they had not yet done so. So babushka and grandson would sit together in school learning to read. In addition, systems were set up so that factory workers (usually the most uneducated) could be good communist workers and still have time to get an education in a particular vocation(typically industrial and agricultural vocations). By 1939, according to the population census, the literacy rate had risen to 87.4%, and today even after the fall of communism, Russia’s literacy rate is near perfect at 99% and 40% of adults have finished higher education. (Unfortunately this number is decreasing because of the rising cost of education) * http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/russia_statistics.html 

Today, you could stop any average person on the street, young or old, and all of them could recite a few lines of Pushkin’s poetry, or rattle off a line of square root numbers(I was going to give an example of what I mean, but I don’t really know how to do that part of math). Many of my Russian friends laughed to see the math that we do here on a university level, “Oh, we did this in 5th grade.”

See, the revolution was not in vain. And though many of its systems are now collapsing under the winds of change, the legacy of Lenin can live in on in our hearts. So in the days after a mighty revolution’s anniversary, if you find your self trying to make sense of all that came to be, rather than feeling despair at the course the mighty plan took, put your hand over your heart and sing a song from your days as a Komsomol:

Вместе с Комсомолом навсегда!

Музыка: Ю.Чичков Слова: М.Пляцковский

Мы глядим в грядущее уверенно,

В жизни цель – прекрасна и светла.

И недаром Родина доверила

Нам, ребята, важные дела.

И недаром Родина доверила-

Нам, ребята, важные дела.

We look to the future, certain,

Our goal in life is bright and beautiful.

Our motherland has not trustued us in vain

We’ve got important work to do, guys.

 

Chorus:

Галстук пионерский на груди,

Новые дороги впереди.

Для победы, счастья и труда,

Вместе с комсомолом – навсегда!

With our pioneer tie on our chest,

There are new roads ahead.

For vicory, happiness and work,

Pioneers and Komsomols FOREVER!

 

Ah, Lenin would be so proud.

 

 

Запас Слов

Communism brought with it an abundance of these abbreviated and compounded words, they can somethimes be hard to find in a dictionary, but they’re kind of fun to know.

-Ликбез-ликвидация безграммотности, the campaign launched in 1920 to eliminate illiteracy.

-Наркомпрос-Народный комиссариат просвещения, People’s Commissarat for Enlightening or The branch of government in charge of Ликбез

-Комсомол-Коммунистический союз Молодежи, Communist Youth Group,kind of like scouts but more intense.

Колхоз-Коллективное хозяйство, communal farms

 More of my blogs on Communism:

Soviet Woodstock: The free love movement of the Bolsheviks

The Sex Question Glass Floweth Oer: The Bolsheviks’ insatiable thirst for answers

The Limits of Liberation: The ideals and realities of early Soviet family policy

The Joys of Motherhood: Soviet propaganda and some of my own

 

 

4 thoughts on “What has the Communist Revolution done for you lately?

  1. I fear that I disagree on some points. Firstly, we in the diaspora do not say that everything that happened during the Soviet period was evil. You did read the post on my site regarding General Dovator? Therefore, you know that I am not a mindless hater of all things Soviet!

    What many Westerners are unaware of is the fact that Russia in the early decades of the 20th century was the fastest growing country in Europe (if not the world). Much work was done to extend education in the countryside, and the Soviet efforts to combat illiteracy were only a continuation of that. Another example was the work of the zemstvos (local governing authorities) in bringing medical care to the villages. One modern Russian doctor said in admiration, “The zemsky doctors did it all! They always had a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs!” In other words, in tsarist times, many doctors chose selfless service in the provinces, even though it meant a life that was not as remunerative as a career in the urban centres.

    I fear you shall not agree with the following. Lenin, in the eyes of many, was not a good man. I agree with this assessment. The bloodshed of the imposition of Bolshevik rule cannot be denied. Many of us in the diaspora have relatives in their bloodlines who were murdered by the Cheka and its successors. That is why it took so long for the Orthodox Church in the diaspora and the Church in the rodina to come to reconciliation (which they did on 17 May of this year).

    I believe that President Putin is taking a correct course in his assessment of the Soviet times. He refuses to denounce the good that was done, and he refuses to cover over the evil of the repressions of that time. Vladimir Vladimirovich was correct in saying of the collapse of the Soviet Union, “He who does not regret the fall of this system has no mind, and he who does regret the disruption of the nation has no soul”.

    In short, this is a very complex topic, that can be all too easily misunderstood. I apologise if my opinion of Lenin pains you. Know that I would be as respectful of your opinion on my site. As an Orthodox Christian, and as a person of Russian descent, I consider the Soviet era as equivocal at best. Nevertheles, I shall never deny what history has shown us, for if we do so, we are mindless beasts doomed to repeat every mistake of the past (with interest, I might add).

    In civil (but kind) disagreement,

    Vara

  2. Dear Varvara!
    Thank you so much for your insightful comments on my blog! I loved it! I love the disagreement. I really value your input and point of view. That is what makes Russian history so fascinating, is that their are so many opposing oppinions and its hard to get solid facts from both Russian and American books. I realize that my tone probably came across as anti-soviet, which it wasn’t, and it wasn’t supposed to be pro-soviet either. Americans have a tendancy to immediately assume that communism entailed only oppression and dictatorship, and they fail to recognize the good things that came of it. Literacy and the educational systems were one of the wonderful things that communism engineered. There are many areas in which America does not give USSR enough credit.

    I always try to help Americans see Russia not through their American lens, but through a Russian’s lens. I don’t think that Americans realize how many people in Russia, (ages 40+) would sacrifice free speech any day to be able to go back to the stable times of communism.

    I am really fascinated with a lot of facets of the Orthodox church, especially the details of what happened to it during communism. I would love to feature you on one of my posts. Can I consult you with my questions once I get them?

    I am loving your blog. It is so beautiful and I feel peace and beauty in my heart when I read it. Thank you for portraying Russia in such a beautiful and spiritual light.

    I’ll make a link to your blog on mine so that people can know the source of all the insightful disagreements. Feel free to come visit and disagree all you want!

    Thank you,
    Janey

  3. hello!,I love your writing so much! proportion we keep up
    a correspondence more about your article on AOL? I need a specialist on this house to unravel my problem.
    May be that’s you! Taking a look forward to look you.

  4. Lenin was the executioner and murderer of the Russian people. The Soviet regime destroyed the Christian church in the Soviet Union and created a Soviet KGB-fake in its place.

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