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Zombified from the cradle: how children were prepared for war in the USSR

Anna OnishchenkoLife
How children were prepared for war in the USSR. Source: Generated by the SHI

The Soviet Union was a totalitarian state where all aspects of life were controlled by the authorities. This also applied to the upbringing of children, who from early childhood were trained to become weapons in the hands of the empire.

Propaganda and romanticization of the war in the USSR were commonplace. The so-called Soviet "patriotism" was extremely intolerant and militaristic, says blogger and researcher of life in the USSR Maksym Mirovych.

Soviet patriotic education was not meant to raise a socially responsible citizen who would love and respect his homeland, but a slave of the state who would not ask unnecessary questions and, if necessary, would shoot at whomever he was ordered to.

In general, it worked out that way. Soviet soldiers rarely had any idea what they were fighting for or against. For example, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Soviet tankers said that they had come to "liberate their Czech brothers from the fascists," and paratroopers during the war in Afghanistan said that "if we had not landed here, NATO soldiers would have been here in three hours." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

The Soviet upbringing and propaganda played a big role in the lack of critical thinking among Soviet soldiers. Children were read books about the war from an early age and taught to march in formation, not to ask unnecessary questions, and to obey their elders.

Zombified from the cradle: how children were prepared for war in the USSR

Pioneer camps

Soviet camps were built on a military model. They were divided into units and assigned counselors (like non-commissioned officers) and educators (like senior officers). There, children were taught to march in formation, line up, and raise flags. Also common in pioneer camps were war games, during which children ran around with wooden machine guns and gas masks.

In short, the system was designed so that in the future, in the army, a person would know how to behave, not get confused, and be ready to fight those whom the authorities declare an enemy.

Books

There were many books in the USSR aimed at children of all ages that romanticized and idealized the army and war. One of them was called "Our Native Army". In it, you can find a bunch of poems about how wonderful the army is. It protects everyone and does not threaten anyone.

Zombified from the cradle: how children were prepared for war in the USSR

The lines "Glory to the Soviet army, the most peaceful army on earth" are worthy of note. This is not only a contradiction, but also hypocrisy, because the book was published in the eighties, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan and fueled other conflicts, such as the war in Angola.

Older children were treated more seriously. For example, with the help of Boris Nikolsky's books. The Soviet government needed paratroopers, so to encourage boys to join the Airborne Forces, a book like Soldier's School was written.

At first, children were told how cool paratroopers were because they had good physical training.

Zombified from the cradle: how children were prepared for war in the USSR

Then they talk about skydiving, which only the best can do. They say that if you want to be as strong and brave, you need to join the airborne forces.

Zombified from the cradle: how children were prepared for war in the USSR
Zombified from the cradle: how children were prepared for war in the USSR

And this picture compares the war to those pioneer lagers. As if fighting is as fun and carefree as playing as a child.

Zombified from the cradle: how children were prepared for war in the USSR

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