“Happy Soviet Childhood”

Forgotten Disciplining Tools in Latvia’s Public Space

Iveta Kestere, Arnis Strazdins und Inese Rezgorina

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Iveta Kestere, Arnis Strazdins, Inese Rezgorina, “Happy Soviet Childhood” (26.09.2023), Beltz Juventa, 69469 Weinheim, ISSN: 0514-2717, 2023 #1, S.197


Beschreibung / Abstract

The idealisation of the Soviet school in the memories of teachers began almost simultaneously with the re-establishment of Latvia’s independence in 1991. Memories of order and discipline in Soviet schools persistently induce nostalgia in contemporary Latvian educational space. The positive assessment of Soviet-era order generated interest in ‘discipline’ in the land of Soviet childhood. The museum, as an institution, is one of the custodians of the artefacts of Soviet childhood and has a ‘voice’ in interpreting the past and shaping collective memory. How does a museum’s exposition confirm or deny the popular, still living myth of a disciplined but also happy Soviet childhood? What aspects of discipline are overtly displayed in museums and what are hidden or ignored? How does discipline fit into or resonate with the myth of the “happy Soviet childhood” propagated in the Soviet Union? We address these questions to two main sources: a textbook for teachers published in 1968, which explains the official concept of Soviet childhood, and the exhibition stand on Soviet childhood opened by the National History Museum of Latvia in 2022. The article reveals that in contemporary Latvian public space, memories focus on traditional artefacts of childhood and visual affiliation with Soviet children’s political organizations, while reminders of the instruments of childhood discipline in the Soviet system are unconsciously suppressed as unattractive and contradictory.

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