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Builders and Deserters

Builders and Deserters: Students, State, and Community in Leningrad, 1917-1941

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Builders and Deserters
    Book Description:

    Being a student meant much more than simply attending classes. The new Soviet student was expected to engage in activities ranging from work in local Communist Party organizations to participation in collectivization brigades in the countryside. Builders and Deserters explores how student attempts to accommodate personal ambition and established cultural traditions with the numerous obligations that came from their privileged status led to a difficult relationship with the state.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6797-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    In November 1935 the main student newspaper of Leningrad State University published a number of commentaries on the current state of the student population(studenchestvo)in the Soviet Union. The commentaries, under the headline, “What Makes the Soviet Student Different from the Pre-Revolutionary Student?”, contrasted the undisciplined behaviour of Russian students before the Bolshevik revolution with the well-mannered and disciplined conduct of the generation of the 1930S. Mathematician N.M. Giunter, in one of the six contributions submitted by faculty members, wrote that Soviet students were much more studious than their predecessors. Botany professor V.N. Sukhachev concluded, “Soviet students are different...

  8. The Studenchestvo and Tsarism
    (pp. 16-37)

    “Students are always occupied with something: restaurants, women, or politics.”¹ This trite analysis of Russian students, offered by Adam Lel’, an alumnus of St Petersburg University, was not far off the mark. A blend of troublesome social questions, mundane pursuits, and passions of the heart shaped student life in Russia. After the Crimean War, student youth began to call for reforms to higher education and a more open dialogue with the autocracy. As their sense of social duty grew, students found themselves encumbered in a crisis of self-doubt and moral introspection. Collegial traditions and the emergence of organized political movements...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Revolution and Civil War
    (pp. 38-61)

    S.V. Soldatenkov, an active supporter of the Bolsheviks at Petrograd University during the civil war, offered a retrospective summary of the struggle that ensued between supporters and opponents of the new regime. He described oppositionists as over-the-hill romantics, bent on sabotaging the socialist revolution.

    In my naïve impression arising from the pre-revolutionary years, a student was a synonym for a revolutionary. This is because in old times newspapers often wrote about students as victims of police shootings and participants in revolutionary acts against the tsarist ministers and other servants of the monarchist regime. They frequently wrote about the death penalty...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Shaping the Community
    (pp. 62-100)

    By 1929, when the New Economic Policy had been abandoned in favour of the maniacally ambitious first five-year plan, it was clear that many of the promises offered by the revolution had not been fulfilled. Poor living standards, unstructured academic programs, bureaucracy, and the mere facade of a socialist community had left many students cynical and embittered. Looking back, a student by the name of Donskoi, a resident of the Leningrad Agricultural Institute's main dormitory, felt that the state had failed on many fronts. His remarks at a general discussion convened on the problems of everyday life (byt) resonated among...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Politics, Ideology, and the Studenchestvo
    (pp. 101-141)

    In 1936 Leningrad Communist University student A. Knopova stood up in front of her political discussion group and blurted out the following: “I disagree with Stalin when he says that everything is all right with the peasantry. In several regions the attitude of peasants towards Soviet power has become noticeably worse. Extraordinary measures have been used to repress the middle peasantry. If we continue with these policies, they will lead to arazsmychka[breaking] with the peasantry. Stalin addresses the issue very optimistically. He has followed through with the farm policies but they lack any planning.”¹ As a Communist Party...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE In the Classroom
    (pp. 142-175)

    The success of any education system can be measured by the quality and variety of the graduates it produces and by its ability to conform to social and economic demands. At the turn of the century in Western Europe, expanded enrolment and increased emphasis on technical training challenged established institutional structures and academic disciplines. In Russia the autocracy was somewhat reluctant to abandon classical disciplines in favour of a modernized curriculum. Following the Bolshevik revolution, Narkompros struggled to transform higher learning by creating an “unbroken educational ladder” from the primary to post-secondary levels. Lunacharsky promoted a system based on universal...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Training for a New World
    (pp. 176-197)

    The Soviet higher-education system placed great emphasis on practical training. Through apprenticeship programs students became acquainted with production, the dynamics of the workplace, and the mechanics of the planned economy.¹ Practical training was also an integral part of ideological instruction, as it instilled in students the virtues of physical labour and a Marxist understanding of social relations. The students’ task was to fulfil Lenin’s demand for a union(smychka)between the peasantry and the working class. This chapter examines the political, academic, and social dimensions of practical training by looking at the activities of students in factories, villages, and remote...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN Studenty-Studentki
    (pp. 198-228)

    In April 1929 Sasha Limonov, a student at the Leningrad Technological Institute, was put before the school’s public court on charges related to his scandalous love affairs and sexually promiscuous behaviour. The institute’s student newspaper reported that Limonov’s peers were well aware of his carnal adventures. In fact, several of them enjoyed following the example set by the philanderer. One of Sasha’s partners in crime, Tarasov, spent a great deal of time in bars consorting with prostitutes (he was also accused of a raping two women). Investigators concluded that Limonov was only one of many miscreants. Alexander Korolev, one of...

  15. CHAPTER EIGHT Disorder in the Community
    (pp. 229-257)

    During the 1927/28 academic year, the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute became embroiled in a controversy that escalated into a general inquiry into the state of thestudenchestvo.Students at the institute had already read about scandals elsewhere involving sexual misconduct, hooliganism, and other sordid affairs. Now the institute underwent its own public catharsis following the suicide of an energetic and wellliked student, D. Gorbachik, in late 1927. The editors of the student newspaper informed readers that over the last months of his life Gorbachik had been spending time in “the wrong company,” in a literature group, reading the works of Dostoevsky,...

  16. CHAPTER NINE Conclusion
    (pp. 258-266)

    From the time of the Bolshevik revolution until the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, immense changes took place in the socialist higher-education system. If one were to draw up a balance sheet of accomplishments and failures, it would look something like the following. From difficult beginnings, the higher-education system grew and diversified, in fits and starts, to the point where it compared favourably with higher education in the world’s leading industrialized countries. ,The state expanded enrolment considerably and produced an impressive number of graduates in a variety of fields. Situated within the industrial heartland of the country,...

  17. APPENDIX ONE Student Life: Selected Archival Documentation
    (pp. 267-276)
  18. APPENDIX TWO Major Institutions of Higher Learning in Leningrad, 1917-1941
    (pp. 277-278)
  19. Abbreviations
    (pp. 279-280)
  20. Glossary
    (pp. 281-282)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 283-342)
  22. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 343-354)
  23. Index
    (pp. 355-358)