By Grant Collins
Note: this is the sixth of several articles posted to The New Contemporary that feature writing from this Fall’s Havighurst Colloquium, “Russia in War and Revolution.” Each student in the class had to select an object from the Andre de St.-Rat Collection in Miami’s Special Collections and write about it. These writings, as you will see, spotlight the incredible collections in our library. They also highlight how the Russian Revolutions in 1917 involved a battle over meaning: through these primary sources, one can read the words, see the images, and therefore gain more insight into the experiences of revolution. Other papers have been posted to the History Department’s new online journal, Journeys Into the Past: http://sites.miamioh.edu/hst-journeys/category/essays/. Special thanks to Masha Stepanova, Miami’s extraordinary Slavic Bibliographer.
Deĭneka, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich. Parad Krasnoĭ Armii. [Moskva?]: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo, 1930.
Red Army Parade
Parad Krasnoĭ Armii, translated as Red Army Parade, is an early Soviet-era children’s book published in 1930. The education of children provided the Soviet Union new opportunities to shape the next generation of the USSR. Marina Balina has stated that the “utopianism of the early Soviet years directly influenced the association of children with the promise of the better future: through occupying the same space in narratives, children and adults were separated paradoxically by a completely different frame” (pg. 10). Red Army Parade provided twelve pages of illustrations, from cover-to-cover, that not only supported notions of service and loyalty to the Red Army but also illustrated an amicable relationship between animals, people, and technology.
Red Army Parade, first and foremost, attempted to familiarize children with the Red Army through illustrations. Images of soldiers, or civilians participating in military-like activities, served as the focal point for every page. In fact, Red Army Parade is comprised of only illustrations—it is a picture book. Therefore, this book was not only accessible to children who could not yet read, but to rural peasants who were illiterate—through illustrations messages and themes from Red Army Parade could be interpreted universally across the Soviet Union.
The cover, and pages one through three, of Red Army Parade, show soldiers participating in more traditional military tasks. The cover illustrated soldiers in the recognizable Red Army military uniform, holding bugles—many are mounted on horses. Pages one and two have soldiers in the same military garb, but with the soldiers in formation on horses and marching respectively. It is interesting that nearly the rest of Red Army Parade illustrated soldiers more modern-like with respect to modes of transportation and weaponry. Perhaps the book illustrated a turn toward a more modern Red Army in order to illustrate the Red Army’s transition into a modern fighting force for the USSR.
Beginning on page four, the illustrations take up this transformation. Soldiers riding motorcycles can be seen, and on the next page soldiers are mobilizing cannons with horses. Pages four and five illustrate the implementation of more modern warfare technology; the soldiers moving cannons with horses follows the image of soldiers using new motorcycles—new and old technology are side-by-side. This relays the message that although military technology and strategy change in accordance with the times, that the military force is still the same Red Army as before. The soldiers in both images are wearing the same uniforms—the Red Army is the same despite the new technologies and opportunities available to them.
Page six appears to have Russian school children showing support for the Red Army. The children are uniformly raising their hands, staring forward, and many are even standing or leaning forward. Page ten also was created to convey patriotism—three Red Army soldiers are marching in a Russian city. The edited volume Russian Children’s Literature and Culture, stated that when children read books such as Red Army Parade, “about their heroes and about the everyday life of the school, they also enter into the collective spirit” (48, Balina and Rudova). The paragraph goes on to read: “through this reading children find themselves in a network of signs and meanings from which there is no escape. In this network they can easily be revealed, identified, and ultimately, controlled and normalized” (48-49, Balina and Rudova). This quotation supports what Deneika’s book contained; namely, that the USSR attempted to indoctrinate children with qualities such as loyalty and patriotism. The illustration on page 6 shows the desired reaction by children when they encounter the Red Army.
Pages seven and eight illustrated the relationship between Red Army soldiers and new military technologies. Page seven has a soldier marching in front of a tank and on page eight the soldier is marching in-between two military vehicles. The illustration on page seven shows that, despite the tank having a huge presence (the image of the tank nearly consumes the entire page) a Red Army soldier is leading the tank. On page eight a solider in marching in unison with military vehicles. The fact that the solder is marching in tandem with two, more modern, vehicles, illustrated that advances in modern warfare technology are a part of the Red Army’s image—that the Red Army is not an old fashioned army, rather it is a unit that embraces modernity.
Pages nine and eleven created an “intended message of harmonious symbiosis between nature and machine” (K. Reynolds, 32). Page nine has a group of women outdoors in gasmasks. The masks on the women reminded readers of elephants, due to the long hanging tube on the masks (or maybe even aliens, due to the oval face of the masks and shape of the eye-holes). Page eleven show both fighter planes and what appears to be carrier pigeons flying together in harmony. Furthermore, the pigeons and planes are the same size and their wings are nearly touching as they fly in circular motions. This two pages together further promote the theme of cooperation with modern technology, and these pages specifically promote cooperation among technology, Russians, and nature.
Red Army Parade provided examples for how the Soviet Union attempted to instill patriotism and loyalty into the thoughts of Russian school children. Following the Russian Civil War, the belief that, “children embody the future in the present”, dominated the creation of children’s books (Inside The Rainbow, 18). One author wrote that in Soviet Russia, “there are no princes, no Baba Yagas, no Zmei Gorynych, where instead there are soldiers and pilots, heroes and leaders” – this sentiment is applicable to Red Army Parade (Balina and Rudova, 53). The cheering children on page six convey the theme of loyalty and excitement for the Red Army.
During the Soviet era many children’s books contained new heroes that were more reflective of the government’s desires to create more “Soviet” heroes. Lev Kassil, a Soviet children’s writer, created heroes in his work that would, “sacrifice their lives by diverting the fascist patrol so that reconnaissance of the Soviet Army may finish its sortie in the enemy’s rear” (Balina and Rudova, 252). Kassil shifted, “his focus to highlight heroism”, while he created an, “air of adventure” (253).
Aspects of life within Russia were often adapted to fit in theoretical framework that the USSR desired. For example, orphan-hood was a major aspect of life for Soviet children so many authors created, “depictions of replacement of family by the society, in which the society takes over the traditional family functions of caring, educating, and providing for its little members” (Balina and Rudova, 96).
Red Army Parade is a Soviet-era children’s book that captures many themes of children’s books from that time period such as loyalty, patriotism, and embracing change (such as modernity and technology in this example). Aleksandr Deĭneka was a renowned artist in Russian, and although Red Army Parade is only one work from the extensive genre of Russian children’s literature, it provides a great example of how children’s literature within the Soviet Union attempted to shape children’s perceptions of the Red Army, service, loyalty, as well as the nation’s relationship between people, animals, and especially technology.
Images: front cover, page six, and page eleven
Reynolds, K. “Radical Children’s Literature.” Google Books. Palgrave MacMillian, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
“Princeton University Digital Library — Item Overview.” Princeton University. The Trustees of Princeton University, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
Balina, Marina, and Larissa Rudova, eds. Russian Children’s Literature And Culture. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Rothenstein, Julian, and Olga Budashevskaya, eds. Inside The Rainbow. N.p.: n.p., 2013. Print.
Grant Collins is a senior History major.