Ideas of childhood and citizenship stood at the center of the Soviet Union’s empire-building project during the 1920s and 1930s. After the 1917 Revolution the Bolsheviks were faced with the challenge of establishing a new state structure and governing a vast territory inherited from its tsarist predecessor. In the early years of the Soviet project, new leaders enlisted a cadre of professionals tasked with not only creating the norms of childhood and the everyday, but also implementing policies to modernize habits and values of the empire’s younger citizens.
To understand how children became a prime focus of Soviet imperial and ethno-cultural politics, my dissertation employs discourse analysis and compares the ways in which Soviet imperial policies were implemented in two ethnically different regions: the Buddhist Republic of Kalmykia as the colonial case study and Moscow as the Metropole. The current project examines newspapers, treatises, and inspectors’ reports over the span of twenty years. It finds that the Bolsheviks’ initial values and discourses in the realm of children’s education, health, leisure and nutrition, all which were scientifically designed to transform children into ideal Soviet and modern citizens, changed over time as a result of the competing ideologies among local elites and the challenges they faced while intervening in children’s everyday lives.
The most significant conclusion in this dissertation reveals that, contrary to previous scholarly arguments, the modernization projects that took place in Moscow and Kalmykia were more similar in the challenges and outcomes that local officials faced when implementing state policies.