A professor of Slavic Studies is stunned to discover that totalitarian regimes actually put some effort into the propaganda they produce:
The most common question I get asked about children’s literature under Lenin and Stalin is: wasn’t it just propaganda? Well, yes and no. Yes, because for most of the period from 1917–1953 (that is, from the October Revolution to the death of Stalin), the state controlled all publishing and the state had a special interest in educating children with socialist values. But no, because calling something propaganda sometimes assumes that it is flat, uni-dimensional, straight-faced, and tedious – and this children’s literature is colourful, funny, inventive, touching, and witty. And the illustrations are beautiful.
Actually, after the death of Stalin there was no easing of propaganda directed at children and the state still controlled all publishing. But let’s not expect too much from a person who is surprised to find out that colourful and witty propaganda is still propaganda.
I was interested in the book at first but then I saw the whole “well, it’s not really propaganda” and “during the so-called July Days of 1917 there was growing street violence, which was blamed on the Bolsheviks” (which is like saying that street violence in Portland in July of 2020 was blamed on antifas.) The author is trying to whitewash the USSR, and it’s pathetic and ridiculous. But it’s what pays, so I don’t even blame her for this sad, ridiculous opportunism.
Slavic Studies is a dying field, and it’s very clear why.