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

By Peter Konecny | Go to book overview

Introduction

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 I930s. 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 because they recognize themselves as active builders of socialism." He claimed that today's pupils rarely exhibited the juvenile camaraderie characterizing the studenchestvo of previous decades: "The comradely solidarity of the contemporary student comes not from covering the tracks of or protecting [another] comrade when he plays some kind of dirty trick or tries to get around existing rules (as it was before the revolution), but in helping comrades in a constructive way to fulfil the goal for which they had enrolled in the university." Sukhachev's remarks were directed towards a new generation of Soviet youth targeted as the standard-bearers of socialism. His message was similar to the one repeated numerous times since 1917: without sufficient discipline and diligence, students could not become active builders in the Soviet socialist revolution. I

This book examines how students responded to and participated in the socialist experiment in the formative years of the Soviet Union. Students were part of a new social and political élite, forged in a higher-education system that was designed to train skilled professionals for positions in the economy, the Communist Party, and the state

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