Historical Grinches – Soviets
Like the French before them, the Russians were being brutally repressed by a long-standing monarchy and its willing partners in the clergy. Revolutionary fervor was sweeping the empire from the late Nineteenth Century into the early Twentieth. Unlike the French, the revolutionaries served external purposes. In WWI, the German Empire was facing war on two fronts. By providing funding to Vladimir Lenin to return to Russia from his exile in Switzerland, the Germans took a gamble that Lenin would succeed in starting a revolution that would take the Russian Empire out of the war. He did succeed. The Russians left the war. The monarchy was abolished and the monarchs were executed. The country lapsed into Civil War. The Bolsheviks, under Lenin, eventually succeeded in taking over the country. Like the French, the Soviets tried to redefine society along the lines of their guiding philosophy.
The New Soviet Man
The expectation of the leaders of the newly formed Soviet Union was that as a worker’s paradise, communism would give rise to civic-minded people who would be athletic and intellectual. The reality was that without any sort of motive for profit or personal achievement, the Soviet men and women were indifferent about their work and their country. They were deliberately isolated from foreign influences and prohibited from traveling abroad in order to try to create an artificial culture that never actually took hold.
Having failed to create the New Soviet Man, the next logical step was to try to shape the Soviet citizen in a youth organization. Young Pioneers were somewhat like Boy Scouts, but they were politicized and ultimately intended to join the Komsomol (the youth adjunct to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). Their motto “Always Prepared!” was a knock-off of the Boy Scouts’ motto, “Be Prepared“. The oath of the Young Pioneers was:
I (surname, given name), having now joined the ranks of the Vladimir Illich Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization, in the presence of my comrades solemnly promise: to passionately love my motherland and to cherish it as I can, to live, study, and fight as the Great Lenin has instructed, as the Communist Party teaches me, and as to always carry out the laws of the Pioneers of the Soviet Union.
The Young Pioneers were also taught and expected to be staunchly atheist. This included the state disapproval of Russia’s version of Santa.
Christmas was decried as bourgeois and religious by the Soviet’s state atheism. Ded Moroz was actually derived from pre-Christian mythology, but because of his overall association with Santa or Saint Nicholas he was denounced as an ally of the priest and kulak. Fortunately, they rehabilitated Ded Moroz and Christmas with the designation of New Year’s as the official Winter holiday.
In a letter to the Soviet newspaper Pravda that was published on December 28, 1935, Pavel Postyshev (First Secretary of the Kiev Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine) wrote:
In the pre-revolutionary era the bourgeoisie and the capitalist officials always put up a tree for their children on New Year. Children of the working classes looked on with envy through the windows at the gleaming tree adorned with colored lights and the children of the rich playing around it.
Why do our schools, orphanages, nurseries, children’s clubs, and Young Pioneer Palaces, deprive children of the working class of the Soviet State of this wonderful enjoyment? Because some “left-leaning” exaggerators decried this pastime as a bourgeois children’s indulgence. It is time to put an end to this wrongful condemnation of the tree, which is a joyful diversion for the children. The Young Pioneer scout leaders are called upon to organize holiday celebrations for the children that feature New Year trees. In schools, orphanages, clubs, cinemas, and theaters – children’s New Year trees should be everywhere! There should not be a single village or community farm where the local board, along with members of the Komsomol, does not provide a New Year tree for their kids. City councils, chairmen of district executive committees, village councils, and education authorities must all work to bring the New Year tree to children of our great socialist motherland. Our children will be grateful to us for giving them back the New Year tree. I’m sure the Komsomolians will take a very active part in this enterprise and do away with the silly misconception that the New Year tree is a bourgeois excess. So, let’s organize a New Year celebration for kids and arrange a good Soviet New Year tree in all our cities and rural villages!
So, in the end, a true Soviet Man showed some Christmas (well, New Year’s) Spirit after all and the kids of the USSR got to have their own secular Santa, tree and presents.