Soviet School Uniform: Stalinist Era (1930s-mid50s)


Figure 1.--Here we see children in the Soviet Union during the 1930s attending a Kindergarden. The children are all uniformed, but there appear to be some differences.

Stalin began to exert his control over the Soviet union in the mid-1920s after the death of Lenin and by the late 20s had largely defeated opponents like Trotsky as well as more moderate Bolshevicks. It was not until the early 30s, however, that he was in complete control of the country. We do not have much information about education Soviet education during the erly Stalinist era. We also note Kindergartens in the 1930s. This appears to have been a Soviet innovation, of course imported from Germany. I'm not sure if Kindergartens exisited before the Revolutuion, if they did almost certainly they were for affluent families. I'm not sure how common Kindergartens were during the Soviet era. There appears to have been formal school uniform, although we are not sure about the different styles and when they were introduced. Most of our images come from after the War. A problem was that before the War because of very low-living standards may not have afforded uniforms, especially in rural areas. We note a military-looking uniform after World War II consisting of a peaked cap, tunic, wide belts, and red scarf. Younger boys might wear short pants, sometimes with over-the-knee stockings. This uniform persisted even after Stalin's death in 1953. The uniforms in secondary schools seem the same as the ptimary uniforms. Our information, however is still very limited.

Soviet Leadership

Stalin began to exert his control over the Soviet union in the mid-1920s after the death of Lenin and by the late 20s had largely defeated opponents like Trotsky as well as more moderate Bolshevicks. It was not until the early 30s, however, that he was in complete control of the country. We do not yet have information on the major Soviet educational officials and their relstionship with Stalin.

Stalinist Decades

The Stalinist era was primarily the 1930s and 40s. It also included the late-20s and early-50s, but the 30s and 40s were the primary decades. Stalin began to establish his control after Lenin, weakened by a assaination attempted died (1924). It took some time for him to establish full control og the Party and Government. As a result he was not fully in control until the end of the decade. Yhis was a decade of gradual recovery from the destuctive Civil War. Lenin accomplished this by the New Economic Policy (NEP), essentially reviving some market mechanisms (capitalism). As Stlalin gained control, he reversed this polict and launched the First Five Year Plan (1928-32). This amounted to a massive eci\onomic effort to expand heavy industry, limiting production of consumer goods including food and exploting the agrcultural sector to the maximum. A major expamsion of heavy industry was achieved, but there was enormous waste of resources. Abd collectivization waa a disaster. Stalin thought that mechaization and socialist organization (collectiviaztion) would incease agricultural harvests. In fact, production plumeted and brver fully recovered. A great priority was devoted to expamding the educatiinal system. Fashionable clothing and consumer goods were not a regime priority. Stalin was in total control during the 1930s, including the Second (1033-37) and Third (1938-41) Five Year Plans Stalin used the NKVD to terrorie the Soviet people. Mollions were murdered. Other millions were fed into a greatly expanded Gulag. Stlalin than igned an alliamce with Hitler (1939) that led to The NAZI invasion (1941). The Soviet people suffered horribly but eventually prevailed. It took years to recover rom the War. Factories, homes, farms, and schools were destroyed. Soviet chools required uniforms, but it was not until the post-War recovery that many families were able to obtain the uniforms fpr their children. Stalin died 1953), but the Stalinist era continued until Khrruschev launche the Destaminization effort (1956).

School Levels

We do not have much information about education Soviet education during the early Stalinist era. We do know that the Soviets very substantially expanded the educational system. Education including secondary and university-level stidies was opened up to Soviet children of very modest means. We also note Kindergartens in the 1930s. This appears to have been a Soviet innovation, of course imported from Germany. I'm not sure if Kindergartens exisited before the Revolutuion, if they did almost certainly they were for affluent families. I'm not sure how common Kindergartens were during the Soviet era. There appears to have been formal school uniform, although we are not sure about the different styles and when they were introduced. Most of our images come from after the War. A problem was that before the War because of very low-living standards may not have afforded uniforms, especially in rural areas. We note a military-looking uniform after World War II consisting of a peaked cap, tunic, wide belts, and red scarf. Younger boys might wear short pants, sometimes with over-the-knee stockings. This uniform persisted even after Stalin's death in 1953. Before the Revolution, few working-class children attended secondary schools or uni\versities. The education of girls was also significantly expanded. The uniforms in secondary schools seem the same as the primary uniforms. Our information, however is still very limited.

Prevalence

We are not sure just what the regulations were for school uniformns. We think that Moscow authorities promoted the use of school uniforms and set guidelines, but it was up to the local school to actually adopt a specific uniform and enforce its usage. As a result we see differences in the unifirms actually worn. Schools in the larger city seem the most likely to adopt unifiorms. And many of the images we have fojund are after Workd war II as the Siviet Union began tio reciover from Wotld War II. Many of the images we have found do not show the children wearing school uniforms. We think this was primarily an econmic issues patterns did not have the money to buy uniforms. We are aso not sure about their availability. We have no actual information on this, only the photograophic recird to go on. We are just bginning this assessment. And the great majority of images we have found do not show the children wearing school uniforms. Most of the images we have found with uniforms so far come from the 1950s at the end of the Stalinist era.

Collective Farms

Stalin began the collectivization process with the First Five Year Plan (1928). The children at first attended village schools if they were close enough. Many collective farms (kolkhozy) gradually opened their own schools. We believe that many of the schools were built after World war II, but we do not yet have details. Here size was a factor. Some of the early kolkhozy were quite small,. Others were large enough to support a small primary school. We are not sure how many children from the early kolkhozy attended secondary schools or how it was organized as the kolkhozy could not have supported secondary schools. The kolkhoz children were required by law to work on the kolkhoz as adults unless they obtained permission from the Government. This restriction was not dropped until 1969. we do not know how the kolkhoz schools compared to the regular Soviet schools.

Regional Trends

We do not know if educational facilities abd opportunities were evenly spread throughout the Soviet Uniion or if the Russian SSR was given priority. A factor of course is that higher education was conducted in the Russian lsnguage,






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Created: 5:48 PM 8/15/2006
Last updated: 11:03 PM 7/9/2019