The Joy of Motherhood; Soviet propaganda and some of my own
February 11, 2010
I was so impressed to see how many people have continued to visit my site and comment. As you can see it’s been almost a year since I last wrote, but I promise I have a good excuse. 2 good excuses, in fact. The first excuse is that I started graduate school in the fall in a Language Acquisition and Teaching program so that I can teach Russian at the University level. I plan to do my thesis on the acquisition of intonation by learners of Russian as a second language. I want to develop a software that demonstrates the various constructions that gives audio-visual feedback. Students can listen to samples and immitate them and be able to see how well their intonation matches up to a native speaker. I have been surprised at how little information there is about Russian intonation. So if anyone knows of any sources that might be useful to me in this area I would love to hear about.
My next big reason is that I had a baby last fall. I named him Dmitri and he has kept me very busy. I love to speak Russian to him and read him сказки and sing him songs in Russian. He’s as fluent in Russian right now as he is in English.
To illustrate the change I will take from the novel Cement to illustrate motherhood in the early years of communism few Soviet плакаты (propaganda posters) about family and babies which illustrate the return to traditional motherhood and family under Stalin. All of these posters come from plakaty.ru The site is available in Russian and English and it is one of my favorites.As a said in an earlier post (it’s been so long I can’t remember which one). In the twenties women were expected to work and were encouraged to send their kids to be raised by the communal daycares. In the novel Cement, by F.V. Gladkov, the heroine, Dasha, is working hard to be a good communist, and gives her child to the ясли or communal daycare as all could communist women did. The daycare is described thus,
“The sun was shining in the hall, and the air was thick and hot, smelling of sleep. The beds stood in two rows, covered with pink and white counterpanes, torn and patched. Some of the children were in grey smocks, some in rags. Their faces were wan and their eyes sunk deep in blue sockets.” (p. 35)
But with inadequate funding and an overload of children, her daughter, Nurka is neglected, falls ill and eventually dies. Dasha visits regularly and watches helplessly as her daughter fades away. She wants to be a good communist and wants to support the system and so she leavers her child in the daycare. Dasha has to battle the old-fashioned mother within her:
“Dasha knew better than all the doctors in the world why Nurka was fadiong out like a little star at dawn. It is not only the mother’s milk which a child needs; itis nourished also by the heart and the tenderness of its mother. The child fades and withers if the mother does not breathe upon its little head…” (p. 244)
But Dasha carries on after the death of her only child and battles these maternal instincts and her frustration with the system. Dasha is the icon of the communist woman of the 1920’s.