12 things I learned about Soviet childhood from my Bukvar

Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - showing Kremlin

After my last post, one of my cousins got nostalgic for her old Bukvar and thought she’d try to buy one online. She found one on Amazon, to the tune of $2,450. My heart is breaking that I didn’t have the fortitude to do anything more useful with mine than mark it all up for a future blog post. I thought I’d share some of the things I learned about the happy Soviet childhood while flipping through the Bukvar.

1. Soviet children don’t smile, even when they’re playing with a giant pile of sand. (It’s not even in a sandbox!)

Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - showing Soviet children playing in the sand at the playground

2. They do all kinds of dangerous manual labour that even most North American adults couldn’t handle.

Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - Soviet child sawing with his father

3. Addendum to #1 – they do smile when they’re labouring on the kolkhoz in their Pioneer scarves.

Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - Soviet children in Pioneer scarves working on the kolkoz, or collective farm

4. They spend time in the woods. Alone. They’re also allowed to pick mushrooms and carry rifles. But only the boys, even when they’re half the size of the girls.

Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - brother and sister picking mushrooms and berries alone in the forest

5. They do “zaryadka” (calisthenics). They still don’t smile.

Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - Soviet children doing morning calisthenics exercise, or zaryadka

6. They want world peace. Because they come from a happy, peaceful people.

Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - Soviet children singing about peace in school choir

“We have a choir. It is a good choir. We have flags. Shura waved them. And we waved. Hooray! Hooray! Peace! Peace!”

7. They do not have “yummy mummies”. 

Soviet bukhvar - Russian alphabet - schoolgirl walking to school with her mother in the winter

8. They are guarded by Yuri Gagarin when their parents leave them home alone.

Russian bukhvar - Russian alphabet - Soviet children at home alone with a photo of Yuri Gagarin looking down at them

“Mama left. Sasha is young. And Shura? And Lara?”

9. They know that the world has smart people and stupid people and they don’t mind saying so. (Also, it’s never too early to learn a practical skill.)

Soviet bukhvar - Russian alphabet - Soviet children nursing wound

“Here, Mara. Masha is smart. Mara is smart. And Shura?”

10. And let’s not forget who we have to thank for all the wonders of this life — Papa Lenin. Papa Lenin is always watching. Always.

Russian bukhvar - Russian alphabet - Soviet schoolchildren getting Pioneer pins under Lenin picture.

11. And because you can never start too young, we close with a mini-essay about Lenin. Because there’s no time to waste once you’ve learned your letters.

Russian bukhvar - Russian alphabet - picture of Lenin and essay about Lenin

“Vladimir Illich Lenin gave all his strength to the happiness of the people. Lenin established the Communist Party… It sees to it that our people have a light, happy life.”

12. And, of course, “peace.” Or “world.” Conveniently, the same word in Russian. Also, diversity. (No, seriously, this really is the last picture in the book.)

Russian bukhvar - Russian alphabet - Soviet schoolchildren holding peace sign

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  1. MArina on March 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    • Lea Zeltserman on March 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Hi Marina, thank you for the suggestion. I’ve passed it on to my cousin. It’s a very nice-looking edition. And, of course, lots of papa Lenin :).

      • MArina on March 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm

        LOL. Yep. I think of getting one too. Nostalgiya. 🙂