Soviet Children on Lenin's Death (1924)
In 1924—the year of Lenin’s death—a little brochure titled Preschool Children on Lenin was published in Moscow. The editors claimed they had visited several educational institutions and recorded kids’ conversations, games, and creative activities that related to Lenin and his untimely demise as they had happened, without any embellishment.
I’m offering a selection of excerpts from this brochure (translation is mine).
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Kids carry a box—a coffin—around the room and sing You Fell Victims and The Internationale.
— So it was like this: a red coffin, and a black one on top of it, and soldiers standing around. I’ll be a soldier.
The box is put onto the grand piano. Kolya stands next to it, a stripe of black paper on his arm, holding a rifle. The rest form a line and approach the coffin one by one to bow down.
Funeral games have many variations, but the core is always the same: the House of the Unions, lines, saying goodbye to Lenin.
— They killed Lenin—one gun wasn’t enough, so they put two to his head (the boy points to both sides of his forehead) and shot him.
When Raya asks if we’re having macaroni today, Vera responds:
— Lenin gives us macaroni.
— Lenin’s dead, no macaroni for us.
— They’re going to choose a different Lenin now. They’ll choose Kalinin. There are two Kalinins: one’s a Russian, the other a Jew. So they’ll choose the Russian one to be Lenin.
— Well, there’s Trotsky, he’s like Lenin.
— He’s also sick, he’ll also die soon. We need a healthy one, or there’s no point in it.
— Tyotya1 Lena, can we teach the Tsar to stand up for workers and small children?
One of the boys announces that Trotsky is kinder than Lenin. An argument ensues. The first one says:
— Trotsky is kinder because he’s the boss of all the soldiers. If a soldier wants to enlist, he enlists him. Gives him a rifle, a trench coat, and a hat, and if the soldier wants to leave, he lets him, only he takes the rifle and the coat back.
— But Lenin’s more important, so he’s kinder.
They’re making his coffin 18 sazhens2 long, and when there’s a great flood in Moscow, he will not drown, but we will.
During the “Lenin’s wake” game, a girl comes over, frowns, and says: “It is sinful to play like this, Lenin will punish you, and somebody in your family will die.”
Tolya made a revolver out of his valenok3: he put a building block inside and turned the boot around so that the block fell and made a sound—that was the gun firing:
— Tyotya, this is a revolver with which they shot Lenin.
— Will our Lionya Ulyanov become Lenin too?
— Grandpa Lenin loved kids a lot, and the adults not so much.
— Trotsky will get better and replace Lenin.
— Trotsky doesn’t know us, he doesn’t know our House.
— Didn’t Lenin tell him that he has a House of The Little Red Star4!
— Tyotya, are we going to go see Lenin sometime?
— Won’t he go bad?
— Tyotya, when we have flowers in the garden, we’ll pick them and bring to Lenin’s grave.
— You know what, when we come to Lenin’s grave, we’ll give him medicine and then blow, blow, blow on him, and he’ll become alive, and we’ll run away with him.
Literally, “auntie”—a kid word to refer to adult women.
18 sazhens = 126 feet.
A felt boot.
A foster home for Polish children in Moscow.