Constructions of Africa in Early Soviet Children’s Literature by Raquel G. Greene
This article has been published on the Black Perspectives website. It begins:
The political and social changes brought on by the October Revolution of 1917 permeated nearly every aspect of Soviet life. The Communist state assumed the role of guardian, protector and nurturer, and the moral upbringing and education of children took on particular significance. For Soviets, the task of shaping moral sensibilities required instilling a sense of solidarity with, and sympathy for those oppressed by Western political and economic systems. In particular, Western racism and colonization in Africa provided a rich opportunity to critique the exploitation of the continent. Children’s literature became an important tool in nurturing values and political sensibilities in the state’s youngest citizens. In particular, early Soviet works depicting Africans and people of African origin highlighted racial and economic injustices perpetrated on the continent but also reinforced pejorative attitudes about Africa. Works such as Kornei Chukovsky’s Barmaley (1925) posited a dark Africa, wild and foreboding, a place to be avoided. These attitudes continued to resonate and form the basis of a complicated relationship between Russians and Africans during the Soviet period.